After several years of not volunteering in church, I decided to give it a go again. My heart was filled with a desire to serve in the small group. And it was not long before I was given a small group to lead.
What a privilege!
There were 5 other men in my group, most of them were already married with kids. I was leading a men’s bible study group. What a joy to be able to serve the Lord in church. I missed that. I was out of ministry for a few years because I moved church and I needed time to adjust to the new environment. And I moved church because, well, let’s just say the people in my previous church let me down.
I had high hope with the new church.
I was wrong. They let me down again. This time it was worse. The people who disappointed me were part of the bible study group that I led.
But something changed. I did not run away.
We Are All Messed Up
I have to admit though. It seems like we (Christians) expect more from other Christians. We like to shoot down fellow believers when we find out they are not as holy as they portray in prayer meetings.
The Bible study group that I led started nicely. We chose a book as guidance to study the Bible. We took turns in leading the discussion. And we had our prayer points which we prayed for every week.
It was all very encouraging.
But then friction started to happen between members. Insults were exchanged and hell broke loose. It seemed like we weren’t as holy as we thought we were. And just like that, our bible study group was no more. I was deeply disappointed, people in church let me down again.
In the midst of all that, God let me learn one valuable lesson.
This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:22–24)
I realise that Christians are just like anyone else in the world. We are just mere mortals. We make mistakes, we screw up, we fail, and often we hate each other.
In short, we are all messed up.
A Place Of Vulnerability
We often look for a place where we could find joy and happiness. A church is such a place. Where else would you find welcoming greeters at the door, helpful ushers, friendly faces at the tea room, and people opening their homes to strangers?
I went to church thinking I found the happy place only to realise that those people were as broken as me. Then I went to another church and faced with the same issues. I found despair, anguish, and bitterness.
My expectation of finding a utopia failed miserably. Instead, I found a place where broken people congregated together.
I realise another thing though. The brokenness that plagues the church creates a place where vulnerability is the norm, repentance a second nature and encouragement a habit.
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another — and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:24–25)
Jesus ate and drank with tax collectors and sinners. His reasoning was simple. Only the sick needs doctor. Similarly, only the broken is in need of a church. It is no surprise that the church is full of them.
And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:30–32)
The church is full of broken sinners.
But then, are we really coming to church as ourselves? Do we proudly show the church how broken we are?
We might introduce our real names and even serve in ministry. We might open our homes for fellow believers. But are we really honest with them?
Let’s look at the personas we show in Sunday services and prayer meetings.
Are those real?
I always tried to show my best self in church. When I gave testimonials of how God worked in my life, I left out the darkest parts. The parts where I was disappointed, angry, and disrespectful. The parts where I had negative thoughts about fellow believers. The parts where I had bad intentions.
I only showed the ‘holy’ me. I was wearing a mask. I was being anonymous.
A church is where sinners who wear masks to hide their true selves congregate every week.
Welcome to ‘Sinners Anonymous’.
The good thing is (or bad), those masks will be removed eventually. The longer we spend our time in church with fellow believers the less concealing our masks will be. Ultimately, we will see the believers in their true nature. And that is often the point where people in church let us down.
Our sinning natures will shine through.
We cannot hide it and we cannot help ourselves.
Church For The Imperfect
Have you ever heard a phrase by Nicky Gumbel: “Stop looking for the perfect church. It does not exist. Even if it did exist, the moment we joined it, it would no longer be perfect!”.
We are the church and we are not perfect. Yet we meet together to encourage one another in the midst of our brokenness.
A church is a place where we are allowed to be our vulnerable selves. Because we are all the same, we have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
When people in church let me down, I will remember that I too might have let down others in the church. Perhaps I was also a disappointment to other people. Perhaps I too was the reason why people left the church.
I will remember that I am also the reason why the church is imperfect.