“Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.” – Psalm 127:1
An author on another blog wrote, “Your church doesn’t suck because it’s small.” And he’s right!
But, large or small, your church might still suck. Sorry, but it had to be said.
The fact is, if you have built your church; if your church is the product of your own blood, sweat, and tears; if you have poured out your life to make your church what it is; I’m going to go so far as to say, your “church” does suck.
And it sucks, because it’s “yours.”
If you are focused on your church that you have built or are building, then it is not the Lord who is building that house and you labor in vain. As a result, your “church” sucks. And it sucks, because you, of yourself, have nothing to offer that people really need from a church.
If you are gathered with people who first and foremost consider felt needs, personal desires and tastes; if more prominence is given to the style of the service than the substance; the flash and splash is more front and center than the Word and Sacrament; if the leaders of your gathering succumb to fads and the whims of the culture, then you are very likely not in Jesus’ church but in somebody else’s church and that “church” probably does suck.
The sad reality is that there are a lot of so-called “churches” in the world besides the real church of Jesus. And, they all suck.
Any “church” that hides Jesus, sucks.
A church sucks when people get in the way and seek to establish their own traditions or follow the latest and greatest fad rather than remaining dedicated to Jesus and focused on receiving His promises in Word and Sacrament. Through these, God delivers His Holy Spirit who works in you the faith needed to believe Jesus’ Promises of forgiveness, life, and salvation. “Unless you eat my body and drink my blood, you have no life within you,” said Jesus. “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit,” was Peter’s statement on Pentecost. And, in the upper room on the evening of the very first Easter, Jesus breathed on the small church gathered in humble surroundings and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit, if you forgive the sins of anyone they are forgiven.” These are the things that Jesus’ Church is about.
The Church of God is Jesus’ Church – not your church.
Jesus, Himself, builds His church upon the teaching of the Apostles and Prophets. Jesus, Himself, is the chief cornerstone; not you, not your work, not your actions, not your activity, not your gifts, not your talents. He doesn’t build it with great stories or with wonderful testimonies of personal deliverance or felt need fulfillment. He builds it by sending men to proclaim His Word and call sinners to repent of their sins and receive the forgiveness that comes only from Jesus.
Therefore, if you are tempted to think that the place where you gather sucks. First, make sure you are gathering in Jesus’ Church not some other “church”. You can tell easily enough. If the Word of God is rightly proclaimed and the Sacraments are rightly administered according to Jesus command and institution, then you are in Jesus’ church. If that Word and the Sacraments are given prominance and honor as the means by which Jesus is at work on behalf of His people, you are probably in Jesus’ Church.
Jesus’ church doesn’t suck. Period.
Jesus builds His Church through the proclamation of repentance and the forgiveness of sins upon the confession that He is the Christ, the Son of the Living God sent by the Father to rescue you from your own suckiness. He has cried over you. He has sweat drops of blood realizing the burden of sin He must bear for you. And He has poured out His lifeblood to save you.
If the Holy Spirit is calling and gathering you with others to hear about this Jesus who suffered, died and rose again FOR YOU; If you are gathering with other baptized believers to hear God’s Word read and proclaimed; If Jesus’ body and blood are given and received for the forgiveness of your sins when you gather together in His Name, then you are likely in Jesus’ Church. And Jesus Church doesn’t suck. Period.
Many or few, rich or poor, it doesn’t matter. Whether you gather with people who have great stories of deliverance from addiction or prostitution or anger or lust and everyone can see God’s power of deliverance or you gather in a tiny congregation in which everyone was baptized as an infant and God has kept and preserved all of you from falling into grievous sin by the power of His Holy Spirit, it doesn’t matter.
If you are hearing the Word of God from the Scriptures and the Sacraments are being administered properly, you are in Jesus’ Church.
And Jesus Church doesn’t suck. Period.
No matter how many you are and no matter the grandeur or poverty of your surroundings, wherever you gather together with other baptized believers to receive the gifts that Jesus won on the cross in Word and Sacrament, there heaven meets earth and you are joined with all the angels and archangels and all the company of heaven to laud and magnify the name that is above every name. Bowing before the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, you are showered with His mercy and you receive the Holy Spirit who works faith so that you trust and believe in the forgiveness of your sins, life and salvation that Jesus died to win for you. There in that place you wash your robe and make it white in the blood of the Lamb who was slain and rose again from the dead. There you receive priceless treasures: the Holy Spirit, the forgiveness of your sins, and the strengthening of your faith.
If you’re not in Jesus’ Church, flee your sucky “church”, and run, don’t walk to Jesus’ Church!
You can know that you’re in Jesus church when, in the pastor’s sermon, you hear the Word of God condemn you for your sin and offer you the forgiveness won by Jesus. You can know you are in Jesus’ Church when the Pastor pronounces in the stead and by the command of Jesus that your sins are forgiven. You can know that you are in Jesus’ Church when Jesus’ very own body and blood are distributed and received for you to eat and to drink under the forms of bread and wine for the forgiveness of your sins and the strengthing of your faith.
Therefore, find Jesus’ church and receive all the mercy and benefits He obtained through His life, death and resurrection.
Because Jesus’ church doesn’t suck. Period.
See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.
Therefore let no one pass judgment on you … Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God. — Colossians 2:8-19 (ESV)