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Editor's Choice » International

The perfect church is beyond the pale of imperfect humanity

Expectations are key to understanding that church is filled with flawed people just like you

The perfect church is beyond the pale of imperfect humanity
Fr Dwight Longenecker International

December 7, 2012

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The portly prophet G.K. Chesterton once observed that he knew the Catholic Church was for him because when he went into an Anglican or a Methodist church his umbrella was still at the back where he left it, but when he went to a Catholic church it had been stolen.

Oscar Wilde made a similar point when he quipped, "The Catholic Church is for saints and sinners, but for respectable people, the Church of England will do."

The whole problem with the Protestant Revolution is that Christians pulled out of the Catholic Church looking for a perfect church, and they've been pulling out of their own churches ever since – still looking to either find or create a perfect church, and that church is St. Utopia's.

Here's what St. Utopia's looks like: it has a vibrant, good-looking pastor who, like Mary Poppins, is practically perfect in every way. They have a terrific youth ministry; worship is either a sublime liturgy or a terrifically relevant blend of hip-hop, youth culture, and Hollywood. They minister to the poor; they've got a wonderful outreach program. They have mission trips to the developing world. The "welcome team" makes everyone feel at home with gracious grins and soothing smiles.

It's a growing church. The fellowship and the friendship seem so real –so caring –so loving. They've gathered lots of people who have shopped around for the perfect church and settled at St. Utopia's. It's just what church should be right?

Maybe. Maybe not. I hate to pop balloons, but in my experience of over fifty years as a Christian, when it comes to churches and church leaders, things are almost always not what they seem. And the more perfect they seem, the greater the illusion.

Americans, in particular, are suckers for the snappy, snazzy world of "successful" churches. We're taken in by the slick shucksters of religion who create that wonderful feel-good church that is very seductive. It's part of our Protestant culture. One of the pastimes of Protestant America is to create new religions. We're always trying to improve the product and come up with one that is the latest, the best, and the most wonderful.

As a result our churches have become ever more artificial, shallow, and distant from the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Full story: Searching for St. Utopia's

Source: Patheos

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