I've always wondered why so many seemingly faithful and devout Christians struggle with maintaining fellowship with a local congregation of fellow believers. They settle with a particular church for a while, but quickly come to the realization that most everything is being done wrong or at the least not as well as it should be, often focusing on the “spiritual” and considering the “physical” as nothing more that an obstacle to be overcome. Their observations carry the weight of legitimacy, as they communicate their concerns to outsiders, as they speak of abstract situations and ideals. They stay for awhile “bearing their brother's burden”(Gal 6:2) but eventually their increasing frustration leads them to believe that God is calling them to “come out from among them.”(2 Cor 6:17)
In The Strategically Small Church, Brandon J. O'Brien delivers one possible explanation for this phenomenon.
Disturbed over the gap between the church in Acts and the German church in the late 1930's, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote Life Together to explain genuine Christian community. In the first section of the book, the person who comes under the fiercest attack is the pastor Bonhoeffer calls the visionary, the person who has “a very definite idea of what Christian life together should be and [tries] to realize it.” Bonhoeffer has strong words for this visionary, for the person we might call the “expert” in Christian community:
The man who fashions a visionary ideal of community demands that it be realized by God, by others, and by himself. He enters the community of Christians with his demands, sets up his own law, and judges the brethren and God himself accordingly. He acts as if he is the creator of the Christian community, as if his dream binds men together. When things do not go his way, he calls the effort a failure....So he becomes first an accuser of his brethren, then an accuser of God, and finally the despairing accuser of himself.
“...Every human wish or dream,” Bonhoeffer says,”that is injected into the Christian community is a hindrance to genuine community and must be banished if genuine community is to survive.” With Bonhoeffer's words ring in our ears, our challenge is to learn to see the church as it is.
Could many people's dissatisfaction with church be caused by their preconceived notions? Oh, how we claim to trust in God for everything, yet when it comes to Christian community, it must be done our way. The church is the body of Christ, with Jesus as its head, yet we feel it must be under our control? So often we are seduced by romantic ideals and utopian images of what we think the church should be, but this isn't reality. Life is messy! Church is messy!
We have been given two great commandments: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself. Lets love God and trust him to lead us, while we love one another along the way.