It has always been “Open Season” on the church—and there are a lot of sharpshooters nested in the hunting blinds. That’s to be expected from those on the outside, but it’s disappointing when shots are fired by those on the inside.
I recently read an article by a preacher who went off on his boyhood church—how phony, judgmental, ignorant, irrelevant, and hypocritical it was. I wondered how he ever came to know the Lord if his home church was that bad.
How about a good word for the positive influence churches have had and continue to have?
Who started 106 of the first 108 colleges in America? Churches.
Who established most of the hospitals in this country? Churches.
Who founded and funds most missions that minister to the addicted and homeless? Churches.
Who chartered and continues to bankroll most orphanages and nursing and assisted-living homes? Churches.
Who consistently visits and conducts worship services in prisons? Churches.
Who administers many of the crisis pregnancy centers and shelters for abused spouses? Churches.
Who supplies the majority of professionals, volunteers, and money for hospital and prison chaplaincies? Churches.
Who shows up with food, clothing, and funds when a tornado or hurricane rips through a community? Churches.
Who sends the most money to help those who are homeless, hungry, and hurting? Churches.
Who sends mission teams to poverty-stricken Third World countries to provide medical help, dig water wells, and teach sanitation and nutrition? Churches.
The media doesn’t often publicize churches’ enormous assistance, partly because it’s nothing new and partly because churches don’t seek publicity. Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth.” Salt doesn’t get much praise. People don’t get up from the table, smack their lips, and say, “That’s the best salt I’ve ever tasted.” Salt adds flavor without getting much recognition or credit.
The best people I’ve known have been church people—people who believe it’s better to praise than to criticize, to love than to hate, to serve than to be served—sensitive souls who do what’s right simply because it’s the right thing to do.
When I hear someone berating yesterday’s church, I hurt. That’s my parents they’re talking about—and they don’t fit the stereotype of hypocritical, judgmental bigots yesterday’s churches are often portrayed to have been. Had it not been for their devotion to the church, my life would have been 180 degrees different. I cut my spiritual teeth in churches and at the feet of preachers who are assailed by some as ignorant, ineffective, and irrelevant.
Some criticism of the church—past and present—is valid of course, because it is made up of imperfect people like you and me. And the critics are somewhere south of perfect as well. We don’t get better without facing our flaws and failings.
But before falling for the critics’ calumny and joining their critical chant, remember that the church is the bride of Christ. She may have a few age spots—but Jesus loved her, “gave himself up for her,” and sees her as his “radiant bride, unstained, unwrinkled, and unblemished” (Eph 5:25, 27).
Please don’t trash talk the bride of Christ.