Thursday, November 11, 2010

Why Do You Go To Church?

Christian Century book review editor Richard Kaufmann wonders why people bother to go to church:

When I sit in church on Sunday mornings, I sometimes look around at the other congregants and ask myself, "Why are these people here? Why did they choose to come to church?" Some people prefer staying at home to leisurely read the Sunday paper, or go out for a relaxed Sunday brunch. Why have these people given up their precious spare time to be here?

Not only is church attendance going down, but those who do go to church do so less frequently. As Lovett Weems points out in a recent Century article, the definition of a regular attendee has changed from someone who is there almost every Sunday to one who attends perhaps only two Sundays out of a month. And yet 38 percent of Americans report being an active member of a church or other religious organization. Many keep coming back to church for some reason.
Kauffman then answers his own question:

I can't speak for others, but here is why I go to church. I go first of all to meet God, to be in God's presence. I go also to make connection with other people who share many of my foundational convictions and commitments. I go to find meaning in life, to make sense of my life and to search for guidance on how I should live out my life.

In other words, I go to church to be part of something bigger than myself, to join my storyline with one that started long before I made my appearance in this life and will continue beyond my earthly existence.

This has led me to wonder why I go to church.  Of course, I can answer, "I'm one of the pastors," but that doesn't really work.  The reason I go to church is because this is the place that I am reminded of God's Spirit which moves throughout all of creation.  As much as people say they can worship in a forest or bowling alley, it is at a church surrounded by that odd group of people who come and gather that I am reminded of God's wider action in the world.  It is through these fellow folks on a journey that I know that God is afoot in creation.

Every Sunday I head down to the Sunday School room where the little kids come to learn about the Bible.  It is through the kids that I am reminded of what it means to be a servant of God.  The elderly gentleman in his 90s reminds me that we are never done learning about God and finding ways to love God.  The musicians are able to connect me with the Holy One in ways that words sometimes fail to do.

That's why I go to church.  How about you?

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