BY PAUL DUNK
Getting ready for church is an exhausting exercise for a lot of people.
By getting ready, I don't mean making wardrobe decisions. I mean the exhausting exercise of putting on the everything-is-awesome face.
You know your life, your pain, your suffering, your fears and your sin better than anyone. You know everything isn't awesome. The idea of going to church makes you nauseous because instead of crumpling into a ball, confessing weakness and finding grace, you feel pressured to confess awesomeness where you only find further exhaustion.
God's word encourages the church to "weep with those who weep", not "get those who weep to stop weeping as fast as possible." When we bypass weeping in favour of fixing, church becomes the last place hurting people want to be. The message, whether taught or caught, is "Don't keep coming in here struggling with your sin. It's bad PR for the faith. Get better."
Rather than thinking to themselves, "I'm a mess. I need Jesus. I need my church community." The hurting person thinks, "I can't go to church. I'm still in this ****. I should be 'fixed' by now. What will people think?"
I've heard that countless times ... and I'm guilty as a pastor of bypassing weeping in favor of going straight to fixing because I thought being able to 'fix people' by yanking them out of their sin as fast as possible would mean I was a good pastor. Christ have mercy.
Does being a minister of grace look like just leaving people in their sin? Of course not, but creating true faith and true heart change is beyond our scope. That's the Spirit's work. Listening, ministering the gospel and actually caring is the work of the church - and by church I mean a caring body of believers, not just pastors.
Nobody is taking their mask off unless we have ours off - there are no grace graduates. God uses the soil of repentance in our hearts to grow the fruit of His Spirit, truly freeing us from the bondage, pain and fallout of our sin.
When Christ told His disciples to gather, He knew everything would not always be awesome. He was incredibly specific about the reason they were to gather: To remember Him.
Remembering takes the form of confession and celebration of the One who is awesome. Being awesome is not a prerequisite for gathering and being un-awesome does not disqualify you from gathering.
The church is not a gathering of the awesome. It's the gathering of the redeemed. The forgiven, league of the guilty who have been saved by grace.
On the night Christ was betrayed, they ate and drank and laughed and carried on like any group of friends would. After dinner, Jesus lifted the bread and wine and said that every time they got together, they were to remember what He did for them and why He did it.
The cross offends us because it says, "You're so bad, I had to die."
Then the cross liberates us because it also says, "You're so loved, I chose to die."
The cross is where perfect justice and perfect mercy intersect.
The promise of the gospel is not that everything will be awesome today. The promise of the gospel is that when all hell is breaking loose in your life, your life is in the capable, loving hands of the One who is awesome.
Not awesome? Welcome to the church. Neither are we.
Come find incredible peace and rest in the One who is.
Paul is a graduate of Knox Theological Seminary and the founding pastor of KW Redeemer in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario. He is an MCO race school graduate, but presently his main hobby is drinking espresso because it's cheaper than fixing cars. Paul and Susan live in Waterloo with their three children.