© Sue Colvil #340071 Fotiolia
The church is not perfect. I don’t know whether you’ve noticed that? ;-)
Sydney, where I come from, is blessed with many good and strong Bible teaching churches that are a pleasure to be at. I’ve noticed in Melbourne that good Bible teaching churches are much harder to find (though they are here!). There seems to be more of a polarisation when there is not strong Bible teaching: either churches become soft (a bit liberal and wishy-washy) or they become very ‘fundy’ (majoring on the minors and rejecting most other Christians). Some of the more ‘fundy’ folk may withdraw in the end from the church and form very small house groups, sometimes consisting of little more than their own family. They are disappointed with the church, which is not meeting their expectations. I believe that they are missing out. The blessings of fellowship in the wider church family are great.
Forgiven, but Still Sinful
I wonder whether my more ‘fundy’ friends who withdraw from the church might not have a wrong view of church? I won’t go into detail here, but I believe that a ‘pure’ church on earth is a mistaken concept. The church will always have a mix of converted and unconverted folk. Not until Jesus returns will the wheat and the tares be separated. Besides that, the saints are forgiven sinners: forgiven, but still sinful. We all have many areas of our understanding of God’s word that are wrong, and wrong behaviour too.
But there are great blessings in the fellowship of the church. Being a bit of a doctrinal purist and a cranky fellow, I get shirty often when my fellow Christians come out with all sorts of things from the Bible that I think are not true. But doctrinal-purity is just one element of church. There are so many other things I can learn from my fellow Christians even when I disagree with them. For one thing, obedience is what counts in the end, not dotting every “i” and crossing every “t”.
I love the Christians at my church. I guess I just find most people so interesting and often fascinating! I would never meet such a wide range of people if it weren’t for church. I love to see the godly example of different folk. Some go out of their way to help the sick and the weak. Some always have an encouraging word to say, which reminds me I should do the same. Some are very careful about what they say and how they speak, again, reminding me of how I should behave. Some have great artistic gifts. Some are cheerful. Some are serious. Some are creative, some are funny. There is so much to learn, especially from those who are older than us.
Such riches in fellowship! Some quote Bible verses (always impressive). Some quote hymns. Some quote great Christians of the past. There is such a rich variety in a body of people, the body of Christ. What poverty would be mine if I cut myself off from such people over minor matters of purity of doctrine! And really, who would I meet who thinks the same as me on all aspects of the Bible and doctrine? Doctrine is critically important. Please don’t hear me denigrating right doctrine! But we should not separate ourselves from fellowship with the saints over minor doctrinal matters. We should seek to learn from others, and to influence them for the good too. The church will not improve if we separate ourselves from it.
There are great blessings to be had in the fellowship of the saints.