"Something Just Seems Wrong With The Church Today"

"Something just seems wrong with the church today." 

I felt this way for years. I had gone to Bible College and learned great theology. I read the Bible daily. And when I read the Scriptures and then looked around at the world around me, things just did not match what I expected.

And I put most of my frustrations on the church. 

At the time, my wife and I had moved to China. Before that, we had worked with at risk youth in a center near Orlando. The situation had been very hard, one of the hardest places we ever worked. We had looked for a good church in that town, but had struggled to find one. 

When we moved to China, we expected to do ministry and maybe find opportunities to help the church in China. We had heard so much about their faithfulness from people, we couldn't wait! 

What we found disappointed us. The international school we worked at was a nightmare. In many ways working there was as bad or worse than the At Risk Youth Center. The man who hired us was cheating on his wife with another teacher. Our school went through four principals in a year. And a desire to teach the kids about Jesus was almost non-existent. 

I had grown up thinking that under persecution Christians would thrive. I assumed that out in China, where we could go to jail for sharing the faith, we would find strong Christians. 

And it wasn't like we weren't in any way persecuted. The security state sent black vans to check on our school regularly. Drones once flew around the building, peering into every window on us. Within minutes of that happening we were all rushed into a room and shut out. 

For when these things happened, we were forced to hide as our presence was illegal. We had been coached on what to say if asked about why we were in China at airports. We were told be careful answering casual questions even at a coffee shop or on vacation, as people are paid to turn in foreigners like us.

Wouldn't this kind of dangerous environment be where you expect to find faithful Christians?

Yet we found a ministry in shambles and children being taught none of what they should be taught about God. 

What about the Chinese church? I am sure there are places where it is amazing. But where I was at in North China, they were struggling. They were desperate for resources and although many of them had lived amazing lives, it wasn't easy. I often hear people say, "Well, the church in America does.." or "The church in the West does..." but what I learned was that we all struggle in the same ways. Many of the same problems plaguing churches here are plaguing churches there, too. 

I remember a Christian teacher I worked with excitedly telling me that this was the year she got serious in her walk with God. She said she had even bought a book ready to learn a lot about God. The book? The Purpose Driven Life, by Rick Warren. 

Praise God she wanted to grow. But that was the best she had. Part of it was that it was hard to get books to that part of China. But when that's what you have to grow in, it's hard to grow. 

I was crushed. We had struggled to find good churches in America. And in China, where I dreamed it would be serious Christians and sincere underground believers, I had not found what I expected. They were having a very hard time, and understandably so. 

At the time we had a library at the school. I had a lot of free time, so I started borrowing books. Books I did not think the kids would even notice. 

This got me to start reading books that were older, for that was what the library had. Paradise Lost by John Milton. Bondage of the Will by Martin Luther. Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan. The Pursuit of God by AW Tozer. 

It was like the scales fell from my eyes. So many people I had talked to loved their church and thought everything was great. But what I always struggled was seeing churches that did not bring in new believers, that did not get their people out to evangelize, and that struggled to grow up faithful believers who didn't leave the faith once they left high school. 

I thought I was alone in seeing this as a problem and was crazy. But reading these and many other great books of the past made me realize that I wasn't alone. That this was something the church has struggled with for 2000 years. 

And not only that, but I also started to see the examples of what I expected. Scripture had convinced me I'd find courageous, bold, and brave witnesses for Christ in His church. But I had not found them in America and I had not found them like I thought I would in China (they were there, but it wasn't the perfect church I had dreamed).

But where we struggle to find them in our lives, church history was replete with them! Martin Luther standing up to the Catholic Church. George Mueller feeding his orphans. Charles Spurgeon standing up for Biblical truth. Men like David Livingstone and Hudson Taylor and John G Paton blazing trails around the world for Christ. Women like Gladys Aylward and Annie Taylor going where no one believed they could to spread God's love. 

I was blown away. My faith was mightily strengthened, and my heart was warmed. I not only no longer felt alone, but in fact, I felt deeply convicted. What was my faith and walk with God compared to these? How can I, who so easily caves, compromises, and condemns compare to men who praised God in joy through the loss of multiple loved ones? 

And, I learned to love the church of today, too. She's not perfect. But you know what? 

She never has been. Throughout all ages God's people are often slow, dull, and lacking in zeal. Yet when you learn how God's church has worked throughout 2000 years, you realize how amazing God's people are. And you learn to love the local church as one part in that grand puzzle. One thread in the beautiful tapestry God has been weaving throughout millennia. 

This is why we are so passionate about sharing church history with you all. I think it was a missing piece I needed and I think that so many of us can benefit from learning it. Ministry gave me a place to work for God. Biblical training was used greatly by God to allow me to not fall into the traps I've seen many others fall into.

But it was church history that helped me to no longer feel alone in my faith. And to give me the role models that I longed to look up to.