Is it too cliche for a church staff member to say that they love the church? I mean, I really love it. I have had one job outside of the church in my adult life and I feel like every day was me biding my time until I was back. I have worked in several church bodies, and I can tell you that we do not always get it right. Sometimes we get it super wrong!
A wise minister told me once that the mission of the church often seems impossible because people keep coming along and messing it up. Sometimes people are the worst, aren’t we? And yet, at the beginning of the book of Acts, Jesus ascends to heaven, leaving his mission in our hands. This is crazy to me! How many times a day do I wonder who let me adult? But here I am, acknowledging that Jesus entrusted me, us, to be him to the people around us.
On Sunday, we covered five main points about the church, and the first one was the one we cannot fail to miss: The church is a place where it is okay NOT to be okay.
Looking back through the history of the church, a trend appears that has led people to believe that church is the place you go when you have it figured out. And it makes sense to the logical human brain. Of course Jesus would only want to use the pretty, whole people! Those people clearly have it all together and can minister to others out the overflow of their perfection.
Unfortunately, this created an illusion that made the poor and broken people feel that what the pretty people had to offer was out of reach. Now, it is not uncommon to hear people say that they cannot go to church until they get some situation worked out, or that they cannot have a relationship with God until they deal with their sin. And don’t forget about the people who aren’t fooled by perfect faces and will not go to church because of all the hypocrites.
Just look at who Jesus left in charge of the first church. Peter denied Jesus three times about 40 days before Jesus left the church in his hands. Paul was literally murdering Christians when God calls him to his mission. These people are so peopley, you and I probably would not have put them in charge of much.
These guys kinda take away all our excuses to not be the church. Jesus knew exactly what he was doing. He knew we would mess it up. He knew we would lean towards perfection over authenticity. He knew all of this, and he chose you, and me, and the people that make up the church. He gave us permission not to be okay. In fact, it is the most not-okay people that he invites into his mission. Because when we acknowledge that we are not okay, and still open ourselves up to his mission, we allow his power that resides with us to be the thing that we give away to others.
I would like to confess my lack of perfection to you. And to my friends, I would ask that you stop amen-ing quite so loudly. All of us imperfect people have been invited into God’s plan to change the world. Let’s not let our being exactly who he knew we would be keep us from becoming who he wants to make us. I am not always okay, but I am always on mission. And, ironically, in my most not okay-ness I have seen God be the most himself through me. So let’s go, flaws and all, because we have work to do!
“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age… You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”
— Matthew 28:19–20, Acts 1:8