This is a post that I have been wanting to do based on a theme that I have picked up on among young evangelicals. Since I myself am a young evangelical, it’s a theme that I’ve seen in my own life and in the lives of my peers. Though I’ve seen it most in evangelical 20-somethings, I think this is something that is relevant to Christian of all ages. I am talking about the love of the Church.
It’s a pretty well known fact that many Christian teens walk away from the Church in their college years. Most studies would say that about 60-70% of youth will walk about from their faith, and of those numbers about half will eventually return. That should mess with you. There are quite a few factors that I think contribute to this movement, and a lack of love for the Church is certainly one (among many others). In fact, in conversations that I’ve had, many 20-somethings have become bitter towards, even in cases where that person grew up in the Church. It is impossible to nail down one reason that people begin to harbor bitterness toward the Church, because there simply isn’t one. However, it all does seem to begin with one reason: there is a lack of love for the Church. So what do we do? Is there a solution? Put simply, faithful preaching of the Gospel is the solution. As the Church we have a commission to go out and share Jesus with those who don’t know him, and who don’t love him. However, notice that at the beginning of this post, I mentioned that this was a theme among young evangelicals. As in Christ followers. As in Church members. Is that true? Could there in fact be a lack of love for the Church within the Church itself?
Hear me out here. I’m not talking about Christians who don’t want to get up and go to a church service on Sunday mornings. What I mean is that so often I have conversations with people that conclude with “see, that’s what’s wrong with the Church.” “People” here most definitely includes myself. Have you ever found yourself doing this? I definitely have. The question is, is that a bad thing? Yes and no. Here’s what I mean: constructive criticism is healthy and good for the Church. We need to be growing and challenging each other! That’s a good thing. The issue arises when our criticisms do not come from a place of love.
Check out what Paul writes in his epistle to the Colossians. At the time, the Church at Colossae was in a mess, and facing a whole lot of false teaching. This is his instruction to them:
12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another,forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
That last verse is wonderful: “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” Everything that we do should be done in the name of Jesus. So, when criticisms arise, let’s make sure that it’s glorifying. Is that possible? Of course! Often it’s even necessary (for example, Jesus cleansing the temple, Paul criticizing the Galatians. many others). My point is this: we need to let our love for the Church drive our criticisms of the Church.
This is not an accusation. It’s a challenge that God has given his people. Let’s teach and admonish one another in wisdom, and let’s be thankful to God for each other. And let’s absolutely call each other on our sin. But let’s do it because of our love for Jesus and his people. If at any point we’re coming from a place of pride, anger, selfish ambition, whatever, let’s check our hearts with Scripture. Let’s love the Church like Christ does.