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Opinion: Why Do I Still Go To Church? It’s A Good Question.

By Amy Julia Becker
go to church still
Pastor Robin Bartlett, far right, conducts a new-member ceremony at First Church in Sterling, Mass. (Photo by Matt Lucarelli, courtesy of First Church)

Every fall, our family returns to church. We don’t intentionally walk away during the summer months, but between vacations and camp drop-offs and lazy mornings and opportunities to see family and friends, we tend to tie our church attendance to the school calendar.

Come September, we have to remind ourselves why it’s worth it to nudge our teenagers out of bed on a day when they could sleep in. Why get dressed and head out the door to listen to a choir and hear some prayers and sit through a sermon when we could be hiking in the woods?

We keep going to church for all sorts of reasons. There’s the community. We love the intergenerational relationships that don’t come anywhere else. Eating chicken salad and grapes around plastic tables in the basement gives me a sense of connection to all sorts of people I wouldn’t know otherwise. I want our congregation to pray for us when we are in crisis. I want to have a reason to serve at our local soup kitchen. I look forward to seeing whatever child dons the star costume in the annual Christmas pageant.

There’s also the spirituality. I want our kids to be immersed in a tradition that goes back thousands of years. I want to step away from the to-do list of my life and enter a literal sanctuary at least one time each week. I want access to the things that psychologists say bring healing to our bodies, minds and souls — singing together, caring for one another, receiving forgiveness.

And yet. 

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church still organ
(Photo by David Mark/Pixabay/Creative Commons)

Our kids have birthday parties and soccer games on Sundays. And I would love to get some sleep and take a nice long run or read the paper or drink a cup of tea without any rush. I understand why people walk away when they encounter abuse or hypocrisy within the church. I resonate with Perry Bacon’s recent essay where he writes about his discomfort with the social conservatism he found in some churches. I understand why people would wonder if there is a place for their doubt and disbelief amidst creeds and prayers and praise songs. I understand why we might substitute church with community service and support for social justice.

Sometimes church is boring. Sometimes it feels superficial. Sometimes it seems irrelevant. But every September, when we walk back in those doors, I remember why we are there.

I don’t return because it makes me a better person. I don’t return because I always believe. I return to church every September because church reminds us of who we are in relation to Jesus.

Christianity rests upon God coming to us in the person of Jesus, to let us know that we are loved and cared for and healed and saved and invited to participate in all the goodness and beauty and grace and joy and love and peace of who God is. Forever. In and through the life and death and resurrection of Jesus. 

Theoretically, that connection to Jesus could happen in the comfort of my own home or with access to a sermon podcast or a livestreamed service. Except Jesus said we find him where two or three of us are gathered together (Mt. 18:20). He said he is present in and among the people I am least likely to encounter in my everyday life (Mt. 25:34-36), and I often encounter those people at church.

At church, I am both taught about Jesus and given an opportunity to live as he lived: to slow down and listen to people who are oppressed; to upend social structures; to reject power and position; to move toward the ones in need without judgment; even, sometimes, to love my enemies.

Pastor Les Robinson interacts with members of the congregation at The Sanctuary Church, Sunday, May 14, 2023, in Santa Clarita, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

The intergenerational community and spirituality I find at church is intimately connected to an encounter with Jesus himself. I encounter Jesus in the woman with an intellectual disability who is reading Ezekiel and teaches me about glory. I glimpse the risen Christ in the couple who have been fighting lately and who take the bread and the wine with shoulders slumped in grief. I remember the one who rules this upside-down kingdom of God when a child interrupts the sermon from the back pew and when an elderly widow has a panic attack and needs us to gather around her to pray. The Apostle Paul wrote that Christians are the Body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:27), in which each individual member plays a crucial and connected part. We encounter Jesus more fully when we gather together.

It is well-documented that thousands upon thousands of Americans are leaving church. I suspect the reason has to do with some combination of busyness and disbelief and hypocrisy and politics. But I also wonder whether those of us who are entrusted with the life of Jesus have forgotten or neglected to carry him with us when we walk out the doors of the sanctuary. Alan Kreider writes about what he calls the “Patient Ferment of the Early Church.” He explains that the early Christians didn’t try to tell people about their beliefs. But they did live those beliefs through hospitality, generosity, miraculous healings and sacrificial love. Those early Christians went to church because of Jesus. And then they lived out the life of Jesus in and among their neighbors. Their patient love changed the world.

At the end of the day, I go to church because it is only there that I publicly remember, reenact and celebrate the life and death and resurrection of Jesus, the one who showed us what it is like for God to be alive. For God to be one of us. Every Sunday morning, I am invited yet again into the life that is really life. And then I am sent back out in love as one small but significant member of the Body of Christ.

This article, originally published by Religion News Service, does not necessarily reflect the views of The Roys Report. 

Amy Julia Becker is the author of four books including her most recent, “To Be Made Well: An Invitation to Wholeness, Healing, and Hope.” She hosts the “Love Is Stronger than Fear” podcast. 



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8 Respuestas

  1. Although it is in answer to a different question (What does God require in the Fourth Commandment?), I find the Heidelberg Catechism’s summary of Scripture’s teaching clear, short, and encouraging to this question of “Why do I still go to church?”:

    In the first place, God wills that the ministry of the Gospel and schools be maintained,[1] and that I, especially on the day of rest, diligently attend church,[2] to learn the Word of God,[3] to use the Holy Sacraments,[4] to call publicly upon the Lord,[5] and to give Christian alms.[6] In the second place, that all the days of my life I rest from my evil works, allow the Lord to work in me by His Spirit, and thus begin in this life the everlasting Sabbath.[7]

    [1] Titus 1:5. 1 Tim 3:14,15. 1 Tim 4:13,14. 1 Tim 5:17. 1 Cor 9:11,13,14. [2] 2 Tim 2:2. 2 Tim 2:15. Ps 40:10,11. Ps 68:26. Acts 2:42,46. [3] 1 Cor 14:19, 29, 31. [4] 1 Cor 11:33. [5] 1 Tim 2:1, 2. 1 Tim 2:8-10. 1 Cor 14:16. [6] 1 Cor 16:2. 7 Isa 66:23. * Gal 6:6. * Acts 20:7. * Heb 4:9,10.

    We are but practicing for that blessed life we await in resurrection life. Even so, come Lord Jesus, come quickly!

  2. Almost 2 years ago I walked out of church and did not return after a lifetime of going to church. I am so glad I could free myself from the world of groupthink, brain-washing, ego-driven celebrity pastors, and watching myself and others act. I believe churches are a mix of cult and profit-making corporations. Recovery meetings, coffee with addicts, feeding the homeless, visiting friends in the hospital, hiking, and play board games and dinner with friends is all the church we need. We are healing from so much church trauma these days. I find more vulnerability and authenticity on the outside.

    1. I am sorry to hear this David. On Tuesday mornings and Saturday mornings I spend time with two distinctly different groups of authentic and transparent men who have a relationship with Jesus Christ or are exploring faith.

      None of those men, save one, worship in the same building or same type of church I worship in. Yet, each of those mornings and the times we share between are every bit the Church.

      The body of Christ is the most incredible entity in the universe.

      Hope you have a wonderful day and week.

      As an aside, what do you mean by “profit making corporations”?

  3. Generally speaking, most all evangelical churches have adopted that terrible music style. They make you stand for twenty minutes as a group of poorly dressed young folk with drums and guitars moan some words in one or two notes, over and over. Then the usual sermon: who Jesus is, what he did for us, what we need to do. But hundreds of difficult bible chapters are ignored, issues that need to be addressed or they become stumbling blocks for weak christians. What’s more, don’t come to the staff with difficult questions about the bible, the culture, and other unpleasant items. But sports talk or the newest Hollywood action movie? Then watch the men folk really get excited.

    1. I’ve been spending the past couple months attending various churches – liturgical, evangelical, anabaptist, etc. In the liturgical churches there is a fairly established order of service. That seems all but stripped away in the evangelical churches which appears to be nothing more than a poorly performed rock concert followed by a mediocre Ted Talk. I could get a much better quality production of both on my radio or TV.

      This has led to some questions. Is an evangelical service actually a church service or is it a weekly revival style event in a dedicated building? Is God really pleased or honored by my attendance at said concert/Ted Talk? In several instances, the sermon/lecture would have better served the attendees if it had been presented in an interactive discussion style rather than a lecture style. Do we really need all these dedicated buildings and all these paid, dedicated preachers to fulfill this function in society? Does the Sunday morning performance enhance or detract from this community of individuals? There is nothing in the New Testament that describes anything close to what we consider a church service. What is the history behind all of this and does it still serve a purpose? Is there another, perhaps better, way to honor God?

  4. amy,
    You do become a better person by going to church. You are obeying God. You are showing He is worthy of your time, attention and worship. You are hopefully serving and being served, praying for and being prayed for, sharpening and being sharpened, confessing to and being confessed to. Giving and being given to. Setting a pattern of these disciplines for your children.
    All these things make you more like Christ, who is The Better Persom.

    1. Well said – short, succinct, and clear. I would just add that It’s not about becoming a better person although that is certainly a byproduct of going to church. It’s about giving God and Jesus the worship, obedience, and glory that he is deserves from us.

  5. Lovely Article. Thanks to Ms. Becker for a nuanced discussion of the issue. I appreciate the open eyes she brings to the foibles of church while not slipping into despair.

    For more in this vein, I found the first episode of the Holy Post Series “Why I am still a Christian” to be insightful and am looking forward to more installments.

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