The perfect church is a figment of your imagination and mine. It is idealized dream that requires unachievable standards unity and singleness of purpose. We have to realize why every church is imperfect. Every church is imperfect because every church is made up of imperfect people. A church is not an entity in and of itself. It is a reflection of the people who make up the church. As long as imperfect people make up a church, then a church will be imperfect. When imperfect people come together in a group, they will do imperfect things.
I believe I pastor and am a part of a great church. But it is not a perfect church. We are imperfect if for no other reason than the fact that it has an imperfect pastor. I know that guy pretty well and for all his good points he still has some flaws.
If you feel that you can’t settle down and be committed to a church until you find a perfect church, then here is the reality you will have to accept. You will never be committed or involved in any church… ever. Every church will have some flaws. It may seem perfect for a while. Then the new will wear off and you will begin to see the warts that have always been there. That is just the nature of the world we live in. As long as churches are filled with sinners that have been saved by the grace of God, those churches will not be perfect. Despite the fact that we have been redeemed by the grace of God, we still struggle with our sinful nature. Sometimes we win this struggle and sometimes we lose. We bring both the victories and the losses into the church with us. This is just a fact of life.
As we look through the Scriptures, we find that the majority of the New Testament was written to various churches. These churches were different because of their geographical location. Some of these churches were large and some were small. Some of the churches were made up mostly of Jews and some were made up mostly of Greeks. Some were in large cities and some were in smaller towns. Most of these churches were excellent churches, but none of them was perfect. Let me give you just one Biblical example of this.
Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers, remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of our God and Father, knowing, beloved brethren, your election by God. 1 Thessalonians 1:1-4 (NKJV)
And you became followers of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became examples to all in Macedonia and Achaia who believe. For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place. Your faith toward God has gone out, so that we do not need to say anything. 1 Thessalonians 1:6-8 (NKJV)
Look at all the good things Paul mentions about this church. They had faithful work and done loving deeds for Christ. They looked forward to the day that Jesus would come back. This church came from a place where Christianity was not accepted. So when they received Christ it came at a great cost to them. Despite this, they accepted Christ and served Him anyway. Their testimony through all of this was so powerful that they became an example to all the Christians in Greece. The change that Jesus made in the lives of these Christians was obvious to everyone around them. Everywhere Paul went he found people already talking about this great church in Thessalonica. This was a good church. But were they a perfect church? No.
But we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to follow us, for we were not disorderly among you; nor did we eat anyone’s bread free of charge, but worked with labor and toil night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, not because we do not have authority, but to make ourselves an example of how you should follow us. For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat. For we hear that there are some who walk among you in a disorderly manner, not working at all, but are busybodies. Now those who are such we command and exhort through our Lord Jesus Christ that they work in quietness and eat their own bread. 2 Thessalonians 3:6-12 (NKJV)
This comes about a year after the first letter. Despite the example Paul had left them and the teaching he had given them, some of the Christians in the church of Thessalonica had become lazy, meddling, gossipers. As I read Paul’s command for them to get busy and his command for the church to stay away from those who did what was commanded here, it makes me think that maybe some had also begun to get a bit rebellious. They were a good church, but not a perfect church.
This is just one of the churches listed in Scripture. We could take the time to look at every church mentioned in Scripture and we would find the same things. They were good but imperfect churches. So does this mean that since no church is perfect we can just set back and say, “Oh well, we’re imperfect, so this is the best we can do”? Not at all. Saying that no church is perfect is certainly not a license to do nothing. It is simply stripping away the fantasy world we want to live in and acknowledging the real world we do live in.
Once we’ve accepted the fact that there is no such thing as a perfect church, we can stop constantly looking around for a church that doesn’t exist. We can quit going from place to place looking for this mythical ideal church. Instead, we can know the truth and let this truth motivate us to get involved where we are.