The Bride of Christ…Kind of a Bitch

I realize the older I get that the broken places of my life and the broken places of others lives stick out and we are bound to cut each other up. Our brokenness and hurts don’t just affect us, they lead us, they guide us, they cause us to make decisions that then brake and hurt others. We have recently found ourselves once again in a church situation where the sharp shards of all of our broken places are evident and people are getting cut. Recently some of our closest friends in the world, people we call family, were fired from the mission’s team they have been working on for the past three years. This team was building a church and the team leader, who is the senior pastor, decided that our friends could no longer be a part of the team. The missions organization they are with said that even though they love our friends and would welcome them on any number of other teams, they need to support the team leader in Prague on this decision and in order to stay with the mission our friends need to honor that and leave Prague. It has been devastating for Bryan and me and for so many others who have been blessed by our dear friends.

Honestly though, I can understand the decision. Our friends are passionate, insightful people. They are authentic people who aren’t afraid to speak their minds. They value speaking truth, challenging one another and being challenged themselves. They are creative and artistic, intense, spontaneous, radically generous and intentionally communal. They love people well and people love them for it. They are deeply attractive. I can completely understand how a leader would have a difficult time “reigning them in”. I can completely understand how a leader could even feel threatened by them. I can completely understand how their gifts and the things I love them for could wound and hurt a leader. I can understand how their being gone would make life easier for the leader. But, I cannot at all understand how their being gone could benefit the church as a whole.

Honestly, I am not angry with the pastor. I can understand the decision, but I don’t agree with his decision.

This decision really makes me sad.  It makes me sad that it was a decision made only with the council of outsiders and no one in the church or who would consider the church home was consulted on it. It makes me sad that so many people in the church are upset about it and some (us included) aren’t sure if we can stay there after this. It makes me sad that one person in the church has that much power to wound so many people.  It makes me sad how sudden this has been, and how it came at a time when our friends truly thought that some reconciliation and growth was happening in their relationship with this leader. I am sad for the church and for all that they will miss out on by loosing this wonderful family.

I fully believe that this change is going to be good for my friends in the long run. It will result in them being freed up to openly be the people God made them to be and pursue the purposes he’s placed on their hearts, which will be good not only for them but for the Kingdom of God at large. But, I’m sad for how it all came about.

Honestly, though, the whole thing has mostly just made me feel apathetic about church again. Something like this would have made me angry a few years ago. I used to be incredibly passionate about church and how church “could” be and “should” be. Now I’ve just sort of resigned myself to the fact that this is just how it is. We are just broken people rubbing up against other broken people. Like it or not church is an institution and that means that it makes decisions like an institution – it hires and fires people, it makes choices based on its own survival and numbers, it prioritizes and marginalizes. It’s just how it is. I shrug my shoulders and think to myself about the wider global church (not just this local church)…

Of course the church acts like the world. Of course the church is fake and it’s easy for the broken hearted to remain broken hearted and unknown. Of course the church marginalizes women. Of course the church isn’t a place where prostitutes, gypsies, and homeless feel welcomed and provided for. Of course the church isn't a place where the hungry are fed, the naked clothed and the sick made well. Of course the church segregates age groups and separates the children from the adults. Of course the church gives the same sermons over and over again just in different ways. Of course the church makes everything about knowledge instead of about love. Of course the church doesn’t put into practice the upside down radical kingdom of Jesus. Of course the church waters down the gospel. Of course the church treats each other like dirt at times instead of taking care of each other. Of course the church acts like a business instead of a family. Of course the church cares more about numbers than disciples. Of course the church fires someone even when the person is blessing and supporting many of the churches members. Of course the church judges instead of redeems, separates instead of unities, constricts people instead of breathing freedom. Of course the church doesn’t act like Jesus… She may be the bride of Christ, but she’s also kind of a bitch sometimes.

I shrug my shoulders and say, “Is it really worth it?” What’s the point? Is it worth finding another church when the problems in the church are epidemic? How bad would it really be if we just stopped going to church for a while? How much of the problems in the church are really my own fault? Do I just make excuses instead of trying to change things? Or am I apathetic because I’ve tried to change things, but failed? Maybe it’s ok for church to be an institution and to function in these broken ways, because like it or not we are still broken? Maybe what I think of as church isn’t church at all and I need to change my paradigm?

Lord, change my heart. Work in me to displace my apathy with hope, to soften what anger I may have into faith, and to replace my sadness with love. Show me what error may be in MY ways, and MY thoughts, and lead me into the way everlasting. Amen.

Stay tuned for more of my current thoughts on church and church attendance later this week…

Rejoicing in the journey - Bethany Stedman