Last week I heard Thabiti Anyabwile, pastor of Anacostia River Church, say on the 5 Leadership Questions Podcast interview that most Christians have never experienced a healthy church. It was provocative. It rang true from my experience with the Christians I know and love.
I was discussing with a senior brother in Christ this past weekend who can take communion (the Lord’s Supper) in a church. This brought up the topics of baptism, conversion, and church membership. We disagreed. As I tried to carefully make my case I failed to persuade. He began to tell me why he disagreed. As he spoke, Thabiti’s statement rang in my head, “In my experience, most Christians haven’t been in a healthy church.” My brother continued to recount stories from his past, quoting what former pastors have said and what previous churches had done. Everything he brought up was unhealthy and not helpful for him or the saints involved. Then I broke.
I couldn’t control it. Tears rolled down my cheeks. I couldn’t compose myself for a few minutes. He thought I cried because he disagreed. I cried because he had never experienced shared life in a healthy church. Neither have most of the Christians that I dearly love and give my life too. It was like staring at starving children wishing they had been nourished for the past years and decades! I was angry at the current situation of the local church in America (read the first 3 chapters of this book for a modern look at the historical shift). I was angry at previous pastors who have moved on. Then I realized that they knew no better and were doing the best they could with what they were taught.
I realize I have blindspots too. The next generation of Christians will feel the ripple effects. But my pastoral calling was clarified and reiterated to me this weekend: faithfully shepherd my local church family and encourage other pastors to faithfully shepherd their local churches. I want to see healthy churches in Los Angeles. Our church is praying for it. That’s why we’re hosting Shepherd L. A., a conference for L. A. pastors, this Saturday, September 19th in Artesia, CA (Southeast L. A. County).
Jesus Christ died for his bride, the church. He shepherds all true local churches. He wants them to be healthy. He’s given his Word, Spirit, pastors, and members so that it would be healthy. His heart breaks at the unhealthy practices due to unfaithfulness to what his Word teaches about the local church. And, because this is true of Jesus Christ, my heart is broken.
Do you think most Christians have never experienced a healthy church? Leave a comment below and join the conversation.