Thankful for my church, warts and all

We live in an intensely competitive, consumer-driven services marketplace. I live near the center of a large city, which means I have an insane number of choices for dining out. I have the great luxury of being very picky about my restaurant dollars; so if a place gives me a meal I didn’t care for or indifferent service, I just never go back. The restaurant business is brutal—many close down after the second year. I have the luxury of expecting perfection. When I travel, I can usually choose from at least eight car rental companies. If I have a bad experience with one, I will never go back.

That kind of perfectionist expectation can make marriage very hard. What spouse on earth can deliver a great experience day after day? We’re sinners, after all, which means we’re going to be selfish sometimes. Also our partners have flawed and sinful perceptions, which means that sometimes they will not always appreciate us even when we are being awesome. I have a hypothesis that if you are 70% satisfied with your spouse, you should be very, very grateful. The 30% you have to put up with is reasonable overhead.

Perfectionist expectations can also take some of the joy out of your church experiences. I’m not talking about your doctrinal expectations—the teachings about Christ better be scriptural. Accuracy of biblical teaching is nonnegotiable. I’m talking about the people in the organization itself, its philosophy of ministry, and the way things get done. Perhaps your pastor is not a riveting speaker. Maybe your church’s small size means you don’t have a lot of programs. Perhaps the members aren’t real warm, or there’s a demographic “hole” in your age group. You know—you’re a millennial and the average age is 65, or you’re a 75-year-old divorcée and everybody else is young and married with kids. Maybe the dominant style of worship is not your preference. Maybe you’re a liturgy lover and get to listen to a lot of praise bands, or the reverse, you’re dying for some guitars and hear organ every Sunday.

I’d like to invite you this week to give thanks for your church, warts and all. It is, after all, a dependable place for prayers and praise. Even a mediocre speaker will teach you things if you give him a chance, get your Bible open, and listen. If you love people there, people will love you back. They can’t help it. A church of any size is a great platform for service. Your faith will never be healthy if you are not spending yourself in some way to help other people. If you look and ask, you will find a prayer partner.

It’s not too hard to make a list of your church irritations and disappointments. May I invite you to make a list of your church’s positive features and then give thanks for all of them?

Pastor Mark Jeske has been bringing the Word of God to viewers of Time of Grace since the program began airing in late 2001. A Milwaukee native, Pastor Jeske has served as the senior pastor at St. Marcus, a multicultural congregation on Milwaukee’s near north side since 1980. In addition, he is the author of several books and dozens of devotional booklets on various topics.

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