15 Reasons We’re Still Going to Church

On most Saturday nights, the question comes up: “Are we going tomorrow?

My husband Tim looks over at me, “Same as always.”

Mostly, we don’t want to go. The sermons are too hierarchical and often lack substance and brevity. There are too many sports analogies (yawn) and too few opportunities for real engagement with others.

And it’s not just THIS church or THIS denomination. Believe me, we’ve tried a wide variety of churches. The model has simply worn us out.

But – we go anyway.

Every Sunday, we pack our three little girls into the car for the drive to our local church.

Here’s why:

1. We believe in the power of community. Without it, we are lone sailors in turbulent waters. There is a reason that the author of Hebrews instructs us to, “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another (10:25)”

2. We believe in the power of prayer. Not just the daily ones that we say on jogs around the neighborhood, at the dinner table, and with tiny heads bowed at bedtime. There is also power in the prayers we speak TOGETHER…side-by-side with strangers and friends.

3. We don’t want to dissuade other Christ followers from the faith. It is abundantly clear that our actions speak louder than our words. We lead by example, and are aware that if we back away, others will likely follow.

4. If we are going to lead people away from the local church in its current state, we want to be able to lead them somewhere else instead. It’s imprudent to stop going to “church” in its current model without having a secondary plan. A home church or a Bible study or visiting prisoners or…something.

5. We are very aware of the danger of “doing nothing.” Over the past decade, we have watched many of our friends drift from corporate gatherings – not so much because they are wounded, but because they are bored or skeptical. While we often agree with their assessments of the failings of the church, we also notice that most of these people simply “do nothing.” They aren’t feeding the poor, memorizing the Bible, bravely and humbly sharing Jesus with coworkers. Sunday morning services have been replaced with yard work and TV.

6. We want to extend grace to an imperfect system. The local church is filled with people who have broken pasts and broken presents. Indeed, these human institutions are not immune from pride and sin. Nor are we.

7. We want to be able to give a strong answer to our children. Inevitably, if we don’t go, they will ask, “Why doesn’t our family go to church?” Simply to say that we don’t feel that the model is efficient enough is a weak response.

8. We know that worship is a freedom to cherish. In many places around the world, people fight for the right to gather. They sacrifice their very lives for the opportunity to hold a Bible in their hands, to speak the name of Christ.

9. We are terrified of the prospect of churches closing down and what that would mean for our country. Even with all of its downfalls, the church – as a whole – is still committed to caring for the poor, the lonely, and the destitute. Economist Arthur Brooks has found that the 1/3 of Americans who attend worship services weekly are “inarguably more charitable in every measurable way” than the 2/3 who do not attend.

10. We acknowledge our own propensity toward prideful individuality. C.S. Lewis wrote in 1947, “However often we think we have broken the rebellious self, we shall find it alive.” We simply can’t live out Christianity in solitude.

11. We have relationships that keep us coming again. Our current church is full of good people doing important things. People who love God and want to love others.

12. Sermons remind us to seek God’s Word. Although we don’t rely on Sundays for our own ongoing growth, listening to sermons does spark conversation and debate and further study.

13. Our kids look forward to Sundays. Our 3-year-old asks on most mornings, “Is it church day?” She and her 5-year-old sister genuinely love their kids classes.

14. Our kids are surrounded by (mostly) positive influences. Obviously, there are exceptions…but the local church does provide great potential for our little ones to find grounded friends and strong role models. Last night, I eavesdropped as the girls played “baptism.” My 5-year-old stood, with a pretend microphone in hand, and said, “I’m getting baptized today because I believe in Jesus and I want to follow him.” Awesome.

15. The local church remains a pivotal force for good and change. Regardless of your views on church, it is impossible not to acknowledge the church’s part in philanthropic and humanitarian efforts worldwide. In times of trouble, the church often steps up to give food, relief, counseling, and shelter. Of course, they also seek to give the most important thing: the message and the love of Jesus Christ. We want to be a part of that.

I’m not sure we’ll always go to Sunday services. Perhaps there is another model, a better way. But perhaps not. Maybe we’re called to be right here, right now.

I have this quote on one of my Pinterest boards: “Some people look for a beautiful place. Others make a place beautiful.” I’m pretty sure that applies to church too.

WHAT ABOUT YOU? Do you attend a local church gathering? Why or why not?

* This post was inspired by Rachel Held Evans’ 15 Reasons I Left Church post.

  • http://www.inevergrewup.net vanessa

    Yes because I believe it shows respect to God. But yes sometimes the “people” who run/help with God’s church….sigh….no one is perfect :) I do also love how everyone grows/becomes better together…as teachers, commenters, organizers, etc.

  • Brooke

    Awe I feel so normal now….

  • http://www.sarahbessey.com Sarah Bessey

    Great post, Steph. I love when you write like this, you’re always so graceful in your honesty.

    • Stephanie

      Thank you for commenting, Sarah Bessey. Your complimentary words made my heart sing.

  • http://norseandjes.blogspot.com Jesica

    This is excellent. Hoping a couple of friends will read this, because although church isn’t what it ought to be, it is usually still a good thing.

  • Mishka B

    I did not know there were others out there who felt the same way we do; this was very encouraging. I love the community and I love to worship. There have been a few times in our lives where there was no church to attend and those were lonely times. I have yet to find a perfect church, but I have learned that there is always something to give or something to get by going.

  • Mary

    Oh my goodness. This is exactly how I feel. Most Sundays I don’t want to go to church, but staying home just feels wrong, so we go. You perfectly explained why we are doing the right thing. I hadn’t thought to figure out exactly why we still go and why we should continue to do so. I need to make my own list.

    Perfect. Love this post! Thank you.

  • http://www.edventureproject.com Jennifer Miller

    Steph… great post. We did that for years, kept going… and then… we got bitten so badly that we’ve never gone back, not just to that church, but to any church. Probably never will. We serve our heads off, reach out everywhere we go, fill our house with people who are sad or hurting or just traveling through and wondering at every chance we get. Community exists outside the walls we’ve found, as well… you have to create it. It’s a long story… a deep discussion. Perhaps one day our paths will cross and we can share over tea cups. Thanks for the post. It was a good one. :)

    • Stephanie

      Both Tim & I love discussions like that. Hope we have the chance to sit down over tea in real life someday…preferably sooner rather than later. ;)

  • http://www.dellamarie.blogspot.com Della

    I love this list. When you said, “we simply can’t live out Christianity in solitude” it struck me. It is such a basic principle, but it is so very true. Christianity is not only having a love for our Savior, but also seeking to serve others and allowing others to serve you…

    Though I have a testimony of Christ, I have not always enjoyed attending church. However, since moving far far away from family and friends, I have grown to depend on the community aspect of my church. The wonderful people in our congregation showed up to help us settle in, and have shown an interest in our personal success ever since. They are rooting for us. In trying to get to know them and looking for ways to reciprocate their service, we have grown to love them and enjoy seeing them often. This strong sense of community has really strengthened me and given me courage and hope.

    Simply put, I go because I love the Lord, I know the truthfulness of the gospel, and because I need something wonderful to be a part of at this time in my life. I hope that my great experience now will encourage me to continue to attend if I ever start to feel apathy in the future.

    What a fantastic and thought provoking post! Thanks for sharing this list with us. I thought it was very well thought out and presented.

  • http://myevidentfaith.com Lori

    Good points! One of the things we forget is that we are all only human: fallible, sinful, mistake-makers. A lot of the problem is that some people judge and are blabbermouths, some people judge and leave, and other people think that “sin” isn’t real and we are all naturally good. When we are all just people (too simple, lol). You are sharing something really important here!

  • http://www.lindseyvanniekerk.blogspot.com Lindsey van Niekerk

    This is so good, Steph. We have being going through our own “Sunday church” turmoil the past couple of years. We are still trying to “figure it out” but I agree with so much of this post and the reasons why to BE the change and not just complain about it. Thank you for your gentle yet honest words here.

  • http://www.adamshome.blogspot.com erin a.

    I so agree with this list. Yes, yes, yes on #6. That one is so strong in my mind & heart. Let’s not just ask the church for more grace. Let’s give the church more of that grace.
    Thank you for #8 & #9. You are so right on. Those would not have come to my mind. But they are so critical. I love your grateful spirit!
    We have found many, many blessings within the church body that we have been a part of for the last 1 1/2 years. May God bless you & your church community!

  • http://www.crunchybeachmama.com Courtney

    I urge you to keep trying to find a church that fits you. We switched churches (and denomination switch for me!) a couple of years ago. I was once like you and now I LOVE going to church and my faith has grown so much from it.

    Thanks for sharing! I think the world would be a better place if people ran towards God instead of running away and hopefully you’ve opened some minds. :)

  • http://www.crunchyconservativemommy.blogspot.com Crunchy Con Mommy

    We go every single week unless we have a serious reason not to (i.e. neither of us went the Sunday morning I was in labor, and my husband goes alone if I’m home taking care of a sick baby). Many of the reasons you mention are compelling for us as well, but the most important reason we go is because we believe God asked it of his believers when he gave Moses the 10 Commandments, and that those commandments are still his word today. I know some people interpret “keeping the Sabbath holy” different than others, but to me it seems pretty clear that the intent is for us to spend our Sabbath day in worship. And we sure try to do what God asks of us in regards to the other commandments, even though we fail sometimes of course, so it seems strange to decide that that commandment doesn’t count like the others do, you know?

    Interestingly, I used to be a protestant, and after feeling unsatisfied with my church, attended services at just about every protestant/non-denominational type of church around. I found the same problems you’ve found, and I eventually found my home in the Catholic Church. If you’re feeling unfulfilled at your current church, I’d definitely encourage reading something not about the Catholic Church, but actually from the Catholic Church. I found out that 99% of what I had heard about the Catholic Church from fellow Protestants was totally false, which is so sad. Anyway, the truth of what the Catholic church actually stands for and believes actually made perfect sense for me and has totally helped me grow in my relationship with Christ! (Just thought I’d throw that out there in case you are church shopping and have heard some of the negative things I’d heard but don’t know yet which ones are false!)

    • Rena

      While I am not Catholic, I can certainly relate to you. We, too, believe God has commanded us to worship on the Sabbath Day. But, we go each Sunday, not just because of the commandment, but rather because we enjoy it. We enjoy the closeness to the Savior; we enjoy the community connections; we enjoy the opportunity to participate in our classes; we enjoy watching our children learn new songs and stories about Jesus; etc.

      Further, I feel your pain about the 99% of what you hear about your church being false. There is so much anti-(insert your religion here), that we almost never read about a faith or religion unless it is actually published or endorsed by THAT specific religion itself. I second your counsel to learn of other churches not by what other say about them, but by what their own members say. It is the only fair way to assess. Thanks for your post!

  • http://www.discoverystreet.blogspot.com ruthy

    oohhh…this is good…I popped over to Rachel’s blog to read her post too. I have to say, Andy and I originally wanted to start a home church for a lot of the same reason’s rachel did…it is currently a small group (some call it church), but we now attend a large corporate church and are on the ministry team there as well. I’m not sure what the solution is to our frustrations with church and our love/need for it. But until I figure it out, I do feel like being part of a community with accountability is so very, very important.

  • Kara

    “We simply can’t live out Christianity in solitude.” Yes! So true!

    I am finding it interesting where I find communities these days though. The church we’d attended for the first 8 years of living in Phoenix became a place we couldn’t stay a year ago (while I was the head elder, and one of our best friends was the senior pastor, and he left/was forced out on terrible terms I tried to mitigate but . . . everyone got hurt. And the church closed for good this past March.) In our frustration with church “shopping,” we often discussed reasons to just quit looking. But a lot of the reasons you listed kept pulling us back again. We’ve been attending the same church for awhile now, and are slowly getting more involved (mostly just because I’m USED to that when I go to church!), but I still feel hesitation. I don’t think my soul has found it’s place to call home yet, but is it because there’s a model I still need to find? Or because I need to help make a place beautiful, as you say? But a lot of my spiritual growth in the past year has come from faith bloggers, particularly Rachel Held Evans and Scot McKnight. McKnight especially has caused my reading list to triple! When Sunday morning sermons are lackluster, a few hours of “The Blue Parakeet” or “King Jesus Gospel” can definitely improve the afternoon.

    Did you read Rachel’s follow up post, “15 Reasons I Returned to Church?” It really resonated with me, I think even more than the first post, maybe because I’ve never left regular church attendance for any significant amount of time. It’s worth the read, too- http://rachelheldevans.com/15-reasons-i-returned-church

  • http://crazydogslife.blogspot.com Jenn

    Yes we do – and I love this post.

    After a particularly horrific church experience as a single young adult where I was used as a scapegoat by the leadership to cover the wrongs of their own children and was publicly humiliated and it’s just not worth revisiting… ANYWAY :) after that I had a non church going friend ask why I kept going to church and the only answer I could give her was that God was still good even though people were not always and I went to church for him, not for them. I also let her know I was seeking a new congregation to worship with, it took awhile to find one – but I did! Continuing to hold my head up high and go back to that first place though for the months after the event were good for me. I think that’s what your point #10 made me think of the most. It’s easy to say I’m right and you’re not – but it’s a whole lot harder to do the real soul-searching that is necessary to make sure that you really are right in your heart.

  • http://blog.suchthespot.com/ Darcie

    I so admire you for writing this post. I would guess that perhaps you had your doubts in publishing this, considering your connections to the church. With that said, though, I think your list very eloquently and gently voices the thoughts and concerns of a whole population of consistent churchgoers. And truly, it’s comforting to know that the “doubting church” thoughts that cycle through my mind on a regular basis are not terribly uncommon.

    I did click through to read the post that inspired yours. While I understand her position on so many of the reasons cited, I can so much more easily relate to and appreciate your commitment to extending grace to and remaining part of a faith-based community, in spite of its shortcomings.

    Great post. I hope this one reaches far and wide.

    • Stephanie

      Your guess is correct. Tim & I read it and read it and then read it again before hitting “publish.”

      We hope the post came across as an encouragement rather than a criticism. This post is truly about “church” in general – not the one that we happen to currently attend. ;)

  • Dirk

    Great post, sweet Stephanie! #6 is an important one to me… I’ve seen so many people get hurt at church because they hold their church leaders to an impossibly high standard — a small slight received from a ‘normal’ person is often perceived as an unforgivable affront when received from a church leader.

    I used to be horrified whenever I saw a church leader being imperfect in any way. Then one day I realized that their appointment to ministry doesn’t blink away their humanity. As long as they lead with humility, and strive to grow and carry out their calling… I’m good.

    Hug a pastor today. It’s a ridiculously difficult job.

    Blessings!

  • Heather – Hopelessly Flawed

    Wow. I don’t disagree with what you’ve written, but this post mainly leaves me wishing I could invite you to our church. It’s not perfect either – no place is – but it’s unlike any church I have ever attended in the past, and it does a lot of things right.

    We focus a great deal on community groups. There is a regular church service, but then members join a community group and that is like their ‘immediate family’, so to speak. These are the people who you’ve committed to, to engage in each others lives in an intentional way. We meet together every week for a meal, fellowship, bible study, prayer, you name it. They really feel like my family. And I know that if I need help with anything at all – be it prayer, babysitting, or a load of laundry done for me – I could call any of them and they would be here within the hour. To serve, and to do it WITHOUT JUDGEMENT, which is perhaps the more remarkable thing. I really love and believe in the community group model. We are called to be all up in each others business like that, in a loving, caring way, and holding each other accountable as well. (http://www.openbible.info/topics/holding_each_other_accountable)

    Mainly I think it’s important to be in a church that SERVES. We left a church that had staggering financial means, but they chose to save all of it in a manner that we considered sinful. (The parable of the talents comes to mind) We’ve become a part of a church that has less in the bank, and far more in their hearts. They regularly step out in faith and have found God meeting their needs and using them to reach others in big ways, and that’s exciting!

    My point in saying all of this is to encourage you to keep looking and not to give up hope that something different is out there. They will all have their own struggles, certainly, but there are churches that use a different model!

    (In that vein, have you tried a Vineyard or Acts 29 church?)

    • Stephanie

      Thanks so much for commenting, Heather. I’m thrilled that you’ve found a community that you feel so connected to. It’s wonderful to hear about groups of people that are encouraging, teaching, serving, and listening to each other.

  • Michelle

    Last year we started going to the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in our town. It is great. Having grown up in the catholic church with all of the rituals it is a breath of fresh air. It is open to all and I always come away invigorated. My girls love going and I am glad to have them in a space where they learn about giving to the community and being loving and open to all.

  • http://www.jewelsntreasures.net Vanessa

    We are currently at a spot in our lives wondering if we should go to church or not. I read Rachel’s post awhile back and it resonated within me for many of the reasons why we don’t want to go to church anymore. However, I found your post resonated within me of why I want to continue going. So thank you for opening up another thought, another perspective on the issue. I’m still not 100% sure on where I stand, but I love learning and growing and reading both posts is wonderful and really makes me search my heart, and most importantly, the heart of God even more.

  • http://www.kendradueck.wordpress.com Kendra

    Great post. I especially like the idea of “extending grace to an imperfect system”. It seems like there are many, many people longing for true community and fellowship, but do we really even know what it looks like? Churches try to be that community, but meeting once in a week in a group that size? Even twice a week? It would take forever to get to the good stuff.

    We just moved away from our community. We were living at a Bible camp in the wilderness, working and sharing life out there with five other couples. It was hard and good, and community was not perfect out there either, but we shared so much life together. You HAVE to grow close when you see each other every single day, and you eat together, work together, worship and play together.

    We’re so glad to be back in civilization, but we sit here in our house, and people hardly ever knock on the door. Nobody runs through our yard, and no kids press their noses against our living room window, waiting for our girls to come out and play. Everyone lives their private little lives, and I wonder if anyone else is longing for community around here in the same way that I am.

    I want to share meals and talks, and borrow things in times of need, and quick phone calls (five times on the same day) just because we’re all in this together.

    So when you’re not living at a Bible camp, or with a cult, how do you experience true community? I used to expect church to fill that need a lot more, but now I don’t. We go, because there are many good reasons to go, as you’ve listed.

    But when I go, I try to be realistic about how much is actually going to be accomplished there in a morning, and we will continue to explore how to live a life of community and deep connection.

    • Stephanie

      Did you happen to read “Why I Love My Organic Church” by Arianne? http://deeperstory.com/why-i-love-my-organic-church/

      She wrote: “We realized that once a week was too disconnected. We try to get together – anyone that is able – at least one or two other times in the week.”

      That kind of community is hard to find, but I do think that living super connected like that is a positive thing. Tim & I have often said that the next time we move, we’re not going to search for our “dream house” – we’re going to move right next door to friends instead. ;)

      • http://www.kendradueck.wordpress.com Kendra

        Thanks so much for passing on that link! Very interesting. The “traditional church” girl in me squirms at going to that extreme, but the “life experience” part of me thinks it sounds amazing, and would fill a need that’s definitely there.

        And I love your idea of moving next door to friends! Sounds great.:)

  • Lisa

    This truly hits close to home. I have had some horrific experiences with sexism, scapegoating, and non-worship like behavior (namely, calling out a Sunday school teacher for raising her hands in praise and telling her “that isn’t how this church worships) from a church I went to for about 7 years. My parents continue to go but I refuse to go back to that church and my skepticism has traveled with me to every church I’ve been too since. I want to bring my daughter to church because she really does like it but I have come to abhor going anywhere which saddens me.

    The fact that other people are having the same issues with regular Sunday church is comforting…I’m hoping in the future I’ll find a church that I can feel comfortable in and grow in.

  • http://mommyinggrace.wordpress.com/ Dayna

    Oh, friend. I think we could probably sit and talk for hours about this topic. Let’s do that sometime, ok? :-)

    First of all I want to let you know how much I admire your complete honesty, gracious view of others, and commitment to biblical community.

    I especially appreciate your post because I really believe that there are so,so many of us in a very similar postition. While we too believe we attend a very good church with wonderful people, most weeks we go because of many of the same reasons you mentioned (1,6,8,11, and 15 to mention a few).

    Over the years since becoming Christ-followers, my husband and I have experienced a spectrum of church involvement. From being intensely involved in almost daily church service and activities years ago, to rarely even attending for a couple of years, we now find ourselves somewhere in the middle. We are finally able to regularly attend weekly services as a family, are thankful to have good friends within our church and local community, but are not super-involved.

    I would say that over the years, God has really worked on my heart in teaching me about humility, grace, and compassion within His family of believers. He has made it abundantly clear to me (sometimes painfully) that it really does not matter as much what others think of my level of involvement or what I think of theirs. I don’t usually know their specific situation and they may not know mine. But Jesus knows each of us and through His incredible grace, calls me to grace. Because of Him, I can practice forgiveness, kindness, and try to be an encouragment within our church community.

    Thank you, as always, for your thoughtful, challenging and wise words.

    • Stephanie

      It’s hard to have distraction-free conversations about these kind of topics, isn’t it? Perhaps that’s why the blogosphere has so many mothers in it. We are all yearning to say important things, to listen and learn from each other, to dive into profound conversations…but we usually have little ones tugging at our hands (and our hearts). ;)

      Let’s try anyway. :)

  • http://www.mamanash.com Jenny @ mamanash.com

    I read this a couple days ago but needed to think about it a bit before commenting. At first I wasn’t really relating but then I read both of Rachel’s posts (the one you linked as well as the follow-up one about returning to the Catholic church) and then I started to find my viewpoint. My husband and I go to church every Sunday. I can count on one hand the number of times we have missed. You’re right, a lot of the parts of going to church can be very boring and unfulfilling. But for me, as a Catholic, the one thing that is always fulfilling about going to mass is receiving the Eucharist. All the things you mention (Bible studies, visiting prisoners, etc.) are good things. It could be argued they are even required of us. But for me none of those things could ever come close to replacing going to mass because none of them include receiving the Eucharist. Above all else, receiving communion is what makes me feel one with God. It’s what gets me through the week. What makes it worth it to bring my crying baby and my climbing toddler to the pews each Sunday.

    I write this not to try to convert you or anyone else (that’s not me) but because I always find it interesting and even helpful to hear where others are on their spiritual journey. Some of the most celebrated saints (Mother Theresa, for example) had many dark days of doubts. Knowing this makes me realize nothing is a constant when it comes to faith. And maybe that was God’s intent.

    On another note, when I first saw the title to this post I thought you were going to write about bringing kids to church. That’s the reason most of my friends don’t go on a weekly basis. Because going to church with kids IS hard. Sometimes my husband and I even take turns going alone. But I always remind myself that even on the most challenging Sundays of mass with kids, it’s still leaps and bounds better than not going at all.

  • http://www.asmanyasgiven.com nicole

    I’m Catholic. I go to church to receive Jesus. Well, that is the first and most important reason. But I also crave community. It has always been beautiful to me to hear so many voices lifted in the same prayer (which happens in several places during our liturgy). No church is perfect. We’ve had priests that give dry sermons that don’t speak to us. We’ve been frustrated by other members of the body. We fail at being servants to the church too. But there is nothing bad enough to counter all the good in our lives that is directly related to the amazing faith community we call home. I think Catholics (in general) really view church differently due to the Eucharist. We’ve borrowed from the Protestant faith community in forming small groups, different ministries and so on, but our Sunday worship is centered around the Eucharist and that means our experience of church is different.

    I think this is a really great post, regardless of denomination. Because we can all find reasons to complain about our faith community, or we can find ways to make it beautiful, as you said. Thanks for sharing.

  • allison alexander

    I loved this post Steph. It speaks to me, and obviously so many others, on a lot of different levels. Never having lived in a place for more than a few years, it’s been tough to find a church that really feels like home to us…seems like we are on a constant search. Thanks for sharing this..

  • Rena

    What a great discussion. I grew up loving my church, and I have never wanted to stop going. Sunday replenishes me. We take our kids, who are excited to go, each week.

    But, one of the things I learned growing up in a home with an active church going mother and a non denominational (but supportive) father, is that we have the amazing freedom to worship how we wish. One principle I was taught very young that our church embraces is that we may “claim the privilege of worshiping the Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience and allow all men the same privilege. Let them worship how, where, or what they may.” I love that adults and children in our church are taught this – It allows for such a rich culture and encourages love for all… not just our “friends” in our church. But, it also teaches us that when a particular method of worship isn’t necessarily “working” for someone, that’s okay too.