Friday, March 11, 2011

In Praise of Church People

I was at a local pastors' meeting about a week ago, and the conversation turned to the topic of the people in our various congregations. And, as one might expect, there was some mutual commiseration expressed over the difficult people that we pastors have to deal with. And certainly, there's some truth to that. Pastors have to work very closely with a great number of people, and all people, suffering as we do from the same broken human nature, invariably disappoint us. This is especially true when they are being measured against an ideal standard of behavior like Christian morality. But it got me to thinking. One hears too much about the difficulties and personality conflicts and pettiness of church people. One hears too often about people getting "burned" by other Christians or by experiences at church. Naturally, it is the bad things that get talked about--the way that church people gossip and backbite and complain, the way they never seem quite able to "love one another" the way the New Testament exhorts.

And there is some truth to that. But there's also another side to this discussion, and it doesn't get spoken about often enough. As a pastor, I can honestly say that I count myself a very fortunate and blessed person. Why? Because I get to work with some of the best people in the world. I get to live and fellowship with people who are regenerated by the Holy Spirit, people who are being shaped into the image of Christ, people who are becoming partakers of the divine nature. Yes, there are some people in church who act pettily from time to time. But there are also saints there, men and women of radiant virtue. I am continually amazed to see the depths of love, care, gratitude, and gentleness that flows from these church people, like rivers of living water. I have been blessed to stand in the presence of men and women who have been faithful servants of Christ for decades upon decades, who seem to overflow with the grace of God. I'll say it again, because I genuinely believe it to be true--church people, for all their failings, are the greatest people in the world, and I am honored to walk among them.