We believe Pastor Mark first used the phrase “Imperfect Church”
(He says, “That’s right, blame me!"), but an extended group had been grappling with the “façade of perfection” problem: people outside of church often think you have to be perfect (or at least clean up) to get involved in church - you know, church is for “nice people!” And people inside church think they have to appear (almost) perfect, and fail to admit when needing help.
We had to change. God loves us just as we are, and church is meant to be a healing place where people, “outsiders” and “insiders” alike, come just as they are. Don’t get us wrong - God created church as a place to grow, and He never intended us to become complacent about imperfections! As John Burke puts it, “Come as you are, but don’t stay that way.” But bottom line: we knew that “façade of perfection” ideas of church were perverting it into something God never intended. So “Imperfect Church” is meant to convey a simple Biblical truth; all of us are imperfect and need to grow. If you’re into theology, it’s called “progressive sanctification” which means that we’re all works in progress.
And, yes, we do have a church history before “Imperfect Church.”
In the late 1950’s, a neighboring church “loaned” their pastor and a few families to start a home Bible study in Camillus, a western suburb of Syracuse, New York. At the end of a year, the group was asked how many wanted to continue, and all but two said no. If Frank and Ruth Gillet hadn’t stayed, we wouldn’t be a church. We think that’s pretty cool and we’re grateful. We outgrew the local home, so we purchased and remodeled a local farmhouse into a church. Then in 1963, we built our very own building, with members doing much of the work. (We don’t know what it means, but we recently found four 60’s era Genesee beer cans in a wall. They were wedged in pretty good, but since the wall didn’t fall we presume they weren’t holding up the structure!)
Some things have changed in 40 years: our Sunday worship service is at 10:00 instead of 10:35. It takes twice as many cars to get the same number of people to church. Our modern sound system compensates for bad acoustics. And only a few men wear suits, let alone ties.
Some things stay the same: We’re still “A Growing Place, Rooted in God’s Word.” We like to eat. We love God and strive to become like Jesus. We like to talk. We love people, and we have a nice mix from rugrats through the “greatest generation.” We especially like to talk *and* eat!
And we’re still a community of imperfect people (sinners), just like the followers Jesus had on earth. Jesus is growing us to be like Himself, and just like his followers, we don’t always cooperate. We welcome you with borrowed words: “Come as you are, but don’t stay that way.” The Bible tells us Jesus didn’t just tolerate imperfect people, He sought them out. He kept them around even though they often failed Him. He took the risks and tolerated the mess because He loved them. He poured Himself into them so they could grow.
We believe that Jesus meets us where we are - imperfect people pursuing a relationship with the creator of the universe. We’re continually surprised that God loves us - but we’ve staked our lives on it.