By Jordan Yeager
About a year ago, Don Miller wrote a blog about why he doesn't go to church, and it went a little viral. I haven't gone back and read it recently, but I remember him saying some things about the modern church being a business, aimed at getting more people in the door and giving them an experience as efficiently as possible. I very rarely attempt to disagree with Donald Miller on things, considering he's the one with the successful career in ministry/writing/blogging/conference-leading and I'm the one sitting on my couch blogging on my old MacBook, but now that the rest of the world is done blasting him for that article, I have some things to say.
I don't usually want to go to church.
Let's start here. I grew up going to a wonderful, vibrant, connected, growing, teaching church in Nashville that I still call home. My favorite place to be on Sundays (and any other time they let the youth group in) was church, and even when I struggled through my theology classes in undergrad I remained embedded in my church community. One time Micah asked me why I stayed there when my theological, exegetical, and ecclesial commitments began to differ. Why not go to a church that ordains women? Why not go to a church that emphasizes the experience of salvation over belief in doctrine? Etc., etc.
I stayed because my theology professor always told me to be reluctant to leave my theological and church “home.” It is better to stay than to run, he said. It is better to wrestle than to throw up your hands and seek out the next big thing, the exciting new place, the not-like-them place. Disagreements are hard. But the hard thing is often the best thing.
I became an official adult member of my church at a time when I didn't agree with every word being preached or every lyric being sung. I decided it was better to fight it out arm-in-arm with my best and closest people than somewhere without them.
When I moved to Atlanta, lots of things had to change. A year later I'm settling into an Episcopal church, which sometimes makes me laugh and usually causes some eyebrow raising among my friends. There are long and good reasons for my decision to settle here, but the point is that I finally found a church I manage to attend regularly where they know my name and I have an official nametag. It's fun.
But I don't usually want to go. I do it anyway.
This is where Don Miller is right about some things. We don't all connect with God through singing hymns, and we can find community elsewhere, and churches sometimes run like corporations. But the Episcopal church tradition has taught me church isn't supposed to be a night club or a movie theater. It's not supposed to be the most fun you can have on a Sunday morning. It's supposed to be a place where we go to tell the story we love to tell, in covenant fidelity with the people of God, as we remind ourselves of the Kingdom breaking in among us.
Believers have a story the rest of the world hasn't yet read. We have thousands of years on our pages. We are the communities, the physical and spiritual spaces, where the peaceable, just Kingdom is being actualized. If we neglect to meet every week in our concrete expressions of unity, however incomplete and corrupt and insufficient they may be, we are not living into our story and we will forget it. We will forget about our actual, non-metaphorical sisters and brothers across the Eucharistic table, and we will forget our involvement in the story isphysical and earthy and real. We bring our bodies to the table, and we use our voices to sing the songs, and we pass the peace with firm handshakes because we know this is our story: Jesus came. And with him the Kingdom is coming. Our imperfect expressions of faith will make way for better ones, but the best thing we have right now is our commitment to each other across the communion table.
Church is about you, but not just you. We must give up the idea that we should be free of all duty and obligation in the Christian life. We are in covenant fidelity with the people of the story. Until the whole world hears, and then forevermore. And this is where we base our ethic, this is where we plant ourselves. Week after week after week.
Originally published on Idle and Blessed on September 19, 2014 and used by permission.