Did you know that frequent church attendance dramatically increases your life-expectancy? In fact, epidemiologists (doctors who study epidemics) have routinely noticed a strikingly and significant health difference for those who devoutly participate in God-centered social groups.
At first, researchers simply reasoned that, church-goers tend to have a higher number of supportive relationships – which has a dramatic affect on life-expectancy. For example, the presence of close supportive friends can actually double your odds of surviving cancer, stroke, and heart-disease. Scientific research now shows we can significantly predict happiness, stress, memory loss , weight, life-expectancy, and odds of quitting smoking exclusively based on your quantity and quality of friends!
So, like I mentioned in chapter 3 of my book, Pharisectomy, if your church values fellowship, you’re going to experience a good number of benefits compared to churches full of nameless spectators.
Initially, I thought that this research automatically meant that “small churches” had an advantage in providing healthy fellowship; yet, one study showed, our odds of confessing sins and hanging out with Christians outside of services actually increases in churches with over 1000 members. Of course, we shouldn’t assume that larger churches actually create better fellowship. Rather, researchers suspect that larger churches are simply more aware of the fact that they cannot take fellowship for granted; thus, they’re more intentional about creating it. (And deep down, we all know that fellowship is a value that operates independently of church size – much like “good parenting” operates independently of house design : )
But supportive friendships have a profound affect on health. Thus, researchers wondered if Christians live longer simply because churches tend to provide better social support for senior citizen communities. Yet, researchers Shahabi and Thoresen’s famous study on faith and life-expectancy revealed that faith is an indispensible element. (I.e., Even if atheists had a good number of supportive friendships, they still don’t live nearly as long nor claim to feel as happy as those who have faith). Ironically, numerous studies have found that atheists actually have the shortest life-expectancy of all major world-views.
When I read all of this, I couldn’t help but to think of Proverbs 10:27, which says: “The fear of the Lord adds length to life, but the years of the wicked are cut short.” Keep in mind, “fear of the Lord” doesn’t mean, “live with chronic anxiety that God will strike you down.” Contrary to the fire and brimstone view of God you may have been raised in, the Bible says that God is “abounding in love to all who call on him.”
Keep in mind, it’s not just the church that will benefit from your participation. It’s your family. Studies also show that church going kids have higher grades, higher education levels, lower drop-out rates, suicide rates, and lower odds of drug addiction. So, when you pick your church, I realize that it can take time to find one that fits your entire family. But, don’t give up! The benefits can literally extend your life.
So, allow me to get personal for a second: Do you truly have a church you can plug into? “Let us not give up meeting with one another as some are in the habit of doing” Heb. 10:24-25 reminds us. And remember, it’s not just your happiness that’s at stake. It’s literally the length of your entire life! What’s that worth?