Paper Perfect Churches
Many Christians nowadays are in search of the “perfect” church. They run across another church’s covenant and are attracted to its principles, practices, personnel, and programs (or, in the case of age-integrated churches, the lack of programs). These same people are sometimes surprised when they realize that a church can have a completely biblical ecclesiology and still be carnal.
There are plenty of such people in church congregations. Dissatisfied with their current church, they long to have a church “just like So-and-So has.” Like Zacchaeus, they sit atop their trees and watch to see who will do what but never dream of doing anything themselves. But these tree sitters only deceive themselves.
Some use this strategy to dodge problems, to avoid clashing with personalities, to get around involvement. Unable to get along with Paul, Cephas, or Apollos, they take refuge in the excuse that they are of Christ (1 Cor. 1:12). They think the solution to their ism is to start another ism in the name of the Lord. They write it all down on paper and may even succeed in making it work – for a while. Then they discover that their paper perfect church is just as ridden with dissension and immaturity as the churches they left in such a hurry.
Any honest Christian will admit that, like Paul, he is far from perfect (Phil. 3:12). All of us struggle with holding to an ideal and then having to live with the reality. Jesus’ disciples wanted a perfect political kingdom but had little appetite for His real message and mission. It is so today. Be not deceived by the paper perfect church or by the popularity of a preacher or by the prospect of perfection. Anytime people tell you they have found a Garden of Eden, remember that the problem with an “Eden” is that it tends to be followed by a “fall.”
For years I have argued against the compromising spirit of the age. But we must also beware of a perfectionistic spirit. We may be right doctrinally and end up with a cold heart (see Rev. 2:1-7). The best church on earth is but a mere foretaste, an earnest, a first installment, a down payment on what we will experience when we enter into our full inheritance hereafter.
Francis Schaeffer, in The Church at the End of the Twentieth Century, said that the whole creation is on tiptoe awaiting the day when the sons of God shall be revealed. In the meantime, he said, the greatest apologetic for Christianity, and the greatest mark of a true church, remains John 13:35: “By this shall all men know that you are My disciples, in that you have love one for another.” My tiny, traditional congregation in Southside Virginia is far from perfect – mostly because I attend there – but it is where God has put me, and in it I have tasted of the Lord and found Him precious. What love and community!
Fanny Crosby wrote, “O what a foretaste of glory divine!” We taste of that eternal world when we are born again, when we are filled with the Spirit, and when we enjoy the fellowship of God’s imperfect saints.
April 28, 2005
David Alan Black is the editor of www.daveblackonline.com. If you would like to know more about becoming a follower of King Jesus, please feel free to write Dave.