I still believe in church. Obviously, since I work at a church, church is a major part of my life. And believe me, I’ve seen it all—the good, the bad, and the very, very ugly. Most of the people I know who are my age have given up on church. They might still be believers and profess faith in Christ, but they don’t go to church. They don’t go because church left a bad taste in their mouth for some reason or another—the church hurt them and left them scarred. The church they left behind is full of hypocrites and liars. They simply have better things to do. For whatever reason, they just don’t go to church. But I still believe in church.
For many people the church is a place of pain. I get that. I understand that. I’ve seen that and felt that. Churches have the power to crush and destroy people more than almost anywhere else. If the church has hurt you, I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry that we let you down, that we weren’t there for you when you needed us, that we judged you and condemned you when it wasn’t our place at all. I’m sorry. I wish I could hug you and hear your story. I know, and I’m sorry.
But I also believe that the church can be a place of healing and redemption. She can hurt, but she can also heal in incredible ways. The church, at its best, is a community. It’s people who love each other. It’s people, which means they can also hurt and discourage one another. But people can love one another. They can encourage one another. They can mourn and doubt and be angry together. People all over the world who are broken and sick and depressed and lonely go to church all the time because they need other people. They need to be a part of something, to know family and acceptance and love. I believe the church can do that. She fails often, of course. But she can do that and she does.
I also believe in the church because I know that God dwells there. He is everywhere, of course—in our homes and schools and workplaces. But he is at church, too. He is waiting there to meet his children, to offer strength and healing and redemption. The church can’t do what God can do (that expectation is part of our problem), but it can be a place for you to meet God. It can be a place where God teaches you something new. It can be a place where God uses the faith of others to hold you up when your own shaky faith has lost its footing. It can be a place where worship and truth telling and brave prayers encourage you to move forward. The church can do that.
My fear is that too many people have taken the easy way out when it comes to church. It is easier to point fingers and call out the imperfections and stay away and safe. It is much more brave to go back—to acknowledge with your presence that the community of the church is an essential part of our faith and that the church, with all its flaws, is still worth our love and our investment.
I still believe in church because as much as I’ve seen her hurt, I’ve also seen her heal. I’ve seen her serve as a beacon and a safe place. I’ve met God there and had the privilege of seeing others do the same. It’s easy to quit on church, I know. But let’s be brave. Let’s have faith and believe. Let’s do the harder, riskier thing and take a chance on her. There’s a place for you there, this I know. No matter what you’re bringing with you—whatever brokenness or hurt or bitterness you carry. There’s a place for you. Let’s be brave.