Who’s NOT coming back to church? That’s the big question many churches are asking these days as life is slowing getting back to normal. Some of those who aren’t coming back have…
- gotten used to watching on-line.
- used the pandemic as opportunity to shop around for another church.
- extreme health risks and are still uncertain of the safety of gathering in crowds.
But the majority of the non-returners (from my observation and conversations) are those who have concluded that the Church offers no reason for them to return. If the Church is the Bride of Christ (it is) then these folks are heading to divorce court. The reasons for this divorce (in their minds) are irreconcilable differences. The Church has (pick your poison) become too political (a valid complaint), not political enough (a valid complaint), full of hypocrites (true since the earliest church: see Ananias and Sapphira, in other words, a valid complaint), not relevant (often true), and an assortment of other reasons (my personal favorite: the preacher stinks). Many of those complaints are legitimate evaluations of the most recent Americanized version of the Church and its preachers.
Still I can’t divorce her. Here’s why: If Jesus is the Bridegroom and the Church is his Bride, and if Jesus is living in me, then how in names of all the fake and phony prophets (too numerous to count) can I divorce the Bride? I am called to love her (warts and all). Yes, she has problems. She’s not perfect. Far from it. The Church includes me and (this is not breaking news) I am far from perfect too. (I can show you emails and/or the social media posts from folks vouching for my imperfections). Still, if Jesus loves the less-than-spotless Church, then I had better love her too.
Like in a marriage, I am called to love the Bride and help her in any way that I can. Like a dress maker or beautician who readies a bride for her wedding, we are called to beautify the Bride through our loving actions. The Bride of Christ is not looking like a beauty queen these days. As a result, it’s our job not to abandon her in her time of need but to seek her beauty once more. Make her better. Pray for her. Notice her shortcomings (not turning a blind eye) but determine to be a part of the solution in a godly, fruit-of-the-spirit kind of way (not in a pot-shots-on-social-media-while-slamming-the-door-behind-us sort of way). We must elevate and edify her, if we want her to bloom once more.
Divorce her? It’s not an option, not as long as the Bridegroom is living in me.