I’ve seen an increased level of frustration with churches as I talk to people. This is partly due to COVID and the disruption as a result of the pandemic. But it seems that the pandemic cannot account for all of it.
I know of families that plan on continuing to stay home to watch live-streamed sermons because of their dissatisfaction with church leadership and the resulting distrust. As a result of their church experience, they are wondering if there are any healthy churches.
So how do we keep from being overwhelmed by our frustrations with the church? How can we move on, knowing that there are mutton-eating shepherds in too many organized churches?
Thinking about this today, I came to the conclusion that most, if not all, of the answer can be found in Hebrews where the author says,
“Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.”Hebrews 12:1b – 2a, CSB
We need to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus.
We cannot look to our shepherds to provide what only Jesus can provide. We cannot look to our shepherds for complete and unwavering unconditional love. We cannot expect our shepherds to always get it right.
We know this because those shepherds are just like us. Other than Jesus, no one who has held a position of leadership in the church, has fulfilled his office perfectly. We understand the frailty of human leaders and this knowledge does not usually overwhelm us.
But then we find that some of those in church leadership are not looking out for the best interest of the people they lead. We see decisions made that do not advance the cause of Christ or build up Christ’s people. We see prominent pastors who are using their power and influence for their own benefit. We see pastors succumbing to cultural mandates that counter to the truth of Scripture. We see pastors who feel themselves to be above their people and as a result, treat their people badly.
But, by keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, we can look past the problems in the church and look forward to the day when Jesus will return to set everything right. We can walk in the confidence that Jesus will eventually fix the things we know to be wrong.
We can be encouraged as we look at church history. Despite mismanagement at the hands of unrighteous shepherds, the church survives and the gospel of Jesus Christ still goes forth.
We can also be encouraged by Scripture where we see revealed to us that God has worked throughout history to accomplish his purpose. The Apostle Paul illustrates this in Galatians:
“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”Galatians 4:4-5, ESV
God knew the right time then, and he knows how he is working things out now. The fact that there are abusive shepherds in the church does not take God by surprise and he will work it out (more on this idea in an upcoming blog post).
I am confident that as we look to Jesus, as the author of Hebrews encourages us to do, we will be able to rest in the knowledge that he will lead us into the fellowship we long to have. At the right time, he will also deal with abusive shepherds according to the warnings given in Scripture.
When I look to Jesus, I can rest in the knowledge that he will provide what I need. Period. Those mutton-breath shepherds can’t take away what only Christ can give.