By the time most Christians in my generation have finished college, they have either begun the process of “church hopping” or have given up on church altogether.
What is church? Why do I need it? Why are there so many different churches, with different styles and even beliefs? I “get more” out of staying at home and having a quiet time on my own. Why do I have to sit through a two-hour service in order to fulfill some sort of Christian obligation? These are the Church Hopper’s questions, and they are especially difficult for those of us at Christian schools, who are lacking neither in Christian community nor in Christian education.
The church I attended when I lived at home had solid preaching and excellent music—the two criteria most of my friends use when deciding on a church to join. There was nothing “wrong” with my church, per se, but by the time I was in high school I was simply longing for something different. The sermons were good but after 15 years in Christian school, I was stuffed. Perhaps I wasn’t academic enough to be a good Christian.
When I was a senior in high school I thankfully found a Christian community that was less focused on the teaching aspect of worship and instead centered around community and outreach. This, I thought, was truly what the Church was meant to be and my involvement in this community really sustained me throughout the next year. However, once the community changed, so did my confidence. Again, it was not that there was anything bad about the church, but simply that its foundation was subjective and dependent on the people who were a part of it. Community is necessary for Christian life but could not be the pinnacle of it, which was obvious to me as my friends from the community left and I was soon to leave for college. I could not take this church with me, and I was back to square one.
Many people have determined that my conversion to Catholicism was simply due to a psychological need for constancy that I couldn’t find in any other church. But I think this is simplistic. When church is mainly a long sermon, it alienates all who are non-academics, who are tired, or whose greatest need at the time isn’t more information. When church is based around the community, it is rooted in one location and therefore lacks any power to be universal, not only geographically, but also demographically. A community-based church requires that the majority of its members have similar needs and even likes in order for the community to last.
So for me, it wasn’t so much that I needed constancy, but that I really believed there had to be more. There had to be more to Christ’s vision for his Church. It was supposed to extend to all people, in all stages of life, for all of time. Right? Or was “church” merely something arbitrary?