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Why the Church?

“I like God; I just don’t like organized religion.”

“Why would I need to be part of a church? I can be a Christian just as well on my own, without all the headache and without all the hypocrisy.”

I’m a pastor, so I hear these lines a lot. A lot.

And I get it, really do. Most of us have set in pews (or theater seats), bored out of our minds or steaming with anger. We’ve been shamed and manipulated and talked down to. We’ve heard sermons hyping the next cause, the next “vision,” only to realize soon enough that the whole enterprise has way more to do with the pastor’s ego or the institution’s survival than with the truths we intuitively know – just know – Jesus would be about: compassion, justice, mercy, integrity. We’ve been burned by a church’s political agenda or theological haggling or myopic culture or moral shortcomings.

Our hopes have been trampled by the many (many) relational disappointments. Often, we find more of Jesus among our friends who wouldn’t be caught dead in any church than we find among our acquaintances who appear dead in just about every church.

So we chuck the whole thing. I understand; I’ve cycled around that block a few times myself.

Noticing this trend toward disillusionment with church, a fair number of us pastor-types kick into high gear, trying to prove how different we are from those churches, how relevant or authentic or organic or missional or postmodern or post-postmodern we are (and if you have no idea what a few of those words mean or why any church would label themselves such, I applaud you). Not your grandpa’s church, we say (I jest not – I’ve been part of a church who thought this exact line quite clever). But still, it all seems huckster. We’ve been sold the same entree before, and the newfangled packaging doesn’t make it any better this time around.

We feel used. Bored. Fatigued. Done. We may not even intend to walk away. We just drift – and there is nothing solid anymore, nothing of value or meaning, to keep us connected to this community of faith we once knew. So, we go about our lives. We are still moral. We love our families. We certainly maintain some kind of spiritual dimension. But church? Not so much.

Does it matter? I think so, and I’d like to take a couple posts to tell you why. I’ve wrestled with this a long while. I’ve been disillusioned too, thought perhaps the whole affair a farce. And yet here I am, and a big chunk of my life is spent among a small community known as a church. I’ve come to believe it really matters.

This is one of those blog moments that I especially hope would turn into a conversation, but that will of course be up to you. And for my friends who are not Christian or who claim no religion of any sort, please bear with me. I’d love for you to listen in – and interact too if you like. At the least, you’ll understand more of why this exercise in Christian community has, against the odds, warmed my imagination and given me fresh belief that God really does intend good for this world.

[further why the church? posts:part twothree, fourfive]

21 thoughts on “Why the Church?

  1. I'm looking forward to your thoughts on this.

  2. Oooh! I'm excited!

  3. In my 11 years as a Christian, I find myself at this place about once (perhaps more) a year. It is a frustrating place to be. I look forward to your insight.

  4. This is going to be good!

  5. looking forward to the conversation

  6. Adventures in good conversation, Winn. Let it fly. God knows, the questions being asked — and the latent assumptions — beg the question.

  7. Winn – such a great blog/conversation, because this is a definite issue. Look fwd. as always to your words on this topic.

  8. I'm looking forward to this, Winn. I'll definitely be reading and responding as you post your thoughts. Thanks!

  9. I've thought about this too because I'm Catholic, and many people denigrate Catholicism. Of course, that's a different conversation.

    I'll tell you this: I just finished reading the Acts of the Apostles, and nohow can I think it would be okay to be a solitary Christian. We are called to be the Body of Christ, and we sure cannot do be the Body on our own.

    Over the past few months I've struggled with some BIG issues – friendship, fidelity, and faith (the not-for-the-faint-of-heart kind of faith) – and I've come to the conclusion that CHURCH is my home, the ALTAR is where I need to let my burdens rest, and my FAITH FAMILY is my army.

    Bored with Church?

    How can I be?

    It's what keeps me safe and sane.

  10. Ah, this makes me excited. Thanks, all. I look forward to conversing.

    Kari, thanks for offering where you are and where you have come to. I hope you will continue to participate.

  11. Oh my goodness, this almost perfectly describes me about this time last year. I was fed up and angry and done with all the programs, the smarmy music, the cute sermons, the attempts to be relevant, the politicization of my faith. But when I would read the Bible, it was so clear that I couldn't be a Christian by myself. So I'd make myself try different churches and had a hard time explaining to my very secular roommates why I was even bothering because I obviously hated it so much. The Lord was gracious and I did finally find a place I felt at home, but was a long, hard struggle to get there.

  12. Hope, in case you can't see me over here, I'm pretty much beaming ear to ear, pretty much.

  13. Luv to hear your thoughts Winn. I am helping students process this at this very moment in Canada.

  14. I find the greatest answer in the Bible's metaphors for "church." If the church is the Family of God, then I intuitively know why I need to be a part. It's about caring for one another, which I cannot do in some solitary expression of faith. If the church is the Body of Christ, and I'm a part of that body, then my connection to the church is just as vital as my arm's connection to my torso. It's about finding and sharing love and life.
    And, like a healthy family, and a healthy body, it empowers us to reach beyond ourselves to be a blessing to those in need of that same love and life.

  15. feeling the tense anticipation…

  16. Cant wait for the conversation! From the ministerial family side we surely could use some insight into what really matters to people. Even if you give genuinely every week and create an environment that strives to be "real" it seems people still drift in and out. We no longer live in the days of people being at church every time the doors are open so I cant wait to discuss why to open the doors in the first place.

    For all of you who are faithful even through the hard times – thanks. It really means a lot to those of us who have committed our lives to ministry in the professional sense. And I know it makes God smile too.

  17. Looking forward to this, too, Winn! I find myself more and more alienated from the "institution" most people call Church – however I am blessed to have found a community of faith that I really connect with, & where relationships are strong and growing stronger. You are so right, that building an institution according to the latest new-fangled "church theory" only builds, well… another institution! But I don't think that's what Jesus ever had in mind! Excited about delving into this with you!

  18. Yes. Can't wait to hear your thoughts, they always help me engage more deeply into what God is calling me into. It's a hard thing being the Church, but I guess most good things are.

  19. I had a strong reaction to this post. A couple of things are coming to mind.

    For me, church is first about worshipping God. The body coming together and worshipping Him. Doing something deliberately for Him. That pleases Him. Comments like “I just don’t get anything out of church” or “this is boring” or “I don’t like the music” reflect an attitude of “what’s in it for me?” instead of “what am I doing for God?”

    The funny thing is when you seek to honor and please God first; attend church with a grateful heart and a worshipful attitude, He will give you something of value every time. Every time. Regardless of what church you attend.

    There are some bad churches out there, we need to avoid false teaching for sure. But don’t expect your pastor or your church to be perfect. Remember, it’s made up of people, sinful ones, you’re not going to agree with every word you hear spoken there. I think that’s OK. If you go on a quest looking for the perfect church, you’ll never be a part of one.

    If you’re reading the Word and staying in tune with the Holy Spirit, God will give you the discernment you need. Remember, church is not the only way you grow spiritually.

  20. Hey, Lisa R, thanks for popping in. Hopefully you'll get a chance to poke around with the other posts – this was only the intro.

words have a way of making friends. drop a few here.