Remember God’s Heart for the Church
This post is part of the series, What to Do When the Church Lets You Down. You can see all the posts here.
The church is a profound mystery. Because of this mystery, the Bible uses images and illustrations to help us gain a fuller understanding of God’s true heart for the church. When the church lets you down, it is important to go back to God’s heart for the church in order to guard against bitterness, defeat, or even the temptation to walk away from the faith altogether.
God’s Heart for the Church through 4 Illustrations
1. The Building of Christ
I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. -Matthew 16:18
The people of God do not build a church. The building of Christ is built by Christ alone. This means when what we see appears to be corrupt, inept, unstable, or just plain wrong we can remain in constant hope that it is not man who builds the church – it is Christ. Christ being fully God means that He cannot tell a lie; therefore, what God says, He will do.
2. The Body of Christ
It is easy for me to sit in the pew on Sunday morning and look to the front row, zeroing in on the Senior Pastor and think, he is the head of this church. True he leads the church, has final say, and is the representation of Christ to the church, but he himself is not the head of the body of Christ. That crown alone belongs to Jesus Christ, for Christ alone paid for the church with His life.
Additionally, those who Christ calls into His family will serve a certain purpose for His kingdom. We are each given certain gifts to be used for the body of Christ. But none of us have a single ability to do anything good of our own accord.
3. The Bride of Christ
Christ laid down His life to save and sanctify His people. Christ’ example of self-sacrificial love is what the husband is exhorted to emulate in a marriage. The passionate devotion of the church to Christ is the example for the wife to emulate in holy matrimony. Each of these roles distinct, yet important to the overall illustration of Christ and His church. This ebb and flow of love, sacrifice and devotion should motivate the people of God as we look forward to the day of the Lord.
4. The Family of God
Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. -Acts 20:28
God loves His children. He loves us so much that He sent His one and only Son to die for us. When we are adopted into God’s family, we gain familial bonds with the brotherhood and sisterhood that surpasses even our earthly family bonds. The family of God is of great importance – an importance illustrated by the death of Christ on a Cross.
When the church lets us down, remembering God’s heart for the church will spur us on as we heal.
- Instructing us to lay aside the pain, the hurt, and the distrust
- Protecting us from bitterness
- Leading us into the truth of God’s word
- Enabling us to continue to love what God loves
The church, in all its imperfections, remains the primary conduit of God’s grace here on earth, and for this reason, meaningful church involvement is not an option. It is a necessity and spiritual discipline that should not be neglected.
If you’re walking through the pain of when the church lets you down, you’ve no doubt been reminded to not forsake the brethren. I’ve heard it a time or two, and this is Biblical advice that should not be shunned. As you can see above, the church is a makeup of sinners redeemed by Christ because God loves His people. We should fight for what Christ lived and died for!
But sometimes the will to fight goes away, other times there isn’t a church practicing the word of God, and still others when you don’t know where to pick up the pieces and start again. We’ll talk more about when the church lets you down in the coming weeks, but for today, remember God’s heart for the church. Don’t give up. Keep fighting and run from bitterness like the plague. Christ gave His life for the church – the primary conduit of grace here on earth.
He loves all of us in all our messes and imperfections, so I see no problem seeing how he loves the church in those as well. I was reminded in our new member class at our new church last week that the church’s sole mission/purpose is forgiving sins and providing us salvation in Christ. I thought that was a wonderful reminder… fellowship, service to the community, worship, etc is all second to redemption. Happy Wednesday to you guys!
a great book on this topic that i enjoyed is “why we love the church” by kevin deyoung. i recommend it to anyone who wants to read more about God’s heart for his church! 🙂
I love Kevin Deyoung books! Will look it up! Thanks!
Great series, Leigh Ann! As the daughter of a pastor, I have grown up in church. I’ve seen almost every side of it, and it’s not always pretty. It saddens me deeply when I hear of people who have left the church (or left the faith completely) because of hurt they have experienced in church. Some of it is legitimate; some of it is perceived. But it is all painful, and nothing damages Christians more than allowing hurt to grow into bitterness and choke out the seed of faith.
Thank you for doing this series. It is greatly needed. We are blessed to be a part of a fantastic church where we love to grow and serve. I wish everyone could experience that kind of church family. I wrote about it here: http://www.thereisgrace.com/behind-the-stained-glass/