FIRST-PERSON: Your imperfect local church

O'FALLON, Ill. (BP) -- Perhaps you have noticed that your local church isn't perfect. If you haven't, many people will be happy to point that out to you.

The lost world, disgruntled former members and even some in contemporary Christian culture delight in pointing out the flaws and warts of the church. And, let's face it, the church has earned portions of her criticism.

Some local churches have accepted or condoned aberrant theology and unbiblical practices, even ungodly behavior. I would never ask you to connect with churches that willingly disobey God and His Word.

But what about the church that is trying but failing? What about the local church that wants to follow God fully but never fully succeeds?

Why in the world should Christians worship, serve and give in local churches that are flawed?

Here are some reasons:

1. Imperfect local churches are the only kind there are.

The reason for the imperfections of local churches is, of course, because of the imperfections of the people who make up the church.

Even those redeemed by the blood of the Lamb -- those fully forgiven by Jesus -- continue to struggle with sin. Like all Christians before us, we struggle with sin because our old, sinful nature still works inside us.

There are no perfect local churches because there are no perfect Christians, no perfect pastors and no perfect church members.

2. God created local churches knowing they would be imperfect.

When the Lord formed the local church -- and it is clearly His idea, His plan and His methodology -- He knew it was going to be filled with imperfect people.

Jesus is not surprised that the church, of which He is the chief cornerstone, is populated by the imperfect. Knowing the inherent imperfections did not stop God from creating the church. God values the imperfect local church which means we should as well.

3. Imperfect people fit perfectly with imperfect local churches.

You and I would never fit with a perfect local church. We would never relate and our presence alone would end its perfection.

But we can certainly relate to a group of people who have failed and fallen. We know perfectly well what it is like to stumble, to be selfish and to break our commitments. We need others who have been there with us and found perfection in the Lord, and the Lord only. We can join arms with others who, imperfectly at times, follow the Savior.

4. Imperfect people and churches do imperfect ministry together empowered by the perfect Lord.

Our perfect God formed the imperfect local church with what seems like a crazy plan. These imperfect people will join together to do ministry together in imperfect ways, using their gifts and resources and talents to imperfectly serve the perfect Lord.

What a perfect plan! The plan isn't perfect because we are perfect. The plan isn't perfect because the others in our local church are perfect. The plan is perfect because the Lord is perfect! He perfectly planned for imperfect us.

If you are waiting for a perfect church, you will never find it. If however, you are willing to let a perfect Savior use you and others in an imperfect local church, God will impact the world through you. God uses imperfect people and pastors and churches all the time. It is sort of His specialty, which is truly perfect!

Doug Munton, online at dougmunton.com, is senior pastor of First Baptist Church in O'Fallon, Ill., and a former first vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention.
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