I listened to a sermon from pastor Perry Noble last week. He’s the pastor of the largest Southern Baptist church in the country. In the sermon he said something that I’ll never forget. He said that occasionally people will tell him that they don’t go to church because a ‘church person’ had been mean to them. (I think it’s safe to say that the ‘church people are hypocrites’ defense is also used to avoid going to church.)
He said something like this to the person: “You want to compare stories on how church people have been mean? You tell me your stories and I’ll tell you mine.” What Noble was implying is that church people have been mean to him. I know what he’s talking about. I tend to not turn lights on when I’m in the church. I am using the natural light coming through the window in my office right now. One time I was in my office in Mason sitting at my desk with no lights on and I heard someone talking about me right outside my office door. While I can’t remember who it was or what they said (honestly, I can’t), I do remember that it was not complimentary. It was mean. And I never said anything to them and tried not to hold a grudge.
I can also tell you that church people have also been unbelievably kind to me. Church people paid for Diane, Adam, and Me to go on a mission trip to Haiti. They helped Diane pay for her trip to Africa with me for my required seminary trip by helping us to raise money. Church people helped us go to Oklahoma. Church people have loaned us vehicles, fixed our vehicles, and paid for and built Diane flower boxes for her windows.
What everyone must remember is that a.) not all church people are followers of Jesus, b.) even followers of Jesus still make mistakes and are not perfect, and c.) some church people are well intentioned but also misdirected.
Finally, what the ‘church person has been mean to me’ or ‘church people are hypocrites” crowd must realize is if the church was full of perfect people, how in the world would anyone from the world ever approach the church doors? It’s precisely because the church has plenty of mean people, hurting people, hypocrites, and the like (including the pastors), that everyone else is welcome. You drink too much? You gossip? You smoke marijuana? You cuss? You sleep with people you aren’t married to? You judge people? Y’all come in. You’ll fit right in. I guarantee you that yesterday in church we had different people who we could plug into one of each of those categories.
And our hope is that as we gather together as the church, that we are changed. We hope that as time passes and we keep going to church and reading the Bible and trying to live for Jesus, that we can say, “I’m not who I should be, but thanks to Jesus I’m not who I once was.” That’s the church I’ve been sent here to lead. Don’t stay away because of any of us. Thank the Lord that your imperfect self will fit right in. It’s not the righteous who need a Savior.