Loving the Church
by Ben Swanson
It’s the first day of Church History 101. I choose a seat on the left side of the classroom in the middle. Dr. John Thompson enters the room and begins the semester with a question, “Why do we study church history?” We know he wants an answer because his marker stands ready at the white board to record our answers.
One student breaks the ice, “You can’t know where you are going if you don’t know where you’ve been.”
“Good.” He records the answer and looks out at us for more.
We continue, “We can learn from our mistakes.” “We stand on the shoulders of those who’ve gone before us.” And on and on we go…
In minutes, the white board is full, the marker is capped, and Dr. Thompson looks out at us thoughtfully. “These are fine answers,” he says, “but the real reason we study church history is that you cannot love Jesus if you do not love his church.”
My life changed course in that instant. I am a pastor partly because of that moment. I began searching my soul for a love that was not in me – a love for the church. I began praying to love what Jesus loves. I began praying that I could love such a broken thing.
It’s easy to love a dream or a fantasy version of the church, but to love the actual faulty mess of the church that exists proves far more difficult. People have always been complicated and imperfect, and the church is people.
Do you love the church? Do you love your church and the whole church? Does your love for the church show in the way you live? What does your love for the church cost you?
I believe Dr. Thompson’s words are true: “You cannot love Jesus if you do not love his church.”
What do you think?