A young woman who is very dear to me recently asked the question, "Why does church suck?" Later she said, "I don't go to church, really. I've been once in the past eight or nine months. Every church I go to I get so frustrated because it feels so fake and useless and a waste of time. God feels distant, life feels hollow. I don't read the Bible, I don't pray, I don't have a devotional because I hate devotionals, and I have yet to find a person that I can talk to intelligently about the Bible without becoming massively frustrated or massively disappointed." Here, edited for this blog, is my response to her. It's not perfect, but maybe it's a start. Maybe if you are feeling some similar things about church, some of this will help you get a little perspective, too.
Short answer--Church sucks because you're focused on everyone else instead of on God and your relationship with him. Is that harsh? Maybe, but it's in that reality that you will find peace, ironically.
Long answer--So you look around and you see hypocrisy and insincerity. Well, none of us is living as much like Jesus as we should, so basically we all fall short. The church is made up of a bunch of people who know they should be better than they are (in their good moments), who try and fail, and yet who keep coming back for more. Including you. You want to believe that someone is doing it right, if nothing else because you want an example to follow, proof that it's possible, and instead you're surrounded by failures!
Well, guess what? That's exactly right. Being a sincere Christian is admitting daily that you aren't what you want to be. But it's also living in God's grace and therefore recognize that you are being made into God's best version of yourself. It's being content with the progress--in your own life and in everyone else's life, too. Every time you see someone fooling himself with his own holiness, just remind yourself that on another day, you're doing the same thing. Give others the grace you need.
The authentic Christian life is trying, failing, falling, and allowing God to pick you up again and show you a better way--over and over. And the life of a "model" Christian is way more effective when it actually does model what happens when we goof, instead of believing that God's kingdom is somehow irreparably damaged when we goof and so we must hide it. Think of the people you most respect: Are they the kind of people who can say, "I was wrong; please forgive me," or the kind who either never admit they're wrong or who rationalize their bad choices? (The latter category become abusers, and Christian abusers are the hardest to take; but that's a topic for another day.)
But also, we were made for community. We cannot become all that God wants us to be outside of a body of people committed to corporate worship of God. Ironically, when we focus on bringing honor and glory to our maker as a community, we bask in his grace, which makes it possible, sometimes even easy, to grow, to love ourselves, and to love one another. The same people who were just driving you crazy, you now want to hug and invite home for lunch. In other words, honoring God together is good for you.
That's the whole amazing thing about the authentic Christian life; whatever you do that's supposed to be good for God or good for others, somehow becomes even better for you yourself, especially when worship is a part of it. It's an upward spiral.
My advice? Go to church. Look at God. If necessary, spend the whole time begging him to fill you with his presence and love so you can love all those hypocrites sitting in the pews, including yourself. When it becomes a little easier to love those around you without so much judgment, you might be starting to get it.