This week on the show, we talked church. Specifically, we talked about why fewer Christian women are going to church each week. According to Pew Research, 20% of women who have stopped going to church say that they are too busy to go and 26% say their beliefs have changed in some way. Church is no longer a priority.
I can relate. I’ve gone through seasons where I’ve not attended church. Sometimes, I was in a season that was too busy. Sometimes, I was in a period of stress. And in one case, I encountered abuse at the hands of a church member that was – unknowingly – supported by the church, which shook my faith not in God, but in the institution. And yet, back to church I go.
When I’ve not gone to church, I’ve continued to read the Bible on my own and have signed up for various studies online. I read Christian authors regularly, so I’m continually immersed in the Word. And yet, something was still missing. I’ve tried to piece together what it is the church provides that simply getting together with like-minded friends or reading something can’t. And I think it boils down to these:
- The music. There is something so beautiful about worshipping together. Sure, you can listen to worship music in your car (and you should) but there is something about the live worship experience that you really cannot replicate.
- Gifts differing. I’m qualified to administer the Myers-Briggs type indicator and if there is one thing it affirms, it’s that as individuals we are all blessed with “gifts differing,” as Paul wrote about in Romans 12:6. When we worship in community, we are exposed to people with gifts of music, preaching, prayer, and pastoral care that can help us meet all of our needs. Church also gives us the chance to lend our talents where they can best be used.
- A soft place to fall. Hurt will befall all of us and it’s good to have a group of kind and compassionate people on whim to draw when things get crazy. I will always maintain that you can survive anything as long as there are people around you to help you through it.
- A place to serve. We all feel better when we serve and church gives you opportunities to minister to others. Whether you are helping with the food bank drive or the Sunday School, or simply giving your warmest smile and friendliest handshake during the passing of the peace, church gives you lots of chances to bless others.
- The collective experience. I always think it’s cool when you get like-minded people in a room together. It’s the same reason I love going to a basketball game, but rarely sit and watch one at home. There’s something in a collective experience that’s so cool. And that – I think – is the church’s secret sauce. Well, that and the coffee after.
- The coffee hour. Sometimes the coffee hour is the most important part of church. If you are in a season where you are at home with young kids, or are recently single, life can be lonely. Coffee hour is a safe place to get your social fix.
- The power of prayer. Prayer is powerful and it’s a beautiful thing to be able to ask people to pray for you. Most services offer a blanket prayer for everyone in the congregation that can be comforting as well.
- The message. Many of us have a discipline of Bible study, and many of us don’t. Going to church means that once a week, you will be immersed in the Word with well-researched and thoughtful commentary.
- The ritual. Whether you attend a liturgical church with set communion and prayer, or a more modern church with a rock band and a coffee bar, there will be some elements of worship that stay the same week to week. As humans, we are hard-wired for habit and doing the same thing at the same time with the same people is deeply comforting. Waking up each Sunday morning (or getting ready each Saturday night) knowing you have a plan in place is simply good for the soul.
- Brunch Afterward. If the sermon can’t convince, hopefully the bacon and waffles can. A meal after church is always a beautiful thing.
This Sunday, think about attending a service. Or if you are a regular churchgoer, invite someone along. Use the hashtag #churchchallenge and let us know if you are doing church differently this week.