In his book A Fellowship of Differents, Scot McKnight, professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary, unpacks the unfortunate process of folks who idealize Christian community, refusing to make space for the messiness that comes with human relationships. He writes about a common pattern, or process, that we often see when their idealism crashes into the realities of life in the church:
- They read the NT carefully.
- They discover the glories of what the church could, or should, be.
- They start all over again with a vision of the church.
- They experience problems achieving the vision.
- They get discouraged.
- They withdraw from church.
- They start another church with a new-and-improved vision.
- They soon find fewer and fewer like-minded souls.
- They do church at home alone.
The idealism of the church will inevitably lead us to isolation if we do not learn how to deal with our disillusionment with the church. The church is a messy place, but it is a place where we walk together in the grace and truth of God in Christ.
If we are looking for the ideal church, it’s important to remember that it ceases to be ideal the moment we walk into it.