My secular friends sometimes ask me, “Why the church?”
I hear myself come up with different answers at different times. “Because of the community.” They say, “Couldn’t you just join a book group?”
“Because of the morality and ethics, and the passion for justice.” They say, “There are lots of decent, ethical, moral people outside the church.”
They are quite right. There are many groups that do many of the things the church does, and some of them do it better. I think Twelve-Step programs often foster better community and personal transformation than the church does.
I think many organizations working for peace and justice, and for protecting the environment, are better organized and more efficient than the church in doing this vital work.
And I admit that the church can be a maddening place, slow-footed for needed change, too often liberal on matters that should be conserved, and conservative about things that should be shaken up. My love for the church is not blind.
But my best answer to the question, “Why the church?” is simply, “Jesus Christ.” He is the one unique, distinctive thing that the church has that nobody else does. I find that after a lifetime in the church the compelling figure of Jesus Christ in all his complexity and incomprehensibility still engages me deeply.
Paul knew this when he employed a building metaphor to say that Christ is the only foundation on which the church can rest. Without Christ the church risks becoming a religious voluntary association with a big list of good causes. The truth is that Christ is the “why” for those causes.
“Why the church?” Jesus Christ is the “why!”
Prayer: Always keep your church, O God, on the solid foundation that you have laid for us in your Son, our Savior Jesus Christ.