by Dick Innes
Leon Norsworthy, a very successful family man and businessman, was promoted to the directorship of a national organization--a promotion which involved a move to another city for his family.
Before buying a new home in the general vicinity of his work and moving his family, however, Leon and his wife, Sally did an interesting thing. They first looked for a good church, and when they found the one they felt would best meet their family needs, they then bought a house close to the church.
They did this because they have experienced the benefits of belonging to a good church and realize its importance for personal, family and spiritual life.
The Norsworthys aren't alone in their feelings about the church. In fact, 120 million or 61 percent of Americans belong to a church. What other volunteer organization can boast such a following?
True, every church has some weaknesses and some churches suit some people more than others, but for the church to survive for 2,000 years and continue to thrive as it has, there has to be many benefits to attract and hold its vast following. The following are some of its many benefits:
Improved family life. A recent Gallop poll showed that the number one personal need expressed by 82 percent of the American adult population was having a "good family life."
Many people beside the Norsworthys believe the church helps make for a good family life. In a special study, Edward A. Rauff, director of the Research and Information Center of the Lutheran Council in the U.S.A., found that the dominant reason a high percentage of the respondents gave for establishing a relationship with a church was "to keep the family together and to strengthen family life."1
That the church helps strengthen family life is supported by a study conducted by sociologist Steven Nock of the University of Virginia. His conclusions showed that couples who attend church regularly are 42 percent more likely to be married for the first time, and those in the church who were committed to its beliefs had a 23 percent better chance of having a "very happy" marriage than whose who don't go to church.
Friendship. Two more benefits provided by the church are friendship and a sense of belonging.
Friendship and a sense of belonging can be found in a friendly church. In their book, Growth, a New Vision for the Sunday School, Charles Arn, Donald McGavran, and Win Arn emphasize the important part that friendship plays in a live and growing church. Surveys and personal interviews have shown that this is what attracts most people and what keeps them actively involved. In fact, the number one reason people gave for joining a new church home was "the friendliness of the people." Friendship and a sense of belonging are both essential for mental and emotional health. Both can be found in a friendly church.
Personal care. Another benefit of the church is its care for and support of its members.
I've belonged to churches where members band together to care for the sick, provide volunteer therapy for the handicapped, take meals to the shut-in, provide homes for the poor, give care to the aged, and provide social activities for the youth.
The church I presently belong to sponsors a divorce recovery program, and provides support groups for parents of teens and pre-teens, for codependents, for singles, for helping people with sexual, drug and alcohol addictions, for incest and rape victims, for those with eating disorders, and care groups for everybody in the entire church.
The church helps make the family stronger.
Inner peace and strength. It is true that some people go to church for false motives, but most, like me, are people who have blown it at times, who have fallen and made mistakes, who are struggling to become the person they feel God wants them to be, and know if they are going to make it, they need a power greater than their own.
They go to church because here, in spite of the failures, they have found not only forgiveness and acceptance, but also a sense of inner peace and strength to help them cope with struggles of life.
Edward Rauff's study also revealed that a certain percentage of people find that the church fills a sense of emptiness in their life.
One hard-working electrical contractor explained his feelings this way, "I was tired of the everyday grind. I really felt all along that there was something missing. I went to church as a youth just about every Sunday. I went to boot camp. And then I lost it. I probably didn't go for ten years. And to me there was something missing in my life. I couldn't put my finger on it, even though I tried and tried again. My children started going to Sunday School, my wife started, and I said, 'Maybe this is what I'm missing.' So I tried it, and it was."2
Finding God and his will for your life. There are many more benefits gained from belonging to a good church, not the least being learning about God, experiencing meaningful worship, finding inspiration and help for daily living, and having an opportunity to use your abilities to serve others.
Perhaps the most important benefit of all is that in a good church one can find God--and his will and direction for your life.
The Gallop poll mentioned earlier also brought out an interesting facet of American life. Sixty-one percent of all Americans aged 18 and above want to follow God's will.
With God, life--even with all its hurts and frustrations--becomes more meaningful and purposeful. Furthermore, with God one can find forgiveness for all his sins and wrong-doing, make his or her peace with him, and receive the hope of eternal life.
The benefits of belonging to a good church simply cannot be measured in terms of material gain. But they are so great for both the individual and the family, that it is well worth looking for a church where they not only love God and believe and teach his Word, but where they also love people and are committed to ministering to one another's needs. That's why God designed the church. The whole idea came from him.
1. Why People Join the Church, p. 73. 2. Ibid, pp. 105-106.