Before taking this new job at Fuller, I was a pastor of a fantastic church for 23 years. That congregation wonderful as it was, was full of humans, which meant sometimes I was disappointed, hurt, angry, annoyed. Eugene Peterson defines the church as one part mystery and one part messy. That makes alot of sense.
While I was pastoring, my physician friend and I would sometimes talk about an aliment that afflicts persons who serve in people businesses. That aliment was described as “thinly veiled contempt.” It happens to easily. We get tired, and annoyed and then we become self-righteous, arrogant, superior, and condescending.
This aliment strikes pastors and physicians. I also find it prevenlent with seminary professors, including me sometimes. I love the church. I am not naive about the church, and somethings about the church sadden me, and even gets me angry. But I love the church.
I am going to talk about church differently. I may critique the church. (I hope this is not just my legal-ize way around the ailment). I am going to work very hard to bless the church of Jesus Christ, and hope for even brighter days for the church. I am going to spend a whole lot more time lifing up stories of how the church is doing well. It really is!
In so many corners of the country and the world, people, all different types with hearts for God, who along side their other vocations and tasks, are serving well, in the church, and in the world, in so many different capacties. Pastors, most who will never become known by anyone outside of their denomination or their town, work hard, faithfully, prayerfully day after day. I need to, we need to, spend a whole lot more energy honoring these who serve.
This quote by Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Life Together got me walking down this thought path. It convicts to the soul:
Pastors should not complain about their congregations, certainly never to other people, but also not to God. A congregation has not been entrusted to them in order that they should become its accuser before God and others. When persons become alienated from a Christian community in which they have been placed and begin to raise complaints about it, they had better examine themselves first to see whether the trouble is not due to their wish dream that should be shattered by God.
Let these words convict you too. Hope for the church. Speak well of the bride of Christ. The bridegroom is listening!