That neighborhood church you visited that just had too many people your grandparents’ age—I know they were overly eager to meet you. I am sorry that you found out that mega-church you liked so much doesn’t have any women on their leadership team—I will try not to say I told you so. That new alternative service I recommended that had all the progressive theology you were looking for—I know it was a little too quirky and filled with oddballs. That big steeple church downtown that had all the programs you were looking for—I know you found the organ music stiff and boring.
I want to affirm your desire to find the right church, but I am running out of advice. And I have to remind you, in a voice that I hope is not too much of a shout: No church is perfect!
In fact, church is an especially poor place to look for perfection. We go to church because we acknowledge that we are not perfect—we go because there is something in us that needs saving, redeeming and forgiving. We go to church because we are not perfect which makes churches pretty flawed places.
But what you say is true—it often seems like the church our generation would really connect with does not exist, and I am a bit sensitive about this fact. I am a bit sensitive because some of the things you say turn you off about other churches I know are true of the lovely, quirky, organ-music-filled church that I serve. I am just as frustrated as you are that no place seems to be that perfect combination of the right sort of people and the right sort of music and the right sort of theology for many millennials to feel perfectly at home; but I wish you could see how much goodness and love there is in humble, imperfect churches like mine.
I want to be able to make that perfect church for you. Heck, I want to be able to make that perfect church for myself – and our generation may yet recreate the church in our image. But if we do, I hope we realize that it still won’t be perfect. In fact it will be radically lacking in a lot of the same ways that we are radically lacking.
So if there are oddballs in the next church you visit—just consider giving thanks that it is a place that accepts oddballs; perhaps you are more of an oddball than you think. If the next church on your list is filled with the over-60 crowd—think about finding out why that church is a place that people have deemed worthy of investing so many years of service. If the music is too loud or too old or too new or too traditional—well I can’t help you much there, but perhaps we might keep in mind that God hears a joyful noise in all of our worship. No church is perfect, but God still manages to do some amazing things through the imperfect ones that we have.
CAITLIN THOMAS DEYERLE is pastor of Southminster Presbyterian Church in Richmond, Virginia, where she lives with her husband James, their cat Calvin, and a very rebellious puppy named Molly.