Broken people...

After reflecting with one coworker on how often churches in all their forms really mess up and hurt a whole bunch of people in the process -- and how "we gotta do better" -- I stumbled into another conversation with a coworker which highlighted our brokenness, and I suddenly realized what was wrong with my take in the first.

I wanted the church to be better at fixing our mistakes, or better yet, at not making them in the first place. But maybe this "fix-it" attitude is partly the reason we keep blowing it again and again! My friend recollected an experience when a church community was in a terrible place: compounded mistakes, hurts, and frustrations had blown up, spewing pain all over all parties. (I'm sure anyone with a long history in the church can think of one, if not several, such occasions in their past.) A new Christian who observed all these goings on responded in an unexpected way. Instead of "you people are a bunch of screw-ups! How could this possibly be God's people? I'm outta here!" she said, "This is the place for me! Everyone is so broken, I don't need to hide who I really am from these Christians, or feel ashamed about not having it all together."

And I realized our problem is not that we mess up so often, but that we pretend we don't. We don't talk about it. We don't own up when we make mistakes. We don't admit to having hurt or being hurt. We don't allow others to see the two steps backward that preceded every step forward. So we run from cleaning up one mess to another.

Mulling this as I biked, I lit upon the mission statement: "Healthy growing churches reaching their world." At one point, it didn't quite feel right to me; there was something just a bit off there, something incomplete, or over-exaggerated. The suggestions for a new one I have heard so far are similarly unsatisfactory, and I began to regard the old more positively. But after this conversation, I realized why the former seemed too neat, and I have a proposal for a change:

"Broken people, loved by Jesus, extending God's grace."

We want to be healthy, we want to be growing, we want to successfully share the hope we have found with others. However, I wonder if starting with honesty instead of aspiration mightn't stand us in better stead. We are fallen people: no amount of success, health, growth, or even church attendance/tithing/fasting/missionary work/spiritual discipline will manage to change that. Our only hope lies in the bewildering, contradictory, unfathomable fact that the creator of the universe knows all that yet loves us fully -- enough to sacrifice himself for us; enough to ask us to be participants in his work. When we begin to catch hold of that, to explore what this could mean, how then we live our lives, we can then do so with grace.

Leadership Journal editor Skye Jethani exhorted listeners at the 2011 Church Planting Congress to recognize that what the church needs is more grace. We call for more programs, or more worship, more spirituality, more theology, more activism, more social justice, or more prayer. All these things are good and may be wanting in lesser or greater measure in any given assembly of believers, but what will temper it all, and put it all in perspective, guide and shape it all in more healthy -- but still broken -- ways, is more grace. More grace for others' failings; more grace for our own. More grace received from God; more grace extended to others.

Instead of working so hard to get everyone on the same page, I wonder what we would discover about our God, the infinitely creative, diversity-loving Master of the Universe -- and what we would share with others -- if we extended a little bit more grace to all the broken people in our midst, both inside and outside the church, remembering that we are all broken people...loved by God. Might we end up "doing better"?


Ryan said…
Thanks for this, Karla.
kar0ling said…
Thanks, Ryan. Sometimes God gets through.
Ali said…
This kind of makes me of my instructors in college, told us that if we had a disagreement with a coworker at daycare we should try not to go off privately to solve it but work it out when the kids were around. That way they could see that adults get frustrated with each other too, and (hopefully) see us model a good way to deal with that frustration and deal with our problems.

It was a very difficult approach to take, since most of the time adults seem to not deal with their disagreements at all, let alone respectfully and in front of children. It would be even more difficult to do in a church setting, but probably a good idea.
Ali said…
That would be 'makes me think of'.

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