A so-called Christian may act anything but Christ-like, but that is not the church
By Bill Martin – When did church become a dirty word? Was I away that day, or did I miss the memo? Did something happen and nobody told me?
I was shocked recently to learn that some people in the business community have put churches in their no-fly zone. What I mean is, when it comes to helping worthwhile causes, some business leaders see church as a leper colony.
The revelation unfolded when well-intentioned community volunteers went on a fundraising binge to save a popular children’s program. The program was operated by a small, country church that never had the resources to run the program in the first place.
So, why did they start the program if they couldn’t afford it? Simply put, because there was a need.
You see, that is what churches do. More specifically, that is what Christian churches do, or to be more correct, that is what Christians are called to do. When you see a need, fill it.
And so we have a children’s program in a rural village that a church has operated for two years, until they hit the financial wall. It became clear that the members of that small church could no longer bear the load without some help.
When word got out that the church might have to close the program, the community rallied. They had not realized the church bore the brunt of the entire program. They had not realized that the church does not do fundraising and had not asked for help. They did not realize that the church offered the program just because they saw the need and were called to fill it.
It really should not be a surprise because that is what Christian churches do. It was the church that first provided education. Long before the government took over, schools were run by churches.
It was church that first cared for orphans. Long before the Department of Social Services, churches filled the need.
It was church that offered health care. Long before Medicare, hospitals were created by churches to give much needed medical services to those who could not afford a doctor, treatment or care.
Our universities, soup kitchens, food banks, second-hand stores are all products of church seeing a need and filling it. Even our prisons are modelled on monastic life and were once overseen by church leaders. Hey, you can’t always be right.
Much of what we now call our social safety net, our caring society, was first conceived by church taking care of community where nobody else would care.
So imagine my surprise when a business leader would say no to a much-needed program because it was associated with a church. Move it somewhere else and he would help, but as long as the service was provided in a church, no way.
When did church become a dirty word?
The man was not asked to help the church. He was not approached by the church. He was invited by the community to partner with the community to serve the needs of children in the community and he responded by saying no, not as long as there is a church involved.
Such a response would suggest some earlier pain or bad experience in or around a church. However, given the chance to discuss it, I suspect we would find the church without fault.
Don’t misunderstand me. I can well imagine a church member saying something offensive, but that is not the church. I can picture a so-called Christian acting anything but Christ-like, but that is not the church. I know that some people who attend church are the worst examples of Christian belief, but they are individuals, not the church.
The Christian church is the body of Christ. Its members are a rag tag bunch of sinners who gather to heal, to learn, to grow, to be forgiven, to be loved, and to be saved forever. They come as individuals, warts and all. But collectively as the body of Christ they are called church and that is not a dirty word.
Bill Martin is pastor at Debert Baptist Church. He teaches: let us be slow to judge and quick to forgive, show patience, empathy, and love.