Did you know that being part of a church can make you healthier?
As Christians we are commanded in Scripture to “not forsake the assembling of ourselves” (Hebrews 10:25). This is fancy talk for being a part of a local church and committing to it. If God’s word says it, then that should be all we need to know, period. While this is a true notion, I want to expand on this thought and help us understand the importance, including health benefits, of being a part of a church.
In Hebrews chapter 10, after the writer commands the believers to not forsake assembling, he lists the main reason for gathering: encouraging one another. I would characterize this as emotional health. Isolating ourselves from fellow believers will prevent us from receiving encouragement when we need it.
In 1 Corinthians 12-14, Paul talks about the importance of seeking spiritual gifts for the building up of the body, encouragement, and comfort. More emotional health benefits!
We all know the importance of prayer. We see that in Scripture when Paul constantly writes to the churches to pray for him and one another. When we pray, our spiritual health benefits go up. I might add that most of Paul’s letters are written to local churches, which would strongly indicate the need to be in regular fellowship with other believers.
But here is also a wonderful surprise. Research tells us that attending church regularly has numerous physical health benefits as well. According to numerous studies, you can count on a longer life, better sleep, lower blood pressure, a stronger immune system and less risk of depression and suicide. This is great news indeed!
In addition other research shows that regular church attenders have more stable, happy, and sexually satisfying marriages. How is that for marital health benefits?
So if church attendance has so many wonderful benefits, why don’t more people attend? I’ve heard stories from people who found church to be so dysfunctional that it caused great harm to their spiritual lives. “I felt abused, taken advantage of, worked to death, and judged. You name it, I experienced it.” This reality can leave people reluctant to re-engage in the church. Some years ago, the book Churches That Abuse warned readers about church organizations that intimidated and abused their members. It actually went as far as to name the churches and give advice on how to leave.
In response to hearing that there were divisions among the people in the church, Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11:17 “For it sounds as if more harm than good is done when you meet together.” So we know from Scripture that dysfunctional and harmful local bodies exist.
But this subject like any other has to be measured by the overall. For example there are corrupt police officers who abuse their power. But it pales in comparison to the majority of law enforcement who are dedicated to protect and serve. There are unscrupulous doctors, but many more that are dedicated to helping their patients. Because we have dishonest police officers and doctors we wouldn’t say, “No more police, or no more doctors.” This would be an extreme response to the fact that we need those professions for an orderly and healthy society.
So back to the local church. If you have been abused by a local church, you need to leave, and seek healing. At the proper time, return to a healthy fellowship because of the already mentioned benefits.
I might add one more important piece of evidence: God does not have a plan B. In other words, God created the local church for us to fellowship, even with all of its flaws and imperfections. If this is God’s will for believers, then not attending a local church is not an option.
With so many Christians either not going to church at all, or sporadically, it is imperative that we understand all that we are missing. If you are not attending somewhere, I encourage you to research and find a group of local believers where you can experience love, care, encouragement, and help. In addition your presence means that you can minister love, care, and encouragement as well.
Who knows, the life you save may not only be your own, but someone else’s as well. Wouldn’t that be the best benefit of all!