In such situations, professing Christians must, for the glory of God, and their own spiritual welfare, look elsewhere. They must look beyond how friendly the people are, how lively the music is, how kind the minister is, how grandiose the architecture is, that their family and friends attend there ... and they must ask: is the church I attend TRUE?
If you have ever spoken to a professing Christian about this, you will often hear this answer: "But ... there is no such thing as a perfect church!"
That is an emotional response based on a mistake.
A true church is not the same as a perfect church.
In true churches which have the three marks of the true church (the faithful preaching of the pure gospel, the right administration of the sacraments and the faithful exercise of Christian discipline) there are still many imperfections, weaknesses and sins, both in the members and in the minister.
Who could deny it?
First, there are hypocrites mixed among the members of a true church.
Second, the members of a true church are sinners, and have only a small beginning of the new obedience. Some of them are impatient and irritable; others are selfish and proud; some struggle with the sins of the flesh more than others. All of them have spots, blemishes, imperfections and infirmities in their Christian life. Many of these imperfections show themselves. But they are truly sorry for their sins, fight against their sins, seek forgiveness in the cross of Christ, and come to church (where they have the means of grace to build them up).
Third, the minister is a sinner too. Sometimes he is tired on the Lord's Day, and his delivery is "flat." Sometimes, his sermons are too complicated, and he fails to make them simple enough; sometimes, he misses or has no time to develop a point. He can never please everyone, so he seeks only to please the Lord, and begs the Lord to use the sermons he makes and to forgive the many imperfections in composition and delivery.
Fourth, the worship, although in a true church every effort is made to make the worship conform to God's demands in Scripture, is imperfect. The prayers, the singing and other elements in the service are not always to everyone's liking (but, remember, we are not worshipping ourselves to make ourselves feel good, but God!) and there are many, many imperfections in every service.
Granted! There is no perfect church!
But, does that mean it is still fine to go to any church, or no church?
An illustration. Imagine I am speaking to a man who insists on starving himself or in eating dung out of my backyard. I admonish him on the importance of eating nutritous food. His answer is: "But ... there is no such thing as a perfect meal!"
Again, this is true. But there is a difference between no food (starvation), bad food (dung) and good food.
The Bible says that we must "desire the sincere milk of the word" (I Peter 2:2).
To receive the sincere (pure, unadulterated) milk of the word we go to the place where it is prepared and served. And that is the true church!
There is no perfect restaurant. But there are different kinds of restaurants. There are restaurants which serve bad food; there are restaurants which are unhygienic; there are restaurants where the chef spits in the food.
A good church is like a good restaurant. You judge a restaurant mainly by its food. Let the decor, the ambiance, the lighting, the music, the service be "five star," but if the food is poor, why would you support such a restaurant? Perhaps, the better restaurant is more expensive, but the food served in the true church is FREE (Isa. 55:1).
There are few people who, having experienced a truly awful meal in a bad restaurant, would decide to go there again; and certainly, very few, who would go there again and again, regularly throughout their lives.
But some people refuse to attend a church where the food is good (not perfect, but good), where the sincere milk and the strong meat of the Word are carefully prepared for adults and children (in sermons and catechism) for various, petty reasons.
Because they do not like the minister ("the chef in that restaurant is snooty").
Because they don't like the other members ("the customers in that restaurant are not my kind of people").
Because they don't like the worship ("the wallpaper in that restaurant and the carpet are not to my liking and the lights are too bright").
Because many different kinds of things are not to their liking ("the plates are too small, too large, the wrong colour, etc., etc.).
But they attend a much worse church and tolerate the awful food! And not just once, but every week, for years and years, generation after generation!
For them, suddenly, the marks of the true church are minor, and little imperfections are major obstacles.
They are like the foolish man above who would rather eat dung than eat a nourishing meal because, after all, "there is no such thing as a perfect meal."
They are like an irrational child who has a tantrum and will not drink her milk because her mother does not give the milk to her in her favourite cup.
No such thing as a perfect church? True!
But there are true churches and there are false churches. And the mark above all marks is pure, faihful preaching. And it is the content, not the stlye of delivery, of the preaching which counts.
There are churches where the spiritual food (although imperfectly served and prepared) is, by the grace of God, nourishing; and there are churches where the food is poor, lacking in vital nourishment, or worse, laced with deadly poison.
Do you attend such a true church for the good of your own soul and for the good of your children, or do you scorn good nutrition and still eat dung from the garden, because there is no such thing in this life as perfection!
What is your experience? Have you heard people use the "there's no perfect church" argument to ignore the errors in their own church? Or do you disagree with the blog post? Let us know below!