Church has proven benefits for a longer, happier life.
Hard to believe?
I was surprised as anyone when I first read it but then I guess it’s what many have known all along. Recent research supports the case that regular churchgoing improves wellbeing and life expectancy.
A comprehensive study of women found that those who attended a religious service at least once a week had a 33% lower risk of dying over the 20 years the research was conducted.
The largest majority of those profiled in the study were Christian.
There have been many such studies and they all point to the same conclusion. Regular religious attendance improves your physical and mental wellbeing.
Putting these examples aside, there are plenty more positive reasons to take going to church seriously.
And if we sometimes take church for granted, here’s a helpful reminder of just what an amazing thing church actually is.
So here are my top reasons for getting out of bed on a Sunday.
How church and worship benefit our lives.
Where else do you find a group of adults gathered together and singing?
Ok, maybe most football grounds every weekend. And there are some pretty amazing community choirs too.
But let’s take a pause for a moment and reflect. Getting together, every week (and more) a diverse group of individuals who orient their lives around a faith and a shared experience covering all of life; well I think that’s pretty amazing in itself.
So why do we do it?
If you had to boil it down to one thing, it’s this; worship.
Worshipping God, our creator.
And what’s one of the great benefits of worship?
When we worship, our hearts and minds are completely focused on God and our lives fall into a proper perspective that actually helps us.
But that of course, is not the primary reason for doing it.
In the presence of adoring and giving thanks to God, we know that whatever happens in our lives God will remain constant in His love and power.
Some people talk about being ‘lost’ in worship. And it’s those moments when we are so present and engaged with God that prove to be powerful and life-changing.
Worship touches you in deeper, transforming ways.
It’s a bit like admiring an impressive work of art.
The picture draws you in and engages you on a visual, emotional and sometimes analytical level (and no wonder great art through the ages has been used for worship).
Today in evangelical and Pentecostal services, music is the main means to engage our senses in worship.
But regardless of the medium, the purpose is still the same; to use music, words, scripture and art to help us be in the presence of God.
Then, if our worship is regular and sincere, we can’t help but be transformed by it.
Even after spending just a little time with God, our lives will bear good fruit and we will begin to look at ourselves and others differently.
I’m struck by the example of Job and how he could utter words like these;
‘The Lord gives, the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.’ Job 1:21.
I believe only a heart that has truly been transformed through worship could even utter such moving words as those. It’s a wonderful and humbling challenge.
The benefit of going to church is to ‘be spiritual’ with others.
The spiritual path is best done with others alongside you.
I’m pretty sure that if I tried to find my own way to God, I’d end up in all sorts of weird places.
I’d be thinking I’ve found the ‘right path’ when actually the road I’m on would keep leading back to me and my needs.
So here is the helpful benefit of attending a church. A faith community keeps my ego in check.
Because it’s easier to be ‘spiritual’ for yourself, at least for a time. But the best way to truly become how God wants you to be is to be around other people.
A biblical example of spiritual growth.
Jesus found the balance perfectly. He would sometimes retreat and pray to hear God but then move back to the world, sharing God’s very presence. Including setting a perfect example for his disciples to be a community of believers.
The important thing is that Jesus emphasized how we should live among others.
Spirituality can never be just a solitary pursuit. How can we fulfil the two great commandments to love God and love others if we’re never around other people? Especially people whom we differ and struggle with.
Church done well is counter-cultural to the norms of our society, where individualism and desires of ‘the self’ come first.
I love this passage where Paul writes to the church in Corinth about sharing resources with other believers in need. It’s just as instructive for churches today:
‘Our desire is not that others may be relieved while you are hard-pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time, your plenty will supply what they need so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. The goal is equality,’ 2 Corinthians 8:13-14.
Practising shared values and caring for others is what improves society and the world. We become more Christ-like in doing it.
Politicians talk a lot about it, good churches actually do it.
Going to church will benefit and grow your faith life.
We shouldn’t forget that church helps us to grow and mature in our faith.
If you’ve just found faith, committing to a church is the next most important thing.
My own view is that we should make discipling central to our role in the church. We help each other to grow and be positively challenged in a loving and mutually supportive place.
If our attendance at church is sporadic and irregular, it’s almost a given that our own faith life outside of it will be the same. Some I know may disagree, but this illustration may help:
If we put a lump of coal in a coal heap inside a fire, that one piece will grow hotter and benefit from the heat and energy of the rest of the coal. Remove that piece from the fire and it will eventually grow cold.
That’s the real danger of separating ourselves from a church. Our faith grows cold and we cease to grow. It’s a risk that needn’t be taken.
The benefit of a church is that it’s there for you when life gets tough.
What do church and Olympic rowing have in common?
Quite a bit actually.
Recent studies are pointing to something very interesting about high endurance team sports and the individual’s ability to endure more pain. It appears that there is a social placebo at play, allowing individuals within the team to endure more pain and perform stronger.
It’s all done to the experience of shared trial toward a single all-important goal. In the case of rowing teams, it’s the glory of winning a gold medal.
Well, a church that can carry and share in people’s burden helps to reduce the pain felt in an individual. They may be grieving, sick or suffering in some way.
We all know the phrase ‘a problem shared is a problem halved.’ When people support, pray and look after an individual’s well-being, it’s more likely they’ll experience a stronger recovery.
The Bible says it best;
‘Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ.’ Galatians 6:2.
‘Come to me all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.’ Matthew 11:28.
Carrying each other’s burdens as Christ carries ours has such an amazing impact.
A church that lives this out will surely be a blessing to any who worship there. The benefits are clear.
A church benefits us by bringing people from all walks of life.
Here’s the thing.
Church brings people from so many different backgrounds, it can be challenging at times.
You may well find some people frustrating and even annoying. Perhaps a lot. While with some people you’ll form long and lasting friendships, (lovely).
Other folks will be solid, consistent and always showing up. They’re the faithful and dependable ones. Every church has them and needs them because they really are the church’s pillars.
Other people will have needs, sometimes serious ones. That’s why the church is there. But the whole community needs to manage and hold that too.
The incredible body of Christ and our part in it.
There’s no place like it. As we’re all made to be children of God, that makes all of us at church a part of God’s family.
In fact, it goes deeper than that. We’re told that we’re the body of Christ.
That is a profound and mysterious thing but also wondrous. God somehow brings together all these parts, provides it with different gifts and empowers it through his Spirit.
When we share in the Lord’s supper, the church is also brought together as a body, united with Christ. That’s why it’s so amazing and mysterious.
When all of these things come together, the church provides us with a place, a home, a community, a safe space. It should be a blessing that we’re really thankful for. C.S Lewis puts it like this;
‘For the Church is not a human society of people united by their natural affinities but the Body of Christ, in which all members, however different, (and he rejoices in their differences and by no means wishes to iron them out) must share the common life, complementing and helping one another precisely by their differences.’
I couldn’t put it better myself.
God loves His church. It’s here for our life.
All these reasons for going to church do assume a healthy and functioning Christian community.
God has a standard for what church should be like and it can be all too easy for churches to get off track. They can be more concerned about what are often trivial matters (and some very serious).
But we also need to be reminded that there is no such thing as a perfect church. If there was, as the saying goes, ‘I’d only spoil it’.
All things considered, the church is a miracle. It is counter-cultural and it is worship and fellowship in its truest sense.
A church brings people together who would never otherwise sit next to each other.
And when it has its heart beyond its own walls and roof, it does amazing things for those who’d otherwise never experience it.
It seeks to demonstrate and live out the love of God in our fallible humanity.
It’s why I get up on a Sunday morning.
And yes, it just so happens to be beneficial for my body, soul and life.
Jeremy – Not Only Sundays (About Us).
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