On most Saturday nights, the question comes up: "Are we going tomorrow?"
My husband Tim looks over at me, "Same as always."
Mostly, we don't want to go. The sermons are too hierarchical and often lack substance and brevity. There are too many sports analogies (yawn) and too few opportunities for real engagement with others.
And it's not just THIS church or THIS denomination. Believe me, we've tried a wide variety of churches. The model has simply worn us out.
But - we go anyway.
Every Sunday, we pack our three little girls into the car for the drive to our local church.
1. We believe in the power of community. Without it, we are lone sailors in turbulent waters. There is a reason that the author of Hebrews instructs us to, "Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another (10:25)"
2. We believe in the power of prayer. Not just the daily ones that we say on jogs around the neighborhood, at the dinner table, and with tiny heads bowed at bedtime. There is also power in the prayers we speak TOGETHER...side-by-side with strangers and friends.
3. We don't want to dissuade other Christ followers from the faith. It is abundantly clear that our actions speak louder than our words. We lead by example, and are aware that if we back away, others will likely follow.
4. If we are going to lead people away from the local church in its current state, we want to be able to lead them somewhere else instead. It's imprudent to stop going to "church" in its current model without having a secondary plan. A home church or a Bible study or visiting prisoners or...something.
5. We are very aware of the danger of "doing nothing." Over the past decade, we have watched many of our friends drift from corporate gatherings - not so much because they are wounded, but because they are bored or skeptical. While we often agree with their assessments of the failings of the church, we also notice that most of these people simply "do nothing." They aren't feeding the poor, memorizing the Bible, bravely and humbly sharing Jesus with coworkers. Sunday morning services have been replaced with yard work and TV.
6. We want to extend grace to an imperfect system. The local church is filled with people who have broken pasts and broken presents. Indeed, these human institutions are not immune from pride and sin. Nor are we.
7. We want to be able to give a strong answer to our children. Inevitably, if we don't go, they will ask, "Why doesn't our family go to church?" Simply to say that we don't feel that the model is efficient enough is a weak response.
8. We know that worship is a freedom to cherish. In many places around the world, people fight for the right to gather. They sacrifice their very lives for the opportunity to hold a Bible in their hands, to speak the name of Christ.
9. We are terrified of the prospect of churches closing down and what that would mean for our country. Even with all of its downfalls, the church - as a whole - is still committed to caring for the poor, the lonely, and the destitute. Economist Arthur Brooks has found that the 1/3 of Americans who attend worship services weekly are "inarguably more charitable in every measurable way" than the 2/3 who do not attend.
10. We acknowledge our own propensity toward prideful individuality. C.S. Lewis wrote in 1947, "However often we think we have broken the rebellious self, we shall find it alive.” We simply can't live out Christianity in solitude.
11. We have relationships that keep us coming again. Our current church is full of good people doing important things. People who love God and want to love others.
12. Sermons remind us to seek God's Word. Although we don't rely on Sundays for our own ongoing growth, listening to sermons does spark conversation and debate and further study.
13. Our kids look forward to Sundays. Our 3-year-old asks on most mornings, "Is it church day?" She and her 5-year-old sister genuinely love their kids classes.
14. Our kids are surrounded by (mostly) positive influences. Obviously, there are exceptions...but the local church does provide great potential for our little ones to find grounded friends and strong role models. Last night, I eavesdropped as the girls played "baptism." My 5-year-old stood, with a pretend microphone in hand, and said, "I'm getting baptized today because I believe in Jesus and I want to follow him." Awesome.
15. The local church remains a pivotal force for good and change. Regardless of your views on church, it is impossible not to acknowledge the church's part in philanthropic and humanitarian efforts worldwide. In times of trouble, the church often steps up to give food, relief, counseling, and shelter. Of course, they also seek to give the most important thing: the message and the love of Jesus Christ. We want to be a part of that.
I'm not sure we'll always go to Sunday services. Perhaps there is another model, a better way. But perhaps not. Maybe we're called to be right here, right now.
I have this quote on one of my Pinterest boards: "Some people look for a beautiful place. Others make a place beautiful." I'm pretty sure that applies to church too.
WHAT ABOUT YOU? Do you attend a local church gathering? Why or why not?
* This post was inspired by Rachel Held Evans' 15 Reasons I Left Church post.