We’ve all heard the alarms: an entire generation of “nones” and “dones” have supposedly left the church. There are good reasons for this exodus. The church is full of problems, now on display for all to see online. Everywhere we click, there’s another op-ed telling us how church has failed, how church leaders have lost touch with their congregants, and how technology and parachurch ministries will finally free us from the physical confines of our gathering places and the dysfunctions of our mismatched families.
I get where they’re coming from. Growing up in youth group, I was isolated from anyone not my own age. I grew so used to church being tailor-made for my tastes that when I started going to a Christian college, I couldn’t abide the worship service of any church I set foot in. Even after college, things got tougher as I experienced my share of heartbreak at the hands of those who were supposed to shepherd my soul. I was ostracized, fired, and overlooked—all in the local church context. And in every case, it was brutally difficult to stay. I was ready to give up on the local church.
But Jesus didn’t give up on me. Over time, I developed a love for the church not out of my desire to be better, but out of my need. Even when church people failed me, other pastors, elders, deacons, and fellow congregants reminded me through their words, actions, and presence that Jesus was near. My local church was not merely a responsibility; it was where Jesus lived. It was home.
When Paul writes to the Corinthians, “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it,” he isn’t confirming individual value so much as he is drawing us to recognize ...1