I hear the story time and time again about how many people are leaving the church these days because they feel it is outdated, irrelevant, and hypocritical. I have been sympathetic, as I have my own church baggage that has weighed me down over the years. But I've keep pursuing the church like a bad relationship that you can't quite let go of. Fortunately, it's been worth the fight and I've found a place of health and welcome. I guess I've become a little too comfortable, as sometimes the negative talk about church makes me sigh as I think the excuses are just a cop-out (it's easy to brush concerns aside when they aren't personally damaging you at the moment. How quickly we forget).
But there are times when the truth slaps us in the face and we're confronted with the lies we tell ourselves and the guilt we carry. I had just sat through a workshop where we heard (yet again) how church attendance is declining and we ministers were challenged with the task of changing the way we do church before it dies completely. Sometimes the problems seem so insurmountable that the only thing we are capable of is shrugging in apathy and hope that a savior comes along. As I sat in my stupor surveying the room full of ministers, I went into my default mode when I'm feeling shame (thanks, Brene Brown)--I started judging others. I scoffed at the young guys in their trendy glasses and gotees, and the older guys trying to stay relevant with their iPads. I glared at the older women that were surely out of touch and thought that none of them would be able to save the church. I looked at the music minister and guessed he was just like the others, putting on a good show to drum up an emotional response. What a bunch of hypocrites.
Friends, I think that sitting down and judging a room full of ministers is a new personal low.
But the shame didn't hit me until we began singing the next song, David Crowder's version of "Oh How He Loves Us":
The truth is I have such a hope for the church. Yes, it is broken, but so was Christ's body, which became our salvation. Yes, it seems hopeless, but sometimes the old ways have to die so that something new can be born. Looking around the room again, I could see God's handiwork in our motley group. It's true that we are all messy and imperfect, but we are all called by God, perhaps for that very reason. Just like the prophets, we were not called for who we are or what we can do, but for how God can work through us (sometimes in spite of us). There is beauty in our fumbling attempts at worship, there is a spark of rebirth in each of our creative attempts to share God's mysterious Word.