Get our newsletters

Believe in Good - I don’t know why you go to church ... or don’t


I thrive at church. It’s a way of being that provides community, meaning, purpose, personal growth, and avenues to create positive change in the world.

But churches can be far from perfect. From childhood I was exposed to bigotry, intolerance, hypocrisy, battles for control, unchecked egos, and horrid abuse, all within supposed sacred spaces. The darker angels of our nature can emerge within the church just as easily as beyond.

If you still go to church, I’m glad. And I know why. In spite of its imperfections, in church you find community, belonging, the assurance that you are loved, spiritual nurture, a connection to the Holy, and the knowledge that you are living your best life by serving others.

If you don’t go to church, I also know why. You likely agree with one or more of the following statements:

• I’m spiritual but not religious. I don’t need an organization to feel connected to God or any transcendence.

• Church people are concerned with justifying their narrow-minded ideas and think they possess the only truth. Meanwhile, they lie, cheat, and steal just like anyone. They’re self-righteous hypocrites.

• I have better things to do with my time. Religion is not my thing.

• Church beliefs and practices have little relevance to modern issues. Why must the church be intolerant of LGBT folks? Why is the church indifferent to racism, climate change, income inequality, and injustices in immigration and mass incarceration?

• I can’t buy into the magical thinking required in order to belong. I won’t discard my rational understanding of the universe and mindlessly swallow a bunch of myths, metaphors, and analogies as anything literal.

• With everything else I have going on, there’s not enough room for another commitment. If I want enlightenment and nurture, I’ll listen to a podcast.

• I grew up attending church, stopped somewhere along the way, and never found a compelling reason to return. It doesn’t seem like it would make any difference in my life.

• I was hurt and disillusioned by what I experienced at church and have painful memories. I might still believe in God, but I can’t make myself walk through those doors again.

• I never went to church. But I’ve done okay and consider myself a good and moral person. Why bother?

• I’m not a fan of organ music or guilt trips.

• I want nothing to do with an organization that should be about helping others but is only concerned with maintaining itself as an institution.

If you attend church, note that these actual comments I’ve collected contain two intertwined themes: churches are irrelevant, and lack authenticity. Too many well-intentioned church folks confuse being relevant and real, with “caving in” to the culture. Which ignores the genius of the Church through history of being alert and responsive to any cultural setting. Dying churches are tethered to ways of being that no longer relate, and they feel bogus. Thriving churches adapt and exude authenticity.

If you don’t go to church, but would if your mind were to be engaged and your heart fed, if you’d be embraced and loved just as you are, if the focus was on being real rather than pretending to know it all, and if you could make a difference with loving and supportive friends in a common purpose, you’ll be happy to know that plenty of such churches exist. Find the one that’s perfect for you, and thrive.

The Rev. David Green is pastor of Salem United Church of Christ in Doylestown. He can be found there on Sundays at 10 a.m., and online anytime at