21st May 2023

  Karl Vaters asks
What's Wrong With The Church Today?


'Nothing that hasn't been wrong Every Other Day'

God has always used imperfect people and imperfect churches,
because that's all there is to work with.

The church today is compromised, shallow, legalistic, petty
and unforgiving. But no more than it's been in every era.

Including the over-idealised church of your childhood and of the first century.
There has never been a perfect church.

If the church had been perfect in the first century,
we wouldn't have several of the New Testament books.

The Galatians we're leaving grace for old-school legalism.
The Ephesians very quickly lost their first love.
The Laodiceans were lukewarm.
And the Corinthians?
Oh my. Where do I begin with them?

Yet God used the faithful, imperfect, striving, in-need-of-radical-forgiveness
first century church to turn the world upside-down.
It gives me hope.

Yes, the church has problems. It always has.
And until we're in heaven, we always will.

We should never dismiss or downplay our need for repentance,
forgiveness and holiness, but we need to stop thinking that
the church today is less capable of being used by God
than it has ever been.

God has always used imperfect people and imperfect churches,
because that's all there is to work with.

Which means he can use me.
And the church I serve.
And you. And the church you serve.

No, today's church is not what it should be.
It's never been what it should be.
That may be one of the reasons Jesus told us
"I will build my church."
Because he knew we'd always be a work in progress.

Why Should We Work with All Our Hearts?
"Whatever you do, work with all your heart."
Some days, the labours of life can seem so difficult.
We go to work, and even then the work doesn't end.
Home and family demands, or even second or third jobs, await.

The Apostle Paul urges followers of Jesus,

"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart,
 as working for the Lord, not for human masters".

This was to a people facing tougher times than we do today,
a people without running water, electricity, air-conditioning,
or motorised vehicles.

They were a people often persecuted for their faith, arrested, tortured,
and executed for believing and proclaiming Jesus as Lord.

Slavery was legal, and workers were commonly whipped or otherwise beaten
for disobedience - or merely on a master's whim.
And yet Paul urged them not only to work heartily but
as though for God Himself.

Paul's letter was written in Greek, and a look at the original text
shows us the words he intended.
Paul used the word for "work," which Strong's Concordance tells us
means labour, employment, or a task we generally are responsible for doing.

For "with all your heart," or heartily, Paul used a word that is a deep,
powerful word that means soul, a breath of life, spirit,
the very essence of who we are.

Here, he's not merely saying "work hard" but rather do your tasks
with the entirety of your heart and soul - put everything you are into it.

Further, Paul said, do all you do as if you are working for the head of all,
the Lord Himself.

Quite literally, Paul is telling the early church they should do,
whatever it is they do, to the utmost, holding nothing back,
giving every ounce of their being to it, as if this is for
God Almighty and not some mundane, common task.

God saw work as a gift.
When God first created man and woman, He gave them a big job.

"God blessed them and said to them,
 'Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.
 Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over
 every living creature that moves on the ground'" (NIV).

This job - care for everything, grow, rule, multiply - this was holy work,
a blessing for those He created in His very own image.

God worked hard, and indeed still works hard.
His efforts are creative and have purpose and great meaning.
He was the first worker.

"The heavens declare the glory of God;
 the skies proclaim the work of his hands."

In the same way, we too must work hard.
We are God's image-bearers.

Paul reiterates,

"So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do,
 do it all for the glory of God."

Work is a blessing, a sacrifice, an opportunity for worship.

Giving our all to a project is a way we show sacrificial love to God.

And finally, we can view our work as a personal sacrifice,
holy and righteous.

Whether it is arguing a case before a high court, cooking cuisine,
performing brain surgery, or caring for children,
it is an offering of ourselves.

Karl Vaters
Copyright © 2019 by the author or Christianity Today.