“I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance. I know that you cannot tolerate evildoers; you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them to be false… But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember then from what you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first.“ – Revelation 2:2,4-5
Perhaps this is wrong, but I have a hard time trusting church people who never admit imperfection.
I don’t mean imperfection of the minor kind. I don’t care that your kids’ school lunches aren’t perfectly balanced, or that you skipped yoga class three times last week. I mean real imperfection. You got addicted to something. You got fired from your job. Or you messed up big time and it was all your fault.
When people and things at a church are just a little too neat and tidy, I get a little curious about that church’s spiritual life. Why? Because no one’s life is neat and tidy, and Christians should be the first ones to admit that.
Christians are people who have received grace. We should be people who know at our bedrock that we once were broken badly, and that God loved us and lifted us up.
I was recently speaking at a conference and I was asked what I saw as the best indication that a congregation will die. I replied, “A church that is full of people who cannot tell you about God’s grace in their own lives.”
Why? Because people who know that they have received God’s grace, and who don’t forget it, know what church is all about. It’s not about keeping up appearances. It’s not about appearing morally righteous. It’s not about saying the right things and getting ahead. It’s about knowing that you once were lost and now are found.
Until we are a church full of people that can tell the stories of our rock bottoms without shame, we will never be a church that truly can share God’s grace.
God, thank you for lifting me up. Please help me to remember that I did not pull myself up on my own. Amen.
Emily C. Heath is the Senior Pastor of the Congregational Church in Exeter, New Hampshire, and the author of Glorify: Reclaiming the Heart of Progressive Christianity.