Over the last few decades, Americans have soured on almost every important institution. We don’t trust our government, we don’t trust our schools, and tragically, we don’t trust our churches either.
There are legitimate reasons that public trust in the American church has crumbled. The sexual abuse crises in the Roman Catholic Church and Southern Baptist Convention showed backroom dealings that focused on protecting institutions rather than children. American Christianity, particularly on the Conservative side, has become too wedded to a particular political party.
However, for everything going wrong in American Christianity, we cannot forget the beautiful evidence of God’s grace at work all around us.
I recently heard a “See You at the Pole” speaker sharing his testimony. Like many, he talked about how far and how fast he ran from God. He told how he had developed a terrible reputation in his small southern town through years of drug abuse and alcohol addiction.
However, he went to church with his mother one Sunday. What happened when he got there shocked him. People hugged him and told him how happy they were to see him. He wasn’t dressed for the occasion, but no one cared. They surrounded him with love, and he found himself experiencing the kind of care and acceptance from people that had been missing from his life.
Though he did not believe in Jesus and was skeptical of Christianity, he continued attending church every week because of how people treated him. The church became his safe place in a world of chaos.
It took time, but after watching his life disintegrate, he became a follower of Jesus. By the grace of God, this took place because of a mother who prayed for him and a church who loved him.
We experienced a similar scenario with our own daughter. She struggled to believe the Gospel and did not consider herself a Christian. She kept attending our church’s youth group, where she was loved and accepted by her peers. After seeing many of them live out their faith and talking with other adults in our church, she asked Jesus to save her.
As I write, Florida is still suffering from the effects of Hurricane Ian. Millions are displaced or without power. The Southern Baptist Convention already has teams on the ground serving in Florida through Send Relief.
Send Relief volunteers deployed a boat on Thursday to help with search and rescue. Trucks loaded with supplies to aid people affected by the storm are already headed to Florida. In the following days, weeks, and months, untold numbers of volunteers will flood the state to help with cleanup, serve meals, provide shower facilities, and provide spiritual support.
🚨 Hurricane #Ian Update!— Send Relief (@sendrelief) September 29, 2022
Send Relief is deploying our rescue boat to the Ft. Meyers area, which will be manned by the Swift Water Rescue Team made up of @nc_missions and @tnbaptist disaster relief volunteers.
Pray for this team as they aid in search & rescue efforts. pic.twitter.com/JW3WhR9qsq
These are just a few stories out of thousands we could tell about how God is at work through his church. When we look closely, we will find many, many more.
God intended for his church to function as a place where people are loved. Then, this mutual love for each other serves as a witness to the watching world. In John 13:35, Jesus said, “By this, all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” When Christians love and care for each other, it testifies to the watching world about how God loves us. This happens every day in ways that don’t get reported on the front page of the New York Times or discussed ad nauseam on Twitter.
The church is going to have inconsistencies and failures until Jesus returns. In a world marred by the presence of sin, it is impossible for it not to seep into God’s church. Yet, Jesus bought the church with his own blood and purified it so that on the last day, the church will be presented to Jesus without any spot or wrinkle.
In our culture, cynicism is easy, and it takes no effort. Any person can find fault with another person or institution with a couple of mouse clicks. Finding what is good, right, and beautiful takes a little more work. When we look at the church, there is much to mourn and repent over. Yet, there are also ample reasons for rejoicing.
Let us resolve that for every story about scandal or sin in the church, we will find two ways that Jesus is at work in his church. When we do this, we will find that there is more good going on in Jesus’s church than we realized, and it all leads us to glorify and honor him.
Photo courtesy: Sarah Noltner/Unsplash
Scott Slayton writes at “One Degree to Another.”