Bridezilla! Perhaps that term is new to you, but it’s used to describe brides who are totally out of control. These brides are described as mean, obnoxious, overbearing, self-absorbed, self-centered and impossible. It’s a term that instantly connects the dots. This is poor, unbecoming behavior and is to be avoided at all costs.
In my ministry, I’ve participated in dozens of weddings. I enjoy weddings. I enjoy the opportunity to connect with the bride and the groom. But quite frankly, I’ve rarely encountered a “bridezilla.” Oh, I’m certain they exist, just not in the quantity that is often portrayed. Such a broad generalization of brides is just not true of the majority.
But this is not an article about overbearing brides so I will cut straight to the point. Just as people take a pretty rare exception (bridezilla) and often try to make it the norm through broad generalizations, that’s what some do to the local church. There’s an attempt to discount at best, and demonize at worst, the church.
Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I know that as a pastor I am opening myself to the charge of bias but let me speak to you as a person, a father and a friend.
I’m increasingly weary of people bashing the church of Jesus Christ.
The world’s ridicule is painful to hear. Accusations like, “the church is self-centered, hypocritical in its behavior, legalistic in its approach, hateful toward outsiders, and a self-promoting machine” are tough to fully process.
But my deeper weariness does not stem from the world’s ridicule of the church — that’s to be expected. I’m referring to the criticism of the church from within.
Popular Christian authors, convention speakers, parachurch leaders, some church attenders and “cutting-edge” preachers frequently heap scorn on the bride of Christ. I have personally heard many accuse the church of being irrelevant, uncaring, homophobic, intolerant, judgmental; you name it, the indictments go on and on.
Now sadly, this criticism is sometimes warranted.
Sometimes the church misses it.
Sometimes we do come up short.
But sometimes brides miss it, too. Sometimes school teachers, waitresses, police officers, nurses, doctors and factory workers all come up short. But don’t fall for the bait. Just because you’ve had a bad teacher doesn’t mean all teachers are bad. Just because you had a lazy waitress doesn’t mean that all waitresses are bad and just because you had a bad church experience does not mean that the church is bad.
I’m deeply committed to the local church. The local church is the bride of Christ, warts and all. I know the bridal gown might need to go to the dry cleaners, but be careful with the dangers of grenades of criticism. As my mentor Bob Russell says, “If Jesus loved the church and gave himself up for her, those of us who seek to be like Christ should love the church enough to sacrifice for it and defend it when necessary.”
It’s the local church that has provided: love and support when I’ve gone through deep painful losses. Guidance and encouragement when I’ve lost my way. Mentors and wise counsel for every member of my family. An avenue that I can participate in locally, regionally and globally. Systematic teaching of God’s Word. Corporate worship to experience the unity of the body. Correction when there is sin in my life. Prayer for my family when the bottom fell out. Traveling companions who walked me through grief and pain. Along with, enduring patience and care for our children through each stage of their growth.
While all churches are in need of revival, never forget that the local church was God’s idea. It was God’s plan to put us in communities of faith. It started in Jerusalem and continues today. It was God’s plan and that plan has not changed.
The church is far from perfect, but before you criticize the church, remember it is the bride of Christ. Although the bride has some blemishes, wrinkles and a few age spots, the loving groom sees her “without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish.” (Ephesians 5:27)
Bob Russell makes this powerful observation: “No groom wants to hear his bride ridiculed. I suspect we’re more likely to gain the groom’s favor if, instead of criticizing his bride so much, we’d love the church and give ourselves up for her.”
So, resist the urge to live as a critic and to sit in the critic’s corner. Improve what you see lacking. Be a positive agent of change. Champion His bride and, above all, help the bride, the church, prepare for her wedding day!