Why I Still Go To Church? By Mark Mitchell, Executive Director

I’m a part of a generation called “Baby Boomers.” I recently read an interesting statistic about us Boomers. According the Barna group, 31% of us attended church regularly prior to 2020, but only 22% kept attending post-pandemic. Some of this is due to the fact that many are staying home and watching online, while others are getting older and factors like mobility and health keep them from attending. Some of it also is that Boomers travel more frequently and are out of town on weekends. Others disliked the way their church handled the pandemic and left but never found another church. Finally, there are those who just feel like they’ve “done their time” as part of a church community. They still have their Christian friends so in their minds the habit of being a part of church community just isn’t needed any longer.

I retired from pastoral ministry late in the pandemic after 35 years in the same church. It would have been easy to not return to church, especially since my wife and I chose not to stay in the church I worked in to make way for new leadership. So, why did we find a church in our community and become a part of its life and ministry? Why do I think this is still good idea for us Boomers? Let me offer five reasons I still go to church:

  1. Because the church is the Body of Christ. This applies to the worldwide body of believers as well as local, visible churches. As the body of Christ, the church is incarnational (embodied in flesh). Just as Jesus put on flesh and blood and dwelt among us, we cannot only love and serve our brothers and sisters in Christ from a distance. As embodied creatures, we minister to one another as flesh and blood humans. For me, as a member of the Body of Christ, being a part of a local, visible church community is really important.
  2. Because I need to come to the Lord’s table. Over the years I’ve come to have an increasing appreciating for my own need to be at the Lord’s Table (Communion) with others believers on a regular basis. I need this physical reminder of the broken body and shed blood of Jesus on my behalf. I need to see my fellow believers sharing this same meal with me out of the same deep need. In 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 the apostle Paul clearly sees this meal as an integral part of what the visible church does when it meets together.
  3. Because I need to hear the preaching of God’s Word. John Calvin once wrote, “The merciful God is found in the true church where the pure Word of God is preached and the means of grace are properly administered.” Yes, I can watch a sermon online or listen to a podcast, but there is something different about a pastor who knows me as part of his flock and preaches the Word out of that personal concern and contextualized understanding.
  4. Because I need to be under the leadership of elders. The Chief Shepherd of the church, Jesus Christ, has placed under-shepherds in his church, which the New Testament calls “pastors” and “elders.” These are servant leaders who teach, lead and care for God’s people under their care. Yes, they are imperfect, but the writer of Hebrews says, “Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account (13:17). This command is given for my protection and I for one need someone to watch our for me in this way.
  5. Because it is good for my health. This one is just a bonus! In a recent study, Tyler VanderWeele, professor of epidemiology at Harvard, studied a data question and made a startling discovery: Women who attended religious services more than once a week had a 33% lower risk of dying during the study period, and a lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease and cancer, compared with those who never attended church. “No surprise” you might think because church goers are much less likely to to smoke, abuse drugs and alcohol. But the researchers adjusted for those factors and still saw the dramatic difference!

In the church I now attend, we often recite these words from the Apostles Creed: I believe in the holy Christian Church. Every generation has had reason to balk at these words. Every generation has had to confess these words amidst a church that seemed anything but holy. But, still, for centuries, Christians have made this confession of faith as part of their worship. It’s a joy to join them.