By Joel Hess –
This past Sunday, as I drove away from the building where the Church I shepherd gathers, a forbidden thought escaped from exile; I like my church.
I felt guilty even as I typed that sentence out. As a pastor I am constantly being told to not be happy with my church. Voices inside and outside of my church body’s organization are constantly cutting down my church!
Some constantly complain about the lack of relevancy the church has in America. Other critics repeatedly remind me that I’m not doing enough to reach the lost. Others incessantly warn me about the danger of my church becoming a nursing home. Other bystanders feverishly cry about the way we do our Sunday services; some laughing at my use of the liturgy, others cringing at my use of guitars and drums. All the while everyone cringes when I open my mouth in the pulpit! Too much Gospel! Not enough Gospel! Too much law! Not enough law! No practical instruction of living the Christian life! Too much third use of the law!
Whether it’s the uninterested and uniformed media or educated well intentioned members of my own church body, they all tell me to not be happy with my church! I should always want more, more faithful preaching and teaching, more fervent love for the unchurched, more people in the pew, more, more, more.
Yet, there was that feeling in my gut this past Sunday; I like my church! I love it.
And I am tired of feeling guilty about it. I’m tired of always looking over my back. I’m tired of being afraid. I am also tired of apologizing for her, looking for ways to improve her, telling her that I love her yet speaking poorly about her behind her back!
No, Emmanuel Lutheran church is not full of sinless people. Or if it was, that streak ended when I joined. No, I am not the perfect pastor. I am an idiot.
No, I’m not becoming complacent. I sweat over every sermon, hospital visit, counseling meeting, etc. I pray that God uses my weakness to accomplish His will. I do desire to be better in every way as a pastor. I don’t know what is going on in California, Scott, but the Law and Gospel is clearly preached here. The goods go out every time we gather. Though sometimes it ain’t so pretty, neat and tight. Sometimes I certainly drop the ball, Lord have mercy.
And no, I’m not saying that Emmanuel does everything perfectly as a church body. We are actively engaged in finding the lost and feeding the found, but we could be better at every facet of participating in God’s mission among us. Oh, we could be so much more.
But this past Sunday, even as our numbers were down due to very bad weather and that satanic post-Christmas laziness, I shouted in my car, “I love my church!” I wouldn’t have her any other way!
For it is Christ’s church. Indeed His very physical and spiritual body! Not because of what it does or doesn’t do well, but because of what He has done and does do so very well, so very completely. Who am I to say I’m not happy with my church? How can I not love her when I love Him!
We confess every Sunday, I believe in the holy Christian church. We BELIEVE in it. It isn’t a matter of sight. By sight I see dying, foolish sinners led by an ass of a pastor. It’s also not a matter of a platonic ideal! I don’t believe in the platonic ideal of the church. Get it? I believe in the holy Christian church standing right now in front of me on this miserable sod, blood and guts, sinner saints. It is an article of faith! I see the sinless bride through the eyes of faith, through the lens of Christ’s body and blood. She is beautiful. And I love her!
And I’m tired of feeling guilty of that. So stop bitching about her.