I thank my friend, Lois, for making me stop and think about this question.
In order to answer this question with the blog’s intent of including science with faith, I will delve into the sociological/scientific realm first, then my own inclinations.
Human beings are social creatures just as many animals are social creatures. The idea of a herd or tribe resonates deeply within us—to our DNA. When we come together as a group, we are protected as individuals within that group. The group benefits from the individual and the individual benefits from the group.
That same idea resonates with the idea of attending church.
Many people often say they can meet God in the mountains when they hike, so why do they need to go to a building to pray? There is no doubt that individual prayer and meditation are a part of developing a relationship with God. (The key is that you WANT a relationship with God and that’s a whole ‘nother topic) However, as social beings, we cannot completely fulfill that desire without community.
Take for example that friend you call when you are feeling down. You are looking for validation, for healing, and for connection.
Everyone desires to be healed in spirit.
That is the first level of community. But once we reach that healing--as social beings--we continue to grow. We begin to understand gratitude; gratitude for that friend who helped us, for the environment around us, for things outside of us.
This is where church is beneficial as well. Church offers an opportunity to go beyond ourselves, and offer that gratefulness with the voices of others.
In my past posts, I investigated the concept of conversing with nature, in particular water. Remember the rice experiment? What happened to the rice that was left alone? It deteriorated more than the rice that was told derided things. That same concept applies to human beings as well.
The above example makes the social implications of attending church are even more convincing. Look at the Occupy movement. Would they be as strong if they went individually or do they hold more power when their voices come together as one body with one purpose? (What difference is there in coming together to believe in Christ versus coming together to believe in a political issue?) This is the next level of community.
These arguments are based on the study of social theory. That gives you a peek into the science end of attending church.
But as social beings, there is so much more to us, isn’t there? So here are my reasons for attending church, what I get out of it, and why it is important to me.
1. I desire spiritual healing. I recognize that I cannot do this alone and that I need God.
2. I never tire of hearing how much God loves me through His Word.
3. I desire to show my gratitude for all the blessings I’ve received; from that Starbucks I sip, to my warm shoes, I am grateful for the material items God has given me. (Yes, I may have earned them by monetary resources, but without my brain to provide the opportunity to have the job to earn them, I’d be without!)
4. I love to join my voice with others in proclaiming that gratitude. (For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. Matt 18:20 KJV)
5. I desire to be a part of something that is completely outside of me. Who doesn’t tire of always thinking of themselves? There is something innately inside of us that wants to do something for someone else and be a part of something bigger than them as individuals.
6. I desire to be in relationship with God and know that I am NOT at church to be entertained. If I need to be entertained than I should go to a movie!
7. I enjoy the personal challenging ideas that come from attending church.
8. I desire to give myself over to God and trust that He knows what’s better for me than I know myself.
9. I desire to give back to God out of the love I have received from Him. This requires sacrifice.
Sacrifice is defined as a surrender of something of value as a means of gaining something more desirable. This is how I define sacrifice with respect to attending church:
Many of my friends are so excited this time of year awaiting the arrival of their children home for the holidays. They long for their presence. It is no different with our God. He is our Father, He created us, and He desires to be with us. It is a sacrifice to pick myself up physically and go to church. It requires effort. But I do it just as I go home for Christmas—out of respect. Just as mother rejoices with the return of her children, so does the Lord rejoice when I return home to Him.
There is no doubt that we are taught that “God is everywhere,” but how often do we REALLY meet Him in that everywhere? Instead we are distracted by our everyday lives, the duties within those lives and the constant interruptions of media, computers, music and television. Church offers an opportunity to purposely remove ourselves from those distractions and give our attention to the Father that desires us. Again, it requires sacrifice.
The following quote has been attributed to everyone from Mark Twain to Woody Allen, that doesn't detract from its meaning.
“Half of life is just showing up.”
Why not apply that to church as well?