The Purpose of Church

No Perfect People AllowedWe all know the old story of the young man complaining to his elder that he did not want to go to Church because it is full of hypocrites. The elder responded, “Well, young man, if you find the perfect Church, don’t join. You’ll spoil it.”

Church is not the place for perfect people. We are all broken in ways big and small. And Church is the place for us. Sometimes people tell me, in the middle of difficulties that they are having in life, that they cannot come to Church. They have trouble being among good people when they are not feeling so good themselves.

I have thought about this feeling, and have a sense that it may arise from confusing the mission of the Church with the purpose of the Church. Or, put another way, confusing grace out with grace in.

The mission of the Church, or grace out, is what God does in and through us, individually and together, to share the Good News in Jesus Christ by word and deed to the world, both around us and in the Church.

The purpose of the Church, or grace in, is to be a hospital for our wounded souls. To find grace and help for our times of need, even when we may not recognize our need. To be open to the healing presence of God in our midst.

Both mission and purpose are equal. One does not have to go before the other. In the midst of our brokenness and hurt, even as we need the healing touch of God, we can be energized by the Holy Spirit in ministry together. God does not wait for us to be ready. God only wants us to be available.

 

That is the message of the praise song for September, Peder Eide’s “As Is.” The song reminds us that God has used some pretty broken people in some pretty remarkable ways. Whatever Paul’s problem, or Martha’s anxiety, or John’s diet, or Rahab’s past, God was able to infuse and empower them. Indeed, what they did was also part of their healing.

To me, the saddest part of someone cutting themselves off from Church for fear of judgment or not fitting in, is that he or she then cuts themselves off from not only the support and healing that comes from being with other broken people helping one another to experience God’s mercy, but also the healing that comes from being empowered by God to be in mission to our world.

I have known many people who have found comfort in the midst of their troubles by helping others in need.

So, when you feel a bit broken (or even more than a bit) and worry that you might not be good enough for Church, don’t give up. Indeed, hang on. Attend more, worship more, share more, serve more, so that the grace of God may flood into and out of your life.

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Dan

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