Why attend church? Reasons are many

I had a conversation recently with a Christian friend who told me he didn’t really need to “go to church.” He said he often read the Bible, prayed with his wife, and was even involved in a ministry, so he didn’t feel the need to attend church on Sunday. Needless to say, I disagreed.

But it’s obvious that a large segment of our society — including many people who would describe themselves as Christians — don’t feel it’s necessary to regularly attend church.  And perhaps many more who do attend, do so more out of a sense of guilt and duty than of joy and celebration of God’s love.

Why should anyone attend church? It’s a question worth asking, and worth answering. There are several reasons for regular participation in congregational fellowship and worship, some that might surprise you. For instance, did you know that surveys have shown that the best place in America to develop meaningful friendships is church? In a culture of isolation and loneliness, who doesn’t need genuine friendship?

And how about family life? A Gallup survey of American adults found that the activity believed to most strengthen family life is “attending church or religious activities together.” In other words, the best thing you can do to keep your family strong is go to church together.

If that’s not enough, there are also health reasons.  A series of independent medical studies in recent years have determined the positive effect that regular church attendance has on a person’s health.  Researchers in one study found that those who attend religious services at least once a week have healthier immune systems than those who do not.  Another recent study concluded that people who attend church on a regular basis have generally lower blood pressure than those who don’t.  Yet another research survey found that those who regularly attended worship services lived an average of seven years longer than those who never attended.

In the most striking finding, Dr. Harold Koenig of Duke University Medical School has calculated that “lack of religious involvement has an effect on mortality that is equivalent to 40 years of smoking one pack of cigarettes per day.”

We haven’t even touched on the encouragement, hope and spiritual direction we get from a community of believers who are there to support us and lead us to a deeper level of faith in Christ. And yet, it’s obvious, we can hardly afford not to go to church!

No wonder the psalmist said, “I rejoiced when they said unto me, ‘Let’s go to the house of the Lord.’”  (Psalm 122:1)

The Rev. Ken Letson is senior pastor of The Church at Shelby Crossings. You can reach him at kenletson@shelbycrossings.com.