Church: a group of people who gather together willing to learn about and practice following Jesus to heal ourselves, each other, and this earth.
“Why go to church anymore? No one needs church.”
My dear friend asked me this as the six of us gathered around a table at a Newport Beach café last week, reminiscing about the years together and laughing hysterically through it all.
“I don’t see the point of it anymore. To have a guy standing above you, preaching the same sermon I’ve heard 15 times already. I guess I would rather be walking in the woods or going out for breakfast on a Sunday morning.”
As Jason and I were walking back to where we were staying that evening, my mind mulled over the night’s conversation. These questions were not new to me. I have heard them asked many times before, aloud and silent. I regularly ask them myself, wondering “If I wasn’t a pastor would I go to church?”
Picking cilantro from my teeth, still lost in my own thoughts, I realized, once again, this is one of the reasons why I am a pastor. I love the church, as broken and messed up as she is. I love who she represents. I love being able to create a different, unconventional space for people to connect with God. I love rallying people around a mission we all believe in. I love looking at scripture and creating a sermon that is fresh and new but also grounded in history. I love being a part of a community being transformed to follow the ways of Jesus as disciples.
I know church is not for everyone. I know there are seasons in your life where church matters and then seasons where you never want to step back into church again. I know you have been hurt by people in the church and it’s hard to trust again because you have post-traumatic church syndrome. (I’m sure this is a real thing).
But, even with all the broken, yucky parts that people in church have caused, I want to share why I think church still matters.
- The good far outweighs the bad. Where else can you find a community who, together, does so much for the healing of the world?
- The church is messy and unpredictable, full of people who will love you wholeheartedly and will also disappoint you.
- It’s a place to practice giving and receiving abundant grace, shocking forgiveness and radical generosity.
- Gathering around the common table to receive the Eucharist reminds us of God, who slipped into skin to show humanity just how loved she is. We are forgetful people who need reminders of who we are: worthy of love.
- The church is willing to die and be born again. To be renewed and reshaped and reformed and resurrected.
- The church extends compassion, mercy and love to the darkest corners of the earth.
- The church will call you out on your pretending bullshit and love you into healthy honesty.
- You will find a Democrat and a Republican sitting next to each other. You will find the homeless and the business owner receiving the Eucharist together. You will find the open transvestite greeting the straight family of five walking into church.
- The church, and her Bible, is full of paradox: faith and doubt, belief and uncertainty, hope and despair, joy and sadness, beauty and ugliness.
- It’s a place to see our own pride and arrogance revealed to us with grace and mercy, beckoning us towards humility, repentance, confession and new life.
This church I speak of seems too good to be true, like some sort of pipe dream. The churches you may have seen have built tall walls keeping people out. Morgan Chilulu, an African pastor, says, “A church that lives within its own walls is no church at all.” Those walls may have kept you out but within every church you will find people who are breaking down walls. You will find people who live out these areas of church with truth and hope. You will find people who deeply desire to bring what “heaven” represents to this earth and allow God to make all things, including themselves, new.
This is why I believe the church still matters. And you are always welcome.