Why I Still Choose the Church

There’s a little white hilltop church in an Ohio mill town where everything used to be right with the world. In that sanctuary, with wooden beams stretching overhead and stained glass light laying like a patchwork quilt across my lap, I was known. I was Jim’s granddaughter, Jo’s firstborn, a kid who sang solos in the Christmas pageant and ate Mrs. Tillery’s homemade cookies in the basement with the youth group.

The night I was baptized, my grandfather prayed a blessing over me. I don’t remember what he said, but his words wrapped my seven-year-old heart in settled safety, and I knew being a Christian was the best thing in the whole world.

I didn’t understand then how Christians can fail, how we can tear into each other with gossip and accusations and silence and ignorance. How the Good Shepherd’s sheep can turn green pastures into trampled battlefields and people who claim the name of Jesus can make terrible, harmful choices.

The global Church, the whole worldwide community of Jesus’ followers, can be such an ugly mess. And it doesn’t take much delving into Church history to learn it’s been that way since the beginning.

I’ve been part of congregations from across the denominational and cultural spectrum, and every one of them has struggled in some way. So I get it. I understand why so many of my childhood friends have walked away — if not from their faith entirely, at least from the company of other Christians. I’ve been bitten by enough sheep to be a little skittish about the rest of the flock, too.

In some tough seasons I’ve needed to leave certain destructive relationships and congregations, and I’ve been tempted a few times to just keep walking on past Christian community altogether. But I can’t. I won’t. And here’s why:

  1. Christian life IS community life.

We each need to have our own private, growing relationship with God, but the idea that individual faith is good enough on its own is a modern, Western concept that isn’t reflected in our history or in other cultures. Yes, Jesus loves me, but he doesn’t just love me; he loves us. Together.

There’s a reason we’re called “the body of Christ” (2 Corinthians 12:12-27). God has put us together — even the most tender, embarrassing, and frustrating parts — and we can’t function the way we’re designed to if we don’t stay connected to other parts of the body.

  1. God’s not done with us.

Middle age has impacted my body in some rather, well, middle age-y kind of ways, and some days I wish I could trade it in for a model with less wear and tear. But I’m not going to stop caring for it just because parts of it refuse to behave. I’m not done with it yet!

And God’s not going to stop caring for the body of Christ either, because he’s not done with us. I’ve always loved Philippians 1:6: “I am sure of this, that he who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (CSB). We may have a long way to grow, but God’s not going to lose his patience with us along the way. He’s always in the process of transforming his people (even the most stubborn ones), drawing us into freedom from sin, hypocrisy, and division until we’re whole and healed in eternity.

  1. Jesus loves the Church.

If someone is unkind to my husband or kids, they’re probably not a close friend of mine. My real friends care about what matters to me. And if we love Jesus, we’re going to care about what matters to him. The Church doesn’t just matter to him — we’re depicted as his bride, his beloved who he gave his life to rescue and restore (Ephesians 5:25-27, Revelation 19:7-8).

And this is where the rubber is meeting the road for me right now: Our home church in the Carolinas, a sweet haven for our family for the past nine years, has just hit a painful, turbulent patch. It’s hard. Really hard. My emotions are all over the place and I’m overwhelmed by how sin has stolen trust from our community and devastated people I love. The road through this will probably be messy, full of loss and hard work before we see restoration.

But I’m not going anywhere. I still choose the Church. I still choose my church.

And the day is coming when all really will be right with the world, when every wound will be healed and sin will have no more impact. The entire Church, from every corner of the world and every minute of history, will stand before God, clear-eyed and beloved and whole. We will stand together.

2 Comments

  1. Laura
    Jul 28, 2021

    Thank you, Beth. Excellent points, well spoken, and timely!

    • Beth
      Jul 29, 2021

      Thank you, Laura!

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