It’s easy to be a critic. You just make judgments about people, places, events (or anything else) with little or no facts. And, you base this opinion almost solely on what does or does not appeal to you personally. Typically, we reserve the harshest criticism for the people and organizations in which we have the least amount of personal investment. The Church is no exception.
The Church has endured brutally negative words and actions since, well, right after Christ ascended into heaven around 33 A.D. Church was obviously God’s idea, because I am not sure any institution could have endured such trials to ultimately become such a widespread phenomenon.
Think about it: 12 guys were left to start The Church. They started from scratch. And, the church then was not a building, but people in certain geographic locations who came together and “devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer (Acts 2:42).” So, they did four primary things: they listened to preaching, they hung out together, they observed Holy Communion, and they prayed. That was The Church.
Apparently, it was effective, because churches started popping up all over the place: Corinth, Caesarea Philippi, Thessalonica, Rome, Galatia, Colosse, Ephesus, and eventually across all of Europe, Asia, and to North America in the 1600’s. It has been an unstoppable force, despite the efforts of many to thwart it.
Like anything that has survived for thousands of years, The Church has adapted. Church today is not like it was in the First Century. It’s not like it was in 1600, 1800, or even 1980. I am thankful for that. Creativity and innovation have helped keep Jesus’ story fresh to millions of new believers each year. Different songs, different buildings, different outreach techniques, same God.
And, with change comes criticism. I have had a few exchanges with folks over the past few years about The Church. What the Church is, what it isn’t, what it should be, what it shouldn’t be. Perhaps the harshest critic with whom I have spoken in that time only darkened the doors of my church twice before he began explaining to me everything we were doing wrong, and how it didn’t align with his personal philosophy on evangelism. He referred to my church as “the program,” and said we only want to fill seats and take people’s money. He said there were no opportunities to serve (where he wanted to serve) and that we were all about “show.”
Because he didn’t attend more than two times, he never knew how we serve schools, help businesses, send teams of missionaries to foreign countries, clothe families, provide reading glasses for kids, work concession stands for parents, deliver lunches to the poor, do laundry for MUST, give turkeys and groceries for Thanksgiving, adopt families at Christmas. All he saw was “the program.” And, in the end, that is because he made the decision to not get involved and show God’s love to others.
That is what the Church is about: serving others, learning more about who Jesus is and how to become more like Him, gathering with friends, remembering Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf, and praying for everyone and everything.
Church should be simple. Not easy, but simple. I think too many times we complicate things and make it easy for the critics to throw stones. But, if we’ll stick to the plan that God laid out through the early church, we’ll continue to persevere and bring His Good News to many more thirsty and hungry people in the years to come.