This has not been a particularly good week for the Christian church in America at least if you listened to the mainstream media much. With the accusations made against a prominent pastor in Atlanta regarding his possible seduction of several young men in his church, the refrain in the press seems to be “here we go again”. Another anti-gay preaching pastor caught up in the very sin he was preaching so strongly against. This of course was on the heals of the defeat in congress of an attempt to repeal the current “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy that the American military has in place. It didn’t take long for some to connect the two issues and to point out the “apparent” hypocrisy of the Christian church being so opposed to homosexuality and yet having one of it’s most vocal pastors accused of participating in the same kinds of activities.
As I was pondering all of this, I had the pleasure of visiting one of our church stores on Saturday. In order to get there, I drove past a large field across the street from the church. On that field were hundreds of inner city kids playing football and enjoying the beautiful day. As I pulled into the church parking lot, I suddenly realized that the field I had been looking at was also owned by the church and that all those kids were playing on teams sponsored by the church. Upon entering the church, I headed to the choir room to pick up some CDs and watched as the church’s male choir finish up their rehearsal. Dozens of men praising the Lord in full throated worship is a sight to behold, especially on a Saturday morning. I only regret that I did not get to see them on Sunday morning as they led the church in worship wearing their new blue blazers. These scenes that play out all over Philadelphia week in and week out are not the pictures that the media will normally focus on. They are not sensational enough, nor do they reinforce a negative stereotype that is far easier to portray.
Admittedly, the church is not perfect nor can it be as it is made up of sinners saved by grace. Recently I participated in a webinar presented by the group that is publishing the newly updated Operation World book set to be available in October. One of their observations from their research was that even though the population of world has certainly gotten larger in the last one hundred years, the percentage of the world that is categorized as Christian remains the same – around 30%. Nearly 100 years ago, well known author, Andrew Murray, wrote about his concerns regarding the state of the church in his day. Our publishing team is re-launching this book next year because it seems that the church in 2011 still has some of the same problems that the church in 1911 struggled with.
With all of this happening in my world today it would be easy for me to choose to be a critic of the local church too. Instead, I choose to be a participant in what God is doing to use the local church to bring the truth of the gospel into tough places where kids normally can’t afford to play football and where grown men are more likely to cursing God than praising Him in song. I will join with my brothers and sisters around the world who long for the day when we will not look through the glass dimly, but will see Jesus is the light of His glory and grace. As we work together for the glory of God, I pray that one hundred years from now (if the Lord tarries) we will have seen a significant advance of the gospel through the very Christian church that the media so easily chooses to critique. We have this gospel in jars of clay and some of those jars can look pretty ugly at times. As I allow the master potter to shape and mold me, I pray that I can be an encouragement to the men and women who serve their local congregations faithfully, but will never make the evening news.