Why You Need to Love the People in Your Church
Liz Kanoy What topic related to Christianity, faith, and the Bible is trending online and in social media today?
- 2017 May 23
Love the ones you’re with. Sometimes this feels easy, and other times (maybe even most of the time) this feels really hard… Anything that involves other people has its hardships because people know how to get on each other’s nerves, they disagree on things, they place matters of importance in varying orders, they subconsciously do something annoying or rude, or they consciously do something mean or petty etc. It may seem like you’re always in a battle to give people grace. It’s hard to give grace when you feel like it’s undeserved or taken for granted. But if we remind ourselves of how God gives grace, we humbly realize that withholding it from others only hurts us.
If you look at a church up close or “behind the scenes,” you’re going to see some messiness because the church is filled with messy people. Instead of trying to clean up appearances so we look good on the outside maybe we should embrace the mess. Jon Bloom, staff writer for desiringGod.org, shares,
“But this is the way it’s supposed to be. Because the mess is what draws out the one thing that advances the church’s mission more than anything else. And this one thing is why we must not, for selfish reasons, leave the church.”
We like to choose our church, our Bible study, small group, or friends group based on people we like, maybe even admire, and these are usually people we feel comfortable around, can laugh with, and who we trust won’t hurt us. But have you ever thought about Jesus’ disciples? We usually think of them as a band of brothers united around Jesus. And while they were certainly united in following Jesus, they may not have all liked each other at first. Jesus chose those disciples and placed them together; how quickly did they get over their grudge of having a tax collector with them and a woman who used to be possessed by demons? Bloom writes,
“The very next generation of early Christians didn’t get to choose each other either. They too were thrown together with others they likely wouldn’t have chosen: Palestinian and Hellenistic Jews, Jews and Gentiles, educated and uneducated, slaves and slave owners, impoverished and aristocrats, former zealots and former tax collectors, former prostitutes and former Pharisees.”
John 15:16-17 gives us these words of Jesus:
“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other.”
And in Matthew 16:18, Jesus tells His disciples how they are to live in community and love each other:
“And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”
The church is the context that Jesus has given us to love one another in, to grow in, and to bring others to—“ a community of diverse, sin-polluted, defective individuals from all sorts of life-shaping pasts living life together in an impossible love,” says Bloom.
“Then Jesus gave his church an impossible mission: preach the gospel throughout the whole, God-rejecting, Christ-hating world (Luke 21:17; John 15:18), and plant impossible communities among every people where diverse, sin-polluted, defective individuals from all sorts of life-shaping pasts would live out Jesus’s impossible command to love one another (Matthew 28:19–20).”
As Boom states, this is an impossible love, an impossible community, and an impossible mission… By human means alone, this plan will fail because humans sin. But we have a God who makes the impossible possible. It is God who gives us the strength to work together for His glory; it’s God who does miraculous things among difficult people.
When we look at our church on Sunday mornings, miraculous probably isn’t the first word that comes to our minds. You may feel burned out, taken advantage of, like no one is listening, like no one agrees with you, frustrated with the people who surround you, and ready to move on…to something more stable, more peaceful, and with less work involved. But we can’t give up on the church. God did not give up on us.
A church’s success is measured by the quality of its love, says Bloom. This is shown through honor, respect, hospitality, harmony, unity, including everyone, persevering together through difficult times or issues, bearing burdens, forgiveness, encouragement, fellowship, and meeting regularly. (Romans 12, Ephesians 4-5, Galatians 5, 1 Peter 4, Colossians 3, Hebrews 10).
Our messiness calls us to love others in humility and grace, realizing that we’re only worthy because God makes us worthy. Bloom expresses,
“Churches are designed to be communities of impossible love that only work if God is real, and Christ’s sacrifice is real, and heaven is real.”
If we continue to hold onto our personal expectations of how everyone should act and how everything should work, we will be disappointed. It’s so easy to focus on the failure of others instead of our own failures—where someone else falls short instead of where we fall short. When we focus on the failures of others and how they aren’t living up to our expectations, then we aren’t focusing on love. And if the mission of the church is love, then we can’t do both…we can’t withhold forgiveness from someone and love them at the same time.
We must love the people we’re with; they’re commanded to love us just as we’re commanded to love them. When you do something wrong, you want to be shown grace and given forgiveness. We must use this same eagerness to receive forgiveness and grace to show it and give it to others. When broken people love each other, we show the world the kind of love Jesus has for us.
Yet, as Bloom points out there are actual legitimate reasons for leaving a church home and seeking out another. Before you leave a church, ask yourself what the real reasons for leaving are and make sure that the reason is not a self-seeking one.
To read Jon Bloom’s article in its entirety please visit desiringGod.org.
Dr. James Emery White says the best time to leave a church…is before you join. Take your time before joining a new church. Attend for several months, join studies or classes, get together with people, shadow a volunteer group etc. to make sure this is the right church for you. When you like a church it can be easy to want jump right in, but you want to make sure that you align with the values and mission of that church. If you’re unsure about the denomination you’re attending, try out a few churches from different denominations that are Bible-centric and read over their belief sections. If you’re already a committed member, here are some legitimate reasons to change churches:
1. You moved or found a church much closer to you.
2. You don’t agree with the theology or doctrine of a church / the theology or doctrine has changed.
3. Abuse of any kind, where the abuser is not removed or disciplined.
4. A pastor is continuing to sin in a manner that is harmful to the church and has not been disciplined or removed.
5. The church is not grounded in God’s Word and does not defend it.
Learn more in this article from Dr. Roger Barrier, How Do I Know When It’s Time to Leave a Church?
If you decide to leave your church for a legitimate reason, Crosswalk Contributor Dr. Ray Pritchard recommends leaving quickly, quietly, and graciously. There’s no need to stir up a fight or get one last shouting match in before you leave. Pritchard relays,
“Think carefully before you speak about your former congregation. Don’t say anything that could be remotely construed as criticism. Even casual comments could stir up needless controversy. Let the Golden Rule guide all your comments public and private.”
And even if you leave, continue to pray for the church you left. They may be trying to work on the exact reason that made you leave.
Love the people God has placed in your life, for He has given you a heart to love them.
3 Challenges of Belonging to the Church
Christianity.com: What are some things I should look for in a good church? - Kevin King from christianitydotcom2 on GodTube.
Image courtesy: ©Thinkstock/DigtialStorm
Publication date: May 23, 2017
Liz Kanoy is an editor for Crosswalk.com.