“Go to church or the Devil will get you!”
If you’ve traveled I-65 between Birmingham and Montgomery, you’ve probably seen those words, along with a picture of “the devil,” on a sign on the side of the interstate near Prattville. I am not sure about the theology behind the sign, but I do believe in “going to church.”
However, it is no secret that a large segment of our society–including many people who would describe themselves as Christians–don’t feel it’s necessary to regularly attend church services. And perhaps many more who do attend, do so more out of a sense of guilt and duty–and devil avoidance–than of joy and celebration of God’s love.
Why do you attend church? Or, if you don’t attend much, why not? It’s a question worth asking, and worth answering. There are several reasons for regular participation in congregational fellowship and worship. And yes, part of our motivation is a sense of faithfulness and obedience–we are called in Scripture to “forsake not assembling ourselves together.”
But there are other reasons, some of which are downright selfish. For instance, did you know that surveys have shown that the best place in America to develop meaningful friendships is church? And in a culture of isolation and loneliness, who doesn’t need genuine friendship?
And how about family life? A Gallup survey of American adults found that the activity believed to most strengthen family life is “attending church or religious activities together.” In other words, the best thing you can do to keep your family strong is go to church together.
If that’s not enough, there are also health reasons. A series of independent medical studies have determined the positive effect that regular church attendance has on a person’s health. Researchers in one study found that those who attend religious services at least once a week have healthier immune systems than those who do not. Another study concluded that people who attend church on a regular basis have generally lower blood pressure than those who don’t. Yet another survey conducted by researchers at the University of Texas found that those who regularly attended worship services lived an average of seven years longer than those who never attended.
In the most striking finding, Dr. Harold Koenig of Duke University Medical School calculated that “lack of religious involvement has an effect on mortality that is equivalent to 40 years of smoking one pack of cigarettes per day.”
We haven’t even touched on the encouragement, hope and spiritual direction we get in a community of believers who are there to support us and lead us to a deeper level of faith in Christ. And yet, it’s obvious, we really can’t afford not to go to church!
So, let’s stay away from the devil, and join together this Sunday at The Church at Shelby Crossings. I look forward to seeing you there.