I just came from an amazing Christmas concert that my church put together. There was dancing, singing, drum-beating, visual backgrounds, instrumentals, even a mock computerized band. We were even able to get my father there who does not leave his retirement home very often. As I listened to the sound spectacular before me, I thought a lot about my experiences in church over the years. And why I sometimes hate it.
I have had to listen to many sermons that were simply too long or too wordy. I have seen churches split over worship style. I have seen principalized to death by Bible teachers that could only inform me. I know of members who have been deeply hurt by ministers, and ministers who have been wounded by their congregations. I have been a part of the religious mask-wearing that often infiltrates church communities. I have seen church leaders go off the deep end and leave devastated people behind in the wake. I have felt a wrenching disappointment about the church and at times simply wanted to leave. And yet…and yet…
I looked around tonight during the concert. I could see students I had taught, men I had backpacked with, women I had consoled. Some had offered me great insight, others told me their life stories, and some simply encouraged me with an email. Others have been closer to me on a regular basis. There are even those few who have been my own band of brothers. And I realized that without them all, my life would not only be impoverished. It would be cut off from so much of the life that Jesus offers me.
This is why I desperately need the church. For the life he gives me is not just directly from him to me. It also comes through others. We are called the body of Christ. There is a connection to each other as we connect to the head. To cut ourselves off from this is not just a bad idea. It’s death. It’s like cutting your finger off and leaving it on the ground.
So as I left tonight, I hugged an elderly woman who has become precious to me, slapped the back of an alumnus, and marveled at the energy of pre-school boys running in the cold. And I was glad I was at church. I needed to be there.
PS…I hope you enjoy the falling snow!