Before coming to Fuller, I was a pastor at Simi Covenant Church. I know first hand about the joys and the challenges of serving a local congregation. It is easy to become cynical or bitter. Maybe even develop a “thinly veiled sense of contempt.” But, there is no church but the local church with all of its moments of magnificence and its troubles. God works in and through the local congregation. The Lord has always worked in and through the messiness. In light of this, Bonhoeffer offers an important word:
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.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together