The Perfect Church…Let Me Tell You About It!
Sunday services are superb. They last anywhere from 8 to 10 hours, depending on how the Spirit is moving. At least 100 people are saved at every service. Dozens more are healed of debilitating diseases, and a handful of people are raised from the dead. We add at least 3,000 new members a month.
And speaking of members, everyone in our church has emptied their bank accounts and given every cent they have to the poor. Our city does not have any homeless or hungry people thanks to our congregation’s on-site food pantry and homeless shelter. (Most of our members became homeless after giving their houses away — they simply bunk at the shelter).
We have a prayer team that intercedes 24 hours a day for the church and for one another. They don’t eat. They don’t sleep. They just pray.
Our pastor is amazing. His personal life is exemplary. He’s never been a hypocrite, prays and reads scripture 8 hours daily and personally disciples every person in our church. He’s memorized the entire Bible, not only in English, but also in the original languages.
He and his wife have been married for 23 years. They have 19 children. Twelve are adopted with special needs.
Our youth ministries are outstanding. Youth meetings run anywhere from 4 to 5 hours, most of it praising our blessed savior in song. The youth are raising funds for a mission trip to North Korea to preach on the streets and distribute Bibles.
Sounds like a great church, right?
As you might have guessed, this church does not exist. It’s the “Perfect Church” we all refer to when we talk about what the American church should be. Christians use this non-existent, flawless congregation to bash their own church – and other Christians.
We’re guilty of utopian thinking, thanks largely to one small passage of scripture. It’s the description of the early church in Acts 2:42-47. This passage chronicles all the good things that were happening during the very first weeks of organized Christianity:
And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
We obviously fail to measure up to the early church. But guess what? So did the early church.
Just keep reading the book of Acts – and the letters of Paul. You’ll find lying. Deceit. Betrayal. Cold-heartedness. Self-centeredness. Sexual immorality. Debauchery. Pride. Legalism.
In other words, the early church was just as broken as our churches are today. It was not perfect, any more than our church is perfect.
So here’s my challenge: stop comparing our church to the non-existent, perfect church.
And while you’re at it, stop criticizing yourself and your fellow Christians for not being perfect. We’re all hypocrites, by some standards of perfection. Everyone who claims to follow Jesus falls short of the perfection he demands (Matthew 5:48, Romans 3:23). Utopia is coming – but not on this earth. Let’s use our imperfect people and churches to reach more imperfect people!