For as long as I can remember my father has been telling me, and whoever would listen, that he is a defender of the church. Many people have taken that to mean that he would defend all the mistakes that are made in the name of the church. This understanding of that phrase is wildly incorrect. The church is made of broken people who are being mended by the grace of God.
The idea that every Christian should be a defender of the church can be difficult for some. If we have suffered an injury at the hands of those we trusted or admired, we may have raw emotions about the subject. What I have come to realize and what I believe my father is saying (which I have confirmed with him over many conversations) is that he will never side with the critics of the Church. Are there mistakes that have to be rectified? Yes. Are there wounded souls that must be helped to heal? Yes. Does the church have to learn and do better in accomplishing her mission? Yes, absolutely.
The problem is that many of the critics of the church are not seeking reformation or redemption. They are seeking to undermine work of the church or destroy the foundations upon which she is built. An even bigger problem is that you cannot fix what you are constantly criticizing. If all you ever see are the flaws; if all you ever talk about are the dents and dings; if your tendency is to tear down how can you possibly build up?
Yes, I am generalizing. And yes, I am speaking in broad strokes. The reason I am doing it this way is because it is easy to hide our negativity toward the Church under the thin mask of “constructive criticism.” When we take the poor choices or vile misdeeds of a few and extrapolate that the entire Church is at fault, we are participants in a wild injustice against the Church. Surgery should not be performed with axes. We are so good at cutting off the arm when all we are trying to remove is a mole.
As we move through the Season of Lent I am thankful that God has preserved the Church in spite of the many failures of her members. There are many things that we as the people of God could do better. What we can’t do better to come up with a better means for spreading the Gospel of Jesus. The Church is that instrument in the hand of God. Our failure in effectiveness is not a failure of God’s purpose or design of the Church!