Building a Mature Church: How to Live Free from Offense and False Expectations

  • Written By 
  • Jordan Holt

We live in a broken world.

People are not perfect.

Pastors are not perfect.

The church is not perfect.

You will never find a perfect church that will serve all of your desires, never challenge or offend you, and give you perfect community where no one ever leaves you hanging.

It sounds ridiculous writing that out because it is obviously true, but the reality is that many times we have those kinds of expectations for the church. We look to the church to serve us rather than looking at it as a family to commit to and grow in.

We want the church to be our creative outlet, lifelong best friends, source for God’s word, and even our platform for career goals. Sometimes it is those things, but first and foremost it is family that you commit to. Family is about unconditional love, covenant and putting others before yourself.

“Love is large and incredibly patient. Love is gentle and consistently kind to all. It refuses to be jealous when blessing comes to someone else. Love does not brag about one’s achievements nor inflate its own importance. Love does not traffic in shame and disrespect, nor selfishly seek its own honor. Love is not easily irritated or quick to take offense. Love joyfully celebrates honesty and finds no delight in what is wrong. Love is a safe place of shelter, for it never stops believing the best for others. Love never takes failure as defeat, for it never gives up.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 TPT

In the past several years, I have been blessed to be a part of a radically growing church community where I have had incredible experiences in the presence of God, life-changing revelations, dreams fulfilled and an encouraging community that has pulled out the best in me. I love it and truly would not want to be anywhere else.

But guess what, I have been let down by it at times. If you are a part of any good thing long enough, sooner or later you will be let down by something. People change…circumstances change…life changes…church changes. Even when everyone has perfectly pure motives towards us, we can still get disappointed because of certain expectations we set. Sounds a lot like family…

So what is church (family) really about?

It is about relationships, encountering the presence of God, being encouraged in your faith through hearing other people’s stories, being challenged and matured in your perspective of who God is, and yes, loving and serving other people.

Here are the reasons for why I believe we get distracted from this:

  •  We place our value and identity in what people think of us
  •  We place our value and identity in what we do
  •  We let other people be God for us

I have talked about value and identity in previous posts, but really want to elaborate more on the third point for now. When people in the church let us down, for some reason we tend to let that shape our perspective of the character of God. He is always perfect and always good. There is never a good excuse to be mad at the one person who is always working for your good (Romans 8:28). People, while ideally growing and maturing, have free will to make imperfect choices. And honestly, many times people do not do anything wrong to us, but we can still take offense because of our own imperfectness, insecurities and reluctance to be challenged. This fact is true no matter what community you find in or outside of the church.

If you are in constant communion with God, you will not jump ship when the church lets you down. Why? Because you love it, and by love I mean unconditional love. Christ’s love. Selfless love. Love greater than a feeling. Love that turns the other cheek. A natural byproduct of spending time in the presence of God teaches us these things because we realize how much this love has freely been given to us.

My ultimate point is this: To be healthy and satisfied you absolutely have to have a personal relationship with God outside of church.

It is almost funny to me how people expect the church to be perfectly healthy in action to them, but then get offended and disappointed with the church. This shows a level of unhealthiness in itself. Offense places its value in other people rather than God. We need to grow up (I preach this to myself every day). The only way we grow up, and produce fruit, is being tethered to the vine. The church is not the vine. It is a place where we go and share and celebrate the fruit God has produced in our lives.

I have had countless people let me down in the church, and I also understand that there are truly deeply broken people in the church. In my church growing up, one of our close youth pastors turned out to be a pedophile and another pastor was caught in an affair. I have been left out of things that I wish I was a part of hundreds of times. I have had relationships change. I can go on and on…we all our have our stories.

But here is the flip side: I understand that there are incredibly amazing, beautiful people there too. I hope to be one of them. The key is to never let anyone or anything be God to me. God is my God, and I find that through spending personal time with him. There is a direct correlation to your spiritual maturity and joy in life and your willingness to spend time with Him. We will serve our best when we fully grasp this.

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