“When someone tells me yet another horror story about the church, I respond, ‘Oh, it’s even worse than that. Let me tell you my story. I’ve spent most of my life in recovery from the church.’”
“The church is equal parts mystery and mess.”
I posted the following question on social media:
“Why do you think people don’t like to go to church?”
I didn’t have to wait long for answers. Well over 200 people responded. And they did so quickly.
I promised a response. Reading, praying, and thinking through all the answers took some time – well over a month.
Toward the end of his life, Solomon penned these cryptic words:
“What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” – Ecc 1:9
Translation: out of over the 200 responses to my question, nuances abounded, but there wasn’t really anything new. Culture changes (we’re busier than we’ve ever been), technology changes (smart phones have transformed modern day culture), but the human condition remains the same.
Surprisingly, hypocrisy was mentioned only a few times. Perhaps people are more cognizant today of the fact that we’re all, on some level, hypocrites when it comes to what we say about Jesus and how we consistently live out our faith on a daily basis.
Categories & Opening Remarks
I initially divided the answers into over a dozen categories based on specific reasons given by individual respondents, with some of the answers easily fitting into multiple categories.
Six of those categories comprise far more of the answers than any others. It is to those most prevalent six answers I would like to offer my response.
In the next section, you will find each question followed by what will hopefully be encouragement and hope. The answers are listed in no particular order.
Before I begin, please know I did not take these answers lightly. I was clear that respondents would find the post to be a safe place to be honest. Some answers, especially the more detailed answers sent to me privately, broke my heart, even bringing tears to my eyes.
My sole reason for posting a response is best explained by Billy Graham’s daughter, Anne Graham Lotz. You would think the family of Billy Graham would have never suffered at the hands of a church. But you would be wrong. In her book, Wounded by God’s People, Anne opens her story of hurt – and healing – as follows:
“Whatever your hurts may be, my prayer is that the following pages will raise you up…into a fresh encounter with God. Lead you to reclaim the joy and peace of God’s presence. Remove the sting and searing pain as God’s blessings begin to flow. Enlarge your vision of God’s purpose for your life that is greater than you thought.”
That is my prayer, as well.
My Response to the Six Most Prevalent Answers
1. Exhaustion due to weekly schedules i.e. work and/or extracurricular activities of children.
The frustration of our modern, microwave culture is real. A friend once told me, “My life has finally slowed down to a blur.”
The old saying goes like this: “If Satan can’t keep a person from becoming a Christian, he’ll simply keep the Christian busy.”
My encouragement is to put life “on pause” for a moment and see where you might be able to create some margin for your own mental and emotional health.
The truth is – a healthy church community will actually help with this. Why? Because you’ll be reminded that you’re battling the same break-neck pace of life most every other Christian is battling. And as you find encouragement in their lives, they will find encouragement in yours.
The beloved pastor, Chuck Swindoll, said,
“If the pace and the push, the noise and the crowds are getting to you, it’s time to stop the nonsense and find a place of solace to refresh your spirit.”
Jesus purposely used sheep as a metaphor to describe us. Sheep were never designed to exist in isolation from the flock. Neither were we.
The 19th century preacher, Charles Spurgeon, said,
“Satan always hates Christian fellowship; it is his policy to keep Christians apart. Anything which can divide saints (Christians) from one another he delights in. Since union is strength, he does his best to promote separation.”
This is why Paul encouraged the Ephesian believers:
“Therefore see that you walk carefully [living life with honor, purpose, and courage; shunning those who tolerate and enable evil], not as the unwise, but as wise [sensible, intelligent, discerning people], 16 making the very most of your time [on earth, recognizing and taking advantage of each opportunity and using it with wisdom and diligence], because the days are [filled with] evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish and thoughtless, but understand and firmly grasp what the will of the Lord is.” – 5:15-17; Amplified
Of note, I’m guessing most of us sincerely want our children to have a desire to connect to a church. The saying is true:
“You teach what you know, but you reproduce what you are.”
I have linked a blog related to this topic here, here, and here.
2. I’ve been hurt by the church.
U2’s Bono once quipped,
“Christians are hard to tolerate; I don’t know how Jesus did it.”
God gives us an eye-opening story in Mark, chapter one. While Jesus was teaching in the Jewish synagogue (the local church of the time), Mark records,
“…there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean (demonic) spirit.” – 1:23
You read that right. There was a demon-possessed man in the congregation.
Translation: Satan goes to church. He did then. He does now.
My friends, my heart broke as I read your stories of being hurt by the church. I want you to know you’re not alone. I’ve been slandered, gossiped about, lied about, targeted, judged, laughed at, humiliated, and discarded. I can still feel the sting of betrayal, slander, and self-righteous cruelty. So why would I continue to believe in the church?
Because the church didn’t hurt me, people did.
Earlier, I mentioned Anne Graham Lotz’ book Wounded by God’s People. One chapter title encapsulates the source of our hurt: “Rejected by Them, Not by Him.”
When someone tells me their painful story of being hurt by someone in their church, somewhere in the conversation I remind them, “That wasn’t Jesus, and the person/people who hurt you will have to answer to him.”
Lean into Jesus. Psalm 34:18 promises us,
“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; and he saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
The 19th century, Irish poet, Thomas Moore, wrote,
“Earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot heal.”
- Wounded by God’s People by Anne Graham Lot
- The Bait of Satan by John Bevere
3. Legalism i.e. brow-beating, shaming
I sat in a Youth Pastor conference years ago when Mike Yaconelli said to some 5000 of us in the audience,
“I’ve been to churches where I felt worse about myself when I left than when I arrived.”
I have too. And I never went back.
In this context, “legalism, brow-beating, shaming” means, in a nutshell, “If I can ‘check off the boxes’ of how a preacher tells me I should live then God will love and accept me.” This is poisonous, heretical seed planted in the minds of people watered with condemnation and guilt.
Legalism is what Paul calls “another gospel, which is no gospel at all.” Preachers who preach Law (merely “rule keeping”) void of Grace are, themselves, in the bondage of legalism. Like the Pharisees of old, they “don’t know the Scriptures, nor the power of God.”
That our works make us right in God’s sight is a satanic lie leading to emotional and spiritual bondage. What a miserable life to always have to wonder if you’ve done enough “good” to be right in God’s eyes.
I could move on to the next answer but, because legalism is so insidious to the Christian’s understanding of what the Bible says about our salvation, please allow me to offer biblical clarity.
According to God, good works are not required for salvation; rather, they are evidence of salvation. Our human effort is of zero value to being made right with God. Jesus said,
“The Spirit alone gives eternal life. Human effort accomplishes nothing.”
To see an example of legalism all one has to do is turn to the Gospel accounts and read about the religious leaders of the time.
It is no coincidence that these are the people who were most often on the receiving end of Jesus’ wrath. In his blistering rebuke of legalism in Matthew 23, Jesus calls the legalists,…
“…hypocrites, blind guides, fools, snakes, and whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.” – vss 13-38
In What’s So Amazing About Grace?, Philip Yancey rightly states,
“There’s nothing we can do to make God love us any more; and there’s nothing we can do to make God love us any less.”
God’s love for us is fixed inexorably not on our works, but on Jesus’ work on the Cross. This is what Jesus meant when, from the Cross, he said, “It is finished.”
Upon our profession of faith in Christ, we are made 100% holy and 100% righteous not because of what we’ve done, but because of what Christ did on our behalf. This is what Paul meant when he wrote,
“For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.” – 2 Corinthians 5:21
The mindset that we can earn our way to heaven by “checking off the boxes” of human effort must be carried to its logical end which is this: Christ died for nothing.
“If keeping the [Old Testament] law (human effort) could make us right with God, there was no need for Christ to die.” – Galatians 2:21
In his book, Church: Why Bother?, Yancey writes,
“Jesus’ kingdom calls us to another way, one that depends not on our performance but his… He has already earned for us the costly victory of God’s acceptance. As a result, church should not be one more place for me to compete and get a performance rating… Church is a beacon of grace to the rest of the world, not a fortress of legalism. That is the church as described in the Bible.”
I have linked blogs related to this topic here, here, and here.
4. Pastors who are disingenuous, egotistical, abusive/narcissistic.
Little men with big egos. I’ve met them. I’ve worked for them.
They weren’t pastors, of course. Just bosses with insecurities manifested in juvenile behavior i.e. jealousy, selfish ambition, always believing they’re the smartest man in the room. It would be laughable if so many people hadn’t been hurt by them.
Let’s define terms.
Pastoral abuse is not when a pastor interprets a biblical passage differently than you and strongly, albeit kindly, defends his position.
Additionally, abuse is not when a pastor chooses, for whatever reasons, a methodology of “doing the practical side church” with which you strongly disagree i.e. whether or not to meet on Sunday nights, whether or not to have Sunday School, what time the offices should close, what style of music to sing, etc.
The abuse discussed here involves…
…anything a church leader would attempt to do through intimidation, manipulation, instilling fear, avoiding or altogether refusing accountability, refusing to be questioned, refusing financial transparency, creating division through an “us vs. them” mentality.
Ego, narcissism (an inflated, grandiose view of self), and sociopathy rule the day with these guys.
In 1999, in an essay on the topic of narcissism in church leadership, Bruce Gregory wrote,
“Narcissism loves and demands attention to reinforce its grandiosity. It needs to dominate and control the ‘space,’ to be ‘more special’ than anyone else.”
In this book, When Narcissism Comes to Church, Chuck DeGroat opens with a quote from the early 20th century theologian, Thomas Merton:
“Now sum sicut caeteri homines” (I am not like other men)… He is so pleased with himself that he can no longer tolerate the advice of another—or the commands of a superior. When someone opposes his desires he [responds as the martyr], ‘I am persecuted by worldly men.’… It is a terrible thing when such a one gets the idea he is [God’s special messenger] with a mission to reform the world. . . . He is capable of destroying [churches] and making the name of God odious to men.”
During the introduction to the Podcast, The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill, a narrator makes the following statement:
“There is a demographic of church members who prefer a narcissist as their pastor.”
Apparently, Paul’s indictment, “Claiming to be wise, they became utter fools,” applies not only to some church leaders, but also to a demographic of people who attend their churches. Like fans fawning over their favorite athlete, some church members are allowing themselves to be spellbound by a church leader.
Biblically, never – ever – are we encouraged to tolerate abuse from any kind from a church leader. The doctrine of the Priesthood of the Believer tells us no one – including church leaders – has special access to God outside what all other believers have. There is no “direct line” to God given to a church leader that all other believers don’t possess.
One commentary rightly states,
Believers are called “kings and priests” and a “royal priesthood” as a reflection of their privileged status as heirs to the kingdom of the Almighty God and of the Lamb. Because of this privileged closeness with God, no other earthly mediator is necessary.
The biblical word “pastor” means “shepherd.” Not CEO. Not boss. Not lord. They’re not kings with the church being their personal kingdom.
Jesus was clear. He called the church “My house,” “My church,” and the people, “My sheep.” We pastors are merely stewards who have been entrusted by Christ with a local flock of his sheep.
Peter, the disciple and eye-witness of Jesus, wrote to church leadership,
“Care for the flock that God has entrusted to you. Watch over it willingly, not grudgingly—not for what you will get out of it, but because you are eager to serve God. 3 Don’t lord it over the people assigned to your care (do not be arrogant or overbearing), but lead them by your own good example.” (emphasis mine)
“…,but lead them by your own good example.”
I heard years ago – and always remind fellow pastors – “sheep are led, not driven.” A shepherd leads sheep. A butcher drives them.
Pastors are as flawed as everyone else on planet earth. As such, church leaders are as capable of the same level of abhorrent sin of which every other person on earth is capable. Church history is littered with stories of church leaders suffering moral failure.
The good news: although I confess I don’t have hard data, I suspect for every abusive pastor there are a myriad of godly, humble men who have committed their lives to leading people as Jesus led. I’ve met many of them.
I have linked blogs related to this topic here, here, here. and here.
- When Narcissism Goes to Church: Healing Your Community from Emotional and Spiritual Abuse by Chuck Degroat
5. Church is not a safe place.
This answer basically sums up answers 2-4, but I’ve included it because the statement was stated repeatedly.
Again, from his book, What’s So Amazing About Grace?, Philip Yancey shares the following story he’d heard from a friend who works with the down-and-out in Chicago:
A prostitute came to me in wretched straits, homeless, sick, unable to buy food for her two-year-old daughter…. I could hardly bear hearing her sordid story…. I had no idea what to say to this woman. At last I asked if she had ever thought of going to a church for help. I will never forget the look of pure, naive shock that crossed her face. “Church!” she cried. “Why would I ever go there? I was already feeling terrible about myself. They’d just make me feel worse.”
“What struck me about my friend’s story is that women much like this prostitute fled toward Jesus, not away from him. The worse a person felt about herself, the more likely she saw Jesus as a refuge. Has the church lost that gift? Evidently the down-and-out, who flocked to Jesus when he lived on earth, no longer feel welcome among his followers.”
Many of us have pasts we’d just as soon forget (me included). Some churches have a talent for bringing those pasts back up.
Some of us struggle with mental health (me included). Tragically, some churches seem to have an issue with that.
In his book, You Lost Me, David Kinnaman cites the story of one girl who suffered from an anxiety disorder. Kinnaman shared,
The girl never felt like she fit in at church. The final straw that drove her away was, in her words, “the judgment my parents received from their church friends about me.”
The judgmental words from Christians in this story are extremely cruel and, sadly, a result of plain biblical ignorance.
But, I want to encourage you: a healthy church is still a safe place.
While some people may demonstrate behavior more like wolves than shepherds, Jesus longs to hold you. And there still exist churches that embody the love, compassion, and protection of the Shepherd.
“The Lord is my shepherd,” a tired and frightened David once wrote. Emphasizing the safety Jesus provides, Peter described our Shepherd as the “guardian of our souls.”
Jesus is always a safe place.
6. Shallow preaching (afraid to preach hard passages that might offend our culture)
My response to this answer is directed not so much at the respondents as to pastors.
Paul had left Timothy to pastor the church in Ephesus and sent him this warning:
“For the time will come when people will not put up with sound teaching. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will reject the truth and turn aside to chase after myths. 5 But you, keep your head in all situations, don’t be afraid of suffering for the Lord, share the Good News of Christ, and fully carry out the ministry God has given you.” – 2 Timothy 4:3-5
In our contemporary church culture driven by megachurches and celebrity pastors, I agree with you that sometimes it seems we are surrounded by preachers who appear to be more concerned with politics, selling books and booking speaking engagements than preaching what Paul called “the whole counsel of God.”
Robby Gallaty, in his book, Replicate, quotes Eugene Peterson who does a much better job of describing the shallow preaching and small-minded leadership delivered in response to what Paul calls “itching ears:”
Pastors of America … are preoccupied with shopkeepers’ concerns—how to keep the customers happy, how to lure customers away from competitors down the street, how to package goods so that customers will lay out more money. Some of them are very good shopkeepers. They attract a lot of customers, pull in great sums of money, and develop splendid reputations. Yet, it is still shopkeeping; religious shopkeeping to be sure, but shopkeeping all the same. The marketing strategies of the fast-food franchise occupy the waking minds of these entrepreneurs; while asleep they dream of the kind of successes that will get the attention of journalists.
Indifference and cultural cowardice inspire no one.
Biblical truth that the culture deems divisive or politically incorrect are discarded in favor of sermons that are more palatable to the cultural palate.
Per Paul’s warning to Timothy, they are “afraid to suffer for the Lord.” And, regardless of how much “sizzle” is manufactured into the preaching of these types of sermons, the result is always the same: diluted biblical truth and spiritual malnutrition.
In his book, Hand Me Another Brick: Timeless Lessons on Leadership, pastor/author, Chuck Swindoll, wrote,
“Today, the nutritional value of what is passed off as biblical teaching is often nothing more than gruel. Flippant preparation of God’s Word is causing many to slowly starve on the pabulum of watery philosophies and thin, tasteless principles. For the full nutritional value of God’s Word to be enjoyed, it must be served up accurately, clearly, and seasoned with practicality.”
Pastors, lovingly preach the hard passages. Per the data gathered from the answers I received, Christians are starving for pastors with courage who refuse to bow to the proverbial mob. The counsel Paul gave Timothy twenty centuries ago still applies today: “don’t be afraid of suffering for the Lord.”
The 19th century pastor, Charles Spurgeon, said,
“I will not preach a soft Gospel.”
Jesus didn’t preach a soft gospel either. And, rather than win him “book deals” and “speaking engagements”, they killed him for it.
Again, I have no hard data. My next statement is based solely on personal experience. There are fearless, loving, humble pastors in abundance. I know many of them. They pastor churches of all sizes. Don’t lower your standards by “picking low hanging fruit.”
I have linked a blog related to this topic here.
One Girl’s Answer
One respondent linked a video of a girl explaining why she left the church.
The girl in the video is a precious soul, and it was clear she’d been hurt by people within her church. I watched the clip numerous times. She explained in no uncertain terms why she quit going to church.
Yet, a couple of her comments required more context for me to understand what she meant, and I would love to have the privilege of sitting down with her so I could ask her more about her story. That said, there is no doubt some in the thread watched the clip. Therefore, it is incumbent upon me to address a few of her claims. Six of them are listed below followed by my comments.
“I was taught the only people Jesus condemned were the Pharisees, the ultra-religious…”
- She was taught wrong. For example,…
- In Matthew 7, Jesus said he will condemn those who know about him, but never actually placed their faith in him.
- In Matthew 19, Jesus condemned the sin of a man who loved his stuff more than choosing to trust Christ as Lord.
- In Luke 16, Jesus tells a parable in which he condemns a man for his selfishness.
- In John 6, Jesus delivers a blistering message to all who choose to live life their way rather than trusting their life to him.
- I could go on.
- While the gospel writers record the religious leaders receiving the lion’s share of Jesus’ rebukes, we would be in gross error believing the only sin Jesus condemned was the sin of the religious leadership.
- Cherry-picking passages from the Bible and making sweeping claims is always irresponsible, leading to damaging misrepresentations of God. And God doesn’t like being misrepresented.
“Everyone in the church is acting like the Pharisees.”
- Clearly, the girl has been hurt. But, making the claim that everyone in the church is a Pharisee is as self-righteous a claim as the behavior of the ones she’s targeting.
- Sure, it’s possible that her church had somehow cornered the market on people who act like Pharisees (legalistic, judgmental, etc.). But never swallow whole claims “painting all people with one broad stroke of the brush.”
- Later in the clip she says, “Y’all need to refocus.” In short, the one judging the Pharisees has now become a Pharisee. As I once heard my pastor remark, “There’s a little bit of Pharisee in all of us.”
“Those (self-righteous people in my former church) are the people Jesus didn’t like.”
- The girl’s view of the biblical Jesus here is misguided, not to mention unbiblical. He doesn’t like the way we behave sometimes, but to say “Jesus didn’t like” a human being is neither found nor demonstrated anywhere in scripture.
- Jesus didn’t merely “like” people, he loved people. The Bible is clear: Jesus hates sin, but he loves people. And his love for people – all people – is what drove him to an excruciating execution.
- But let’s take this a step further. Clearly, the girl never read Jesus’ own words about how to treat people who have hurt us deeply. Jesus said,
“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.
- Jesus continued,
“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. – Luke 6:27-36
“What would Jesus do? I’m doing what Jesus would do and I’m turning my back on the Pharisees.”
- As one wounded Christian wrote when addressing this topic: “The wounded becomes the wounder.”
- Make no mistake: Jesus never “turned his back” on the Pharisees, or anyone else.
- The thief on the cross next to Jesus was every bit as wicked as the Pharisees. But, even on the cross being executed, Jesus didn’t turn his back on this man crying out for salvation.
- Moreover, it was on the cross that Jesus prayed, “Father forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.” This prayer included the Pharisees, you, me, and the girl in the video.
- Isaiah prophesied about Jesus suffering for mankind,
- “I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard; I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting.”
- Jesus didn’t “turn his back”; he “offered his back.”
“It was because of love I left the church. That church I left behind was full of people Jesus wouldn’t want anything to do with.”
- “…people Jesus wouldn’t want anything to do with?” The Bible speaks of no such Jesus.
- You can now see a pattern in the girl’s statements. She’s felt the church turned her back on her. And this is precisely why she often tries to invent a Jesus who would turn his back on humanity.
- Repeatedly, Jesus used the term “whoever” as an invitation to any and all to trust and follow him. Jesus said, “whoever comes to me I will never cast out/reject.”
- The girl desperately needs to read the story Jesus told of the lost sons in Luke 15:11-32. Significantly, the older son represents the Pharisees. Notice, even when the older son’s self-righteous, judgmental spirit was on display, the father (representing Jesus), although condemning the son’s sin, lovingly embraced the son.
“I now realize that if Jesus does exist…”
- When she made this statement toward the end of the clip all of her previous statements made sense.
- If she’s truly doubtful about Jesus even existing, her issues are not so much with the behavior of people who attend church, but with biblical truth altogether.
I am the first to confess I don’t know this precious young lady, nor the context that surrounds her statements. All I know is that she’s been hurt badly enough to give up on church. But, what she said needed to be addressed.
I would encourage people who’ve been hurt and/or disillusioned to take time to heal by leaning into Jesus, and then trusting him to help you find a loving group of believers with whom you can grow in community.
This is truth: you can search all of your life for the perfect church but you will search in vain. It doesn’t exist.
Chris Jackson, in his book, Loving God When You Don’t Love the Church, asserts,
[Churches are full of very flawed] “human beings who…will very possibly be used by…the devil to wound and maim souls.”
In short, rather than give up on the church, prayerfully consider finding a new one to attend. For all its flaws, the New Testament church is the living, breathing Body of Christ.
In his book, They Like Jesus but Not the Church, Dan Kimball quotes the late Dutch theologian, Henri Nouwen:
“When we say, ‘I love Jesus, but I hate the church’ we end up losing not only the Church, but Jesus too.”
Chuck Swindoll, acknowledging all of us are forced to endure pain (as well as mean church people), offers this nugget of wisdom:
“Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.”
Satan is hoping beyond hope we’ll never again darken the doors of a church, desiring to keep us isolated from the Body of Christ.
I am thankful I didn’t give up on the church.
God’s people will always include a few knot-heads. But, in my personal experience, they have been the exception, not the rule. By far, I’ve found most church people to be just like me – folks trying to navigate this sometimes joyful, sometimes painful thing we call life on planet earth, doing their best to lean into Jesus Christ along their way.
If the church you attend is toxic don’t hesitate to leave. Removing yourself from the toxicity will allow you to begin healing. Then ask the Lord to lead you to a Body of Believers with whom you can “do life.” Believers with whom you can grow, laugh, hurt, pray, share, and worship.
It can be a little scary finding a new church. But God is faithful. He wants us to have a healthy connection to his Body. The Shepherd will lovingly lead us to a healthy “flock.”
“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye upon you.” – Psalm 32:8
I can think of no better way to end this blog than to share the following from Philip Yancey’s, Church: Why Bother? He briefly shares the experience of a friend who had attended a high school orchestra concert. After the concert, his friend made a crass remark, questioning the orchestra director’s decision to ask a group of rudimentary musicians to play something as grand as Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. But then, Yancey draws out truth that is absolutely beautiful.
Anyone who enters the church expecting perfection does not understand the nature of that risk or the nature of humanity…
You might ask, ‘Why bother?’ Why inflict on those poor kids the terrible burden of trying to render what the immortal Beethoven had in mind? Not even the great Chicago Symphony Orchestra can attain that perfection.“
My answer is this: The high school orchestra will give some people in that audience their only encounter with Beethoven’s great Ninth Symphony. Far from perfection, it is nevertheless the only way they will hear Beethoven’s message.”
I remind myself of [my friend’s] analogy whenever I start squirming in a church service. Although we may never achieve what the composer had in mind, there is no other way for those sounds to be heard on earth.
Yancey then concludes with a powerful quote from J.F. Powers’ final novel, Wheat That Springeth Green, noting it beautifully encapsulates the New Testament church:
“This is a big old ship, Bill. She creaks, she rocks, she rolls, and at times she makes you want to throw up. But she gets where she’s going. Always has, always will, until the end of time. With or without you.”
“On this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.” – Jesus Christ; Matthew 16:18