The ugly side of church

A radio station in our area is running a promotion called “The Ugly Side of Church.” I heard the advertisement for the first time tonight and, at first, thought, “Wow. What a great idea.” Then I realized it was like “Extreme  Makeover: Church Edition.” The premise is to submit a picture of an ugly room at church and win a chance to have the room made over.

I get it. We’ve been at churches with rooms in dire need of improvement and no resources — manpower or money — to fix them.

But I was more excited when I thought it was a chance for authenticity. A chance to acknowledge that sometimes the church, the Bride of Christ, has some warts.

I don’t want to make this a church-bashing post. I feel like I do that far more than is healthy. Francis Chan, in his book “Forgotten God,” asks this question: “How much do you love the church?” I struggled with that question: do I love the church too much and therefore long to see her be all that she’s destined to be, or do I not love her enough to see past her faults and look at the good she does?

I’m still not sure of the answer.

But I’m tired of putting my best face forward. I’m actually not that good at it. When I’m upset, I have a hard time hiding it, even when I want to. This past week at church, I was tired from the 14-hour day on the road on Saturday, and emotionally drained from a tough but rewarding week with family. Corban was overtired and fussy and hard to put to sleep. I thought I could just get through the day unnoticed. Turns out someone noticed.

How many other Sundays am I struggling with something and able to hide it so that no one notices?

That’s just a start to my ugliness. And I’m just one person in the church. Tell me I’m not the only one who hides behind a made-up mask of perceived perfection.

I have seen the church do beautiful work. I have met her beautiful saints. I see her potential to radiate God’s love in a dark world.

But the truth is, the church DOES have an ugly side, and that too often is what the world sees and remembers.

I was challenged a couple of weeks ago by this quote from our Beth Moore Bible study: “When, because of your faith, your life too becomes perceptibly different; when your reactions are quite opposite to what the situation seems to call for and your activities can no longer be explained in terms of your personality; that is when your neighborhood will sit up and take notice. In the eyes of the world, it is not our relationship with Jesus Christ that counts; it is our resemblance to him!” — “The Queen and I” by Ray Stedman (emphasis mine).

Lately, I’m convicted at how little I resemble Christ to the world. There’s an ugly side to me, and maybe there always will be to some extent, but I’m desperate for God to work in me in such a way that the ugliness diminishes day by day.

We were reminded tonight at Bible study that God makes everything beautiful in its time. That’s true for me and for His church.

Maybe “Extreme Makeover: Church Edition” isn’t such a bad idea after all. But the church needs more than a fresh coat of paint or new carpet. She needs a change of heart, a return to her first love, a revival of the Spirit’s leading.

I don’t know when or how it will happen, but, man, will it be beautiful.

Ugly’s had its day. Time for a facelift.

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