Summary: Fourth in a series of messages on the life of David. This message deals with how we live together in a community of faith.
This week, I’d like to begin by sharing a couple of poems that I found this week. But there’s a twist. For now, I’m going to leave out the last verse of each poem and come back to them a little later on.
The Perfect Church
If you could find the perfect church
Without one fault or smear
For goodness sake, don’t join that church You’d spoil the atmosphere.
The Perfect Church
I think that I shall never see
A Church that’s all it ought to be;
A Church that has no empty pews,
Whose Pastor never has the blues;
A Church whose Deacons always Deke
And none is proud but all are meek;
Where gossips never peddle lies
Or make complaints or criticize;
Where all are always sweet and kind
And all to other’s faults are blind.
Such perfect churches there may be,
But none of them are known to me.
It seems that many people spend a lot of time trying to find the perfect church. In fact, I read this week about a church who thought that they had even come up with the perfect design.
A rich man went to his pastor and said, "I want you and your wife to take a three month trip to Hawaii at my expense. When you come back, I’ll have a surprise for you". The pastor accepted the offer and he and his wife went off to hang out on the beach in Kauai.
Three months later they returned home and were met by the wealthy parishioner, who told them while they were gone, he had had a new church built. "It’s the finest building money can buy, pastor," said the man, "No expense was spared." And he was right. It was a magnificent edifice both outside and in.
But there was one striking difference. There was only one pew and it was at the very back. "A church with only one pew?" asked the pastor.
"You just wait until Sunday." said the rich man.
When the time came for the Sunday service, the early arrivals entered the church, filed onto the one pew and sat down. When the pew was full, a switch clicked silently, a circuit closed, the gears meshed, a belt moved and, automatically, the rear pew began to move forward. When it reached the front of the church it came to a stop. At the same time, another empty pew came up from below at the back and more people sat down. And so it continued, pews filling and moving forwards until finally the church was full, from front to back.
"Wonderful!" said the pastor, "Marvelous!"
The service began, and the pastor started to preach his sermon. He launched into his text and, when 12 o’clock came, he was still going strong with no end in sight. Suddenly a bell rang and a trap door in the floor behind the pulpit dropped open.
"Wonderful!" said the congregation, "Marvelous!"
Even though I think most people intuitively know that there is no such thing as a perfect church, that doesn’t seem to keep people from trying to find one. And so in our culture today, that had led to two trends that are relatively recent phenomena:
• Church hoppers
Some people, in their quest to find the perfect church, go from church to church. Sometimes they’ll settle down in one place for a while, but it isn’t long until they realize the church isn’t perfect and they move on. Maybe, the type of music doesn’t suit their tastes. Maybe the pastor preaches too long, or heaven forbid, he even has the audacity to preach about some sin that they need to deal with in their lives. Or maybe someone sits in their favorite seat or offends them in some way. Most of the time, it’s not theology or doctrine that causes these people to jump from church to church. It’s the fact that they have to deal with other sinners.
Eugene Peterson hits the nail on the head when he writes:
…when we get serious about the Christian life we eventually end up in a place and among a people undecidedly uncongenial to what we had expected. That place and people is often called a church. It’s hard to get over the disappointment that God, having made an exception in my case, doesn’t call nice people to repentance.
[from Leap over a Wall]
• “Lone Ranger” Christians
The other response, which I seem to see more and more, is that people become what I call “Lone Ranger” Christians. They figure that they can just be a Christian on their own. They don’t need a church. Some of them will sit at home on Sunday morning and watch their favorite TV preacher. But go to a local church where they have to interact with all those sinners – no way!