Friday, August 05, 2005

WHy Go to Church?

Every once in a while I think about the meaning of this church I work with/for. Why do we really exist? WHat are we doing (or more importantly not doing)? Purechristianithink has a post talking about the many in a community who never attend but want the church to always be there which got me thinking again. Last year I wrote this column. While it is only a start at looking at these sorts of issues I find that it is maybe a good start...

Sunday morning, you wake up and look at the clock. Time to get up and get ready for church. Then again, why bother? The bed is so nice and cozy. An extra hour of rest sounds so inviting. Why not stay home this week? For that matter, why bother any week?

To be honest, I am not always sure I can answer that question. There are times when I am sure that if I wasn’t working in the church I would not be there many Sundays. After all, the extra rest does sound appealing (or if not more rest there are many other things one can find to do with that time). In fact, when I was working before finishing school there were few Sundays I got up and went to worship, but when I got back into the habit I was glad of it.

What I learned is that I gain by going to church. Regular worship helps keep my sense of perspective; it helped me “stay real” in the midst of my busy life. It helps me keep what is truly central in focus – and reminds me that I am not the center. Regular attendance allows me to get to know the other people in the congregation and so enter into a supportive community. Regular worship pushes me to think about how God is active in my life and how (if?) I am active in God’s life. Regular worship reminds me that I am a beloved child of God, that even though I am not perfect I am “good enough” and accepted by the Creator.

There have been studies done that show that people who are active in their faith communities are healthier. They tend to deal with stress better, to have a better sense of what is most important. Couples who share a church life have better relationships (including their sex lives). Newcomers to a community can find that by going to church they meet new friends, people who can help them feel at home. Communities with healthy churches in them benefit by having a population which is committed to loving and serving each other. We all benefit from people going to church

Attending church regularly can be a chore, or a habit, or something that we do out of guilt. Not attending can seem freeing, or become a habit, or something that makes us feel guilty. But it is my belief, a belief born out of experience, that regularly joining with friends to share stories and experiences of faith offers us a way to make our lives better. No, it will not buy us a new car, or give us a bigger bank account, or help pay for the new kitchen but it will make us richer. If you attend church, think about what you have gained, and think about sharing that with others – whether they go or not. Go to church, it does a body (and soul, and heart, and mind) good.

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