The following series of articles comes from David Cloud and gives us some helpful insight into how to really make the most of being a member of a church. I am so grateful for the church that Jesus Christ loved and gave Himself for, and I want to have a right relationship with the church, which is his body, his bride. I would not agree with every point he makes, but I think there is alot of good truth in what he writes. Check out Part 1 and Part 2 as well.
3. WE MUST UNDERSTAND THERE IS NO PERFECT CHURCH
Another thing we must understand is that there are no perfect churches. We have mentioned this, but it needs to be emphasized very strongly. It sounds like a simple matter, but it is not. It is something that must be relearned frequently.
Even the early churches founded and pastored by the apostles had problems. In fact, there were very serious problems in many of the early churches. Consider the church at Corinth. The members were carnal and divided. They refused to discipline one of their own although he was living in open fornication with his father’s wife! They were taking each other to court. They were getting drunk during the Lord’s Supper. They were misusing the spiritual gifts. They allowed false teachers to discredit the Apostle Paul. What a church! Yet Paul was thankful for the grace God had given them (1 Cor. 1:4). The seven churches mentioned in Revelation two and three also had many serious problems, including spiritual coldness, false teachers, and immorality. Two women in the church at Philippi had to be corrected for being antagonistic toward one another (Phil. 4:2). Paul had to rebuke Peter for his hypocrisy (Gal. 2:11-14). Paul and Barnabas had a contention that was “so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other” (Acts 15:39). Need we go on? There never has been a church that did not have problems, and the simple reason for this is that church members are sinners.
It is not therefore surprising to find many problems in independent Baptist churches today. I have been a part of the independent Baptist movement for more than three decades and have spoken in 450 or more churches across North America and in many other lands, and I have observed the problems firsthand. When I was a young Christian at Bible school, I saw problems that almost devastated me. As I started Bible school training in 1974, I was almost 25 years old, but I was only one year old in the Lord, and I was shocked at many things. Thirty years later, I am still saddened by these same things! These were things such as Sunday School promotionalism which turn the church of Jesus Christ into a carnival; extreme levity at times in the pulpit; little biblical content in some of the preaching; exaltation of men above that which is proper; shallow, manipulative methods of evangelism and an overemphasis on “decisions” and “prayers” rather than repentance and regeneration.
Because of issues like these, I left after the completion of my first year, determined to attend a different school. The Lord gave me no peace over my decision, though, and within a few weeks I returned and completed my studies. In looking back, I am pleased with the Lord’s leading, though I did not understand it very well at the time. The other school that I was looking at was Calvinistic and was part of a group that was well down the path to New Evangelicalism, and I would have faced an entirely different set of problems–problems even more unhealthy to my Christian life than the ones I was trying to flee.
I still believe the aforementioned problems are wrong, and I try to avoid them as much as possible; but I have also learned some things that have helped me, I believe, have a more balanced attitude toward church problems in general.
In spite of the fact that all churches are imperfect, we do not see in Scripture any healthy examples of Christians who disregarded the assembly. In fact, those who separated themselves were considered unregenerate. John says, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us” (1 Jn. 2:19).