In my book Pharisectomy, I put a lot of random research about the church. People were riveted by my statements on how church attendance affects life expectancy; but, that was just the tip of the ice-berg. So, if you needed more motivation to search for that awesome church in your region, here’s five reasons: 5 Statistical benefits for those who attend church.
1. Significantly Lower Risk of Depression: Researchers at the University of Saskatchewan found that the incidence of clinical depression was 22% lower among those who attended religious services at least once a month compared with those who never attend. At first they suspected this was merely a result of socially supportive relationships. However, their research showed that there are indeed protective factors that are exclusive to church services.
2. Better Time & Life Management – People who attend church have better ability to manage time and achieve their goals (Freeman 1985). Perhaps its because we follow a God who calls us to “redeem the time” (Eph 5). Also, church attendance has a direct effect on reducing deviant behavior, such as drug use, violence, and delinquency among at risk youth (Fagan 2006).
3. Better grades / higher education prospects – Church attendance is correlated with higher math, reading scores and greater educational aspirations (Regnerus 2000; Regnerus 2001). Church attenders are more likely to complete homework and degree programs (Muller and Ellison 2001).
4. Significantly Lower Risk of Death / Longer life expectancy: Don’t get me wrong: The death rate for Christians right now is 100%. But apparently, some people live longer. “Those who go to church more than once a week enjoy even better health than those who attend only once a week. Overall, the reduction in mortality attributable to churchgoing is twenty-five percent – a huge amount in epidemiological studies.” Once again, researchers thought that, perhaps this was simply due to having strong supportive relationships. But, non-church-centered groups didn’t experience the same effect. Nor did people of worldviews other than Judeo-Christian. (One example: L.H. Powell, L.Shahabit, and C.E. Thoresen, “Religion and spirituality: Linkages to physical health,” American Psychologist 58 (2003): 36-52… as quoted in Lonliness, pg.261)
5. Better sex lives: “A recent University of Chicago study known as ‘the most comprehensive and methodically sound sex survey ever conducted’ found dramatically higher rates of “the Big O” in women who attend church services “religiously.” This was echoed by a 1940’s Stanford University Study and a 1970’s Red Book Magazine Survey all found higher levels of sexual satisfaction “among women who attend religious services religiously.” (Cited from article “Revenge of the Church Lady” USA Today.com.) Heck! Even if I didn’t believe in God, there are plenty of reasons to get your butt in church!
So now that you’re motivated, how do you find a good church? Here’s a few criteria to keep in mind: The top two predictors of spiritual growth are: (1). How many intimate Christian friends do you have at any given moment; & (2). Do you have ownership in a weekly ministry that charges you up? According to a Group/Gallup study done back in 2004, people who attend churches without deep friendships and ministry opportunities tended to express much higher dissatisfaction in both their church and their relationship with God. So if you’re going to a church that can’t provide this for your whole family, you definitely might want to rethink your criteria — lest your whole family quits going over the next decade — which is a problem that’s more common than you’d expect.
Sure, it’s also nice to have a church you can invite your unsaved friends to. Many churches might as well be seminaries, museums or “spook-fests” for long-term Christians. In the end, a good church will constantly experience conversions and good fruit. No matter how harsh the spiritual landscape, everywhere I go, I always find churches that are thriving. They may not have as many cool songs or [fill-in-the-blank]. But when a church has a Spirit of Life, you’ll feel it.
On the other hand, people can also get so too consumeristic about church… if it’s not perfectly “calvinist / postmodern / missional / modern / premillenial / [fill-in-the-blank]” then they roll their eyes like it’s not worth committing to. But, at some point, we have to put on our big-boy pants and be the church… we need to fall in love with the bride of Christ, warts and all. Even at Substance, some of our young people fall in love with the big-city hipster vibe. People love the fact that we constantly preach through short films and innovative music. But, to be truthful, the danger here is that some people think they “need” these things to really enjoy the community of God. But in the end, you need friends who will love/pray/cry/ and confront you on your issues. And you need a weekly ministry in a LOCAL CHURCH that grounds you to the Bible.
If you’re looking for WHY, WHEN or HOW to leave a Church, I blogged about it last year. Or, if you’re a Christian and you’re struggling with church politics and how to survive all the silly things that Christians do, again, try my book Pharisectomy. Every day, I get tweets from all over the world – people who are laughing their way back in love with the Bride of Christ. Besides, it just hit #1 on Amazon a month or two ago — so it can’t be THAT bad? right?
But let me close with this: Almost every week at Substance we hear new stories of radical conversions. A visitor recently came to one of our campuses. As they were walking through the foyer, they were blown away by all the people who were laughing, hugging, having fun. They finally said: “Does your church throw a party in the foyer every week?” A bit confused, our member said: “What do you mean? There’s no party… this is just normal church.”
I love the fact that my kids are growing up in a place where it’s normal to see drug-dealers saved… where it’s normal to play electronica in worship… where it’s normal for church to feel more like a family reunion than a ritual. So lets make a great church NORMAL… and perhaps church attendance will be a natural thing.