The Apostle Paul gives a listing of the credentials of the Lord Jesus in the first chapter of his book to the Colossians: He is the image of the invisible God; by Him were all things created in heaven and earth; He is before all things and in Him all things hold together; He is the firstborn from the dead, that in everything He might have the preeminence. But in the middle of this amazing list is: “And He is the head of the body, the church.” Col 1:18. Of course Paul is not writing a resume for Jesus, but if he was, and if I were him, I would leave out that church part. It is an understatement to say His church really is not that impressive.
In the New Testament, the church is defined as the whole body of people who have taken Jesus to be their Lord and Savior. That means every Believer is part of the church. Typically Believers come together as a local group on a regular basis to express together their appreciation for what the Lord Jesus has done for them. These groups are called churches. Most of these churches have some sort of affiliation with other churches. There are any number of these affiliated churches, most of which are affiliated together because of their disaffiliation from other church affiliations.
I had a college teacher who wrote of several of the church revivals in 19th century America called, “Less than Conquerors.” His book told how each new revival merely added to the confusion and sectarianism of the American church.
Nearly every Believer who has been part of a local church group can tell you very sad stories how their church has been infected with hubris, apathy, antipathy, immorality, heresy, partiality and many other problems.
Several years ago, a good friend listened sympathetically to my story of a series of injustices that happened to me at the church where I attended. “You’ve been beat up by the church. But take heart, you are not alone. I don’t know of anyone who hasn’t been beat up by the church.”
I know some people who insist that the church is in disarray, and like Humpty Dumpty, it can never be put back together. They can give good evidence that it has been an utter failure for all of its 2000 years.
But there is something else going on in the church, in churches, in the little church of which I am a part. It’s something quietly supernatural; a sweet, sweet spirit. Together we remember the death (of all things) of the Lord Jesus: the One who was before all, in whom all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell; lifted up on the cross after being beaten, and spit upon.
I understand why the Church might cause one to become atheists. As the institution manifesting Christ here on this earth, we’re a motley crew.
I wish I was a better person. Though I think I might be considered, comparatively, not so bad of a person, every day I am aware of my own failure of character. I could be much kinder, much less self interested.
I also wish my fellow Believers were better people. Every day I hear certain ones who are unable to forgive. Every day I see degrees of hypocrisy and judgementalism that just should not be.
But when I come together with fellow Believers as a church, and we remember together the Lord Jesus, sometimes there is such a sweet, sweet spirit.
I am bewildered as to why Paul would list as one of the Lord Jesus’ praiseworthy attributes that He is the head of the church. I can hardly imagine why this could be true. But I’m delighted to imagine it, which is one more reason why I am not an atheist.