There ain’t no surrogate saviour for my soul, nah there ain’t no patron saint for rock and roll, I sing as I wash up the dinner dishes. I listen to Jon Foreman’s lyrics talk about becoming discouraged with the hypocrisy that he sees, but then he always come to the same conclusion (which incidentally is the chorus); there ain’t no surrogate saviour for my soul. I think that this is something that a lot of people get, myself included. We like Jesus, at least the idea of him, but we don’t like church. Looking back to my own experiences at church, I know that it is for sometimes good reason.
I have seen church be used for monetary gain. I have seen church be used to convert people’s political opinions into theirs at the expense of truth. I have seen church be used to order to gain power and attention. I have seen many people, who worship passionately and who talk of loving and serving God, do the opposite of what they say. Church is a place where dishonest people can hide. It is a place where people prey on the weak and vulnerable. If you’re not convinced, then you can do a google search and the internet will have a thousand stories and reasons why you should not go to church.
Can you be a believer and not go to church? Yes, I think so. So then, why go to church? Why do I still go to church? Speaking on a personal level, church often feels difficult, alienating, and isolating. Yes, it is a community, a place for support. However, just because you are a system of support does not mean you are automatically supported or that you feel automatically supported. There have been several periods in my life, even recently, when I daydream about leaving church. I don’t want to leave Jesus, but at times I would very happily leave church. What is the point of staying?
The problem is, once I denounce the church and turn my back on it, I become the hypocrite. I say goodbye to all of the prideful people I know only to become one myself. I like Jesus but I don’t like the church. To reject community, because we have been hurt, will not heal hurt. Jesus was not shy about calling out all of the hypocrisy that He saw but he also continued to go to the Temple to worship. Jesus’s last prayer was that all believers would be united as one (John 17:20- 23). This suggests that Jesus wants us to be united in a community with believers.
T.S. Elliot puts it as ‘there is no life that is not in community’ (p.114, Act II, line 39). There is life in a community, a system of support which you have access too. Yes, there are bad churches which you should avoid and leave but that doesn’t mean that the Church itself is bad. The Church does not lie in the works of mere men. If you think that Jesus can and/or is redeeming you, then who are you to say that He cannot and is not redeeming his Church? If you accept that Jesus can redeem you, then you also need to accept that He can redeem others, even hypocrites, even those who hurt you.
The Church is full of hypocrisy, yes, but Jesus is still there in the company of two or three gathered in his Name. For now, I’m willing to stay put to see redemption work in the lives of saints, hypocrites, and me.
*Elliot, T.S., Selected Poems (1954) ‘Choruses From “The Rock”‘, Chorus IX, Faber and Faber Limited, (btw, this is a massive hint that you should read this yourself. It’s actually amazing)