Have you found yourself frustrated, discouraged, or even disillusioned by the state of the western church today? Are you longing for a church that reflects God’s intentions for Christians rather than the flawed leadership of humans and harmful effects of sin?

church steeple and clouds in the sky

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In this conversation, Holly and I are digging into the idea of searching for the perfect church. We’re sharing why so many people are seeking a perfect church, why this search is futile, and what we should be looking for instead.

Disclaimer: We are not coming at this as experts in church culture or structure, but rather based on being a pastor’s wife and church participants and leaders over the years. We’re sharing our thoughts based on what we are seeing happen in the current landscape, but we are not claiming to have all the answers.

The Idea of the “Perfect Church”

Many people seem to be looking for and expecting a perfect church. We have this kind of a la carte mindset about church where we want to pick the best parts of several different churches and put them together into one church.

Or, we have the expectation that a church meets all of our needs perfectly in order for us to stay there. They have to have the right kind of music, the right preaching, the right theology, the right women’s ministry or kids ministry, etc.

It’s not wrong to have expectations or ideas about what you’d like to have in a church. But our cultural mindset of ‘have it your way’ and convenience/customization has seeped far into our church culture.

Why are people looking for a perfect church?

For many, they are frustrated and discouraged about the sin, toxic leadership, abuse, and other issues that we are hearing so much about in the church world today.

In addition, it’s a lot of work to participate in a church that involves pain and challenges. It’s also difficult if the church is truly living out Biblical principles which include addressing sin and lifestyle issues that need to change as a believer.

We’ve gotten away from the Biblical perspective of church. We have moved from seeing church as a community to seeing it as something we are meant to consume.

The phrase “I’m not being fed at this church” is a good example of how Christians have shifted their mindset around the purposes of church.

Here’s what we know to be true: there are no perfect churches.

What should we look for instead of a perfect church?

Since there are no perfect churches, we need to shift our search to something that is more realistic: a healthy church.

So let’s talk about what we mean by a healthy church:

  • A healthy church has a healthy view of leadership
  • A healthy church has a healthy view of discipleship
  • A healthy church majors on the majors and minors on the minors
  • A healthy church invests in and cares for its people
  • A healthy church has the gospel at its core and seeks to glorify God not man
  • A healthy church makes room for you to fulfill your purpose
  • A healthy church call its members to righteousness
  • A healthy church recognizes that we all have a role to play in the body of Christ
  • A healthy church makes room for questions

Scripture referenced: Eph. 4:11-16

But even a healthy church is still going to have areas for growth and improvement:

  • A healthy church doesn’t do everything well
  • A healthy church has areas of neglect (i.e. room for improvement)
  • A healthy church leader seeks help/accountability/support when needed
  • A healthy church leader makes wrong decisions sometimes
  • A healthy church may not have discipleship for your specific maturity level

What if you are in a healthy church BUT you still have things you wish were different?

As a strong leader, you may have vision or strategy or ministry insights that you wish would take place. Or there may be issues that are secondary that you don’t necessarily agree with. What can you do in this situation?

If you have specific concerns, you may want to bring them to your leader(s) as described in episode 164. Then, as I shared in that episode, you have to evaluate the response and determine: Is this an issue worth leaving over?

What if you thought you were in a healthy church but you’re starting to see red flags?

In some situations, you may have thought you were in a healthy church, but you’re starting to have concerns. Jenny Randle referred to some red flags to watch for in leadership in our conversation in episode 117.

One thing you can do to help deal with this scenario is to decide what your non-negotiables are in a church ahead of time. This will help you avoid making a decision in the moment of emotion but rather have a predetermined list of things that are “make it or break it” issues for you.

Of course, you need to seek God in prayer, ask for wisdom, and trust the Holy Spirit’s guidance. This is a very personal decision and we can’t tell you what to do. Jenny Randle also shared her 7 point checklist for making decisions in episode 117 which you may find helpful.

There are different paths for what you might want to or need to do if you’ve experienced an unhealthy church situation:

Final Thoughts about Church

  • Don’t be a complainer, be a contributor
  • Check yourself before you wreck the body [of Christ]
    • Ask yourself: is there really a systematic issue here? Or is this my issue? Be willing to examine yourself and your heart before you’re actually willing to speak up and talk about things.
  • Make sure you’re not getting hung up on personal convictions
  • Church is not about being cozy and comfortable

Key Quotes:

  • “We are getting less and less comfortable with being uncomfortable in our culture.”
  • “If we are looking for a perfect church, we are always going to be disappointed.”
  • “Being okay with having questions and teaching people to think critically about their faith is definitely part of a healthy church.” – Esther
  • “It is appropriate [your church leaders] to ask for help and ask for accountability and support when it’s needed.” – Holly
  • “If we expect our leaders to get the decisions right, every single time, what are we doing? We are holding them up to a standard that we don’t hold ourselves to.” – Esther
  • “It’s so much easier for a leader to take feedback from someone that they’re working arm and arm with, rather than sort of an armchair critic.” – Holly
  • “Church should be a safe place and a place for healing to take place.” – Esther

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