We live in a day and age of bad news. There’s mass shootings, wildfires, hurricanes, social & political division and distrust in the highest levels of government. Everywhere you look it seems like the world is holding on by a thread.
Turning your gaze to the church doesn’t seem to make things any better. You see the stories of pastors falling into sin and disqualifying themselves from ministry. There are heap of allegations with regards to abuse of others or abuse of power. More churches than ever are focused on one’s felt needs and not on the beauty of the gospel.
The never–ending 24 hour news cycle seems like it is filled to the brim with bad news about the world, the church and everywhere else in between.
But what if the church isn’t as bad as we assume? When we dig deeper we see that the 24 hours news cycle thrives on bad news and drama while it shoves good news off to the side. The problem isn’t the church – the problem is the platform we get our news from.
Having spent the last year on the road, I have seen all sorts of churches from the East Coast to the West Coast. I’ve been in churches of 30 and churches of 5,000. Traditional worship, contemporary worship and everything in between. All sorts of backgrounds and demographics.
Different churches in different places who worship the same God and share the same gospel. These churches are seeing lives pass from darkness to light. They’re meeting physical needs in their community. They’re being a voice of change for people who don’t have the strength to muster a voice of their own.
Everywhere you look, the church is thriving and the only reason you don’t hear about it is that sort of news isn’t sexy. No one will tweet about a church hosting an after school program for at-risk elementary kids. Nobody wants to do a news story on the 5 people you baptized last week. Yet as Twitter is silent, heaven rejoices.
In a season of thanks, we don’t have to fall for the force fed narrative that the church is a lost cause. She certainly has her issues and there is still work to be done – but the Bride of Christ is still beautiful. She is clothed in splendor and is washed in the water of God’s Word. No matter where we worship or how big a church’s membership role might be there are still plenty of things we can look to and thank God for. As we count our blessings tomorrow around Thanksgiving dinner, may we thank God for these three beautiful things we see in His church today:
1) Christian community
Through the work of the Cross, God has adopted us as sons and daughters. He has given us relationships that are unbreakable and have a depth unlike any other relationship that a person can have. We’re not bound by preference or personality but we are brought together by grace and maintained in love.
“Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” ~ Ephesians 4:15-16
Our relationship in the church and to the church is one built and maintained by love: the love of God and the love of others. This global body is held together by God’s steady hand that he may be glorified and that His church may be edified. Relationships in the church are bound by love, maintained in accountability and strengthened by our Savior. Who else can boast that?
2) God’s mission
Any church that is centered on God is one that is sent by God out into the world. John 20:21 reminds us that just as the Father sent Jesus to the world, so He sends us out. Every day and every relationship offers a person the opportunity to share of God’s gospel to those they meet.
And just as God prophetically said in His Word – the gospel is spreading. Young and old. Rich and poor. The church is growing by leaps and bounds in China, India, Indonesia, Kuwait and North Korea. He is calling dead men to life and He is using the church to do it. He is using YOUR church to do it. He has sovereignly placed your church in the exact address He placed them so that they may a light on a hill for all in your city to see. That’s worth thanking God for.
3) Bringing Glory to His Name
Even as all of creation sings of the amazing attributes of God, His church does not fail to tell of His works. Every son and daughter is one who offers their life in worship. Everywhere the body of Christ goes it carries the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus can be clearly seen in His church.
God has given us a hope that doesn’t run away and a call that never grows old. As the author of Hebrews reminds us, “Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.” We received what we could never earn, which is why we gratefully sing of a hope that will never fail.
Though our local church may have it’s issues, God still sees His bride and so should we. May we give thanks for what the Cross has won us: an unfailing hope and an unchanging purpose to see Jesus known in all the world.