Odd title, I know.
But it’s true. In whatever the church lacks in, God doesn’t. In every area the church fails in, God succeeds. And whenever the church is unfaithful, God is faithful.
Unfortunately, I have experienced the unfaithfulness of the church first-hand.
As a pastor’s daughter, and now as an administrator for my church, I have personally been involved in some shape or form of ministry for the entirety of my 22 years of life. I have seen many people get saved, baptized, dedicated – you name it. I have been a part of ministries like Awana, VBS, and good old youth group. I have led discipleship groups and Bible studies, even as a 16-year-old teen. I’ve also gone to a ridiculous amount of potlucks and church picnics.
So much of it was good…but here’s the thing: for the majority of my life, I’ve been surrounded by Christians who act good, talk good, and worship good. I’ve been surrounded by Christians who sit up straight, don’t run in church, do their devotions every day, and tithe regularly. They show up, put a smile on their face, and they “do” church. I’ve been surrounded by Christians who have welcomed me in, loved me, treated me and my family good, supported us…all of that, just to turn around and leave us in the dust.
In this society, you will see two vastly different things.
From the viewpoint of a Christian, you will see loving communities of people who love Jesus, who stand by each other through everything, and who minister to the unbelievers and those in need. From this viewpoint, it seems like there are no hypocrites. There are no bad choices. There is no mess. You love everyone, you love Jesus – life is good.
From the viewpoint of an unbeliever, you will see communities of people who are striving to be the best Christian…ever. You will see people who pity the weak, relish in their “rich” status, and all they care about is being good people…even if it means mistreating a fellow believer. You will see people who judge others for their sin, and then go home to dwell in their own. From this viewpoint, there are hypocrites. There are bad choices. There are messes. They love the idea of what they are and who they worship, but do they actually love and follow Jesus?
Sounds harsh, I know. Life isn’t so black-and-white, right? There is a lot of grey. And not all of us are like that, right? But still…don’t you ever wonder why unbelievers think so badly of us? It’s because we aren’t always living Jesus-centered lives. It’s because we aren’t always faithful to God, or to His people. Our people.
My family? We’ve been asked to leave three different church’s, for completely unbiblical reasons. Each time we were forced to find a new church to minister to, and every time it was in a new state. I don’t remember the first time very well – I was 7. I was 13 the second time – we moved again; we left family, friends. The third time, the most recent time, I was 17. I remember that one the best, of course. I remember that, despite the roller-coaster of emotions that every teenager goes through, I felt okay at that church. I felt loved, (mostly) accepted by my fellow teens, and I knew my dad was doing a good work there. I felt that God had placed us there for a reason. It was our mission field.
But then we had to leave. Do you know what it feels like, to have your heart broken? I do. Not because of a relationship that went south, no. But because of a body of believers that told us they loved us and supported us, until they suddenly just…didn’t.
You can’t just brush something like that off. Not when you’re 13, not when you’re 17…not when you’re in your mid-thirties, or into the last 25 years of your life. You just can’t. And I didn’t. I questioned God, I questioned His faithfulness. I struggled with trusting other believers, and still do at times. I thought to myself, what did we do to those people, to make them abandon us like that? I asked God, “Why us? What is the purpose for this? Is there a reason I needed to experience this kind of betrayal three times over?”
When you’re in the darkest parts of the deepest valley, having faith in God seems like the hardest thing you can ever do. But the thing is, God’s faithfulness is always the size of a mountain, even when ours is the size of a mustard seed (Matthew 17:20, NIV). God’s faithfulness is always present, even when the faithfulness of fellow unbelievers is almost non-existent.
And you know what? He showed that to us. He showed that to me. I belong to the most amazing church, now. A community of people who love and pursue Jesus, who lay their messes and their brokenness out on the table, who worship the Rescuer, our Savior and Redeemer. They are knee-deep in the gospel every Sunday. I love it. And I trust them. It took me a while to reach that point, but I’ve arrived. Despite my persisting doubt, God delivered me to a place where He needs me most – to advance the gospel, to love on those around me, to stretch my hand out to those that are reaching for the truth that has settled deep into my heart. The truth that no matter the unfaithfulness of the church, or of myself, I belong to the God who has not only met me in the dark valley, but who carried me out of it.
The church lacks. Each and every one of us, at some point. We lack in faith, in trust, in love, in patience. But I’ve grown to recognize it, through my own experiences, as I know many others have. I’m aware of this problem, and I hope you are too. Because we can’t be those churches that turned away from my family. We serve a God who has called us to more than that.
I believe that a shift can happen in this culture; that a shift can happen in our communities, and in our churches. I believe it with all my heart, because I have seen it and experienced it. I have experienced God’s faithfulness to me, and I have seen His faithfulness towards others. I desperately hope and pray that we not only experience this shift, but that those unbelievers who surround us see and experience it too. Because it isn’t just about us. There is always someone watching.
I hope whoever watches me, whoever sees me…I hope they see Jesus. I hope they see His faithfulness. I hope that when they hear my story, they don’t focus on those believers who made mistakes and lost their way…instead, I hope they see how faithful God was throughout all of it. How faithful He always is.
I hope you do, too.