Jesus’ Church Doesn’t “Suck.” Period.

 

“Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.” – Psalm 127:1

Image: Flickr User – Peter G. Trimming

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)

 

 

About Pastor Matthew Dent

I'm a life-long Lutheran who, prior to formal preparation for the ministry, learned most of my theology from good preaching, solid hymnody, and the consistent pattern of sound words found in the church's liturgy in a small church in Western, NY. A "first generation" pastor in my family, I took the "long route" to seminary, working in startups and small companies in the technology and internet sector for 10 years before completing my Bachelor of Arts at Concordia University, Ann Arbor in December of 2004 and continuing my studies at Concordia Theological Seminary, graduating with my M.Div. in 2008. I completed additional residential studies toward an S.T.M. at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, and was ordained and first installed in July, 2009. Since January 2014, I have been serving Jesus' Church as pastor at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Standish, Michigan where I live with my wonderful wife, Kelli, and my two kids, Jonathan and Natalie.

Comments

Jesus’ Church Doesn’t “Suck.” Period. — 13 Comments

  1. Thanks, Pastor Dent for a “right on!” article! So, does this mean that when a Missouri Synod member says, ‘Oh, it doesn’t matter what church you go to…” we can respond with your article? : >)

  2. The phrase “that sucks” is the abbreviation of a longer phrase farmers came up with many years ago, before the Great Depression I believe. The phrase in its original form was “that sucks hind tit” and was used by farmers and rural folk to denote or describe anything undesirable. Farmers came up with the term as they observed piglets and puppies feed from the rows of teats that extend from the mother’s chest area towards its’ rear end. They reasoned that the least attractive teat from which to gain nourishment was the rear most one, the one closest to the area of the mother’s body where unappetizing bodily functions occur.

    Over time “that sucks hind tit” in usage became shortened to simply “that sucks”; the farmers all knew what the shortened phrase meant. With the increased social mobility accompanying and following WW II, the shortened phrase migrated to the rest of the country, but without the explanation of origin. The phrase now seems to be a fixed part of our vernacular. My source for this explanation is my late father who lived through the depression and fought in WW II.

    Essayons 46 months ago

    [I finally was pushed to look it up. This is the cleanest definition.]

    Besides the location, I believe the problem with a “hind tit” was that it was smallest (least productive) and the piglet which consistently got pushed there by his litter mates was likely to become the runt.
    I’ll leave y’all to decide whether that applies here.

    [Those of us who thought we left barnyard vocabulary back on the farm will just have to “suck it up”, I guess!]

  3. @helen #2

    I don’t like the phrase. As you have explained, it’s a crude way of saying someone for short end of the stick. There is another origin however. In a hydraulic or fuel system, the saying is a shortening of, “that sucks air.” Many a time I’ve had trouble getting fluid flow in a system because of a hole in a hose or a connection that was not sealing, where air was being sucked in so the pump could not maintain prime. So it does not necessarily have to be a bad phrase.

  4. @T. R. Halvorson #3
    …where air was being sucked in so the pump could not maintain prime.

    We had a rainwater cistern at home; we used the water for washing clothes and hair because the well was very ‘hard’ water. That pump had to be primed with a dipper of water each time it was used. And I am reminded that my Dad, by nature and necessity a DIY, dealt with both water problems and his car. Thanks! I may be able to finish reading the piece with those mind.

    Much better mental connections than the last 20 years on a university campus have taught me! 😉

  5. @helen #2

    T.M.I.

    Like T.R. Halvorson, I don’t like the term, whether its origin is in female anatomy or hydraulics. It has a scatalogical flavor to it that to me is inappropriate when used of the things of God. I didn’t like it the first time I heard it, and I still don’t. I wouldn’t even apply it to 5/2–there are plenty of very descriptive and appropriate terms that will do the job. But it is tempting…

    However, I do thank you for your etmyology of the expression. We’re on the same page theologically, and that’s what counts.

  6. @T. R. Halvorson #3
    I also dislike the use of that expression topically rendered in a discussion of the church. I think the silliness and stupidity of the world is infecting the way even pastors, who should know better, are articulating and framing discussions in public forums. What is wrong with people today? I am almost 70 years old, and I remember a time when no preacher of the word would use such casual language in making a point about the church. I am fed up. I live in a crazy and stupid country, and people lately act like morons….even pastors.

  7. Equally applicable to both 5/2 and pietism: sucks.

    And I think a fair case can be made for scatology where it concerns anything that works to separate the sheep from their Shepherd. 🙂

  8. Thank you, Pastor, for saying what needs to be said on a regular basis. As a (very) former track and field dude, we used the term “sucks wind” negatively, clearly referring to being out of breath from exertion. ‘Tis more than a mere shame some of the readership wishes to focus on the phrase “sucks” than interact with the points in the piece, as it may be part of why it’s so difficult to engage in meaningful discussion in the modern church.

  9. So this LCMS church would “suck” and why? … where…

    Pastor preaches out of the pulpit and walks around
    Pastor doesn’t wear an alb
    Pastors prays by standing next to the first pew faces congregation
    band in the front with singers
    songs that are not doctrinal sound
    Service Book not being used
    Alternate confession spoken not found in the Lutheran Service Book
    Bible studies taught by lay people and not the pastor on Sunday’s
    Women readers

  10. @John Rixe #10

    My answer is confusing.  To clarify: 

    This LCMS church would suck where…

       songs are used which are not doctrinally sound

       Bible class is not taught by the pastor

    The others in the list aren’t essential elements of Jesus’ church IMO.

    @Ralph

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