Why would anyone attend church these days? Is church even relevant? Yes, but only if a church is doing her primary job.
We often assume that the church’s job is to teach people the right way to live, as if what humanity most lacked was a clear knowledge of right and wrong, or perhaps the necessary motivation to choose the good. However, we know the difference between right and wrong and, as far as I can tell, most people want to be a good person. We know the difference between moral and immoral. That is not our problem. Our problem is that we lack the capacity to consistently choose the good that we want to choose. “For I have the desire to do what is right,” Paul confessed, “but not the ability to carry it out” (Romans 7:18).
Desire? Check. Knowledge? Check. Ability? Nein.
A church has one primary job. That job is not to tell people how to do God’s will or to motivate them to live in a more humane way. The church’s primary job is to mediate an experience of forgiveness, grace, and unconditional love for people coming to terms with their lack of ability to choose the good they desire.
Think about it. Christianity is a faith with forgiveness as its basic tenet. I marvel that a faith that requires us to confess our sins and faults is now associated with self-righteousness and a fear of being judged. How did this happen?
Maybe the church has forgotten her primary job. Maybe a church is not a community of good people getting better, but a hodgepodge of sinful people coping with their utter inability to be good. Maybe that is where grace enters people’s lives and how community and Divine Encounter happen.