Lots of people never go. Lots more go only rarely. Many claim to have a “good” relationship with God outside the church, but very few actually find spiritual growth or strength in that kind of isolation. Most want the church to somehow be involved when they get married or die, but don’t see a real need for it during the rest of their lives. They want the freedom to call on God to rescue them when they’re in trouble, and the freedom to ignore him when life is going their way.

The world accuses the church of being full of hypocrites and says that only weak people need the church as a “crutch”. As I looked around the sanctuary of my church last Sunday, I saw no hypocrites. I saw ordinary people facing the good and bad of real life. Everyone in that room had a load of sorrow or pain or frustration or disappointment. I saw one couple in their 80’s still holding hands after 60 years of marriage. There was another man there, attending for the first time since he buried his wife. One newly divorced woman had come trying to make a new start. There was a high school senior devastated that she did not get into the college of her choice. One proud grandma was flashing pictures of her new grandson. A new college graduate facing the uncertain job market sat next to a woman who is desperately looking for a job so she won’t lose her house. Another learned this week that she’d been promoted in her job. One is facing a terminal illness; another was back at church after a long confinement due to illness. All ages and stages of life gathered together to worship God and find fellowship with his people.

Church is not about “fire insurance” to keep us out of hell or doing enough good things to earn God’s blessing or avoid his punishment. Church is where we find fellowship and relationship with other people who are struggling to make sense of this life and learn about our eternal one. Church is for people who are more interested in doing the right thing than in protecting their politically correct image. Church is for people who are willing to admit they don’t have all the answers.

Some want just enough of God to stay out of hell. Some want to be spoon fed some positive thoughts, but they certainly don’t want to become involved or be inconvenienced by needy people. Some hope their good intentions will earn them God’s favor, but aren’t really interested in agreeing with him about their sin. I’ve found that the more I learn about God, the more time I want to be in his presence. I’ve found that the more time I spend learning the stories of the people in my church, the easier they are to love and understand. We’ve all got stories, and God wants to be a part of the story of the rest of our lives. Our need for relationship, with God and with each other, is what the church is all about.

Christians are not perfect, but neither is the rest of the world. The Church, with all its imperfections and imperfect people, is precious to God. If you do not have a church home, I encourage you to ask God to help you find the right place to belong and share your gifts. If you do have a church home, encourage others to share in the sense of belonging that you have found there.