Firstly I need to make clear that the title of this post is not an issue for ourselves at present. We're committed to the local church and for the moment God has led us to serve Him at HCC. That will only change if God clearly leads us into newer pastures but until such a time we're happy to be obedient to the call He's placed on our lives. That's not to say that we don't find things (many things) frustrating at times.
I wonder whether Jesus envisaged the church ever being a place where people would get hurt and the lonely would remain lonely? I believe Jesus had a very different vision of what his bride would look like, after all he spent much of his time reaching out to the hurt and the lonely. Paul gives us many clues in his letters to the early churches as to the quality, character and virtue of the bride to be. Also, Luke gives a wonderfully clear picture of the early church in Acts which would appear to refute the notion that people should be hurt or lonely in church. Whilst Luke's account is a historical one of how the church sprang up and grew, it does present some interesting models of how church could and arguably should be.
Many churches today claim to be 'New Testament' churches, but when last did you see the church devot[ing] themselves to the apostles' teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone being filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs being done by the apostles? When last did you see all the believers united and having everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, and giving to anyone as he had need? When last did you see the church gathering every day, breaking bread in their homes and eating together with glad and sincere hearts? When last did you see the church praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people with the Lord adding to their number daily those who were being saved?
Wow what a vision of church! How we long for that and yet how far we are from it!
Where am I going with this? I was chatting to a friend (yes I finally have one after 3 years) after church and he was really down. He'd been let down by three guys who he thought were friends and is left feeling lonely and hurt. So much so that he is considering looking around at other churches. I really empathise with my friend as it is really hard to break into circles of friendship here, it's taken me three years to make one good friendship! In fact, my best friends are not church members (or Christians for that matter). However, I don't believe that this is a problem unique to our church, although we certainly have our fair share of unique problems!
Is leaving one church to find another the answer? Or is leaving the church altogether the answer? We have friends who have done the latter and it hasn't worked, their personal faith has taken a dive. Joining a different church might be an answer, but chances are we'll only take our problems with us and not actually find what we're looking for. Also, wherever humans are involved, there too you will find pain, misery and loneliness in amongst everything else, both good and bad. So if you leave one church because of problems, chances are you'll experience problems wherever you end up.
Despite everything I remain committed to the local church and believe that the local church is the hope of the nations. The church is the bride of Christ and as such she is a wonder and a beauty. I'd love to see many things change at church or for things to be done differently, but equally I'm convinced that we're where God wants us to be. Where is that verse about life being easy and a bed of roses?
Remember, if you find the perfect church, don't join it as you'll ruin it!