“Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy.” –Proverbs 27:6
In church this weekend our pastor showed some graphs about our church’s growth. It’s a lot of growth. Like in excess of 25%. Incredible. We’ve been in our new building for one year and it feels like we’ve already almost outgrown it.
He spoke that our church gets a lot of criticism and people saying, “They must be watering down the gospel.” Why? “Because they’re growing.”
I’ll admit that even I have had my doubts from time to time about my church. You see the churches on TV run by crazy people and they are huge. Hugeness must mean not-really-Christian, right? I’ve prayed, “God, please don’t let my church become one of those.”
All I need to do, though, is listen to the messages and watch their actions to see that we’re doing okay. Not perfect, of course. No one is. But I really do love my church.
Far from watering down the gospel, my church speaks about hard subjects and tells the truth about them. But the words are always spoken with grace and love, never ever used to bludgeon people. And always the “me, too” acknowledgement that none of us have it all figured out. “The Bible says this about that. Man, that’s a hard pill to swallow, isn’t it? Feels kind of intrusive. I admit that I don’t have my act completely together on this. I’m still learning. If you want to walk with us as we all learn together, you’re welcome to do that.”
To put it bluntly, my church says, flat out, there are some areas in your life that are not what they should be. Not what God planned them to be. God wants you to have a better life without those things.
They tell people that something is wrong with their lives (always in that loving way, though).
And they’re growing. Like crazy! People telling you stuff you don’t want to hear, and you keep coming back to hear more? How can that be?
As I sat in the balcony, I wondered if the growth is a symptom of backlash against our everybody-gets-a-trophy culture. Because even if not many of the adults today have personally experienced that, they’ve seen their kids experience that.
I competed in speech team in high school, and I remember getting my scoring sheets back at the end of events, reading through all the positive comments, and being frustrated. “What am I doing wrong? Where can I improve? Why isn’t there any constructive criticism?”
I didn’t WANT to hear how great I was. I wanted to hear how I could do better next time.
While encouraging a sense of entitlement in some, in other maybe this is creating a feeling that says that people who say everything is okay can’t be trusted.
We KNOW our lives aren’t okay, because we live in them. We KNOW we aren’t perfect or deserving of a trophy. While there are a some who feel perfectly content to get patted on the head be told everything’s fine while ignoring or unaware of the mortal wound that has been inflicted, there are many more of us who realize that something is broken and we’re desperately looking to fix it. Maybe our live or marriages or families haven’t completely crumbled yet but we realize at this rate that they will, or maybe we have indeed reached the end of our rope because for too long we’ve listened to the people who said we were fine.
Far from those trophies or bits of praise being reassuring, instead they seem to serve as a nagging reminder that we SHOULD be okay. We SHOULD have it all together. “Good grief, I have all these trophies. That must mean that I’m supposedly doing everything right. So why don’t things FEEL okay?”
We’re not fine. Everything is not going to be okay. We can feel it in our bones. Something is wrong.
Enter, places like my fantastically loving church. My church that says, “We’re all broken. None of us are perfect. But we have a God who is infinitely loving and gracious who wants to help us know a better way to do life through his son Jesus.”
This is the new frontier of sharing the love of Christ. Realizing that grace and truth are far more powerful than trophies.