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Archives for September, 2018

SEPTEMBER 2018 E-NEWS

Church Leadership and the Reversal of Power

To hold power or not to hold power; that is the question. Mediocre Shakespearean parodies aside, a significant struggle facing countless leaders is whether to strive toward acquiring and exercising power, or to seek to relinquish it. As leaders within our congregations and communities, do we hold onto as much power as possible, or do we instead focus on empowering others?

The common practice of leadership within secular contexts is characterized by assertion and control. Power takes the lead, and pursuing power becomes the unwritten creed. But the way of Jesus finds other paths, and Jesus consistently let go of power. Paul, who articulates the way of Jesus clearly, claims that “power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9). Of course, the power of which Paul speaks is not human power; rather, it is God’s power that only comes to bear when humans cease their own strivings and assertions. Indeed, as Paul writes, “whenever I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:10).

This reversal of power and this path of acknowledging weakness and vulnerability challenges many leadership teams in churches today. Will church leaders be truthful with themselves and with God? Even when signs everywhere suggest that attendance is declining, that fewer guests are showing up for worship, that volunteers for church ministry are harder to find, that people are leaving the congregation and that morale is down, far too many leaders still press on with the worldly model of seeking to figure it all out and to “fix it!” Other times, leaders choose to simply to ignore or avoid the challenge.

Maybe, instead, Christian leaders need to practice embracing weakness and seeking God’s power. Maybe it is time for a revival. What might happen if the next leaders meeting became a prayer meeting?

Blessings,

Carson

NEWS

Carl Spain Center on Race Studies and Spiritual Action launches during Summit

For many people within the Churches of Christ, Dr. Jerry Taylor is synonymous with an ongoing quest to seek true racial unity within the kingdom of God. An associate professor of Bible, missions and ministry at ACU, he has led myriad related initiatives, including National Freedom in Christ Conferences, region-based Racial Unity Leadership Summits and Racial Unity Leadership Retreats. He also has given numerous sermons and presentations on racial unity across the nation. During the 112th ACU Summit, Taylor’s efforts culminated with the launch of the Carl Spain Center on Race Studies and Spiritual Action. Taylor serves as the founding executive director.

The center is named for the late ACU Bible professor Dr. Carl Spain (’38), who delivered a speech in 1960 challenging his alma mater and other Christian colleges to rethink their position of not admitting African-American students. The following year, the university changed its policy.

As noted on the center’s website, the Spain Center “was created to honor the legacy of Carl Spain by conducting research on the historical and contemporary role of race and racism in the church and its Christian institutions.” Future activities will include spiritual retreats, conferences, a lecture series and facilitating conversations among collaborators to address the racial divide among Christians. The center is housed in ACU’s Onstead-Packer Biblical Studies Building.

For more information, visit carlspaincenter.org.

Siburt Institute introduces Mosaic

We are excited to unveil our new blog, which curates reflections on Christian leadership, spiritual vitality and cultural engagement. Mosaic includes a familiar writing team and similar types of articles we previously hosted on CHARIS, but in a space more fully devoted to equipping those who serve the church.

Specifically, it includes three primary categories, or areas of focus. “Church” explores various aspects of ministerial leadership and congregational life; “Discipleship” emphasizes the importance of spiritual health in the life of the leader; and “Culture” fosters conversation about what it means to live as citizens in God’s kingdom while also being residents of this world. Like fragments of tile or glass, each beautiful and broken on its own, the offerings in Mosaic converge to form a design more beautiful than the sum of its parts.

Karissa Herchenroeder, assistant director of church relations and the Doctor of Ministry program, is editor of the blog. To connect with Mosaic, visit mosaicsite.org, subscribe to weekly email updates or multiple RSS feeds, or follow Mosaic on Facebook and Twitter.

Gentry speaks about millennial families at ElderLink San Antonio

At ElderLink San Antonio on Oct. 27, Eric Gentry, an associate preaching minister at the Highland Church of Christ in Memphis, Tennessee, will discuss “Millennials and Their Children: Two Generations at the Crossroads of Church and Culture.” While some churches are still figuring out how to relate to millennials, millennials are beginning families and challenging the religious world to find ways to respond to their children. As a preacher and a millennial with young children, Gentry will provide a firsthand account of what that means to church leaders.

Other breakout sessions will provide opportunities to interact with speakers and fellow participants over topics like congregational vision, women in the life of the church and leadership for God’s mission. The keynote speaker will be Randy Harris, ACU Bible instructor and spiritual director for the Siburt Institute and the College of Biblical Studies. For a full lineup, see the schedule and the list of speakers and staff. ElderLink San Antonio will be held at the MacArthur Park Church of Christ and will be the only ElderLink in Texas for the 2018-19 academic year. Be sure to register by Oct. 21 for the early bird discount.

King leads session at United Voice Worship Conference

Curtis King (’83), associate director for the Siburt Institute, will lead “Code-Switching: One Man, Two Worlds,” a breakout session at the United Voice Worship Conference in Houston, Nov. 3-5. With an emphasis on intercultural experiences, King will discuss the age-old practice of reading and responding to one’s social environment inside and outside of church settings. The conference is sponsored by United Voice Worship, a Houston-based a cappella singing ministry “dedicated to honoring Jesus Christ by promoting intentional dialogue between people of different backgrounds created in the image of God.” The conference will include workshops, singing and several keynote presentations.

For more details, visit unitedvoiceworship.org.

Congratulations to the Summit 2018 team!

We extend our heartfelt congratulations to Summit director Dr. David Wray (’67), Siburt Institute assistant director Leah (Carrington ’90) Andrews, and the entire Summit team for a job well done. This year’s event was well-planned and well-received! Save the date for Summit 2019, slated for Sept. 15-18 with a theme of “Living the Psalms.”

The Summit Team (from left): Sarah Sells, Roland Orr, Judy Siburt, David Wray, Leah Andrews and Darryl Tippens. Not pictured: Sarah Ross.

MARK YOUR CALENDARS

THOUGHTS TO PONDER

  • “Exalting ourselves, even under the guise of having advanced integrity, spirituality, and holiness, will end in our spiritual demise. Better to level the playing field on our own than for God to have to knock us off our pedestal. But how? Paul says it comes through Christ-conditioned love. The person who loves as Christ does always believes more about what God can do in someone than what that person has done with themselves.” – Don McLaughlin, Love First: Ending Hate Before It’s Too Late
  • “One of the reasons Jesus continues to be a lightning rod in today’s culture is because he wields tremendous power. This power is not oppressive or flashy: Jesus’ continual seeking of God’s will was an act of power; his forgiveness of the adulterous woman was an act of power; his submission to the cross was the most courageous and powerful act of leadership in human history.” – Dr. Richard S. Lytle, Abandon the Ordinary: Building a Distinctive Leadership Brand in Business, Family, and Church

One of the things I have had to remind myself of, at times, is that the church belongs to Jesus. The church doesn’t belong to me. The church doesn’t belong to the elders. The church belongs to Jesus. That means we need to lean on Jesus to do more of the heavy lifting because he has the more invested in what happens to his church than anyone else.

One of the greatest challenges in church life is seeing a flawless church composed of flawed people. This is especially true in ministry because as a minister, one has so much riding on how things go in the congregation. Often, a complaint doesn’t sound as bad to another member as it does to a minister because the minister has all their eggs in the church basket so it is hard to not pay attention to and internalize things that are hard to hear. Other times we ministers are the ones doing in the complaining. We want to see things go better. We are in this to improve things from how we found them. It is very easy to find ourselves being the ones doing the complaining even if it is in private.

But maybe there is another way to look at it. Just as you don’t go into marriage to change your partner, Jesus knows going in that we are a flawed people and He is okay with that. He loves us anyway. Here is what Paul said about this in Ephesians 5,

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

When people go into marriage expecting their spouse to change they are typically disappointed. Notice in what Paul said that Jesus isn’t looking for the church to change. Jesus is doing everything he can do on his end for her. He doesn’t put the burden on her. He takes the burden on himself. The reason he is able to do this is because of how he sees her. He sees her as his beloved so he doesn’t treat her with contempt. But sometimes we do. And we didn’t even “give ourselves up for” (read “die for”) the church.

So for many of us it is time to complain less and do more of our part in appreciating church. It is a challenge to see her as Christ sees her until we realize that we are part of her too and we are just as messed up as anyone else. The reason the church is flawed is because we are in it. Once we wrap our minds around that we can realize that giving grace to the church is actually extending grace to ourselves as well. Then we will truly be free to love her for who she is and not love her conditioned on her meeting our expectations because she isn’t married to us…we are married to him.

The church has always been known for her benevolence. From the earliest days when believers shared their positions to their treatment of orphans and widows I believe where the church has gotten Jesus the most is in her benevolence. The church is a giving church. The church is a sacrificial church. People know her for her generosity. She is the Proverbs 31 women in congregational form.

One of the questions that I think is helpful to ask of a congregation is, if this church died and shut the doors, would anyone notice. I believe the answer to that question is typically, yes. I am not saying every church has it together but I do believe that we mostly get generosity right. In the churches I have attended and ministered at, I have seen countless instances of people meeting the needs of strangers as well as other Christians. Since people don’t talk about their private good works, it is hard to gauge how much private acts of meeting needs takes place but my theory is that in any given congregation, the amount of assistance that is given out by the congregation privately far exceeds the budgeted money.

Churches forgo many things in order to maintain a benevolent spirit. I believe this is one of the things we have gotten right and I believe it is a beautiful thing that continues to make the bride of Christ gorgeous.

How has your congregation shown her benevolent spirit?

As catchy as all the one word church names are these days I still don’t know a better name for God’s people than the Church of Christ or “Christ’s church.” It all belongs to Jesus. He is the head and we are the body. Some times I get wrapped up in all the wrong things and forget this very simple fact. I get worked up on owning too much of it for myself and setting a criteria for how effectively things need to be happening for the church to be a good church. Other times I attribute too much ownership to the elders. Still other times it feels like it is the church run or possessed by those with the loudest complaints.

None of us possess the church. It isn’t ours. It is hard to complain about something that isn’t yours. Our attitudes and actions are an ever present reminder that we often forget who the church belongs to. Our micromanagement of the details of ministry is the natural result of our underlying belief of who the church belongs to, us, we think.

It is liberating to be reminded that the church isn’t ours. We aren’t truly in charge. It isn’t beholden to us. There is a certain beauty that is restored to the church when we put this in perspective because it takes away our own personal criteria of what we think it will take to make the church “good” because the church is already “good” even if the programs we want to put in place aren’t happening yet.

The next time you struggle to see the beauty of the church, step back for a moment and consider how Jesus sees his most prized possession. Take a deep breath and smile. Jesus has more at stake in the life of the church than we do. And he sees the church as his beautiful bride who has no stain or blemish. If only we could see it that way too, oh how free and joyful we would be!

Most people even remotely involved with theology are aware of the controversies surrounding the new perspective on Paul (NPP), and specifically the doctrine of justification. It would be nearly impossible for anyone to read and comprehend all of the material being produced on the matter, though there are two extremely well-known Pastor-theologians who, in my opinion, brought the debates about justification into the mainstream of Christian news and conversation. These prolific scholars are John Piper and N.T. Wright. In 2007, Piper’s book The Future of Justification: A Response to N.T. Wright was published. Piper wrote this book in response to a growing acceptance of the NPP and more specifically, to various academic lectures, books and articles produced by Wright on the topic of justification. It did not take long for Wright to respond with Justification: God’s Plan and Paul’s Vision which was published in 2009.

In 2015, I became heavily involved with this debate. I read as much as I could on the subject, but it all started with these two books written by John Piper and N.T. Wright. Both were saying we were saved by grace through faith. But, Piper said our final justification was on the basis of the imputed righteousness of Christ, while Wright insisted that language was not found in Paul. Who was right?

At the time, I was just an undergraduate theology student trying to find my way. I was also the Pastor of a small Baptist church. Leaving Calvinism was less than ideal, and I certainly didn’t want to leave traditional Protestant theology altogether. I desperately wanted Piper to be right. I wanted the Bible to teach double imputation and sola fide (as articulated by Luther). At the end of the day though, it became apparent to me that one side was using deductive reasoning, while the other was using inductive. One was presupposing a theological axiom, while the other was attempting to establish axioms from Scripture and the context in which the New Testament was produced, namely Second Temple Judaism. I discovered I was, indeed, on the wrong side.

Several takeaways from reading these books that I simply could not ignore:

-Piper’s definitions of tsedaqah elohim and dikaiosyne theou (the Hebrew and Greek terms which are usually translated as “The righteousness of God”) were idiosyncratic. No scholars defined these Hebrew and Greek terms as he did. He seemed to completely ignore the body of scholarly literature on the subject, as Wright pointed out.[1]

-Piper (and the broader Reformed tradition) did not deal well with Romans 2. It simply did not fit with his presuppositions, and that became obvious to me. Conversely, Wright’s exegesis of Romans 2 was consistent with the whole of the context and the rest of Paul’s commentary on the subject of final judgement. I did not see any way that Romans 2 could possibly fit with traditional Protestant theology.

-Piper actually warned his readers against considering Second Temple literature while interpreting Paul. This is not an exaggeration or caricature; Piper is explicit about this in chapter one of his book.[2] Meanwhile, Wright demonstrated a robust knowledge of Second Temple Judaism and showed how misunderstandings of the Jewish religion led to Protestants (particularly influenced by the Lutheran tradition as opposed to the Calvinistic tradition) systematically misunderstanding Paul for centuries after the Reformation.

-The language of imputed righteousness is not in the New Testament. The concept is a theological construct based on inferences made from Paul’s writings. To be clear, this does not prove or disprove the legitimacy of the doctrine. All Christians, to some degree, infer from and interpret Paul’s writings. This point became important to me though, because as a Baptist and someone who was a Calvinist for years, I was always taught that imputation was ‘the heart of the gospel.’ Can something be at the center of the Christian faith that is never explicitly taught in Scripture, and that certainly was not explicitly taught by Jesus? The resurrection, caring for the least of these, Christ’s death for our sins and the sovereignty of God? All plainly taught in the Bible. The concept of imputation? Not so much.

-And finally, the concept of imputation contradicted what became apparent to me: Jesus and Paul taught a final judgement according to works. Paul constantly referred to a day when everyone, Christians included, would stand before God and be judged according to what they had done. Romans 2:1-16 was the obvious passage: “For he will repay according to each one’s deeds: to those who by patiently doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; while for those who are self-seeking and who obey not the truth but wickedness, there will be wrath and fury…For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but the doers of the law who will be justified.” (Rom. 2:6-8, 13) There were others, such as 2 Corinthians 5:10; Paul frequently taught that your works will have a direct impact on the judgement you receive from God (Rom. 8:13 and Galatians 5:19-21 are good examples). And this was just Paul. Jesus emphasized and depicted a final judgement according to works in great detail, not least of which are found in Matthew 25:31-46 and John 5:25-29: “Do not be astonished at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and will come out-those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.” (Jn. 5:28-29) John Piper claimed, through a quote of Solomon Stoddard, that he wanted his book to show that Christians would finally be judged, not based on what they had done, but on the basis of the perfect life of Jesus Christ: “The general tendency of this book is to show that our claim to the pardon of sin and acceptance with God is not founded on anything wrought in us, or acted by us, but only on the righteousness of Christ.”[3] If Paul (or Jesus) taught imputation as articulated by Piper, then it would be reasonable to expect depictions of final judgement in Scripture to reflect this reality. I expected to see the final judgement in Scripture illustrated as Christians being judged based on the life Jesus lived. Conversely, I found final judgement to be as already discussed: according to what we had done.

Years later, these are just a few observations I wanted to share from my own reading of Piper and Wright. It would be impossible to even begin to answer every question people may have, or to delve into every area of the conversation in a single article. I do think both of these books are good starting points for anyone interested in debates about justification. I pray God will continue to bless our efforts to understand Scripture.

  1. N T. Wright, Justification: God’s Plan and Paul’s Vision (Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP Academic, 2009), 64.
  2. John Piper, The Future of Justification: A Response to N.T. Wright (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 2007), 33-36.
  3. Solomon Stoddard, The Safety of Appearing at the Day of Judgement, in the Righteousness of Christ (Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 1995, oig. 1687): vii, quoted in Piper, The Future of Justification: A Response to N.T. Wright, 11.

There’s a lot of focus on things that are “wrong” with the church today.  You’ll find your social media feed or Inbox full of lists like, “Five Reasons Your Church Stinks!” or “Millennials Hate You and Here’s Why!” To be sure, there is much that can be helpful in these kinds of articles.  They often shed light on things we might not pay attention to.

I believe in the church.  I believe she is just as relevant today as she ever was. I believe we have a mission and a purpose.  I know that even the Gates of Hell won’t beat her! I know that she is not a place or event or service, but a multiplying, multicultural group of people united around the belief that Jesus is the Son of God, and whose lives reflect that teaching!

Saying all that, it’s easy to look at the negatives and ignore the positives.  So, the question we should ask is:

“What’s right with the church?”

I have many things I could point to but let me boil it down to a culturally relevant bullet-point list.

  1. The Church is Still the Same.

Everybody wants to change everything, or nobody wants to change anything. You know the conversations I’m talking about, right? It’s led to a lot of hurt and division in the church. The bright spot in all this, at least to me, is that in recent years, we’ve begun to study things in our faith heritage.

The spirit of these discussions was anxious. Now, the tone is moderate.  No longer is it heresy to ask questions.  No longer is it wrong to affirm that just because something is old, doesn’t mean it’s useless.  Instead, I see a beautiful multicultural, multigenerational group of people who don’t agree on everything, but are learning to be okay with that. We all unite around Jesus.  He is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, as Peter Declared in Matthew 16.  I believe that’s enough.

  1. The Church is Moving Forward

We believe and practice things we wouldn’t dream of years ago.  The Church is leading the way on racial reconciliation, social justice, and neighboring. It’s as if God designed it that way! We’re having deep conversations on human sexuality, social issues, and living in gray areas. We’re having more prayer-infused conversations about life and how others who we thought couldn’t fit, are indeed part of the flock.  We’re looking into new, more relevant forms of expressing our worship, while retaining the beautiful traditions of our past.  Voices once silenced are now being heard. God is still moving, and we are a part of it!

  1. The Church is Leaving Numbers

Celebrity Pastors/Preachers are still a thing.  The small congregation, however, is making a comeback.  Bigger isn’t always better.  The people of these seemingly irrelevant, old-school, and underdog churches are the unsung heroes of the Kingdom. We’re leaving behind the old yardsticks of “budgets, bodies, and baptisms,” as a barometer for our success.

Instead, God is moving us to focus on changed lives. The pews may seem emptier, but divine conversations are happening all over.  Coffee shops, campuses, and factories are the stage on which Holy Spirit led interactions are playing out.  The people we talk to may not come to worship, but we’re trusting that if we’re sowing seeds and watering them, God will be faithful to make them grow.  And they are growing!

  1. The Church is Leaving the Building

We’ve traded in cheesy shirts for dirty hands.  We’ve stopped building buildings and started building up our cities. In my city, Middletown, Ohio, I have seen God do miracles.  We were one of the hardest-hit cities in the opioid epidemic.  People were dying at gas pumps, in drive thru lines, and elementary school lobbies. Mobile morgues were called in because hospitals and the coroners’ office couldn’t hold the corpses.

Violence was surging, and gang activity was inciting a lot of racial tensions.  The churches in our city began to rally around the citizens.  We began praying.  Then we began taking the city back park by park and block by block.  I witnessed a formerly fearful woman, seeing the sixty people from the church behind her repairing a playground, walk up to a drug dealer and tell him he had to go.  “Why?” he smirked?  “Because God’s people showed me I don’t need to be afraid of you anymore.  This is God’s park, and you’re done here.”  He’s in prison now.

As a result, our overdoses are down 97%, and a big cartel has left our city.  God is moving because His people are leaving the building! It’s beautiful! It’s wild! It’s glorious!

  1. The Church is Still Preaching the Gospel

God is still using his beautiful bride to carry the Gospel.  The message that Jesus is Lord is still ringing out across our nation.  We are reaching people.  It may not be as quickly as we want, but God is partying! The message hasn’t changed.  It won’t. It can’t!

The Resurrected Messiah’s Bride, the Church, is still prevailing against the Gates of Hell!  He’s still with us!  The Spirit is speaking to the churches!  Jesus is the only hope, and we are shouting it.  It may not always be in sermons, but in our service, our dialogue, and our repentance over past mistakes, we are preaching the Gospel. This hasn’t ever been about us. It’s always been and will always be about the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Look, it’s easy to see a lot of things that are wrong.  It’s even easier to get discouraged and overwhelmed.  Let me challenge you with something.  This Sunday when you gather to worship our Father, sit and listen.  Listen to life all around you, the crying babies, running kids, and cooing toddlers.  Teens on their phones making jokes and choosing to be there. The older couple who are fighting illness but have made it a priority to get to service so they can hand out bulletins with a giant grin.

The body is very much alive.  She’s very much growing.  She’s moving.  She’s serving.  She’s loving. She’s building.  I feel overwhelmed with emotion at the thought that I get to be a part of it.  I, as messy a human being as I have been, am invited to be a part of the Bride of Christ.

I believe in the Church.  And She is good!  She is still fighting for the oppressed.  She is still helping the needy. She is still mourning with the bereaved.  She is still standing the gap for those who can’t stand.  She is still the church.  And she is beautiful!

This past April, Leafwood Publishers released my new (first) book,  Still Wrestling–Faith Renewed Through Brokenness.

It has been an amazing journey. Not only to write a book, but to survive, thrive, and find the kind of redemption, restoration, and reconciliation only our great God can bring.

As I have written elsewhere and often, life can be exceedingly difficult–filled with trauma, heartache, and brokenness. I wish I didn’t know that as well as I do, but, God has seen fit to help me help others who struggle too.

And I am thankful for that. In sharing my story of tears and pain, God has allowed me to experience a healing I never thought possible. He has redeemed this horrific story and given honor to those we have lost.

If you are reading this, there is one thing I am certain of: you are broken too. It may not be as unfortunately obvious a story as mine–splashed across the headlines of your local or even national news, but broken you are.

B.R.O.K.E.N.
Broken.
Broken.

It doesn’t matter how you emphasize it. It doesn’t matter the details. It doesn’t matter if it is public or private. It doesn’t matter if it is known only to you and God.

Broken we all are. By sin. By circumstances. By matters out of our control, we all know some level or degree of pain, sorrow, turmoil, or difficulty. We all know the heartache and fear of uncertainly. We all know the consequences of our own failures as well as the failures of others that impact us directly and indirectly.

Can you go ahead and say it with me? I am broken.

My book is not the only book that might help you in your struggle. My book is not the only book that can give you a new perspective or a renewed hope. I wish I could tell you differently. I wish I could say the only book you will ever need besides the Bible is mine, but then my brokenness would be even more evident!

Thankfully others have written different things to help with every imaginable circumstance. I trust you can find your way to the things you need. However, I’d like to point out a resource that might very well be the encouragement, connections, and fellowship you need to raise above your particular struggle.

The following comes from Abilene Christian University’s Summit website:

Are you discouraged by what is happening in the world today, and the endless stream of brokenness that seems to prevail in all walks of life? Do you wonder what our response should be to these real-world issues and how we can make a difference amidst the chaos?

We invite you to campus Sept. 16-19 for Summit 2018, when we will explore “Wholeness in a Broken World: Together Through the Power of the Spirit,” a study of contemporary issues through the book of Ephesians.

Check it out! There are lots of great opportunities to be encouraged–I’d love to meet you there!

Les Ferguson, Jr.
Oxford, MS

The church has taken a lot of heat lately. In our world of deconstructive tendencies we have learned it is far easier to pick people and things apart than it is to build people and things up. Certainly some things need to be critiqued and improved. There is no doubt about that. But often we don’t take the time to look at things from a positive perspective. It is time that we remind ourselves of the positive attributes of Christ’s church.

When we view the church solely with a critical eye, I am afraid that we don’t see God’s people and God sees His own people. We view things with a much more criticism and far less grace than God does. Even those of us who are strong proponents of grace seem to see this more on an individual level rather than on a corporate level. We expect God to be graceful to us as individuals but don’t always appreciate the church with the kind of grace God gives us as a body. I believe when God sees his bride, the church, he sees something beautiful. I believe when Christ, the head of the church, sees His body, He sees something beautiful and worthwhile.

We can create posts that list the 10 things wrong with the church today but let’s look at it from the other direction. What is going well? What beautiful things are happening? How are Christians actively embodying and imitating our Savior? Tell us some good news for a change. Do some edifying, some up building. So here is our chance…let’s build up the bride!

It is important for Christ’s church to have a positive self image. That doesn’t mean there is never a time or place to critique but that we always need to keep things in perspective of the bigger picture of how God sees his bride being fully aware of her flaws.