“For her my tears shall fall, for her my prayers ascend;
To her my cares and toils be given, till toils and care shall end;
Beyond my highest joy I prize her heavenly ways,
Her sweet communion, solemn vows, her hymns of love and praise.”
I present two things, a confession and an appeal:
I see it so often these days: Someone posts a statement on social media critical of the church and the responses grow and swell, a pile-on that would make an NFL fumble recovery look tame. Was there ever a target so easy as the church, a sitting duck directly in the sights of the critics?
No one ever said the church was perfect. Nor am I suggesting it should never reflect on its teachings and actions.
Here is my confession: My first sermon was delivered in 1973. I guess that means at the time of writing I have served this fellowship for 42 years. I admit I am a little protective with regard to this fellowship. And, please, none of this “I serve Jesus, not the church” business. Of course the church is comprised of flawed human beings, but you don’t get to step away and pretend you are not human. The only spiritual organization you qualify for, human, is the church.
The Lord’s response, however, is far stronger than merely protective. When Paul drew the analogy between the church and a temple: “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you,” he added a warning as serious as a steel girder: “If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him” (1 Corinthians 3:16, 17). Consider the sternness of this warning.
When Jesus met Saul of Tarsus on the Damascus road, he did not ask why Saul was persecuting the church. The cry of the Lord was, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” (Acts 9:4). It seems the Lord took the persecution of his church deeply, personally.
I know the enemies of Christ will tear at the church. Paul described it aptly as “fierce wolves” savaging the flock (Acts 20:28). But do the attacks have to come from within? Do you really want to be numbered among the wolves?
For all of those who feel their place is that of the DCC (Designated Church Critic), may I call on the more courageous to do what Timothy Dwight did for the church. Are you prepared to weep for the church, pray for the church, expend your cares and toils for the church?
There is no more noble calling.
“Beyond my highest joy,” Dwight declared, “I prize her heavenly ways.” There’s enough critics out there to fill the Mariana Trench. It’s time we countered this by prizing the church and her work.
It’s messy and frustrating, but, beloved, it’s worth it.