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Why I STILL Love the Church

*The following was originally published in The Llano News on September 7th, 2023.

As I mentioned at the beginning of last week’s article, I am in the middle of a series in my church where I am emphasizing unity. One does not preach on unity without simultaneously being reminded of the many times the Church has failed to achieve it among itself, and others. In fact, I am often reminded of the imperfections of the institutional church as other pastors confide difficulties they have experienced within their own congregations with me. In the viral age of social media, stories about churches and ministers involved in moral failings seem to be “a-dime-a-dozen.” It is common for me to come across individual opinions in my own virtual social interactions that criticize and question the validity of the Church, Christianity, and religion, in general.

All this is understandable in the post-Christian culture that we live in, and I do not intend to refute or reprimand the ideas and opinions mentioned above in this article. In addition, I have no interest in providing excuses for the failures of the Church, or the poor behavior exercised daily by many Christians who represent it, or extensive biblical/theological reasons why the Church should still be taken seriously by the world. While I could easily write more than any of you would desire to read on all these points, my goal is simply to provide some basic factual, and anecdotal reasons that I continue to find the Church (biased as I admittedly am) uniquely relevant and valuable to our culture and society, in spite of its many flaws and imperfections.

1. It is Eclectic

Gathered in church on a typical Sunday you find people from all walks of life. This makes sense, because the central drawing element is one of faith, over hobbies, interests, or social habits. In a world that increasingly isolates itself into homogeneous groups that not only mimic one’s thoughts, opinions, class, etc., a church may be the only place one “rubs elbows” with another that they otherwise would not.

As a result of this unique dynamic, my children benefit from having multiple surrogate aunts, uncles, and grandparents. They are introduced to families who live differently than we do, as well as individuals who are both higher and lower on the socio-economic ladder than we are. From a purely social standpoint, they are forced to recognize that they are not the center of the universe for, at least, a few hours twice-a-week.

2. It is Tolerant

Tolerant is likely not a word many associate with church, or Christianity these days. Admittedly, when it comes to theological stances that contradict social and cultural mores, Christians struggle knowing where to draw the proverbial line in our interactions and participation in larger society.

I believe, however, that specifically due to its previously mentioned eclecticism, one cannot genuinely and continuously patriciate in the regular life of a church without becoming more understanding, sympathetic, and even empathetic toward others who are different. Participation in the life of the Church is not based on appearance, athleticism, intellect, political involvement, or personal affinity. It may very-well be the only structure one participates in where this is NOT the case!

3. It is both Social, and Contemplative

Of course, the degree to which this is true varies among churches and traditions. Regardless, unless one engages in something like yoga, group meditation, etc., a similar dynamic is not replicated in most other situations people find themselves in, throughout the week. The uniqueness that is expressed within the practice of Christian worship is evidenced in the fact that “atheist churches” are popping up across the United States, attempting to capture a similar dynamic divorced from a traditional, religious faith. Interestingly, these have struggled to retain a following, due to the lack of a central, unified focus.[1]

4. It is Charitable

According to Philanthropy Roundtable, a non-religious organization committed to studying, promoting, and protecting philanthropy, “religious practice is the behavioral variable most consistently associated with generous giving.”[2] This is true not only on a national level, but also in our own community. Pastors I meet with in Llano serve at churches who regularly provide things like food, clothing, groceries, cleaning items, support for our schools, and much more. It is impossible to be a part of a Christian community and not, at least, be introduced to Jesus’s so-called “Golden Rule” (Matt. 7:12). It is rare to come across a similar ethic in other communal settings and organizations.

5. It Challenges People to be Better

Whether one agrees with the espoused theology, or not, it is difficult to walk away from most church services without having been challenged to be a better person in some shape, or form. Central in the doctrine of most churches is the idea of continual spiritual growth in holiness, or sanctification. Of course, people have the option of ignoring this challenge, and many admittedly do. The point is, one cannot honestly engage with the Church if they are not attempting to subject themselves to this process.

What keeps you from allowing the Church to engage you in these important ways?

[1] [2]


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