Friday, February 28, 2014

On Shame and Staying in the Church...

We call ourselves “The Sundays.” My band of Millennials. They come to my house in pajamas. We drink coffee and talk about what it means to be a follower of Christ. Some cut their teeth on Awana, Youth Specialties, and Edgy College Pastors. Others don’t want to step foot in the door of another church. They’d rather not discuss Jesus “living in their heart.” What does that even mean? They ask. They value feeling connected to God and to others who are seeking Him. So they come weekly, even though they all agree I’ll be a much cooler mom when I get my first tattoo.

I raise questions to them. Could the church matter to you? What would your dream church look like? Who is a pastor you could trust? 

We’ve been burned by the Church. They respond. We’ve been annoyed and ignored at church. We’ve seen hypocrisy at church. Our beliefs collide with the Church’s.

As a Gen Xer, I’m attempting to be for them what I never had—a mentoring adult who can handle the simultaneous belief and unbelief—someone who gently points them back to Jesus.

Yes, you’ve seen those things, but can you continue in relationship with a local church anyway? Can you extend grace to those who have not shown you grace? Can you be the alternative?

They laugh and tell me to tweet that.    

I’ve been in ministry long enough to know the church is imperfect. When critics say the church is full of hypocrites, I agree. I’m one too. Which is part of the reason I've given myself to the church in the first place—in order to grow and change within community.

I came to Christ at my first church. I listened to Elvis Presley’s stepbrother, of all people, talk about how he’d been touched by two kings—the king of rock and roll and the King Jesus. God used his message (and it was as eccentric as it sounds) to draw me to himself.

I've been a part of a local church as long as I’ve been a Christian. For me, the two are intrinsically connected. I believe, like C.S. Lewis did: “The New Testament does not envisage solitary religion. So, we must be regular practicing members of the Church…For the Church is not a human society of people united by their natural affinities, but the Body of Christ.”

I’ve attended and served and communed because my faith would not be what it is apart from the local church. I have been challenged, developed, shaken, and rooted in Jesus through the ministry of the church. I have seen the trajectory of lives changed, marriages restored, needs met, people loved. 

But, anyone who has grown up in church has also experienced shame there.

We’ve seen husbands fail morally. We’ve watched students walk away from Christ. We’ve been brokenhearted when another leader compromised his or her integrity. I'll never forget, as a little girl, being told by a church leader that someone could go to hell because I was being too "giggly and distracting during the sermon." We’ve all been part of churches that hurt their own.

This week, on his blog, Matt B Redmond wrote,
“I don’t know all that Paul means when he says  [in Romans] ‘…hope does not put us to shame.’ But I do know this — he is pointing to hope higher than those of the here and now. A gospel hope that has the cross as its surety, the Holy Spirit as its strength, and an eternity of no disappointment waiting.”
In Psalm 25, David cries, “No one whose hope is in you will ever be put to shame.” 

I love the church because I still have hope that Jesus is there. He is sovereignly working all things out for his glory and our good. He is leading us to a future without shame.  

In the end, the church is a deeply flawed, yet inexplicably loved, extension of a profoundly perfect God.

So, I stay — because, I suppose, so am I. 

I tell The Sundays the church is my first tattoo. At times wounding and scarring, but forever embedded in my skin. 


What about you? What's your experience of the local church? Have you found one you call home? Have you felt free from shame there? Have you learned to love the church in spite of its flaws? Are you still looking for a church? Have you been hurt by a church? Has a local church impacted your life? 


Cindy Goorley said...

Hi Aubrey. Such a good topic. Just on Moody the other morning. More times than I can count I have struggled with thoughts of church and why it doesn't feel biblical compared to how the early church was structured and run. However, each time I bring myself back to the reality of what you said..the body of Christ. I am the church, and if I cut myself off from the rest of the body God leads me toward to just hang with a small group of body parts who agree with me, how much I would miss. And how much of me God would be unable to use. I so agree with everything you say on this topic. If you had only hung with your "Sundays", I would never have been blessed by meeting you, nor would Heather have..and I know God uses you to bless her..and then all the trickling generations behind us. Small community is addition to church. We are sinners saved by Grace in a building of sinners saved by Grace. God heals and restores those hurt in the church...and will hold all accountable for the hurt we've/they've caused. God has moved me to be where He wants me to be through hurt at times. Currently we are at Willow Dupage. Nothing will ever be perfect this side of heaven, but I would so miss the service...all of its pieces and people...however flawed or unflawed..if I became a "Sunday" The unmatched talents and teachings I can't get in my small group alone. And where would I tithe to? Even writing this I am challenged in my thoughts again with answers "Sundays" would give me. I've thought them all myself. But I'll keep this "tatoo" ;) for now, too. What a great word picture for the body of Christ. Xo

Aubrey Travis Sampson said...

Thanks for responding, Cindy. I totally agree with all you'e said, and I've heard great things about Willow DuPage!