The “Beautiful Mess” of the Church – Part 1

This is an introduction to a new mini series I’m calling, “The ‘Beautiful Mess’ of the Church.” It is inspired by the book Servanthood as Worship by Nate Palmer.

During a recent small group meet, we talked a lot about the messiness of the church. People are the church, so it can get pretty ugly (people=sinners). Fortunately, Jesus loves to take a mess and make it beautiful. This is why the church is a wonderful example of His grace.

Palmer says, “The beautiful thing is that God meets us in the mess. People are served in the mess. Ultimately, Christ will redeem the mess. One reason the church is the primary context for serving is because it is where messy people go when they need help.”

Only God could create such a place. Sometimes it is beautiful, and sometimes it is absolutely hideous. Even still, God has designed the church to tell of His son, Jesus, knowing we were going to be messy. That takes away my excuse to run from the church when she hurts me, or when hypocrisy is rampant, or when my own mess is overwhelming.

The worst thing we can do as the people of God is pretend we have no sin or that our church is flawless.  This actually makes God out to be a liar, and it hides God’s grace from the world.

Palmer says the church is the best place for messy people. My pastor always says it’s where messed up people belong! The church knows the truth behind the mess, and it knows how to remedy it. With this mission to tell the truth, what place is there for pretending?

Hiding our sin behind the false reality of perfection is the result of pride. Our pride has huge implications for the unbelieving world.

Why?

If we hide our mess, we hide Him.

Unfair is Best

A guest post by Robert Milton.

“There is nothing you can do to make God love you more. 

There is nothing you can do to make God love you less.”

I’ve heard this saying a thousand times growing up…and I have a problem with it. Now, it most certainly is true. My problem, as is my problem with most things, is that it isn’t fair.

First, I can completely disregard the first half of the statement, the part where there’s nothing I could do to make God love me more.  Here I say— rather non-poetically—no freakin’ kidding!  To think that I…a weak, broken, 30-something year old male riddled with doubts and insecurities could actually “do” anything to make the creator of the universe love me more is completely asinine.

But certainly there are things I could “do” to make God love me less.  Again, the saying is true…just not fair; or better yet, it’s impossible to comprehend.  You see, my problem with this saying is also the same problem a lot of my friends have as they wrestle with the idea of trusting a God they cannot see:

The things we have done.

How is it possible that I haven’t “done” anything to make God love me less?  I’ve murdered, stolen, committed adultery, cheated, lied, idolized, envied. I’ve wished the worst possible things on other people. I’ve tasted the fruit of bitterness and relished every bite. I’ve bowed down to statues of myself…and I’ve done all of these a thousand times over.  Now, some of these things I haven’t physically and literally “done,” but in my heart, I’m guilty of them all.

This is what I struggle with.  The chains and scars of an ugly past are only a thought or two away, and it’s easy for me to believe the skeletons in my closet are still alive and breathing.  It’s easy for us to look at our past and think we’re not worth the spilt blood of a man we may or may not fully believe in. And maybe I’m writing this to continue to convince myself, rather than others, that because I have decided to trust Jesus, my old self has gone and the new me has come.  Hard to believe, I know. But deep down inside, I trust the words of Jesus.

Many of my friends have a problem with Christianity…and rightly so on some points.  They see hypocrites, pain, backstabbing, lies…you know the list. And we’re guilty on all counts.  Christianity is full of imperfect, broken, messed-up people struggling daily with their inward battles of pride and selfishness.  What I read from Jesus is that we should love our enemies (Matthew 5:44),  not judge others (Matthew 7:1), and we should give to the poor and destitute (Mark 6:30).  I trust his words when he says we should serve others (Mark 10:43).  And most importantly, I believe his words when I read, “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36).

So yes…I will believe there isn’t anything I can do to make God love me less.  And yes…I still believe it’s unfair.  But fairness gets me death…fairness separates me from God for all eternity.  That’s what we deserve. But for those that bumble and stumble through this race with me, if our faith is in Christ, that’s not what we’ll get.

I’ve never been so happy to be treated unfairly.

The Dark Truth about Christianity

Have you ever read a quote that shook you to your very core? Well I just did. See if what Ken Gire said in The Reflective Life hits you like a ton bricks:

 I want to be like Christ. But honestly I want to be like the Christ who turned water into wine, not the Christ who thirsted on a cross. I want to be the clothed Christ, not the one whose garment was stripped and gambled away. I want to be the Christ who fed the five thousand, not the on who hungered for forty days in the wilderness…this is the dark side of Christianity, the side we don’t see when we sign up. That if we want to be like Christ, we have to embrace both sides of His life. What else could it mean when the Bible talks about ‘the fellowship of His suffering’? How could we enter that fellowship apart from suffering? How could we truly know the Man of Sorrows acquainted with grief if we had not ourselves known grief and sorrow?

Ouch! Yep, a ton of bricks. This is such a true portrayal of my heart. I want to be like the Jesus that attracted crowds to hear him teach (Matt. 4:25) not the one that attracted a mob with swords and clubs (Matt 26:47).

I want to be like the Jesus that was baptized in front everyone, that caused God the Father to speak words of adoration and caused the Spirit to rest like a dove on his shoulder (Matthew 3:16,17). But when temptation comes and I find myself in the wilderness, I do not not want to be like the Jesus that fasted food, resisted temptation and clung only to the words and commandments of God (Matthews 4:1-11).

This is the dark truth about my Christianity. Is it the dark truth about yours too?

A book I have cherished since I was young teenager was written by Ken Gire–it’s called Intimate Moments with the Savior. I highly recommend it.