There are a hundred reasons to dislike church. A thousand reasons to suspend your participation in one church, or swap it for attendance at another. I attend church every Sunday and I haven’t church shopped, swapped or dropped since I was in my early 20s (and that was a while ago). I’m married to an Anglican priest, so his church is my church, our family goes every week, and yes, there is bickering and badgering and we are often late.
As I’ve seen people in various churches over the years drop out for a time or for good, or switch churches (usually for a bigger or newer option, and yes, I totally get that there are lots of good reasons to leave a church), I’ve wondered what I would do if I had that freedom. Would I become a circulating saint, as Rod Wilson puts it in his recent Faith Today article? Would I regularly try out other churches to sample the offerings? Would I choose my couch and a good book on Sunday morning instead, and often? Would I let my kids throw in the worship towel because I just can’t stand the arguing? I can’t honestly answer “no” to those questions, because I just don’t know. I hope not, but it is possible that without my built-in church attendance motivation, I might go to bedside Baptist, and poolside Presbyterian and be Lutheran at the lake, and all those other silly names.
I’m grateful, to be honest, that being married to the minister (for me) has meant that I dig in and plant roots in the soil of the church he is leading. I’m glad I have to love the people I am with. It has taught me a discipline of devotion that I’m not sure I would have had otherwise, me being flip-floppy me.
Just this past Sunday, at a new church we are now at, there was a time for “testimonies” at the end of a congregational meeting. One after another, people stood up and shared what this particular church had meant to them. Here, in this place, where they had planted roots and no doubt stuck it out through times when it might have been easier to leave, they had experienced the depths of knowing and being known and of receiving and of giving. As I listened, I thought, this is what church is and does for those who stick it out. It’s not a crutch, like some people say who maybe don’t recognize their own life crutches upon which they lean. It is air. It is community. It is real. It is hard. But it’s trying to be holy.
Part of what we do at Faith Today is tell the stories of churches, but also the Big Story of Church. We know church is not perfect. But it’s our place, and we share it with each other. Here are a few pieces you might want to read again, about Church and all it can be:
The circulation of the saints by Rod Wilson.
For the love of the church by Mark Buchanan.
The church in exile by Lee Beach.
How to disagree graciously by Gordon T. Smith.
What churches are learning as they sponsor refugees by Meagan Gilmore.
Karen Stiller is a senior editor of Faith Today. Subscribe to the print edition today to be able to pick up your copy off your coffee table, flip through, savour the stories and share it with a friend.