Two Faces of the Church

Ying Yang Garden Stone

After being asked to leave two churches in as many years, I’ve been thinking about The Church a lot.

When you’ve been asked to leave a couple of times, you of course ask yourself, “What am I doing wrong? How am I hurting the church that she doesn’t want me to be a part of her?”

Believe me, I’ve looked. I know that I am an imperfect part of the Body of Christ, and I know that there are times that I have been the one to dole out the hurt. I know that there can be negative consequences to negative actions.

But I also have come to see that there is a dual nature to many churches. Perhaps not all, but enough that it makes me wary of the whole.

There’s the church where everyone is called family. It’s the home where grace and forgiveness are preached. The safe haven where people are encouraged to share their hurts, their sins, their struggles. The sanctuary where honesty and authenticity are used with sincerity.

I have seen this, and I love it.

But in those same walls, there is another church. It’s the brand that can’t be tainted by sin because it already preaches grace and if they “look the other way” at sin by allowing them to continue to worship in our midst, they will be accused of peddling cheap grace. It’s the business that SAYS the pastor doesn’t have to be perfect, but doesn’t really want an imperfect pastor. It’s the story that says come as you are, but don’t tell anyone who that honest you is.

I have seen this as well, and it makes me question if I’ve actually experienced the first good church. If the second lurks behind the first, does the first really exist? Can the first really exist?

I’m not sure how we change things. How can we change an institution that values rules over relationships? How do we change an institution that calls a molester’s actions a mistake and then turns and speaks venom about trans women, calling them the predators? How do we offer grace to those who have hurt, while still protecting those who have been hurt?

I don’t know the answers to those questions. I thought I knew what that church looked like, but time and again, I’m finding that I don’t.

I want to believe that we can experience a Church that serves and loves the way that I believe we are called to serve and love by Jesus. But we will have to acknowledge that there are two faces before we can make that a reality.

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