I’ve been spending a lot of time in Acts recently (see yesterday’s post). A common reaction to Acts is to look at all the exciting and crazy things that happen (3000 people joining the movement, healings in Jesus’ name, angels letting people out of jail) and to ask: “Why doesn’t the church look more like this today?”
I can sympathize with that a bit. But, I also am overwhelmed with how little has changed. People fight, disagree over little things, lie, criticize, and quit. The mission is always in danger of getting derailed by something that, in the grand scheme of things, is not all that important.
When I look around today and hear some of the criticisms about the church, I hear, at times, the “We just need to go back to Acts” sentiment. To people who say that, I ask: “Have you been involved in a church lately?”
When you are deeply involved in a community, and when you are a healthy person, you should see both sides of the Acts coin…the good and the bad…the beautiful and the ugly. Churches can be amazing: people finding their way back to God, great stories of transformation, miracles, serving the community, and on and on. But church can also be agonizing: fights, losing the mission, distractions, criticisms, and on and on.
Acts makes it clear that both of these realities are true of the church in a broken world. The challenge for me, as Acts has reminded me, is not to let idealism or cynicism win the day. The beauty is in holding the tension of these two realities. Church is where the miraculous happens and it can break your heart. God help me to live in to that truth.