When I go to church on Sunday I go hoping that I won’t leave church wishing I hadn’t gone.

It’s a low bar for church expectation. I get that.

But when it comes down to it, that’s really the essential thing. If on the way out I wish I hadn’t showed up in the first place, I’m probably not going back. Not unless you’re paying me. My rates are pretty high.

Sometimes it’s the preacher’s fault when that basic expectation isn’t met. Maybe most times. It’s hard to find really good preaching.

But sometimes it’s the congregation.

Sometimes the music sucks. And it’s hard for any preacher to make up for a choir that should have been told to sit down a long time ago.

Sometimes it’s the building. Maybe it was glorious once upon a time. Maybe the people who remain remember and still see it through their stained glass glasses it in it’s former glory. But it’s hard to feel uplifted when the plaster is falling down and dingy carpeting hasn’t been replaced. I don’t care if Aunt Betty donated the pew cushions back in 1952. They look like crap now.

Usually in places where things aren’t well maintained, there is a kind of prevailing depression among the people.

I get that life isn’t a bed of roses. You can’t expect people to be artificially happy all the time. Still, church should more often than not be uplifting.

I get that finding decent preaching and matching it with good music (I don’t care which genre, so long as it doesn’t remind me of nails on a chalkboard) is harder than it sounds. Many congregations would do well to abandon trying to keep up their dinosaur buildings and invest their money in the other two items on my list here, and that’s a step few of those congregations are willing to take.

Even so, when a congregation does pull it off, it’s always a beautiful thing.