I was just sitting there with Pastors Schnider and Ben Rossell. We were enjoying the cool breeze and the tranquil blue waters. Our waiter came a few times to re-fill my Diet Coke with lemon (always a must), and even said he was going to get me more fries. Lunch is pleasant. Two young pastors listening to the stories of our mentor. Our waiter returned to give us our bill. Nothing like a clerical collar to get everybody’s attention. The waiter gets defensive when we invite him to a Easter Sunrise Service. “No disrespect, but I don’t do church,” he says. I work day and night. My knee hurts. I rarely see my kids, and I prefer to do good to others. That’s my heaven on earth.
Who needs the Church? This is the implication of his defensive rhetoric. All this came to even greater light after reading Kevin DeYoung’s insightful article on The Glory of Plodding. Go ahead. Read it.
He summarizes his vision for the church with these words:
What we need are fewer revolutionaries and a few more plodding visionaries. That’s my dream for the church — a multitude of faithful, risktaking plodders. The best churches are full of gospel-saturated people holding tenaciously to a vision of godly obedience and God’s glory, and pursuing that godliness and glory with relentless, often unnoticed, plodding consistency.
The Church is there for the hurting. Our waiter would find some level of relief if he shared his burdens with others. He would be encouraged to cast his burdens on the Only, True God. Isolation breeds contempt. I could read it in his words. His sadness was as visible as the sun. His life breathed distaste for life. But isolation is addictive. “I can do it all my way.” But outside the Church there is no ordinary way of salvation. This is what the Church has said ever since…the beginning of time. As DeYoung observes:
The church is not an incidental part of God’s plan. Jesus didn’t invite people to join an anti-religion, anti-doctrine, anti-institutional bandwagon of love, harmony, and re-integration. He showed people how to live, to be sure. But He also called them to repent, called them to faith, called them out of the world, and called them into the church. The Lord “didn’t add them to the church without saving them, and he didn’t save them without adding them to the church” (John Stott).
My waiter wanted some version of an un-married Jesus; one that came and sought after a Bride, but found none. He gave up on the Church. It may have been disappointment. It may have been some form of legalism. It may have been something or another. But the point is: he gave up on her. And what were we to say to this waiter? We did what every pastor should do. We encouraged him to come and see Christ, and surround himself with Christ’s people on the Lord’s Day. We did what we are called to do. He left us, thanked us, and went away sad like the rich man. “Getting rid of my individualism is not worth it.” But we know it is more than worth it. DeYoung says it best:
If we truly love the church, we will bear with her in her failings, endure her struggles, believe her to be the beloved bride of Christ, and hope for her final glorification. The church is the hope of the world — not because she gets it all right, but because she is a body with Christ for her Head.