By Matt Kok
Is the “Little C” Church perfect? By no means. And it never has been. The belief that the institutionalized church in North America is hypocritical, dogmatic, out of touch, and no longer authentic is a broad statement. Perhaps a better way to look at it is this: There are some churches in North America that are more institutional than relational. There are some churches in North America that are more hypocritical. There are some churches that are out out touch. There are some churches that are wholly inauthentic.
To paint all churches as these things is a fallacy, like stating that all Christians are hypocrites. “I’m not a hypocrite!” you may object. True, you may not be a hypocrite, but the common belief is that Christians are hypocrites, so it must be true that you are a hypocrite. If churches are where Christians gather and today’s churches are hypocritical, dogmatic, out of touch and inauthentic, then it must be true that every person who attends church is as well. And it is with this belief that a movement begins and grows. A movement that encourages a negative attitude towards the “Little C” Church and promotes the idea that God is no longer found inside her walls. A mass exodus begins.
The “Little C” Church has never been perfect. Over time we have seen the results of those who have come to grasp this basic understanding of church. Martin Luther reformed the church in his day. The result has been the thousands of denominations that gather regularly on Sunday morning to worship the same God. Was this what Luther intended–further division and grumbling among Christ’s followers? Undoubtedly, no. But it is the end result of any human attempt to “fix” the church. The religious freedom brought by Luther was necessary, but any human attempt to fix things will undoubtedly go awry at some point. Why? Because it is human nature to screw up.
It is human nature to be self-serving. It is human nature to be prideful, and hypocritical, and dogmatic, and self-preserving. Because we are sinners. We are going to disagree over infant baptism or adult baptism. We are going to disagree over predestination. And we are going to disagree over whether those things are even important. We are going to disagree over what the pastor should wear on Sunday, what music should be played, who should sit in what pews. And we are going to disagree over how to best portray Christ to the world. It’s human nature.
No, the church is not perfect. It is not perfect today, it was not perfect in Luther’s day, and it was not even perfect in Paul’s day. The Acts church was not perfect. The “Little C” Church is not perfect, but it is good. Yes, there have been horrible deeds performed in the name of God and by those who claim to follow Him, but the church is good. God is in the church. Because there are followers of Christ in the church. And the church could be better, if more people who desire to follow Christ stayed.
No matter what path you take, you will not follow Christ better than any other believer who desires to do the same.
For one believer, to follow Christ means to kneel at the prostitute’s feet and listen.
For another believer, to follow Christ means to feed others.
For another believer, to follow Christ means to lead others in worship.
For another believer, to follow Christ means to preach the gospel.
For another believer, to follow Christ means to turn over the tables in the temple courts.
For another believer, to follow Christ means to die a martyr’s death.
For another believer, to follow Christ means to preach in the synagogue, the institutionalized church of His day.
For another believer, to follow Christ means to challenge his brother in love.
Because Christ did all these things. He did them inside and outside the temple walls. His purpose was not to revolt against the institutionalized church of his day. His purpose was to call everyone to himself. He did this through preaching, through prayer, through relationships with the lowly, and through turning over the tables in the temple. He did this throughout his life. And through the giving away of his life. As followers of Christ, we are called to do the same. Our purpose is to call others to Christ. And we are called to work together because the body of Christ is made up of individuals. And we can only ever be just a part of the body of Christ.
When our focus is on reaching out to the poor, we lose the opportunity to preach in the synagogue. When our focus is on turning over the tables, we lose the opportunity to challenge our brother in love. Following Christ on your own, or even with like-minded Christ-followers can get lonely. The temptation to separate from the church and all of it’s disappointments is strong, but the truth is that you are also separating yourself from the body of Christ, however weak and frail that body seems to be.
It is too easy to give up on the institutionalized church. Today it seems that the greatest challenge for those who truly desire to follow Christ is to stay in the church. But it is exactly this kind of person that the church needs. If God has gifted you with a holy discontent, do not let it grow into cynicism and rejection of his church. Let it challenge you to follow Christ within His body–His visible body on earth–the “Little C” Church.
Is the church perfect? No. But it could use your help.
Matt recently finished up serving as a youth minister near Vancouver, BC and now lives as a newlywed.