The Church: frustrating but filled with hope

Any regular church-goer will tell you that the Church isn’t perfect.

Most of us have criticisms of some kind or other.  Maybe it’s the pastor, or another church member, or the music, or the local church’s doctrinal position.

Sadly, conflict is a common feature of evangelical churches today.  It is a serious enough issue that there are courses on conflict resolution and peacemaking.

The devil loves church fights.  Many victims of these battles stop attending church – any church.  Many churches collapse entirely.

Some believers may think that things were better in the early church.  But a careful reading of the apostles’ letters in the New Testament makes clear that there were nasty struggles even then.

But the scriptures do present a picture of the church as it should be.

On the positive side, Paul tells us how much we need each other.  He uses the wonderful picture of the body in 1 Corinthians 12 to show how we can’t function well unless we cooperate and depend upon others with different spiritual gifts.

Frequently in his letters, Paul says we should value others more than ourselves.  He urges us to seek the good of others rather than ourselves.

How many of us think of the good of others above all?  It is not the first thought that springs to my mind.  But what a difference that would make in our churches.

While there is much to lament when we look at our strife-ridden churches, I see hope.  We can look at the negative side and give up on church life.  Or, we can learn what God wants us to learn and grow closer to him.

Sometimes suffering highlights our need for more of God.  I have read about a church where a bitter dispute decimated the congregation.  They reacted by turning to the Lord in fervent prayer and their church was revived.

Above all, we must remember that Christ wants us to live and worship and work together as his people.  God is working in us to make us more like Jesus.  God can even use conflict for our good and for the good of the kingdom of heaven.

For us to have hope in these difficult times, we must become willing learners at the feet of Jesus.

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