Jayson D. Bradley has wise and important words to share at:http://www.relevantmagazine.com about why it remains important to stick with this challenging enterprise we call “church.”

Bradley offers:

Bradley’s entire article should be read.

Here are his 5 points with a few reflections from me:

  1. We’re all part of the church’s problems.

Bradley’s reason #1 is obviously aimed at people who are or have been part of a church and are considering giving up, or have given up because it is not working.

There are times when it is essential to leave a church. Church environments can be poisonous to the point that they are unhealthy for anyone and the only sane response is to leave. This is far less often true than might appear to be the case judging by the number of people who walk away from churches.

Bradley offers an important challenge to anyone considering leaving a church.

If the Church is going to continue reforming, it will be because of the ones who stay— not the ones who leave.

Before we ditch church, it is essential to ask whether we might be part of the problem the church is facing and if we might be called to be part of the solution.

 2. Churches need reformers.

Bradley makes the often forgotten point that Jesus started out as a religious reformer within Judaism and never left the faith of his birth. It must have been a frequently uncomfortable place for Jesus. Certainly he was an uncomfortable presence for the religious establishment of his day. But Jesus never walked away. He stayed and prodded, poked and pestered his fellow Jews to return to the centre of their faith and reclaim the riches of their tradition.

As Bradely says,

there’s nothing more Christlike than challenging the Church to be more sincere and full of grace and truth.

Bradley might get some push back on his third point. There are no doubt those who would question his assertion that

3. There’s still so much good in the church.

Every Sunday I see children at the front of the church listening to a story about love, respect, equality, beauty, compassion, and an endless number of other qualities that anyone would want nurtured in children’s lives. I see people opening their hearts to one another, finding healing and strength in the face of the struggles of life.

I encounter people every week who through their involvement in church are growing in their desire to be honest, genuine, and self-giving. I meet people who are serving the poor, caring for the needy, ministering to the broken, and becoming more passionately committed to truth and justice.

Certainly churches are imperfect communities of broken people. But, in my experience, there is at least enough goodness to make church a justifiable enterprise in our day.

  1. Church is a support system.

This may sound like a crutch. But, there are times we need support. Life is often difficult and sometimes painful. It is not a sign of weakness or failure to admit that there are moments when we need to lean on someone just as there are times we can offer support to others.

It is important to acknowledge and give thanks for the people in my life who Bradley says,

will meet me at a moment’s notice and encourage me, cry with me, share Scripture with me, admonish me and remind me of what’s important.

Sometimes they say stupid and hurtful stuff, but they’ve also loved me despite the stupid, sinful and hurtful stuff I’ve said and done.

This is why Bardley’s fifth point is so important:

  1. Church is a spiritual discipline.

I have no doubt that I could abandon the local church and cherry pick some friends to meet with regularly who would make spirituality and theological discussions deep, challenging and fun.

But when I’m honest with myself, most of my growth has come from interacting with people I wouldn’t choose. By handpicking my social circle instead of submitting to a local community of believers, I’ll generally choose people who fall within my comfort zone.

I’ve grown in my ability to love by getting close to people with opinions I disagree with, different lifestyles, disabilities and all sorts of issues I had not been previously been exposed to.

If I were to add my own sixth reason why it may not be time to ditch church, it would be because by staying together we reflect the nature of God.

Faithfulness is one of the primary qualities the Bible uses to express the nature of God. God does not give up on us even when we fail to remain faithful.

if we are faithless, he remains faithful. (2 Timothy 2:13)

There are not many places in the world where people stick it out with one another simply because they desire to practice the challenging discipline of faithfulness. The church may be one of the only institutions that is not held together by tangible measurable mutual benefit, but simply by shared commitment to a good that transcends any one person. This determination to embody faithfulness in community is a gift we can afford to ditch only reluctantly and under the pressure of immense necessity.

Nadia Bolz-Weber has her own reason for not ditching church as reported by Christian Piatt at Patheos:

In her interview with Krista Tippet for “On Being,” she explains what she says to anyone newly in love with the church. “I’m glad you love it here,” she says “but…at some point, I will disappoint you or the church will let you down. Please decide on this side of that happening if, after it happens, you will still stick around. Because if you leave, you will miss the way that God’s grace comes in and fills in the cracks of our brokenness. And it’s too beautiful to miss. Don’t miss it.”