By Skip Pullen, District Representative, Eastern District
Have you ever driven around the countryside and seen a small country church sitting just up the hill or off the highway? Maybe you thought, “Oh, that looks like just the perfect church.”
Is there such a thing as the perfect church?
Years ago, I sat in on a Q and A session with a well-known Bible teacher and seminary professor. He spoke of the importance of preaching God’s Word and how the small church pastors in Village Missions were on the front lines. He spoke about one other thing that I don’t think I will ever forget. He told of how there were times when he went to speak at various churches, and they would tell him they were a Bible-believing New Testament church. He would respond by asking, “Which one?”
I also recall a country church pastor telling me years ago there was no such thing as a perfect church this side of heaven. He told me if I did find one that was close, not to attend there-it wouldn’t be perfect for long.
Does the Perfect Church Exist?
Do we get weary in our search for the perfect church? As a small church pastor, I have been called to preach God’s Word and to love God’s people. As I encourage people to hold to the teachings of the apostles, to fellowship, to prayer, etc, I am aware that even the early Christian churches didn’t have everything coming up roses.
From the writings of the Apostle Paul and others, we find those early churches struggling with schisms, in-fighting, sexual immorality, pride, legalism, syncretism, jealousies, envy, and blending law and grace, to name but a few. As Jesus speaks to seven churches in Revelation 2-3, He describes problems in five of the seven; even the two that He doesn’t fault still had some trials.
Sometimes because we have been so ingrained with the ideals of what the church or the Christian life should be like, we miss that even country churches are made up of people who are flawed and struggling with sin. We get comfortable with where we are in our faith, and we forget that God continually tries us to refine us and make us more like Jesus Christ. The church is the crucible where God does some of His best work. In those situations the LORD purifies and helps us to grow. In John 15, Jesus tells us in the parable of the vine that even the vine that is fruitful is pruned so it can bear more fruit.
When We Can’t Find the Perfect Church
The temptation for you and me in these times is to pull back from our Christianity or pull out of our church, either physically or emotionally. It is in these times that you and I need to hang in there and let the Lord complete His work in us. James writes, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” (James 1:2-4).
Peter tells us this about those struggles: “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:6-7)
The next time you feel like pulling out of your church or away from a difficult situation, remember there is no such thing as a perfect church this side of heaven. Even if you find another church, you will find you face similar struggles because the LORD has a work He wants to do in your life. Hang in there and learn what God may have for you in that situation. Know it is all for His glory and our good. If you are searching for a church, don’t seek one that is “perfect” or comfortable to you. Seek the one the LORD would have you attend.