Natalie Trust got me thinking the other day when she said that she doesn’t really know what people mean when they say “I like my church.” I was having a good day, so I responded with friendly sarcasm. But she makes a valid point. All this got me thinking about why we like churches, and why that isn’t enough.
When I say “church,” I mean the local church with whom you worship every week. Both the institution and the people. You see, many people like their church because of the various programs the church offers: a vibrant youth ministry, a strong singles ministry, and even dynamic speakers. Some like their church because of devotion to liturgy and the beauty they see in that style. Others like their church because most people at the church don’t even know what liturgy is. I would hope that most of us like our church because it is committed to solid, gospel-centered teaching. All of this is good, and it’s even good to want these things from your church. It’s important to like your church, but it’s also insufficient.
We have to move past liking the church and move toward loving the church as well. See, just like in relationships, we like something or someone because of what it does for us. How it makes us feel. How it connects us with other people. How it makes life easier on us. How it makes pursuing sanctification easier for us. But loving is different.
Loving the church is seeing the imperfections, all the ways you wish it was different, and committing to stay there anyway. Loving the church is admitting that some people in the church are really just obnoxious, and sacrificing time and energy to invest in them anyway. It’s entering into a covenant that says that we are “all in” unless God moves us to a different city or there is unrepentant Theological error. It’s casting consumerism aside and enduring the sometimes painful experiences of working through doctrinal and philosophical differences. It’s making the church about God and about His People as a whole, rather than an individual’s desires and preferences.
So, please, stop just liking your church. Start loving it.