The Need for Church

Rehobeth UMC in Greensboro, the church I grew up in.
Rehobeth UMC in Greensboro, the church I grew up in.

Recently, Huffington Post published an article by Tara Woodard-Lehman titled Do You Really Need Church? Now, when I think of things I need, I tend to think of the lower levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy. Like, I need food, air and water; I need shelter; I need the medications and healthcare that keep my body from destroying itself. For me, church comes into play at the higher levels of the pyramid.

Don’t get me wrong, there are things at church that I need: I need friends so that I’m not alone in this big ol’ world; because I’m a bit nerdy, I need to learn all I can about the things I’m involved with; and, I need to help those less fortunate than me so that I’m not consumed with myself. In other words, I need community to keep my sanity and to be a decent human being.

The thing is, I can get all these things somewhere other than church. If I want friends, all I have to do is find some like-minded people and start talking to them. If I want to learn stuff, there’s school, the library, the internet, etc. And, if I want to be of service to others, God knows there are plenty of places to do that, too. So, why do I go to church?

I go because it feeds a part of me that was starving for a long time. When I was young, my family was involved in a pretty toxic church group and, as soon as I could, I got the hell out. For over 20 years, about the only time I darkened a church door was for a wedding or a funeral. Strangely, I never identified as an atheist, or even an agnostic. Though, to be perfectly honest, that was probably out of fear as much as belief. During my time wandering in the wilderness, though, I never found anything that moved me the way church did. So, I came back and I’ve never regretted it. That return, however, was with the understanding that I would be questioning any authority that presented itself. If that authority didn’t like my questions, then I was in the wrong place. I’ve stuck with that philosophy and, I believe, it’s served me well.

Yes, the things I get from church could be found other places. But, for me, there’s something intangible there. I can’t put it into words, but it’s there and it works for me. I’m not going to say you should come to my church because it’s so wonderful, even though it is. I’m not even going to say you should go to church period, because that may not be what does it for you. I will encourage you find whatever it is that does it for you, because it’s freakin’ amazing when you do.