A Fellowship of the Flawed

Susan Narjala   |   September 18, 2023 

When we moved back to India from the US eight years ago, we knew that finding a church would be high on our priority list. Along with a hunger for God's Word, my husband and I sensed a deep hunger for community. After living abroad for over a decade, we were back home. And we longed for the church community to be our extended family.

I'm happy to report that eight years later, we are blessed with this extended family. Like every family, we are far from perfect. Let me say that again. Faaar from it. We rub each other the wrong way. When we spend protracted time together, our faults grow in magnitude. We disagree on non-essentials which, in the moment, appear imminently essential.

But, like every family, we are held together by love (I can almost hear my teenage kids going, "cringe”).  The truth is, if we didn’t love each other with the love that Christ has shed abroad in our hearts, we would have parted ways and headed in different directions years ago.

When Indiaanya’s topic for the month sprang up as: “Things You Love About Your Church,” I thought, “That’s super easy to write about.” But let me admit, this is the first time I’m spending concrete time thinking about the things I appreciate about my church. For the most part, I find myself a little too eloquent about the critiques of my church: the worship went on too long, the message was all over the place, the AC stopped working this Sunday, the coffee tastes burnt every week, so-and-so was stuck up, there were too many announcements, the drums were too loud, the solo was off key, the… You get the picture. I am so well versed with my complaints about church that, honestly, waxing eloquent about its drawbacks is likely easier than writing about its strengths.

But after eight years, I can still say without wavering that I look forward to doing life with my church family. I look forward to making inane jokes with old friends. I look forward to excited chatter during our coffee break. I look forward to lifting up our hearts and hands in one accord during worship. I look forward to crying together during times of prayer and petition. I look forward to the Word being expounded so that we are exhorted in our faith.

But today, I’m mostly thankful for my church because it is a fellowship of the flawed. If it were a party for the perfect, chances are I wouldn’t be let in. I’m grateful that my church is imperfect because I am imperfect. I fit right in because of my frailties—not despite them. I belong because I, too, am blemished.

This quote from Pastor Nicky Gumbel sums it up aptly: “Church is not an organisation you join; it is a family where you belong, a home where you are loved and a hospital where you find healing.”

Friend, maybe you are going through a season where you are frustrated with your church. Perhaps you think you might find a “better option” somewhere else. Perhaps you are considering “church shopping” or at least “church hopping.”

If the Spirit is prompting you to leave because of church abuse or incorrect theology where the gospel itself is being perverted, then obey that nudge. Being part of a community should never trump obedience to God.

But do the hard work of recognising if it’s just boredom or irritation or your baggage that is standing in the way of loving others. Know that there is no such thing as a perfect church with perfect Christians. If there was, none of us would have the gate pass.

We only have a perfect Saviour who graces our imperfect Sanctuaries. But we can be grateful that He is sanctifying us. And that may require us to belong in the fellowship of the flawed.


Photo by Hannah Busing on Unsplash

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When she's not smuggling chocolate past her kids or drinking gallons of coffee, Susan Narjala can be found writing, baking and (thinking about) working out. She grew up in Chennai, lived in Portland, Oregon, for the last ten years and is now back in India with her family. She finds nuggets of humour in the everyday, and writes about it on on her blog, www.susannarjala.com

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