I present this question, not as one of the great existential, philosophical, mental torments of all time, but as a Christian who believes church should be an integral part of any believer's life.
Have you ever sat in a chair or on a pew in a church, listening to a pastor drone on about something that you won't even remember after the football game that afternoon, and wondered why you even bothered? I have. Sometimes I even take the question to the core: what part of this reaches deep enough within me that it really makes any difference or affects me at all? To many weeks of that question, or too many weeks of an unsatisfactory answer, and I am ready to leave that church.
Because I'm not there to nod and tell uninterested people I'm fine. I'm there to be found. I'm there to have a head on collision with God Almighty in all its glory, ugliness, pain, and exaltation. And if I can't walk into God's house--you know, the One who loves me enough to crucify His Son--and be real, then where can I be?
This week Pastor Pete Wilson took a huge risk and got real about one of his personal struggles, and in response, he received an email that said in essence church is the place to escape the world, not confront it or confront sin.
Isaiah 61 says:
1 The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
2 to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the LORD
for the display of his splendor.
Let's see. Jesus dealt with sickness, blindness, prisons (spiritual including sins like lust, pornography, divination, lying, addictions, etc...), captivity, wounds, broken hearts, and grief. I think I missed the part where He said, "And I will make sure no one else has to see me deal with the real stuff." On the contrary, Jesus dealt with all of that right out in the open.
Why? Why drag all that messy stuff out into the middle of public? Isn't there a back alley office where such uncomfortable topics can be addressed?
Probably, but Jesus was never good at back alley anything. Goodness gracious the man covorted with whores and partiers right out where the religious leaders could see Him.
So why? Why bring all this mess right out into the open?
Because there isn't just one person dealing with addiction. There isn't just one person whose marriage is in trouble. There isn't just one person needing healing from MS. There isn't just one person who needs to be healed from the effects of rape. There isn't just one person struggling with pornography. There isn't just one person who is bouncing from bed to bed hoping to find some sense of value.
There is a whole world out there that is brokenhearted, wounded, in prison, blind, captive, and grieving. If they can't go to church and be real, how will they ever get healed, and how will they ever have the courage to be real if no one goes before them? As Pastor Pete says, someone has to be first. Someone has to have the courage to risk worshipping in Spirit and in Truth.
I don't know why you go to church. Personally, I go because I need a Jesus who is willing to let me be real with my hurts and my struggles. I need a Jesus that allows me to come empty, desperate, and on my knees. I need a Jesus who doesn't try to escape the world but addresses the impact of the world on me and offers me the peace, healing, and strength to overcome that world.
Yeah, my truth can get pretty, stinking ugly, but He knows all that, and that is why He came. If truth, even when it is ugly truth, isn't welcome in the house of God, seems to me God isn't really welcome either. In that case, maybe I'm not the only one of the two of us that asks, "Why am I here?"