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.