When I hear about people leaving the church, my heart breaks.
Certainly, the church is messy. It’s broken. It’s in constant need of repentance, forgiveness, revitalization, renewal and reappraisal.
That’s how it is with families.
And, because the church truly is a family, I’ll never give up on her.
Yes, a family. An actual, real-life, in person, not-a-metaphor family.
When our ideas about the church are theological or institutional, we make the church an easy thing to leave. But the church isn’t a building, a denomination, an organization, a theological construct, or a series of beliefs.
It’s the people we meet within those institutions.
The church is people. People create families.
The Hope of Family
Certainly, we’ll have the occasional falling out. We’ll argue.
Sometimes we’ll walk away in anger, yelling “I’m done with you!”, only to find ourselves commiserating with other estranged family members with similar hurts and frustrations so we can talk together, share our pain together, pray together . . . you know, have church together.
This is why, even though my heart breaks when I hear about people walking away from the church, there is always hope.
Because even when we’re estranged from our family, we’re still mysteriously and inextricably a part of it.
The Real Church Is Real People
It’s impossible for me, as a follower of Christ, to stop working in, with and for the church, because I can never be out of relationship with those people. Even when we have a falling out, that falling out creates tension in me. And that tension pulls on me.
Even when I may not feel like “going to church” (as in, an event at a building), I will never be able to completely abandon the relationships the church has given me.
The structures around those relationships may change, even disappear – often because they desperately need to – but that doesn’t change or end the church, because the people and their relationships still exist.
A Church Of Names And Faces
The church is a family because the church is people. People who have loved me and helped me know and serve Jesus.
Not just in a generalized way. But people with names, faces, and a long, deep history together.
People who have been in my life for all of my life.
People I love. People who love me.
I can never give up on church because I can never give up on people.
And because Jesus never gave up on us.
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