The Church with Thick Ankles

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It is incredibly easy to criticize your own church. Chances are good that your church is not friendly enough, does not hold each other up in prayer enough, isn’t hospitable enough, doesn’t have enough outreach to young moms, doesn’t do enough mercy ministry, or any other of a number of things that can frustrate or annoy us. And the reality is that many churches are failing in many ways – missing out on all kinds of opportunities that they should be taking. But there is a subtle lie that sneaks in and twists our perspective on this.

The church is like a body. Paul describes it this way – explaining how all the parts do different things, and that is a design feature. When we develop a critical spirit and complain and fuss about things that our church is not doing, it is like we have finally found what our role can be. We could be the part of the body that commits itself to developing poor body image. We will be the eyes that look in the mirror and shame the body for having cellulite – who compare the body we have been given to some photoshopped fakery that we think people have. What a wonderful role! We could be the carping, criticizing, shaming, fussing, complaining, destructive part of the body!

I can’t count the times that I have heard people refer to “The church’s responsibility”, or “The church’s role” when talking about an issue. Should the church look out for single mothers? By all means. Should the church feed the hungry? Of course. Should the church reach out to the lonely? Always. Should the church provide resources for learning and growing in scripture? Yes.

But the thing that so often seems to create a disconnect is this unfortunate reality: you are the church. It is us. We are it. The church is responsible to look out for the widows and feed the hungry, because Christians are responsible to do these things. We are Christians, this is our problem. If you see a specific problem, maybe you should read that as God calling you to action. You think people aren’t friendly? Figure something out. You think people in your church aren’t being welcomed? Welcome them. You think that people aren’t focusing on mercy ministry? Well then, live mercifully.

Ronald Reagan once said, “There is no end to what you can accomplish if you don’t care who gets the credit.” And this may actually be at the heart of the matter. We don’t mind exercising our gifts when people know it is our gifts. But it bothers us to become assumed. To be taken for granted. To have people call our gifts theirs.  We don’t want the rest of the body just assuming that it can run on this ankle without concern. God called us to this life together so that we might do things, and it wasn’t stand in front of the mirror and compare ourselves to other churches. It wasn’t getting together so that we might accuse one another of not being enough.

If you see a failing in your church, you have your chance to fill a need. If you see a weakness, chip in. If you think of something that would be good for your church to do, you have thought of something that would be good for you to do. Because make no mistake about it – you are your church, and your church is you.

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16 thoughts on “The Church with Thick Ankles

  1. Thanks, Rachel. Reminds me of this gem:

    “My dear Wormwood,

    …. Surely you know that if a man can’t be cured of churchgoing, the next best thing is to send him all over the neighbourhood looking for the church that ‘suits’ him until he becomes a taster or connoisseur of churches…. The search for a ‘suitable’ church makes the man a critic where the Enemy wants him to be a pupil….

    Your affectionate uncle,
    SCREWTAPE”

  2. Haha! I love this! Just as I have been dragging my feet about getting back into church after summer, this comes along to speak truth to my heart. No church is perfect because no human is perfect.
    I love the screwtape quote in the comments too.

  3. Thank you for this! My sister emailed me the link and said I needed to read this. Perfect timing as my husband and I are going to become members at our church this Sunday and just today I was questioning that decision. Thank you for speaking this truth to us! And thanks Lynn (Faith) for forwarding this to me!

  4. I’ve had discussions even recently along these lines! Seems like we are so caught up in how the church can serve us, entertain us, whatever! We are there to worship God. We are there to serve others! Thanks for this today.

  5. Thanks for this!

    You remind me of what my mom said in response to our many, many friends who were busy looking for the perfect church. “There isn’t a perfect church. And if there was, you would mess it up as soon as you arrived.” Because we would– being sinners, and all.

  6. Thanks for this article!! I was feeling rather discouraged because lately it seems there were quite a few articles that I was reading that was blaming the church for wounds or hurts. It didn’t feel very good and I was trying to figure out where I was with it all. I believe Satan is never happier than when he can make us blame everything on someone or something else just like the culture around us. I want to do my part and not always be criticizing everything around me. Thanks again!!

  7. Excellent article! There are lots of articles on loving your body, but not many on loving The Body – cankles and all. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Yes, such a great post! I often think about the early church, or localities that have only one or two churches in a whole city… people in those situations can’t be picky. We have the advantage (in some ways) in most places in America to be able to choose a “good” church, but after you commit, it needs to be like a marriage… stick it out and put in the hard work to make it successful.

    Thank you for this call to roll up our sleeves!

  9. I’ve had the same conversation lately with my older children about our family. Our family is not perfect, and the maturing kids see our imperfections more than anyone else in the world. And they feel the consequences of our faults more than anyone. But we are all called to serve and love one another and to resist the temptation to harbor, and eventually nurture, a critical spirit that leads to bitterness. Learn it first at home, apply it in church. Learn it in scripture, live it in church and home.

  10. Good article! It’s Sunday morning, and having read this, I am encouraged to persevere with courage and joy in my role with prayer ministry and teaching at our church.

  11. Love it, short and sweet and punchy – I was going to write something about this issue but I can’t improve on that (except that I want to include that CS Lewis quote from the comments – might put it at the bottom). Could I please have permission to use this in our youth magazine? I will obviously acknowledge authorship.

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