I've been raised in the church my whole life. I've attended large churches, small churches, city churches and rural churches. I'm now in the process of starting a new church in a rural Manitoba town, and I've been in the church long enough to see the flaw in the church.
This is not about a specific church, although I'm sure that there are plenty of specific flaws in specific local churches.
It isn't about a style, a method, a denomination or a theology. It is much deeper than that. The flaw is at the centre of the church's being.
The flaw is that the church is made up of flawed people.
People are very quick to proclaim (usually in self-defence of an imperfect action they've just done) that "no one is perfect!" This is, after all, true, no one IS perfect and it doesn't take much searching in your life to see your own personal flaws. But we forget that the person next to us at church is also, not a perfect person. Neither are the leaders, elders, musicians or kids ministry workers.
Trouble comes when we fool ourselves by judging other peoples' actions against our best intentions while forgetting the disconnect between our own intentions and what we actually end up doing.
We can create new rules about who gets to do what in the church based on scorecard that the people with the best intentions create. Growing up in a certain church, my dad was refused any church leadership or even adult Sunday School teaching position because he had at one time been divorced (the fact that he was divorced before he ever became a Christian didn't seem to matter).
To be clear, divorce is clearly taught as a sin in scripture. That particular church we attended, in an effort to keep itself 'holy,' set up certain rules about who could do what in the body. Being divorced was only one of the areas that could restrict you access to any church leadership.
While good hearted in its attempt, these rules ended up being short-sighted and forgetful of who Jesus had routinely selected to run the church. It also hand-selected certain sins and frowned-on behaviour - usually the ones that are the hardest to cover up like divorce, living common-law, drinking, smoking and cussing - while ignoring other sins that might restrict someone from leadership. Such as, anger, lust, coveting, power trips, unhealthy egos, the love of money and so on.
The result was that if you could hide your sin well enough, all of the positions in the church might be open to you. Clearly not the result that the church was looking for.
There is beauty in the fact that the church is made up of flawed people. It follows, after all, the same repetition we see all through Scripture, where God takes "nobodies" and turns them into great nations. Where barren women give birth to world-changers. Where prostitutes become disciples. Where the despised in society were welcomed. Where even hated tax collectors could find grace.
Jesus knew exactly what he was doing when he picked the people to lead his bride, the church. He chose a motley crew of messy, flawed people. Not because they were the holiest, most educated or lived the cleanest lives, but because he knew that he would get the glory for any of the life-change that would happen through them.
The flaw in the church is the church's greatest asset - messy people following after Jesus.
These past 16 months have been a combination of life moving at a blistering pace and the slowest snails crawl. While we waited for our house to sell, we talked a lot about moving without ever doing it. Then it sold and we had to scramble to buy a new one.
We had many evenings at housechurch where there were just my wife and I plus one other couple and we wondered if we'd ever grow. And now we've seen our motley crew up around 13 people plus kids some nights.
We jumped through seemingly endless hoops while trying to secure a building to purchase and now that we have it, we're waiting again. We've had possession of the building for a month now but haven't been able to do anything with it as we wait for drawings, fire commissioner approval and permits.
It seems like so much of beginning this church has been about hurrying up and waiting.
But all of that changes on Monday June 15.
We've gotten the green light for renovations and we're about to hit a full-on sprint from now until we open the doors for our first service this September!
While, I'm not the most handiest of people, I have the feeling that I'll be spending a lot of time getting honing those skills this summer. There will be work nights, demo nights, building nights and painting nights. We'll be organizing teams to help us get the most traction in the least amount of time, and I'll be longing for the days where we were "just waiting."
God is going to do great things through our building and congregation in Neepawa, and I don't want to miss a thing!
I am a pastor in rural Manitoba that is passionate about the church, leadership, coffee and bicycles.