Why do people go to church?

This morning, my wife heard on the Christian radio station that a recent study reports 67% of Americans claim to have a personal relationship with Jesus that affects their daily lives.

However, just last weekend, I heard a statistic that currently 17% of Americans go to church. I think that means specifically that on any given week, only 17% of Americans attend a religious service. The number of people who attend at least one service a month is surely much higher than that, but still, the number is astounding to me.

If two-thirds of the population feels they have a life-altering relationship with Jesus, why is church attendance so low and apparently going down?

Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

— Hebrews 10:25

On first glance, it might seem like this verse is irrelevant to people today. The legalist in me wants to blame people for not being obedient to the Word of God, but of course, I can only blame people for disobedience when those people are mature enough to know better. The new Christians, immature Christians, and non-Christians can never be “blamed” when they disobey.

But how do we teach people who don’t come to our “classes” (i.e. Worship Services)?

Well, I have begun thinking a lot about how the worship-service-as-outreach model might be dying, and so let’s take another look at the verse just quoted.

You can see in the verse that there are two reasons we should emphasize the gathering of believers and one obstacle we must overcome.

  • We gather for encouragement.
  • We gather because time is running out.
  • We struggle against habits.

Over the next couple of days, I’ll be posting my thoughts on why we should go to church, why Christians actually do go to church, and why non-Christians go to church when they do.