Why attend church?

In the last few years, much has been written about the fall in church attendance. Some of this is attributed to Covid and the carry over from that experience, some attributed to the rise in cultural Christianity as opposed to Christianity of belief. Within the scientific community, and expressed here as among evolutionary creationists, church attendance perhaps is even lower, as it is often expressed how difficult it is to attend when the church community is seen as less than supportive and even disdainful of those who accept mainstream science.

In this short article, the author gives us 4 good reasons we should attend, including that it benefits our health and well being, as a science related tie in.

Of the reasons given, the one that strikes me as particularly relevant this morning is the first one listed," #1 Because I’m bad at remembering how to be a Christian. " We all need reminders, because life gets in the way, and without accountability to others and the knowledge that not only are we not in this alone, but that there is a greater good than our personal self interest at stake.

So, while at times there may be reasons we have to take a break from corporate worship and fellowship, it seems we also need it to function well in faith. What are your thoughts? What makes it difficult to attend, and what do you find beneficial?

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As a leader of worship I have often asked what people expect when they come to church, and, to be honest I rarely get a definitive answer, if an answer at all.
One answer is to do with the “flavour” of worship. Whether it is happy-clappy, Traditional, or something between the two. Whther there are people of a similar age and circumstance might be a factor (Race and colour?) The most common is to do with feeling welcome.
To worship could easily be enough. Leading and guiding worship is probably the primary job of someone at the front, although emphasis seems to be placed on their ability to preach. Even then, the type of preaching can be significant. I am not sure that there is a Universal answer.
There would appear to be more reasons not to go to church. Many do not see the institution as very trustworthy, whether it is doubts about finances or just theology in general. I think the perception of those who do not attend is that they will be somehow attacked or made uncomfortable. (The subject of my service this week). Some even think that they will be struck by lightning for just crossing the threshold.
I guess it takes a lot of courage to go to a new church. Big ones seem impersonal and small ones on the verge of closing. I would hope that anyone coming to the church I attend regularly (and am leading worship at this week) would feel welcome and enjoy the experience. (The subject of enjoyment may need a separate thread)

Richard

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Jesus went to a synagogue according to his habit - a habit of regular participation. I think we should also have the habit of going to church regularly because it is good for us. God does not need it but we need the support and company of other believers. We are strengthened by our common faith. A Christian that does not participate the meetings of the church community is like a body part that is separated from the rest of the body.

I have known several people whose faith did not need propping up with church attendance. And there have been periods in my life when work and earning a living prevented me from regularly attending church.

Church can be supporting. It can also be a habit.

My grandfather was basically kicked out of his Baptist church because his son, my father, started a youth club. He never went to church again, but I am certain that he never lost his faith. My sister could tell you more but that is not for me to retell.

I do not think that there are hard and fast rules here.

Richard

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No doubt true. To prop up one’s faith was not a reason put forth by the article for good reason. There may be a season for that in time of doubt to surround yourself with people of faith, but the one primary reason for church would be for those people of faith to be there to help those who are struggling.

Sure, we can be believers without attending any church community. That is not an optimal situation.
We are ment (‘created’) to be part of the acting body of Christ, joining with other believers to a whole that is more than the parts forming the body. If we remain alone, the blessings that are tied to being part of an acting community of believers are lost.

I have lived periods when I have not attended services/meetings due to work and other reasons. My personal experience is that it was not beneficial for me. I did not realize the chances happening during the periods until I returned to join other believers. They acted as a mirror that revealed the true state of my live.

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Not that this is necessarily about church attendance (more likely house church though, or at least small group), and it is certainly not about ‘propping up’ one’s faith but maybe obedience?:

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another…
Hebrews 10:24-25

That is not to say that there are not times of life and health that prohibit it however.

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I go to church consistently and often. Usually multiple times a week. I go because it’s simply the example that the Bible shows. For a fact, when someone is not meeting up it’s because either the Bible says they were “disfellowshipped” as a punishment or because they are neglecting to be in fellowship and submitting to their elders ( pastors ). To not go to a congregation was a punishment.

But outside of that I go because it’s the best place to find fellow Christians. Also, if you are actually approaching people and sharing the gospel and baptizing people into Christ you’ll realize that all these “baby” disciples needs instructions, corrections, encouragement and love. You simply can’t keep on top of it all of you are sharing the gospel to others in a meaningful way. They will need other disciples in their life and that’s what a congregation is.

You just don’t see any examples of “closeted Christians” or lone wolf Christians in the Bible. You see fellowshipping. You see tons of passages mentioning elders, deacons and their qualifications. Now days a lot of people are like a lamp on a hill covered up and they don’t actually spread the good news to those in need of it. So when they are not turning the talents ( money ) into more money, or collecting interest, but instead ar exist burying it and doing nothing with it, they don’t need a congregation.

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When I miss church, that is what I miss most. I don’t particularly miss the music or the sermon, or the bible study, and feel a little guilty about that, but I do miss seeing people, perhaps more so now that retired and our daily life is pretty solitary. I admit when in practice I sometimes dreaded it as I was peopled out by the end of the week, and being in a small town, half the people in church were my patients. And asked medical questions. In church. Sometimes it was a blessing, sometimes a burden.
I guess that goes to one of the other points in the article, in that people who belong to a group (not necessarily church) are healthier than people who do not. There may be a lot of selection bias with that, but it seems pretty reasonable. At least I feel healthier after having social interaction, even for an introvert.

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I havent attended church regularly in many years. I cannot actually say why these days because i dont actually know why, however, my faith is strong. I suppose that expains why i get on these forums, to engage with others about God. These forums and watching youtube live streams and videos etc are like church to me.

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Interesting comment. I suspect it functions in that role for many, myself included. In some ways this forum is a place I can express myself most freely, and enjoy the conversation of others the most. I consider the people here my tribe. But, I think face to face fellowship is more important in the long run, and if you do not get that type of interaction elsewhere, church is an important place to not only visit, but find a place of service.

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I can’t always get to church on a Sunday because of caring responsibilities, so sometimes I have to watch our services online instead. But when I do get to church in person, it is always a massive difference. Being in the real, flesh-and-blood company of friends is like a lifeline—they encourage you and build you up in your faith and help you to get everything into perspective. Things that I tend to fret over and obsess over when I’m stuck at home almost seem like non-issues when you’re praying with each other, talking to each other, and sharing life and fellowship with each other.

During the pandemic, when everything was locked down, we would have a Zoom call every Sunday after the online service had finished streaming. It was nothing short of a lifeline.

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Given local (and some not-so-local) events even before COVID hit, all the local churches have been crossed off my list of possibles, and it’s been difficult to find one I would feel okay attending – the closest I’ve found is an hour and twenty minutes away driving, which in practical terms just isn’t possible on a regular basis.
So I spend a bit more than two hours Sunday morning doing church online, starting with prayers and Psalms and ending with prayers and Psalms, though the tone and focus of those prayers and Psalms are quite different between opening and ending.

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This is a good question to ask, whether we do or don’t. Why? Phil and the author both mention declines in church attendance. I think for some reasons, it’s better that way. There is plenty of church attendance that has nothing to do with church; that could be accomplished at a political party meeting, for example. We don’t need the syncretism, if that’s the case.

There are some really good responses in the posts already. I identify strongly with @knor , @SkovandOfMitaze and @jammycakes. Church needs to be a community of faith that encourages and builds up in Christ. For me that includes relationships with people at church, Christ-centered preaching and music that reinforces the preaching by allowing me to participate in the words themselves.
One of the things that I’ve found particularly valuable at the church we’ve been going to for the last year and a half is the intentionality built in to the church culture at fostering relationships and getting to know people. It’s hard in a good sized church to get to know people, and at this one, lots of people make a real effort.

I wanted to comment a bit on the reasons stated in the article:

#1 Because I’m bad at remembering how to be a Christian.

This is huge for me. I am easily distracted and obsessed with all sorts of things that don’t help me at all to be a Christian. I need the regular, consistent refocusing.

#2

But for me, as someone who lives alone and works from home, the communal dimensions of the Christian life aren’t incidental or nice add-ons. They are a safety net and a tangible sign of grace. That may be too therapeutic for some, but for people who lack family close by — or any family at all — church community could be the difference between life and death.

I think her second section heading is vapid. But the last paragraph of the section is much better. There should be a communal dimension in Christian life, an it’s rare. I really haven’t been to a church where individuals are invested in each other in this way, because we are the church together but really only because there are generations of civic community membership that carries over into the church. In another private thread, one person suggested that if Christians were seeking to meet the needs of others (in and out of the church) in hands-on ways, doing the work ourselves, the world would be different because of that influence. I’m frustrated that we do it so poorly even within the church (as I know it, I must say).

#3 Because church includes people who aren’t like me.

Yes! One of the benefits of the church we go to now is that there is at least some diversity, particularly when the university students are in town. We really, really need to expand our understanding of the breadth of the body of Christ.

#4 Because some people are called to reform from within.

So so so hard. I often felt at our former church like I was a missionary to the church from within. I think I accomplished zero. But we need people chipping away at the stuff that needs to go.

How to address it? I don’t know. How to tactfully bring up the serious problems from last Sunday’s sermon which were:

  1. mischaracterization of a group who is not interested in religion at all and wants not to have it be a part of their politics.
  2. exaggeration of so-called opposition to the church by “the culture”/“woe is us” attitude.
  3. promotion of the deception that christians are the only ones who can do good works.

We need always to be reforming. Always to be cleaning our own house
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As James pointed out, trying to do church online during lock downs was less than ideal, but also better than nothing.
I’ve always been a letter writer, rather than phone caller. Dunno why I prefer writing. I sent hundreds of notes and letters and a bit of mail art (I embroidered a “make a mask” kit onto plastic canvas and sent it to my artist friend, Jane. She loved it.) during lock down and limited access to church, trying to stay connected to people. I found out who valued those connections. And who didn’t.

I learned that being the Body of Christ is an intentional act that I really value and need to put more into myself. Just showing up is not the same as ministering.

Likewise, for me at least, connecting with people online is nothing like real relationships, where we need to treat each other differently, because we are in person. I’ve met some folks here with whom I correspond a LOT. It’s wonderful. But it isn’t church. It can’t be. We can talk about what we do at church and what it means to us, but we are not able to actually go through it together. There’s a difference.

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I used to go to church until my mid-30’s. Back then, I subscribed to many of the same ideas put out in the article. It was only when going to church was literally triggering depression that I stopped. I haven’t gone back ever since and I don’t miss it (at least not anymore). As the author recognizes, going to church for some can be detrimental to their overall health. I would also add that some of the argument she brings could easily apply to other types of communities. What I have learned is that while I don’t need to attend church, community is important. Hence, I have learned to engage more in other forms of community and have found the same I found in a church and even more. This is not to say that church is not a good option. Few types of community pack the mixture of ethics, service, self-improvement, and belonging like a church. Even so, it is time we start thinking outside of the church box and understand that Christianity can be lived in an ecosystem that extends beyond any formal institution or congregation.

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Good thoughts. My kids essentially do home church with just a few other families, and I think do well in that setting. And in the science community, a science teacher buddy seldom goes to formal church, partly I think because he is triggered by some of the ideas expressed there. And many do not go due to reminders of other painful events. I occasionally fall into both those groups.

The rise in gas prices is another reason for this – definitely a factor in my case. How far will you drive in order to attend a church you can stomach?

I notice that there are now many online church options and I wonder if these are counted in this statistic for falling church attendance.

Though this thread has me looking again and I found a couple of new churches nearby I can look into.

Movement church
Christ Rising in the Valley for Nations

Never heard of these before.

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that is a statement that is so very true, however, i wonder, why is this so? If we are unable to tell people what we really think in person, are we being honest with them about our differences? I understand that we should be more careful in how we say things online, however, it is a platform where we can air our differences and grievances honestly, in person i think that isnt often the case.

I’ve often wondered about this myself. While I agree with (I think) most here that nothing can beat in-person physical presence with others; it then does become paradoxical that we also immediately become less candid with each other in person than we can be … right here in a forum, for instance. Why is that? And it is a very serious question, since it’s been said that “if you can’t be candid with somebody then your relationship is a charade.” [Granted - I don’t entirely buy that - but let’s set that aside for the moment.]

I think part of the answer to this is that “in-person” presence is such a strongly felt presence for us that we instinctively and emotionally protect that presence by not wanting to foul it up with strife. It isn’t for nothing that a proverb notes: “better a dry crust on the roof in peace, than feasting in a household of strife.” I have felt this in some extremely personal (and for me unfortunately memorable) ways, when being actually physically present with people.

But to be in an online world with people whom I’ve never met … that same instinct is not in play; or at least not nearly so strongly. It’s why we spend so much time on forum behaviors and guidelines in a much more consistently rigorous way than we are usually obliged to do in our actual community and church gatherings. Here we have to constantly be reminded to be gracious; and even for all that we then still allow ourselves much sharper edges on our expressions than what we would comfortably tolerate at an in-person gathering.

The upshot of all that is that perhaps more learning can actually happen here - given a generally higher level of candor; but more relationship building is happening in our church communities. I’ve often wondered what I would do if I discovered some anonymous avatar around here (perhaps one with whom I had even carried on some sharp-edged exchanges) turned out to be some person from church. Of course, it seems less likely unless they wanted to carry on such an asymmetrical secret, since I’m using my real name here - they would know it was me at least, even if I didn’t know it was them. But that is one of the reasons I use my real name here. I don’t like the possibility of those situations sneaking up on people.

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I frankly don’t think it is any one thing. For some it may be freedom from social constraints. I have known some atheists who do not feel free to speak their minds in person but really open up online. For others it is just the time to think things through (whether for good or bad). For others, just the fact that they are communicating by writing can effect their personality. I have heard testimony that personality changes greatly when speaking in a different language – so it may be like that. Since I believe language is the very substance of the human mind, this doesn’t seem all that strange to me. I think we can to some degree be a different person when the language and media of communication changes.