The Church has many flaws.
These flaws turn individuals away and have positioned the Church as less and less credible to a greater society. In writing about the Church being a resource to help those with depression, I do so with hesitation, knowing we often fail people in giving them a sense of authentic community and we will continue to do so moving forward.
I say “we” because it’s too easy to throw stones at “the Church” when the fact is, I am the Church, and so are you if you’re a follower of Jesus.
The Church’s shortcomings are my shortcomings, and they are yours. But flaws and shortcomings don’t negate value and they don’t negate beauty. (If they did, we’d all be negated by now!) Like a good friend, we navigate the flaws, appreciate the beauty, and stay together in relationship, making something better together than we can on our own.
Some people experience incredibly deep community in Church, while others experience impersonal worship services where they enter and exit as anonymous spectators. Some of this is the result of how much initiative a person wants to put into their effort, some of it a result of many churches hanging on to status quo, irrelevant models for doing church.
But even in these models that seem sterile and stagnant, there is a beauty. The Church has many beautiful traits, but one I most appreciate is that it isn’t going anywhere. Jesus himself said, “On this rock, I build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” First off, we see the Church is Jesus’, it’s his bride, which is incredibly beautiful. But we also see that Jesus isn’t going to abandon his church.
One thing a person with depression needs is someone who will be there for them. And while individuals will continue to let us down, the Church as an institution will always be there. People within the Church will let you down, which is my hesitation in writing this, but the Church will always be there.
There will always be a pastor, a small group, a counselor at the church who wants to listen to you. They won’t be perfect, but isn’t that part of our problem? We want perfection and are so hypercritical that if we don’t find it, we ditch the whole thing and give up. What the Church offers to the depressed is consistency. It offers a place of love and acceptance and relationship, and it offers it consistently. Every Sunday morning, you can count on the Church being open. And for some church traditions, you can count on it being open every day, or a weekly small group or Bible study to join. The Church offers human contact and a listening ear, which is essential medicine to the depressed individual.
The Church will never be perfect. It will always be a broken and sometimes ugly bride. But it will always be there. And through no merit of its own, it will point its groom, Jesus. The one who loves and brings hope and joy and peace. The one who is able to sympathize with our weaknesses because he has experienced them himself (Hebrews 4:14-16), and who welcomes us to come to him with all of them, promising to respond with compassion.
Noah Filipiak is the founding pastor of Crossroads Church in Lansing, MI. He’s the author of Beyond the Battle: A Man’s Guide to his Identity in Christ in an Oversexualized World. He hosts the Behind the Curtain Podcast and blogs at atacrossroads.net.