Faith

The Church is not perfect, but it is beautiful

Jonavan Lee // October 8, 2018, 12:07 pm

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Growing up in a small church, I served in almost every ministry available and I loved it.

I savoured every moment of service and fellowship … until I began to ask more questions, frustrated with some of the ways things were being done in church.

It was also during this period when God challenged me to step down from my roles, because my identity had become defined by all the things I was doing – it wasn’t found in Christ any longer.

However, even after stepping down from my ministry appointments, my frustration with the leadership’s decisions and actions remained. My vexation got the better of me and I started to think that staying on in that church was doing more harm than good.

So I decided to move. It was a heart-breaking time for me, leaving all my church friends and leaders behind.

Some time later, I was invited by a friend to his megachurch.

The new church was awesome. The sermons were inspiring, services were smooth and seamless in execution, and everyone just seemed so passionate about church and proud to be part of it.

This church had everything I wanted to see back in my previous one. I was looking for culture, to feel as if I was a part of a great organisation.

But in time, again I started to discover flaws in the way they did church. This time, I felt that behind the glitz and glamour of the immaculate services lay a shallow drive for exponential growth and to maintain the church’s brand and culture – more than loving people and discipling Christians.

I was really disheartened. I just couldn’t look past it.

I brought this issue before God in prayer. Alone in my bedroom, I complained to God about my disenchantment with the two churches I was in.

As I was praying, the Holy Spirit suddenly reminded me of a vision of revival that God had put in my heart years ago in the prayer room of my first church. Nostalgia swept over me as I saw the scene – one I hadn’t seen for about 2 years.

I then began to pray and complain to God about my first church: “The first church had tons of issues and now the second one is having lots of issues too!”

As I grumbled and ranted, God just dropped this statement on me: “My Church is not perfect, but it’s beautiful.”

I realised that I was caught up in negativity, which was why I couldn’t see the Church’s beauty.

When I heard it, something broke inside of me and I began sobbing profusely in His presence.

The Holy Spirit showed me a scene of my first church: I saw all my church friends, happy, smiling and doing life with one another in service and after service. I could see the joy on their faces.

Suddenly the scene changed. The church was taken away and all the faces I saw went dark. My friends became sad, depressed and hopeless. Some even turned to self-harm. I was devastated by that despondent scene.

The Holy Spirit brought me another vision. This time I was watching my friends in my second church, in full colour. Same thing: they were happy, smiling and living life with purpose. Joy was written all over their faces. But the scene changed as well, and the church was removed. And my friends suddenly went dark in a monochrome world.

That was when God told me again: “The Church is not perfect, but it’s beautiful.”

Suddenly I understood what He was trying to tell me. All those beautiful lives would not have been changed without the Church! Imperfect as it is, the Church is still beautifully transforming the lives which walk through its doors.

I realised that I was caught up in negativity, which was why I couldn’t see the Church’s beauty. I needed to zoom out and see beyond the apparent mistakes and problems in my church and leaders.

While there is a time for rectification and rebuke, I must also be meek, submissive and patient to let God convict the leadership of whatever He needs to convict in His perfect timing.

After this huge spiritual download, I began strumming and singing and this song was birthed.

The first verse talks about the church leader’s plea. The chorus is the heart of the message that God dropped in my heart. The second verse is about me judging the church. The final chorus is a call to every Christian to rise up and build God’s Church – to live for something bigger than worldly hopes and dreams.

After writing this song, I brought this testimony to the leaders of the church I was attending. I also shared my concerns and perspective of the way things were being done. They thanked me for sharing the affirming story.

Now, was the issue eventually solved? Not really. So what changed? My perspective and my heart towards this issue.

Joshua Harris said in his book Dug Down Deep: “God doesn’t come out on a big stage once a year to prove Himself to the world. He does something so much riskier and daring … He makes us the show! He proves Himself and displays Himself through His Church.”

What a privilege, that God would use imperfect people like us to display Himself. The Church is definitely imperfect and messy.

But it’s still the beautiful Body of Christ.