I have a love/hate relationship when it comes to church.  I love the way God designed his church.  I hate the way church often looks when it ceases to be the church God designed.

Do you understand why I say this?  How do you feel about church if you go to church?  How do you feel if you don’t go to church?

We live in this curious time when people say they are spiritual, but not religious.  I know what that means.  I am not convinced, however.  It all comes down to your definition of church, which is what I am asking you to look at with me.

My sense is that if you are a follower of Jesus, you are a part of his church.  I am not looking for a theologically deep conversation.  I want to look at church from the practical place where God calls us deep within our being.  You may not like the institution of the church.  You may not like a lot of religious people.  But, whether you like it or not, you are a part of Jesus’ church.

If you go to worship, what was last Sunday like for you?  As I write this, last Sunday was Easter.  My partner, Bill Tenny-Brittian, calls Easter, “Alumni Sunday.”  This means that people with some church experience come, likely with reluctance, because they feel some pressure (external or internal).

I often focus on the unhappy people at Easter.  I tell them I know their pain and then some as a pastor.  People giggle and poke a family  member who had to be dragged to worship.  Then I invite them to be a part of making the church what God wants, that it won’t be what it should be without them.

For the first time, this year, I had a couple households tell me they were unable to drag their family members to worship.  I suppose that should not be a surprise as our culture continues to find less meaning in church participation.  I see that as strangely good news.  If people aren’t going to go to worship even through guilt, then we can feel free to create the church that Jesus wants as best we can.  We have nothing to lose.

So I have my list of what I hate about church and what I love about church.  Here it is.

What I hate about church (when it’s not really church):

  • People being unforgiving.
  • People being hurtful.
  • People seeing church like a service organization.
  • People seeing church as a consumer product – meet my needs.
  • People lacking commitment – I sit in the pew and that’s all that I do.
  • People viewing worship as an option among many other things in life.

Here’s what I love about church:

  • People rejoice with those who rejoice.
  • People weep with those who weep.
  • People find eternal promise.
  • People find hope and strength in the midst of bad things.
  • People discover the best of friends.
  • People worship together as a united community.

I don’t believe one can ultimately say that you love Jesus and hate religion.  Christianity is a religion of being in relationship to Jesus and his people.  That is the reality when church is done right.  Please don’t throw religion and church away.  Together, let’s make it what God desires.

How do you understand God’s desires for his church?  What do you love about church when it is done right?  Leave your comments below.