Messy Church

I was reading in Mark 5 today, where Jesus frees a demon-possessed man, and I got thinking about the early church. The early church must have been one messed up church, one messy church, literally dirt on the floors… No really, imagine all the different types of people and all the different types of problems. Ex-demon-possessed-people for instance probably brought with them their unique challenges. Tax collectors were not real popular with people in that day. Then you have Jews and Gentiles fighting, I’m sure, over all types of stuff.

No, they didn’t fight over the color of the carpet. They didn’t have any! But if they had carpet, they would have fought over that too. I guess, what I am trying to tell myself is, they didn’t have it all together. I may think that my church or the Church universal is in shambles at times but the church throughout history has always appeared that way in many areas. I guess that is part of the beauty and wonder of the church.

God said that the gates of hell would not prevail against the Church and it is surely by His power that it has not been overcome. Like Paul says from 1 Corinthians, not many of us were super special by worldly standards. God so often chooses to use a rag-tag bunch, which I am very glad about, because He chooses to use people like me. He also chooses to use messy churches even though they, like the early church, are sometimes both literally and metaphorically messy.

It encourages me to remember that the Church then, as the Church now, will always face both external and internal challenges but will likewise always have Jesus the same Lord ultimately in control. It encourages me that though the church may be messy (and yes in both ways) it is doing ministry. It also reminds me that ministry is not just a church service—a meeting of people to hear a message—it is a group, a gathering, made up of individuals, and individuals with problems.

There are problems to fix, lives to be less messy, floors to mop (yes, we want the church to be presentable), but this is ministry. This is the church, a church that in a lot of ways reflects the biblical early church. Yes, a struggling church, but for a purpose, a grave and glorious purpose.

To sum it all up, I am encouraged by the church, the good and the bad, the messy and the clean. We have life (by the grace of almighty God!), and life is messy. There is a funny verse in Proverbs that says, where no oxen are the turf is clean but there is much increase from the help of an ox. The “turf” is certainly not always clean at church but there, I believe, is a lot being done by Christ’s body, and I praise God for it!

God calls us to be faithful, though we often are few. We must remember the amazing privilege it is to serve the King! Christ is redeeming His bride! Soon His Church shall presented spotless! 

Press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus!

~Philippians 3:14

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About Paul O'Brien

I am a lot of things; saint and sinner. I struggle and I strive. I am a husband and father of three. I have been in pastoral ministry for 10 years. I went to school at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary but most of my schooling has been at the School of Hard Knocks. I have worked various jobs, including pheasant farmer, toilet maker, construction worker, and I served in the military. My wife and I enjoy reading at coffee shops, taking walks, hanging out with friends and family, and watching our three kid's antics. :)

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