I can’t tell you the number of times that I’ve been part of a conversation about the church, when the other person seeks to end the conversation by saying something like, “Well, there are no perfect churches.”
The point, I assume, is that since there are no perfect churches, then there is no reason to seek to be perfect. Usually, of course, these conversations center around the differences between what I understand about the church and what the other person understands about the church.
The other person, at some point, might admit that there are problems with his or her understanding of the church, but, as is often said, “there are no perfect churches.”
I agree with that statement. Churches are gatherings of people. There are no perfect people, and so there are no perfect churches. I have no problem with that statement. Instead, I’m concerned about what is typically meant by that statement: since there are no perfect churches, then you should not expect us to change, even if we are imperfect.
But, there’s a huge difference between imperfect, and seeking to grow and change and become more like the church that is described in Scripture.
Believe it or not, I’m not surprised when people disagree with me. I’m not taken aback. I don’t separate from people or stop fellowshiping with them because they disagree with me about the church. As long as someone is in Christ, then I accept that person as a brother or sister, and attempt to treat them as such.
But, I think there’s a problem with accepting imperfect churches without seeking to grow and change.
Paul addressed many imperfect churches. He wrote to churches among which there were many different kinds of problems; some with problems understanding who God or Jesus Christ is; some with problems understanding how to respond to the gospel; some with problems understanding the end times; some with problems concerning the church itself.
The only group of believers that he almost separate from were the churches in Galatia. He almost separated himself from them because they were walking away from the gospel. However, he did not separate from them right away, but instead wrote to them to help them understand their error.
For the others, he accepted them as brothers and sisters as they were. He called them saints (holy ones). He called them children of God. He recognize that they were indwelled by the Holy Spirit. In spite of the fact that they were imperfect churches, the accepted them.
But, he did not want them to stay the way they were. He wanted them to grow and mature in their relationship with God and also in their relationships with one another. He knew they would never be a perfect church, but he wanted them to continue growing, changing, and maturing.
I think this should be our view of ourselves as well. We are in Christ, but we are still growing in our understanding of him and what it means to live according to the Spirit that is in us. We are not perfect, but we should be maturing.
In the same we, churches are not perfect either. However, we should be surprised if we are not continually growing and changing and maturing as individuals and as churches.
No, there are no perfect churches. But, there should be no static churches either.