Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Going To Church Is In Your Best Interest

I want to share an idea that's been on my mind for a long time: I'm convinced that everyone ought to go to church.

Even if you don't believe a single Biblical miracle ever happened; even if you don't intend to practice what you listen to, and you're only there to sit through a service; even if you think it's boring, going to church is in your best interest.

As a Christian, I believe that Christians ought to attend congregational gatherings regularly because to be part of the "church" is to be part of the "assembly." (Ekklesia means "called out," and was a common word for assemblies, both christian and secular.) Assembling is integral to what Christians do. Christians who never assemble with other Christians by their own choosing have little right to claim they are part of the "church" ("assembly"), at least as the New Testament terminology goes. But that's not a soapbox I'm here to stand on today.

For now, I want to set all the doctrine, rules, and pastoral fiats aside. Also, I know plenty of people can tell stories about crazy congregations that are overly negative or outlandish, who have damaged people in some way. I'm not talking about those places. I'm talking about your basic, generally positive, Christian worship assembly. I'm not wanting to talk about why you have to go. I'm wanting to talk about why it's good to go. Especially if you have a family, there are a number of benefits that you enjoy as a church goer aside from anything spiritual.

Here are some benefits you will enjoy from being at church that you will miss out on for not going:
  • If you go as a family, it is at least 1 hour per week in this hectic, crazy world that you and your family can do something as a family. Statistically, you greatly diminish your chances of being divorced, as well as the chances of your children becoming delinquents by simply going to church as a family once per week. (Note to dads: Sending the wife and kids to church while you play golf is not the same as going with them. But going as a family will strengthen your family.) Also, you have more opportunities to talk to your family after you've heard a lesson together. "What did you think about what he said?" "I liked this point." "I didn't agree with this point." At least you'll be talking!

  • It gives your family a chance to make friends with other families that care about being good people. If you must have friends, why not try and make some that will make a good impact on you? Granted, Christians are not perfect people, but at least they're committed to trying to be better than they are.

  • It will be at least one hour per week that you are not being bombarded with the standard filth that you encounter on television or the internet. Most atheistic people who deny the Lordship of Christ will still acknowledge that Jesus was a fantastic teacher and ethicist. Getting 30 minutes per week of information, advice, and encouragement about living a good life must surely be good for you. Even if you don't believe the Bible, you cannot deny its ability to make positive changes in people's lives. (OK, so you can deny it, but you would be wrong to do so.)

  • It gives you an opportunity to know people from age groups and social circles that you wouldn't otherwise interact with. It is important to know that all humans have intrinsic value as people. There are people both old and young that you will encounter at church that would have no other connections to you.

  • It gives your children a great chance to practice their manners and improve their social skills. Having to meet and greet people of all ages is good for them.

  • It gives your children an opportunity to learn how to behave themselves in an environment where they should be quiet and listen. A child who has always gone to church and has learned to sit in an auditorium quietly has a huge advantage when it's time to sit in a classroom and learn.

  • If your children are with you, it is one hour per week where you know they aren't doing something bad or mischievous.

  • If the church is active as it should be, it will provide you with opportunities to help make a positive impact on your community. I know my congregation is active in providing needed help and resources to families who have hit hard times. We deliver baskets and gifts during the holiday seasons to help families who cannot afford some of the luxuries most of us enjoy at these times. We sometimes volunteer our efforts to simply help pick up around the neighborhood. Why not get involved in some things that all people can acknowledge are good and wholesome?

  • It gives you a chance to develop your musical talents. I know so many people who have become great singers because they've been able to sing in their assemblies. The practice of community music has basically died in our culture...we think only professionals have the right to sing and make music, so rather than learn to play and sing, we just play CDs and MP3s. The practice of communal music lives on primarily in the church. Show up and sing, and enjoy the beauty of the lyrics and the melody. It doesn't matter how you sound...the people aren't coming to listen to you anyway.

  • It helps you develop personal responsibility by showing up voluntarily at a place you don't have to be. If you live life only doing the bare minimum of what your boss requires and you never learn to be a volunteer, how will you grow as a person? Wouldn't we all agree that a cheerful volunteer is the kind of person that everyone wants to have around? Choosing to go to church then fulfilling that decision is good practice in setting and achieving goals.

  • When really bad times hit your life--and they hit everyone's--you will have a solid network of people to rely on. It is so much better to face your problems with the love and encouragement of other people, rather than having to face everything on your own. You buy insurance to financially bail you out of bad situations, but having a lot of Christian friends is great emotional insurance. A true Christian friend will be there for you when the going gets tough.
These are all things I perceive as benefits of showing up for church each week. What are some of the other reasons that you think of?


  1. Thank you for posting this. We've had some "absentee members" too often lately, and they're going to be getting a hearty dose of this soon. Thanks for giving me a bunch of idea-starters.

    And I want to spend a moment to head off what some might say... that this could be cheapening or lowering theology. That there are higher motives for being at the assembly regularly that ought to be placed at the forefront of consideration -- or even be the only consideration. That these ideas focus too much on pragmatism. But often times this is just the way people think. And you're just addressing people where they are.

    Thanks again!

  2. I really appreciate the point of this post. People don't realize how much they're missing by not being involved in a church whether or not they agree theologically.

    Two things I'd like to say though. First is that it's very difficult, especially for someone not used to going to church, to find a healthy body. I usually end up finding more petty arguing and gossip in the church than I do with my secular friends. This is discouraging to me, but would be even more so for a stranger.

    And I have to say that I somewhat disagree with the point about children learning to behave themselves. By the time a child should be expected developmentally to be quiet the entire time they would already be entering school. A huge problem in the church right now is "first time obedience" and the expectation that children should be little adults. This is one of, if not the most, damaging things that parents can do to their children. I could write a lot about this but I will stop here. I don't know if this is what you meant, but something that needs to be said. A benefit of the church should be that you can see examples of good parenting and loving graceful parenting relationships, but that is not the majority of parents in the church.

  3. Thanks very much to both of you for weighing in on this subject! I decided just to throw my opinions out to see how people felt about them.


    As far as lowering theology, yes, I have absolutely done that with this post. I'm just trying to say that even if people are not interested in the theological aspects and don't care about putting their soul in peril for not going or being a Christian, going to church is something that really is good for people; especially for families. This post is intended to be fairly narrow in scope.


    Thanks very much for your words also. Unfortunately, there are many churches that have unhealthy climates, where negativity and gossip abound. I'm sorry to hear you've had a hard time finding a good place to be involved.

    Regarding the parenting issues, you are much better informed on this than I am, and I will have to defer to your opinions. I wasn't trying to make the point that children should be expected to be perfect in church. And you're correct, many people place unrealistic expectations on how children should act and don't show the patience that they should.

    The point I'm trying to make is that church should be a good environment to practice, if that makes sense. Most children around me cry occasionally, or get chatty, or drop toys against the pews, etc. I think all this is fine. My point, though, is that the worship environment is generally a reverent place. If a child shows up at school for the first time, never having been at a place where the people around them (especially a larger group) were all being quiet and reverent, they would be at a disadvantage compared to children who have grown up in the church--chatty or not--who understand that there are places where reverence is appropriate.

    If I sounded like I expected kids to all be quiet as church mice, that wasn't my intent. I'm just saying here's a good place to practice trying to be respectful. It's a good teaching opportunity, in my opinion.

    Thanks to both of you for weighing in on this subject. If there are more people reading this, I would value your thoughts as well.

  4. Good thoughts. I like to challenge people to just try being obedient and see how it works out. It's crazy that God gives us commands that work out in our best interest and end up giving us more freedom and joy than if we just do what we want.

    I do want to pick a few nits for the sake of discussion. The word church really has very little to do with ekklesia from an etymological perspective. Luther hated the word kirch since it referred to a building rather than a people.

    The ekklesia is a gathering of people that doesn't really have anything to do with buildings or places. Jesus' vision of ekklesia is small gatherings of people (where 2 or three are gathered . . .).

    One hour a week at a building has very little to do with the New Testament ekklesia which was a daily discipline where Christ followers were present in each other's lives sharing prayers and meals and money.

    I think we need to expand our vision to include more of our lives within the realm of ekklesia - welcome our neighbors into our home for a meal, have a small group meeting, get together with other Christ followers for coffee, go and pick up some teens and mow the yard of a shut in . . . all of that is ekklesia as I understand it.

  5. All that is true... but now you need to give them some advice about how to get past that creepily friendly greeter guy, how to avoid the awkward conversation with the middle aged lady with the loud make-up about how wonderful the kids are, and what to do when the collection plate comes around.

    Other than that, everyone should be able to follow your advice immediately.

  6. James,

    Thank you for weighing in. Excellent points about the value of gathering as Christians, and not just on Sundays and Wednesdays.


    So glad to hear from you! I was just thinking this last week that I need to call you and see how life is going. Based on the nature of the post I just made, I must express my gratitude to you for the brevity of your critique, because I'm quite confident you could call each of these into question if you wanted as categorically as I have written them. (I've been rather pleased with the feedback I've been getting here. People have remained much more positive than I feared they might.)

    Even with the creepy greeter people and some of the other awkward circumstances, I still vote for church attendance being a good thing overall.

    Thanks to each of you for taking time to respond to my ramblings.