5 Reasons You Shouldn’t Give Up on Church

No church is perfect. But that doesn’t mean we should abandon them when they need us—and we need them—the most.

The early ’90s were awash in books explaining why Generation X was abandoning church. In a similar vein, there’s been no shortage of blog posts, books and conferences about how Millennials are leaving, too.

A portion of every generation has pushed their churches to grow in areas of sin and weakness. From monastics urging churches out of the distracting cities and into the deserts, to aggressive arguments over the sale of indulgences, fights for emancipation in Europe, women’s suffrage, civil rights, Vietnam and so much more—there’s been a prophetic portion of the Church seeking to realign churches with their larger purpose and roles in the world.

And, I’m sure there have also been those who walked away from churches out of frustration for their deficiencies.

I don’t want to diminish this struggle. I know what it’s like to wonder if it’s all worth frequent headaches. For two years, I couldn’t darken the doorway of a church; I was sure I was done. Many of the issues that continually come up in the “why millennials are leaving the Church” posts definitely played a part in my disenchantment.

But here are five reasons I am back and more committed to the local church than ever:

1. We’re all part of the church’s problems.

Despite Christ’s prayer that the Church would model a trinitarian-like oneness (John 17:20–21), we can be frequently fractured and set against each other. This isn’t just the Church on a macro-level—the local church models this behavior in similar ways.

I’ve gossiped, sown discord, manipulated events, fought for power, demanded my way, etc. And the truth is that if you’re part of a church, you have, too.

There’s nothing more Christlike than challenging the Church to be more sincere and full of grace and truth. If the Church is going to continue reforming, it will be because of the ones who stay— not the ones who leave.

It’s been a problem since the Church’s inception. This is why Paul had to warn the Galatians that, “If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other” (Galatians 5:15).

These kinds of issues might seem small, but that’s because we don’t see how our behavior affects the entire organism that is the church. I’m sure that if we saw the full effect of our judgments, selfishness, backbiting and power-plays, we’d be surprised at how far and deep they reach.

2. Churches need reformers.

Despite glaring problems with the establishment's religious expressions and exclusive behavior at the time, Jesus started His reformation from within Judaism. These actions are what led to His crucifixion.

If I really want to identify with Jesus (and the prophets), I’ll continue to love the Church from within while I push, cajole and shout her into Christlikeness. It would be much easier to leave.

Every voice that has called for reform (even the ones we celebrate now) experienced pushback, threats and misunderstanding. But there’s nothing more Christlike than challenging the Church to be more sincere and full of grace and truth. If the Church is going to continue reforming, it will be because of the ones who stay— not the ones who leave.

3. There’s still so much good in the church.

Jesus encourages us not to make a show of our goodness and promises us that the God who sees what is done in secret will reward us (Matt. 6:1–4). This means that many of the most faithful and hardworking people are doing good work that we know nothing about.

For every divisive news story about hot-button social issues involving Christians, there are many serving on the streets, in prisons, in soup kitchens and everywhere else there’s need.

For every story of ministry corruption or a pastor's financial misdeeds, there are many sacrificing to keep people fed, clothed and cared for.

News websites and TV stations make their advertising money on outrage and fear. If you want to see the good that’s being done, you’re going to need to look a little deeper.

4. Church is a support system.

There are many areas I wish the Church at-large would grow in empathy and compassion. But when I stop to think about it, it’s been people in church who’ve been there for me in my darkest hours.

When I look back on those dark times, I’m tempted to count the names of people who’ve betrayed me or hurt me in one way or another. But I often neglect to remember the people who have been there, cared, sacrificed and stood beside me.

Those people were there not only because they loved me, but because they loved Jesus. They were the Church to me, and it’s disingenuous for me to ignore them to focus on the others (whose failures I am probably blowing out of proportion).

When I take a moment to think about it, I’m so thankful for the people who will meet me at a moment’s notice and encourage me, cry with me, share Scripture with me, admonish me and remind me of what’s important. 

Sometimes they say stupid and hurtful stuff, but they’ve also loved me despite the stupid, sinful and hurtful stuff I’ve said and done.

5. Church is a spiritual discipline.

I have no doubt that I could abandon the local church and cherry pick some friends to meet with regularly who would make spirituality and theological discussions deep, challenging and fun.

But when I’m honest with myself, most of my growth has come from interacting with people I wouldn’t choose. By handpicking my social circle instead of submitting to a local community of believers, I’ll generally choose people who fall within my comfort zone.

I’ve grown in my ability to love by getting close to people with opinions I disagree with, different lifestyles, disabilities and all sorts of issues I had not been previously been exposed to.

I need people close to me who I can disagree with and challenge in a healthy way—while still loving and wanting what’s best for them.

You Might Also Like

I need a multi-generational, ethnically and financially diverse community of people to mentor me and broaden my perspectives. I need people close to me who I can disagree with and challenge in a healthy way—while still loving and wanting what’s best for them.

There’s no question that every church has significant problems, and I’ve often daydreamed about quitting. But I truly believe we need each other.

One Caveat

I know that there are some reading this who’ve experienced abuse at the hands of a church. I don’t intend for this post to gloss over, ignore or provide a glib answer to your legitimate pain. Sometimes there are people too traumatized by church to jump back into that relationship.

If that’s you, I’m terribly sorry. I’m sincerely praying that you find healing and can come to a place where you are ready to give it another shot, but most of all, I don’t want you to read this as condemnation for your experience.

I totally get why people would consider walking away from the Church, but I think we desperately need each other.

This post was originally published on jaysondbradley.com

Top Comments

Vicki Hanes

23

Vicki Hanes commented…

This article is one person's approach and I'm glad he has found he can work within the system for reform. Maybe he has a church that is open to change. I don't expect perfection from the church. I wish perfection wasn't expected of me either. The "drive" for excellence and being on mission to give God's best meant I had to be at a level I couldn't demonstrate. I haven't abandoned, but I need to find an expression of church that doesn't reject me or wear me out. I just want to love people and I want to have the freedom to do that imperfectly

Sarah

1

Sarah commented…

What if you don't want to leave your church, but you want to change your church. Is that okay?

21 Comments

W.R. Garvey

1

W.R. Garvey commented…

I think the biggest reason why Millenials are leaving the church is because they stopped believing traditional Christian theology. People increasingly do not believe that faith in Jesus is necessary for salvation, and they do not believe that good people can go to hell.

That's the biggest struggle that the church is up against.

Shaun Hickland

1

Shaun Hickland commented…

Jesus prayed for unity between all believers but there seem to be so many new churches created every year, each a splinter from the church they came from with different theology and values. Does this mean Jesus' prayer wasn't answered?

Luke Correia

6

Luke Correia replied to Shaun Hickland's comment

That is a great question!

The Bible does tell us that in the end every knee will bow and every tongue will confess so I like to think there is hope. I also think that as the church becomes more persecuted we will become more united. There is data to confirm the correlation of the relationship between persecuted nations and church unity...

Maybe doesn't fully answer the question but I think the point I'm trying to make is it's not finished yet...

Ray Mills

1

Ray Mills commented…

The "church" across the spectrum have planted the seeds of their demise on their own. Whether it's by the blanket, unloving rejection of entire groups of people or because churches have lost their center and made it hard to know what to believe in. The confusion and the lack of love make it easy to move on to a life minus the heartache of trying to make church work. There are exceptions, but they are few and far between.

Wayne Jacobsen

1

Wayne Jacobsen commented…

Isn't it interesting that most of the articles like this (1) don't recognize the reality of the church as she lives and breathes beyond our institutions, and (2) are written by those who make their living from those institutions?

Luke Correia

6

Luke Correia replied to Wayne Jacobsen's comment

He is only stating the reasons why he's still in church... so im not sure what you're getting at...

Also (1) the "reality of the church" is up for interpretation and debate so the way you make it sound is that only people who have been "enlightened" to not join an "institution" can really have a legitimate opinion and (2) the worker is worth his wage and that wage does not disqualify his opinion

Sophie Erwin

1

Sophie Erwin commented…

It's not that I'm leaving the church because I don't love God. I love my church to bits. The problem I have is when church picks and chooses what commandments to follow. Especially when the first is to 'love thy neighbor as you love yourself' yet they condemn gays (when I'm bisexual myself) and boycott them from church. Slightly unfair if you ask me.

Please log in or register to comment

Log In