Is the Christian Church as bad as you suspect? In today’s world, people who might be interested, are inclined to pursue “spiritual” things apart from “religion” or “the Church”. I understand this suspicion. The Christian Church has admittedly caused its own bad image. In recent history, the Jimmy Baker and Jimmy Swaggart scandals of the 1980s, and the Roman Catholic priests’ sexual abuse and related cover-up of the 1990s, has only added fuel to people’s already tainted view of the Christian Church. I can’t tell you how many times I have had people cite to me “the Church is full of hypocrites” as the reason for their non-participation in an organized Church. TV preachers in general have added to people’s suspicion that “the Church is only interested in my money”. On and on. Sure, there are plenty of good reasons NOT to participate in organized religion or the Church. But one contradictory and undeniable fact still stands out – God created the Church to be part of His plan of Salvation for the human race. In Ephesians, chapter 3 and verses 10-11, Paul writes: “through the Church the manifold wisdom of God [is] made known …. This was according to [God’s] eternal purpose.” So, somehow, despite the corruption, the abuses, the bad press and the obvious failures of the Christian Church, intellectual integrity requires that we accept this reality and decide how it is possible to participate in the Christian Church as part of God’s eternal purpose of Salvation.
Having said this, how is it possible to identify a Church that is making a sincere effort to be part of God’s eternal purpose of salvation?
I believe the most important sign of this kind of Church is that the members of the Church act like people who are living close to God? How will you know?
• They will talk easily and freely about their experience of closeness with God; if they have it, they will not be able to keep quiet about it (Read the first letter of John, chapter one, verses 1 through 4).
• There will be obvious regard, respect and encouragement between the members of the Church. (See John’s Gospel, chapter 13, verse 35).
• Developing this close, personal relationship with God and maintaining their close relationship with each other will be the highest priority of their lives.
• The members will be generous – their tangible care for the needy and downtrodden outside the doors of the Church will be obvious.
Prayer thought for the day: God, for those looking for a Church to help them draw closer to you, lead them to the Church that is making a sincere effort to be the kind of Church described above. For any of us who are already part of a Church, show us ways to become this kind of Church.