Opinion by Rachel Held Evans, special to CNN
(CNN) -- For a time, I counted myself among the spiritual but not religious, Christian but not churchgoing crowd.
Like many millennials, I left church because I didn’t always see the compassion of Jesus there, and because my questions about faith and science, the Bible, homosexuality, and religious pluralism were met with shallow answers or hostility.
At first I reveled in my newfound Sunday routine of sleeping in, sipping my coffee and yelling at Republicans who appeared on ”Meet the Press.”
But eventually I returned, because, like it or not, we Christian millennials need the church just as much as the church needs us. Here’s why:
As former Methodist bishop Will Willimon has often said, “you cannot very well baptize yourself.”
In a culture that stresses individualism, the church satisfies the human need for community, for shared history and experiences.
And in a world where technology enables millennials to connect only with those who are like-minded, baptism drags us -- sometimes kicking and screaming as infants -- into the large, dysfunctional and beautiful family of the church.
“Sin” is not a popular word these days, perhaps because it is so often invoked in the context of judgment and condemnation.
But like all people, millennials need reminding now and then that the hate and violence we observe in the world is also present within ourselves.
We can be too idealistic, too convinced we can change the world from our iPads.
The accountability that comes from participation in a local church gives young Christians the chance to speak openly about our struggles with materialism, greed, gossip, anger, consumerism and pride.
While the flawed people who make up the church can certainly inflict pain on each other and sometimes on the world, we also engage in the important work of healing.
At their best, local churches provide basements where AA groups can meet, living rooms where tough conversations about racial reconciliation occur, casseroles for the sick and shelter for the homeless.
Millennials who have been hurt by the church may later find healing in it.
Like a lot of millennials, I am deeply skeptical of authority -- probably to a fault.
But when I interact with people from my church who have a few years and a lot of maturity on me, I am reminded of how cool it is to have a free, built-in mentoring and accountability program just down the street.
We can learn a lot from the faithful who have gone before us, and the church is where we find them.
One of the few things the modern church has in common with the ancient one is its celebration of the sacred meal— the Eucharist.
There is simply not the space here, nor in many volumes of theology for that matter, to unpack the significance of remembering Jesus through eating bread and drinking wine. But when I left the church, it was Communion I craved the most.