I heard this phrase recently, and think it explains our attendance at church very well.
Over the years, I've heard many people comment as to why they have left churches. We should reject those churches whose doctrines don't align with God at all.
However, churches that do try to follow God still have some revolving door congregants. Dad taught me that if your heart is right, there is something you can take away and use in your spiritual life in (almost) every church.
The trouble comes when, for the sake of a couple of dishes we don't like, we end up rejecting the entire buffet. We don't agree with a couple of things, so we leave the church. With a food buffet, we would never leave the restaurant simply because of a few foods we don't like.
There will always be something we don't personally agree with, whether it's the sermon style, the songs, the way people dress, the greetings at the door, or the callings for tithes and free-will offerings.
Churches are a lot like families. Put five families together for a day, and they'll have fun. However, put them together for longer than that, and each family's customs will emerge. Put families together for two months, and some of them won't speak to each other for the rest of their lives. Your family has its habits, teachings, things members like and don't like, and things you put up with. Other families will have their practices, but they'll be different. There will be several things they do so differently they may even eventually get on your nerves.
In those two months, the first week will be pleasant, but then there will be fights over the bathroom, arguments in the kitchen, infuriations over car spaces, washing machine time, chores, and even quarrels about the way we conduct our family devotions and prayer.
Churches also have different ways they do things. Until the Lord comes back, this is the way it is. If we are impulsive, we'll find something wrong. Maybe we won't like how the preacher delivers his sermon or the fact that he wears jeans and a tee-shirt.
I recall a bloke from many years ago, who only attended church very infrequently. I have no idea why he came to church at all. He'd purposefully sit in the back pew, almost like a judge considering his verdict. When he left, all he would do was smear the pastor, the music, people who forgot to greet him, and just about everything else.
Finding something wrong with a church is the easiest of jobs. While there are humans, we will always be able to find fault. We don't become perfect just because we hold a position in a church. Yet, there are a lot of things right with churches if we have the right motive. The things that annoy us will be the minor stuff, the stuff we can put up with if we've come for the Word of God.
Jesus instructed us to get on with people. He said to love others as we love ourselves. Loving others is part of the cornerstone of the church (Matthew 22:36–40). In saying that, Jesus doesn't expect us to overlook major doctrinal issues to attend church. Neither should we. But we are called to overlook the minor irritations for the sake of God's peace within the congregation. If Jesus can wash feet, surely we can humble ourselves enough to dispense with our little annoyances.
Today's prayer: Dear Lord, I've been guilty of smearing now and then just because I didn't like some things within a church. People aren't perfect, and sometimes I've expected them to be. Please help me overlook the more minor things to be enriched by what you are trying to show me in your Word.
Photo by Christian Chen