Rediscovering Church (Yes, You Need Her!)

“And so, again and again, the church needs to be rediscovered. This is because we’re all prone to forget what God wants for us. The apostle Paul told the Philippians, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” In this he pointed to the example of Jesus, “who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” (Phil. 2:3–4, 6–7). Jesus humbled himself to die on the cross so that he could be exalted by God. If we want loving unity in the church, then we must follow the same path of self-denial. No other route will reach the summit, where we find God’s approval: “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matt. 25:21).

“I (Collin) know a pastor who often says that no one gets the church they want. But everyone gets the church they need. We all need churches that call us to something greater than ourselves. We need churches that call us finally to God. When we follow the example of Jesus, we get the church we need.

“We’re all trained today to leverage institutions such as family, work, and school to achieve our personal goals of attention and acceptance. Once we get what we want, or the institution asks us for something we don’t want to give, we can discard it and move on to another target. Get a new job. Get a new family. Get a new school.

“But personal growth doesn’t usually work that way. Generally relationships don’t change you for the better if they don’t challenge you at your worst. Consider: Who are the most important people in your life? Do they only affirm you and every decision you make? Or do you trust that they will love you no matter what, and love you enough to tell you the truth? Relationships with family members and friends are forged through thick and thin. They will stand behind you at your best, stand next to you at your worst, and stand in front of you at your most vulnerable.

“That’s the kind of church we must rediscover. The church isn’t just another institution we use to build a résumé and enhance our self-identity. The church forms us into men and women of God. We grow stronger together. At the same time, we learn more about who God intended us to be as individuals—our unique abilities and passions. The church doesn’t erase our personalities. It enhances them by connecting us to the Creator who made us as we are and to others who call forth love and strength we never knew we had. You may not get the church you wanted. But you get the church you never knew you needed.

“The two of us are not naive about how many churches fall short of this vision. You might think we underestimate the challenges. On the contrary, because of our positions, we know far more than most about the dark side of churches. We’ve experienced it ourselves. We’ve heard of it from others. We’ve seen it with friends and family members. And we’re not asking you to tolerate abuse or heretical theology. We’re not issuing a blanket endorsement for churches or condoning the misuse of power and authority that we know is common among churches, past and present.

“We do, however, believe that you must expect friction in church. You should not expect to get along with everybody. You should not expect to share the same vision, the same priorities, the same strategies. Those moments of friction test all of us. They make us wonder if another church around the corner would be easier. It might, at least for a time, though probably not forever, because in that church you’ll find sinners redeemed by grace. And you’ll still be a sinner redeemed by grace. You’ll find the good and the bad, maybe to a lesser degree. But no church this side of Jesus’s return can avoid every disagreement and disappointment.”

This material is adapted from the new book by Collin Hansen and Jonathan Leeman Rediscover Church: Why the Body of Christ Is Essential (Crossway, 2021)

Published in: on August 14, 2021 at 9:15 PM  Leave a Comment  

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