Illustration: Flix Gillett

Imagine this being spoken in the cowboy drawl of a Texan church employee and it gets a whole lot better: “Well here’s the thing about church. It’s like Noah’s ark. It’s a mess. There are animals everywhere, doing their business, and it kinda stinks a lot of the time. But it beats the heck out of the alternative!”

The man in question was an older Christian addressing the complaints of a younger churchgoer over a cup of coffee: “I just don’t agree with their stance on x!”, “There’s no community here – it’s just a popularity contest”, “I don’t get anything out of the sermons anymore”, went his disgruntled litany. If you’ve been attending church for any length of time at all, I’m sure you can relate. I’m willing to bet you may even have had many of those conversations yourself.

And honestly, if you haven’t… why not? In an era when church scandals and accounts of abuse are all over the internet, fresh like manna every morning, it strikes me as almost negligent not to critique the church to some extent. But like the Texan mentor I overheard in that coffee shop, I’m not ready to give up on it just yet, even with all of its flaws.

Here are three reasons why I won’t quit going to church:

Firstly, the simplest reason. The Bible tells me to “not [give] up meeting together” (Hebrew 10:25). I know this may seem like Sunday school logic but, for me, the Bible is authoritative. In addition to that, as a guiding principle, it has a track record of providing wise advice that has benefited my life. In my experience, scripture is worth listening to, even if I don’t always love what it’s telling me. If scripture tells me to live out my faith as part of a community, rather than solo, I’ll try to follow that – even when it’s hard.

Secondly, the Church is the bride of Christ. Have you ever tried having a relationship with a husband when you have nothing good to say about his bride? Or you don’t want to hang out with her? It puts a lot of strain on the friendship. It’s a barrier to intimacy. The bride of Christ certainly has her flaws, but if Jesus is passionate about her, so am I.

Thirdly, Jesus still goes there. In Matthew 18:20 Jesus says: “Where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” If he, in all his perfection, is still willing to join us in the pews, who am I to claim that I’m above attending? Think about how incredible that is: the one who is most intimately acquainted with our scandals and secrets is also the one most passionately committed to gathering with us. He has a perfect church attendance record.

I hope this is an encouragement if you’ve recently struggled to walk through the doors of your church. I feel it’s important to say that there are, of course, exceptions for those who have suffered abuse, or who are unable to attend in person due to ill-health. In some cases, a break from church may be required for healing. But for those of us who can still go to church, my recommendation is to take the Bible at its word, believing that the best place to work out our hurt is, actually, in church.