This repeated experience has led me to ask this question: “Why should anybody go to church?”
I do not believe God is some narcissistic idol who demands our repeated adoration. So the focus here should be the relation between the church and its parishioners.
The best place to start is by examining what needs are satisfied by church attendance.
Here is a brief list:
(1) A church offers community. One of the most wonderful aspects of church life is that a person associates with people they might not associate with in any other place; e.g., people of a different race or economic background, people with more or less education than you have. In some churches, people can be openly gay, and for some that might be enlightening if not broadening. But what if the church has no sense of community? Why then go?
(2) A church offers youth programs, Sunday school and adult education — the kind you will not get elsewhere. But what if the education is lousy? What if there is no youth group? Why then go?
(3) A church offers worship, music and sermons. You cannot get that combination elsewhere. But what if the worship is cold, the music is awful and the hymns are drab, and what if the sermons are boring? Why then go?
(4) The church offers opportunities for outreach. Some churches have food pantries and thrift shops, some offer hot meals and shelter, most visit the elderly and lonely. But if the church offers no outreach and has no social conscience, why go?
(5) The church tackles the moral issues of the day; e.g., poverty, hunger, war, debt, addictions, mental illness, etc. But what if the sermons never apply the Bible to what we are struggling with as individuals, families and as a nation? Why go?
I would hazard a guess that any of us could come up with reasons not to attend church. But are our reasons “good reasons” or bad excuses?
— By the Rev. Henry Idema, Tribune Religion Columnist