Welcome to the perfect church!
Okay, some of you are laughing, and I am too. A few of you have agreed, and I can understand that.
Let’s get started by hearing Ephesians 5:25-27. “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.”
Absolute perfection only exists in God. There is no exception in His perfection. We can all accept this theological fact. But why do some imperfect people hold the local church to some unrealistic expectations?
The Church that Christ will present to Himself one day will be perfect. She will have no spots or wrinkles, but she will be holy and without blemish.
In the manufacturing world, I learned to define perfection as having zero defects. However, I’ve never witnessed, observed, or been a part of a local church with no defects. As active participants in our local church, you and I have not measured up to a zero-defect definition. We messed it up.
Even when perfection is described as completeness or wholeness in spiritual maturity, you and I still have room to grow. Speaking on behalf of pastors, staff, and all church leadership (from the local church to the denominational offices), we’re all still growing. Each of us has some strengths and a few weaknesses as well. The most dangerous thing is if weaknesses become blind spots.
The Book of Revelation contains the record of seven letters Christ wrote to seven churches. But sadly, for all their strengths, five of them had some severe weaknesses that grew into blind spots inviting the judgment of God.
- The Church at Ephesus was the loveless church. Jesus said, “I have this against you, that you have left your first love” (2:4).
- The Church in Pergamos was the compromising church whose doctrine had turned demonic. So Jesus said, “Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them” (2:16).
- The Church in Thyatira was the corrupt church. So Jesus began, “I have a few things against you…” (2:20). There was too much mess for this message to mention.
- The Church in Sardis was the dead church. Consequently, Jesus said, “You have a name that you are alive, but you are dead” (3:1).
- The Church of Laodicea was the lukewarm church. And Jesus said, “I will vomit you out of My mouth” (3:16). Sounds disgusting, doesn’t it?
If a letter addressed to Harvest Christian Center from Jesus arrived today, what would it say? Only God knows. But only He has the right to write that letter. Are we the perfect church?
Experience has taught me that every imperfect person I know has their own understanding of what makes a local church perfect. And some of them don’t even read the Bible. So we have created a moving target.
1 Corinthians 12:4-7 explains our perfect perspective. “There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all.” Therefore, all Bible-based churches serve the same perfect God— Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all thoroughly perfect.
However, no one Christian is perfect with all the gifts of the Spirit at work through them. That means we need one another. Christians need each other. Similarly, no one local church has perfection with every gift, strength, and manifestation of the Spirit. Instead, each local church is as different as every human personality. Likewise, every ministry has different strengths, weaknesses, and gifts in operation. That means we need one another. Local churches and ministries need each other.
It saddens me to see unfair comparisons between different churches, pastors, and such. We’re called to be different. As a God-called lead pastor of a local church with a helpful voice to a larger segment of the Body of Christ, I’m not trying to be like any other individual servant of God. I want to be the sanctified servant my Master has called me to be. I can’t measure up to any other servant because we’re gifted differently. We have a different set of educational experiences. Thank you for letting me be myself again.
Consider this imperfect illustration. I think local churches are kind of like Snickers candy bars. You know they come in a variety of sizes, from mini to king-sized. Regardless of the size, they all look great from the outside. But within one or two bites, you realize they have more than a few nuts. Since I like chocolate, nougat, and caramel, I enjoy them in every size. I refuse to let the nuts keep me from enjoying their sweet goodness. In their own crunchy way, the nuts add to the flavor of this treat.
Even my favorite butter is made from nuts. But to be exact, the peanut is neither a pea nor a nut. It’s a lentil we’ve mistakenly labeled as a nut. But maybe God has a plan to use every single ingredient in the Body of Christ.
My point is those local churches that look great from the outside still have a few nuts. My goal is to make sure I’m not the biggest nut in my church. Seriously though, searching for the perfect local church is a fruitless task. You’ll never find one on this side of Heaven with zero defects. We all still have some wrinkles, spots, and room to mature on this side of Heaven.
Instead, be encouraged to know that there is a perfect local church body for you. It’s the one you’re called to be in covenant with and joined to as a committed member, working to build the Kingdom of God.
“God has set the members in the body, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased” (1 Co. 12:18). The Spirit of God has arranged all the parts according to His design. As imperfect as you are, you’re called by God to be a member of the Body of Christ at large. He also wants you to be a (committed) set member of your local church, established by grace and committed to great commission fulfillment. Our imperfections push us to work together.
Let’s wrap up this not-so-perfect message.
Ephesians 4 (11-13) teaches us that ministry leadership gifts were given to equip and edify the whole Body of Christ. Our focus is on the health of the body, which leads us to “a perfect man.” That full-growth wholeness is where we reach the fullness of Christ. Healthy growth that leads to maturity is the definition of perfection that we should be concerned with.
One day our perfect Savior will return for us and take us home. Every wrinkle will be smoothed and every spot removed. We shall be changed!
Harvest Christian Center lives to love people, grow Christians, and multiply leaders. The primary success we strive for is to guide people into a life-changing relationship of discipleship with Jesus Christ. We strive for excellence. I know we’re not a perfect church, but “she’s close enough to perfect for me.” So don’t give up on the local church. God is on her side.
This is the full set of notes that went with me into the pulpit for my Wednesday spoken ministry with Resurgence. Here’s the link if you’d like to listen to the audio version. And yes, I did eat a snickers candy bar in the middle of preaching this message.