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There are no perfect churches

Posted by on Mar 6, 2012 in community, definition, discipleship, fellowship | 11 comments

There are no perfect churches

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.


11 Comments

  1. 3-6-2012

    I loathe that statement “there are no perfect churches”. There actually is a perfect church, His church. Our understanding and expression of it might be flawed of course but as you say many people use that as a trump card to just accept things the way they are rather than making uncomfortable changes, or even thinking about them. It would be like a baseball player who hits .195 shrugging his shoulders and saying “Well no one gets a hit 100% of the time, so why bother trying”.

  2. 3-6-2012

    There may not be a perfect church, but as Christ’s bride, the church should be striving to present herself radiant, blameless and holy. Don’t forget Jesus also threatened to remove his lampstand from churches who wouldn’t repent. No, we’re not perfect. But we should never be idle.

  3. 3-6-2012

    Excellent point. I really dislike it when people use ‘Well, nobody’s perfect!’ as an excuse not to take responsibility for their actions.

  4. 3-6-2012

    Well if this little statement “there are no perfect churches” is not the granddaddy of all psychological ploys I do not know a better one. Eliminating any dissent by taking away the right to question, or else appear redundant is a very smooth ploy. “What did you not hear me, I already said there are no perfect churches, they are just made up of imperfect people…..like you mister”. : ) LOL
    As I have said before, “church” was not God’s idea. Church as an institution, it is a red herring, designed to lead people away from Christ. All of the evidence is there but so far few people want to admit the truth. I do not know why this idea is so radical. A bad tree can not bear good fruit, and most important for this application, “A GOOD TREE CAN NOT BEAR BAD FRUIT.” I have heard so many excuses for the bad tree, churches are imperfect, I agree with Frank above Christ Church is perfect or it is nothing at all, right? I have been told “you do not want to through the baby out with the bath water”, there are untold excuses for the bad tree we call church. So it is the Lord’s timing to square our shoulders and be men and tell the truth, this imposter is a bastard and in no way represents Jesus or His spiritual kingdom. Church is not of God, so then who is it of? It is an inoculation, to prevent the perfecting of the bride. It uses the name of the Lord to promote all manner of evil. I have been in church leadership for over 20 years, and I know about the back room deals, the lies, the manipulation. Who is the father of lies? Who coerces and controls? Who manipulates for it own advantage? What is his name? Who fleeces the sheep financially and steals away their time and talents and gives them straw to eat? What do you call it, what is its name?

  5. 3-6-2012

    Arthur,

    Well, .195 is better than .190!

    Frank,

    As far as I can tell, Jesus Christ is always working in us individually and corporately. Like you said, since he is not idle, we should not be idle.

    Jenny,

    Yes. Exactly. Nobody’s perfect… but when we give the Holy Spirit reign in our lives, everyone is perfecting (i.e., maturing).

    Tony,

    Feel free to substitute the term “ekklesia” or any other that you choose. Even in Scripture, the ekklesiai were not perfect, but the authors of Scripture expected them to grow and change, not remain idle and stagnant. That’s the point here.

    -Alan

  6. 3-6-2012

    Alan,

    Depends whether we are seeing the church through God’s eyes or our own!

    I agree there is no perfect congregation,and I’m far too aware of my own, and others” weakness.

    What appears to be, in the “now”, will be shown to be something else in the “not yet”.

  7. 3-6-2012

    @ Aussiejohn, indeed what God sees is the reality that He has destined us for. Alan, my point is a bit different…. church is a spirit, it is not the Lord’s ekklesia. I am not talking about function so much as I am spiritual realities, and spiritual warfare. Certainly trapped inside the “church” are portions of the Lord’s ekklesia.

  8. 3-6-2012

    Aussie John,

    Does the awareness of your own weaknesses make you more or less resistant to change?

    Tony,

    I understand that you’re using the English term “church” in a different way than I use it. But, when I use the word “church”, I’m referring to “the Lord’s ekklesia.”

    -Alan

  9. 3-7-2012

    Alan,

    Certainly less resistant!

  10. 3-7-2013

    Do most churches need an excuse not to change?
    Johnny

  11. 3-7-2013

    Johnny,

    Unfortunately, that’s true.

    -Alan

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