And the situation is similar in other Western nations, with more than 40 percent of U.S. evangelicals not attending church weekly and more than 60 percent of American mainline Christians not attending weekly, according to Pew data. In short, millions who consider themselves Christians limit their church attendance largely to holidays, weddings and funerals.
If you're among these millions, please give church another chance. By getting involved, you'll discover that what you once viewed as a chore is actually a blessing. Here are 10 reasons why:
1. Church involvement is evidence that you're a Christian in the first place. It also helps keep you from abandoning the faith. According to the author of Hebrews, the antidote to developing an "unbelieving heart" that leads you "to fall away from the living God" is to "exhort one another" (Hebrews 3:12-13) -- an activity that occurs most prominently in the church.
2. Gathering with a church encourages believers to love others and do good deeds (Hebrews 10:24-25).
3. A church is the main venue for using your spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12:1-31). God has given you abilities and talents intended to help other Christians. If you're not involved in a church, others are being deprived of what you have to offer.
4. A church helps you defend Christianity against those who attack it. When Jude told the early Christians to "contend for the faith" (Jude 3), he directed his instruction toward a group of believers, not a scattering of lone-ranger Christians. Answering challenges from coworkers, friends and family members is always easier when you can ask fellow church members for help and wisdom.
5. A church is a great venue for pooling resources to support missions and benevolent works (2 Corinthians 8:1-7; 3 John 5-8). Your money combined with that of fellow church members can do a lot for Christ.
6. A church helps its members maintain correct doctrine (1 Timothy 3:15). You might begin to adopt unbiblical ideas without realizing it yourself. But you probably won't adopt unbiblical ideas without someone at your church realizing it, and they can help you get back to the truth.
7. After your family, a church is the best group of people to meet your physical needs in an emergency (1 John 3:16-17; 1 Timothy 5:3-16).
8. A church supports you when you face persecution (Acts 4:23-31; 12:12-17). You may not be imprisoned for your Christian beliefs like the apostles were, but a church family is still a great source of comfort when you face stinging words or unfair treatment.
10. A church provides the setting for corporate worship (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16). Though it's a blessing to praise God alone, there is a unique joy that accompanies singing God's praises with an entire congregation of Christ followers.
The list could go on, but you get the idea. It's worth it to start attending church.
This column first appeared at the blog of Bible Mesh, a website that teaches the Bible as a unified story pointing to Christ (online at www.biblemesh.com/blog). David Roach is a writer in Shelbyville, Ky. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).
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