"Be shepherds of the church of God, which He bought with His own blood." (Acts 20:28, NIV)
Over the last several weeks I have been reminded of a trend that I have been observing for the last decade or so. During my time in the US, and also now that I am back in Kenya, quite a few people have talked to me about their intense disillusionment with church. I will not pretend that I am in impartial spectator. I feel it too. (Please note - in this post I am not speaking of any one church. It is a reflection on things I have heard people say on multiple continents and about multiple church bodies).
This morning as I thought about the chief concerns that have been voiced (including my own) I saw that I could break them down into three major categories:
- There is a sixth sense that things in the church are not well due to being modernized, or Westernized (or Africanized for that matter). The church leadership is itself sick. It is not functioning in the way that it was intended. The church, and its people, are broken. Listening to the sermons and/or trying to engage with the worship actually disrupts a sense of spiritual well-being.
- There is a lack of true community at church. Even small group meetings (intended to build fellowship) are frustratingly shallow. There is no actually deep, human connection taking place. Moreover, service done on behalf of the church (even service done intended to help others in the church) feels trite and lacks meaning.
- The church has lost its purpose. It is not doing what it was meant to do in the world.
Today I only want to address the first of these concerns. This morning I meditated on Paul's exhortation to the Ephesian elders. What struck me was that Paul was no idealist when it came to the church. Almost 2,000 years ago he was disturbed over what he knew was surely about to happen, even in a congregation that he had started. According to Acts, Paul was in Ephesus for three years, and he taught daily there for two of those years. What church could be safer than one that the Apostle Paul had planted and taught daily for two years? And yet Paul did not see it as safe.