Churches are like Jesus cover bands.
And some of them are really, really crappy Jesus cover bands.
Cover bands are strange animals to begin with. When I show up at a bar and see Beatle and The Yellow Submarines are playing, at best I hope to hear a tasteful homage to The Beatles and at worst I brace myself for an hour of grown men stumbling through chords and lyrics I barely recognize.
But what I don’t expect is to see four musical virtuosos on stage going song-for-song with John, Paul, George, and Ringo. I don’t expect to hear them re-create the White Album or the roof-top performance of Let it Be. Because they’re not The Beatles.
So I can spend my night with a smug grin on my face, pointing out every way that Beatle and the Yellow Submarines are drowning in real The Beatles’ impossibly large shoes.
Or I can appreciate them for what they are. I can sing along with these musicians who are trying their best to pay tribute to a band we both love.
And there is something very similar going on in Christian churches.
If you walk through the church doors on Sunday morning, you probably won’t find a rag tag group of homeless-looking folks who zeroed out their 401k to keep the local food shelf stocked.
You probably won’t find a single miracle worker.
In short, don’t expect to see a bunch of 21st century Jesuses standing around in the only clothes they own.
Because churches are usually filled with people who look pretty similar to the rest of the people who live in the neighborhood.
And as you scan the Sunday crowd, you can join the long line of people (from Gandhi to my couch surfing friend Tom) who have made it their life’s mission to point out the painfully obvious fact that Christians are not as good as Jesus.
I get the critic. A LOT of people have been misled/abused/hurt/killed over the last 2,000 years by Christian churches. And if you’re burned out and don’t want to do it anymore, I get that. I really do.
But if you decide to give church another chance, try and appreciate it for what it is.
A Jesus cover band.
At best, a community of people who actually care about each other.
A place for folks who have been pushed down and out by an American culture saturated with corn syrup and silicone. Families who care about raising their kids with a sense of right and wrong, but won’t cast the first stone if your teenager ends up addicted to meth. Friends who will try and help you salvage your marriage but won’t throw you under the bus if you can’t. Old ladies who will make sure there is a pan of home-made lasagna waiting in your fridge when you get home from your first round of chemo-theraphy.
But I’ll be the first to warn you: you probably won’t find this church right away.
In fact, you have a better chance of meeting your soul mate on your first Tinder date than wandering blindly into a gem of a church.
But they’re out there. They’re not perfect. But they are out there.
But then again, if perfection is what you’re looking for, you’d be better off staying at home and listening to Abby Road on vinyl.
Because Beatle and The Yellow Submarines and church probably isn’t for you.