The post I began writing was based on a chat I had with a friend, who’s moving home and looking for a new church. We were talking about what she should look for. And that was my original post – a wish list for church.
It was quite a long list. It had things like ‘real relationships’, ‘commitment to pastoral care’, ‘the priority of loving Jesus over skills or gifting’. I based a lot of it on my own church, (which rocks) and for which I’m very thankful.
But I deleted the post. Because, the perfect church doesn’t exist – any more than the perfect husband or the perfect family. And sometimes, writing what you want, devalues what you’ve got. Like in magazines, where you look at someone’s dream kitchen …and then your own starts to shrink.
I could write a list about the 20 characteristics of The Dream Family. But I don’t, because I’ve already got a family and that’s where I belong. My own family mightn’t tick any of those 20 boxes, but I love them and wouldn’t swap them for the Waltons. Same goes for my husband. I’m already married – not to an ideal but to a flesh and blood person. And whilst ’10 Keys to a Perfect Marriage’ looks good on paper, it doesn’t work. Fact is, you can’t have a relationship with an ideal. In fact, such ideals can kill real relationships.
Think about how it plays out in our own lives. The internal monologues that allow us to run ourselves down. The comparisons with a ‘perfect me’. How many times have you beaten yourself up for falling short of your own ridiculous standards? Too short, too pale, too intense, too fat. The self-help mantra: 10% inspiration, 90% condemnation and 100% law. A recipe for discontent.
When Jesus came to earth He went to the local Synagogue every Saturday – even when they tried to kill Him. Now that’s commitment. He didn’t hold out for the perfect church. Instead He committed Himself to a very imperfect church – a church that He died for.
If Jesus wasn’t too good for “local church” then we’re not either. Of course there are things that can be improved: and it’s good to talk these through. But there’s a big difference between running something down and strengthening it from within. Our churches don’t need our wishlists, they need our willingness to plug in and serve.
Don’t fantasize about the perfect church – love the one you’re with.