Summary: It is impossible to love Jesus and not love His church
Several years ago when one of our dogs, Gilbert, died, and our other dog, Jessie, seemed to be depressed, we made several trips to the Humane Society and the Pima County Animal Shelter to look for another dog. We have since learned that our other dog, Jessie, wasn’t depressed because Gilbert died, she is just depressed all the time – so much so that we decided we really should have named her Eeyore. So in hindsight, we really didn’t need to get another dog. But like they say, hindsight is 20/20.
If you’ve ever gone looking for a dog to join your family, you know that owners don’t pick out their dogs, the dogs pick out their owners. And on one trip to the Humane Society that is exactly what happened. We were just about to leave when this cute little red-headed dog looked at me with those sorrowful puppy dog eyes.
So we decided to check Susie out a little more. We should have known better when her “rap sheet” indicated that she had been known to chew things up and that she had pulled some irrigation lines out of the ground at her last home. But Gilbert had been that kind of dog at one time, too, and he turned out to be a pretty good dog so we were optimistic that there was hope for Susie.
When we first brought her home, she was pretty good. Until one day we came home and she had actually bent the bars on her crate far enough that she was able to escape and then she had proceeded to chew up our Wilbur the Wildcat stuffed animal, among other things. That earned her the nickname “Susie Sun Devil.” And of course it wasn’t long until she also managed to dig up several sections of our drip irrigation in the backyard on more than one occasion.
But Susie still lives with us several years later and we love that dog because in many ways she is one of the most loving and adorable dogs ever. But we are also smart enough to have purchased a much sturdier crate, where we lock her up every time we leave the house and we have redone our drip irrigation to make it harder for her to dig it up.
In many ways, Susie reminds me of the church as a whole and of Thornydale Family Church. It’s pretty easy to take potshots and focus on all the things that are wrong with her. We can focus on the decisions that we don’t agree with and the people that frustrate us. But in spite of all those faults, I am here today to tell you that I love the church that Jesus bought with His blood. I love the universal body of Christ and I love Thornydale Family Church. And regardless of what shortcomings there might be because those bodies consist of sinful human beings, I would never desert them or trade them in for an inferior alternative.
So over the next six weeks, I’d like to share with you why I love my church and why you should too, and how all of us can develop an even deeper love for the bride of Christ as we work together to carry out the purposes that Jesus has for His body. So for these next six weeks, I invite you to fall in love with the Bride of Christ – His church – either for the first time, or to fall in love all over again.
I love my church for one reason – because Jesus loves the church.
But it is apparent that sentiment is no longer common in our culture. Numerous polls and studies that have been conducted over the last decade or so all come up with the same conclusion. Both church attendance in general and the frequency at which people attend church services have decreased significantly. Part of that decline can be attributed to the fact that a smaller proportion of the population in this country identify themselves as Christians than in any time in our history. But there are two other trends among those who claim to be Christians that seem to be even more significant when it comes to the decrease in church attendance:
1) It seems that it has become fashionable in our culture for people to say something like “I love Jesus, but I hate the church.” That sentiment was clearly reflected several years ago in the cover article in Newsweek Magazine titled “Forget the Church, Follow Jesus”. To be fair, that article did make some valid points. But certainly the overall idea that it is somehow possible to separate Jesus from His bride, the church, is problematic, as we will see this morning.
2) The second trend is that technology, including radio, TV and the internet, has given people the ability to feel like they are part of a church when they really aren’t. After all, it’s a lot easier to sit at home in my pajamas or my underwear and “attend” church on my terms. In fact, it’s actually possible to design my very own church. I can choose the music I like from one church and then listen to the sermons that make me feel good from another church. And I can do that on my own schedule. That way I don’t ever have to experience conviction, struggle, disagreement or conflict. But as we’re going to see this morning, that is not either loving or being a part of the church.