Why I Need Church More than It Needs Me
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, that God may teach us God’s ways and that we may walk in God’s paths.” – Micah 4:2
I am getting to find out whether I am a good person, living a good life, without a church. I left the church I was serving a couple of months ago. There is still a month before I start my next gig, another church. I am a free agent. I can sleep in on Sunday mornings and wake to pancakes and the New York Times. I don’t have to fight my teenager to get out of bed and get dressed to be on time for worship.
It’s wonderful, to wake without panic that the sermon is not done. It’s a gift, this unstructured time.
But I’ve noticed something. I’m more irritated in traffic, judgmental in line at the store, inclined to be imperious and rude on the phone with customer service reps. Without church, I feel myself crumpling into my innate selfishness and pride, exposed as the narcissistic shrew I really am.
Turns out, I need the structure of religious community to be a better person. It’s not that I’m a hypocrite, pretending to be better than I am when I am in my role–I am actually a better person when I have the full weight and positive inertia of other Christians also trying to be better people around me. Church is the scaffolding around the weak structure of my character.
Or maybe a better metaphor is that the church is a splint, straightening a spirit that might otherwise be bent or broken. Our UCC sage, William Sloane Coffin said, “It is often said that the Church is a crutch. Of course it’s a crutch. What makes you think that you don’t limp?”
God, I’m lamer than I thought. Thank you for giving me a way to walk in strength and a people to walk with, despite my weakness. Amen.