Is Church an (un)Necessary Evil?

A few days ago I received this comment on one of my posts called The Impact on Kids of Dad’s Faith and Church Attendance:

Laura says:

What is the benefit of attending church? A person is demanded to surrender personal faith in Jesus and personal relationship with Jesus Christ to become a Borg in a socialist swamp. It’s great for becoming robotized, lobotomized, Romanized, and institutionalized.

But its pointless for knowing Jesus Christ personally.

Don’t go. Jesus isn’t welcome there. Conformity is King. Not Jesus.

I was tempted to ignore the comment, but I think this view of church is actually pretty widespread, even amongst professing Christians, that it warranted a response. And since I’ve recently started the Theology for the People Podcast, I figured this would be a good topic to discuss in more detail there.

You can check out the episode here: Podcast Exclusive – Church: a Necessary Evil?, or by listening in the embedded player below.

Podcast Exclusive – Church: An (un)Necessary Evil? Theology for the People

In this episode Nick and Mike discuss a comment that came in to the Theology for the People blog claiming that church is only good for "becoming robotized, lobotomized, Romanized, and institutionalized," and is "pointless for knowing Jesus Christ personally." This comment represents a not-uncommon attitude to "organized religion" in general and church in particular. This episode includes discussions about the Bible, Jesus, American history, and Henry David Thoreau. The book recommended in this episode is The Bible in America: Essays in Cultural History  — This episode is sponsored by · Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. https://anchor.fm/app

Statistically Speaking, What Happens When Men Go to Church?

Did you know that Mother’s Day is the third most highly-attended church day of the year in the United States?

Did you know that Father’s Day, only one month later, is the least attended church day of the year?

One of my most popular posts on this blog has been one I wrote on this topic, titled: The Impact on Kids of Dad’s Faith and Church Attendance. In this post I looked at statistics for what impact it has on kids’ faith later in life if their dad practices his faith and attends church.

What the statistics show is that while moms have some influence, their influence is minor compared to dad’s. That’s not a knock against moms, it’s a wake-up call to dads.

This post from the Babylon Bee (satire) made we want to laugh and cry at the same time when I read it: After 12 Years of Quarterly Church Attendance, Parents Shocked by Daughter’s Lack of Faith. An excerpt:

Local father Trevor Michelson, 48, and his wife Kerri, 45, are reeling after discovering that after 12 years of steadily taking their daughter Janie to church every Sunday they didn’t have a more pressing sporting commitment—which was at least once every three months—she no longer demonstrates the strong quarterly commitment to the faith they raised her with, now that she is college-aged.

There are many who might argue that to be a Christian isn’t about going to church. I agree. But then some people go one step further and say, Therefore we don’t need to go to church. To take that step is to go beyond what the Bible teaches.

Is Christianity about going to church? No.  Do you need to go to church if you are a Christian? I would say: Yes.

Here are some reasons: Growth, encouragement, instruction and exhortation, reminding, fellowship (especially with people who you wouldn’t generally choose to spend time with), corporate worship and singing.

In a previous post, Why Go to Church if You Already Know it All? Here’s Why:, I referred to a book by James K.A. Smith, in which he writes about how what we do affects who we become. Our regular practices shape us into certain kinds of people. Going to the mall, school, work, shapes you into a certain kind of person. Therefore it is important that we wisely choose what kind of people we ought to become and invest time in practices which shape us into those kinds of people.

In a related post, I shared some statistics on a Harvard study on how church attendance impacts the success of marriages: Want Your Marriage to Succeed? Harvard Study Shows What Can Help

This week Mike and I sat down and had a conversation about these things for our video blog, specifically what happens when men go to church.  Check it out:

 

The Impact on Kids of Dad’s Faith and Church Attendance

Dream Lake landscape  Rocky Mountain National Park

According to LifeWay Research Group, Fathers Day is the holiday with the single lowest average church attendance – statistically lower than Labor Day, Memorial Day and even the Fourth of July.

This is interesting, especially when you consider that Mothers Day tends to be the day with the third highest church service attendance, after Easter and Christmas.

So, Mothers Day is one of the most highly attended Sundays of the year, and Fathers Day is one of the lowest. What does this tell us?

Scott McConnell, director of LifeWay Research, gives this assessment:

“Clearly, mothers want to be present for the affirmation that is typically offered in most churches, but families also are present knowing their attendance will honor their mother.

The attendance difference between Mothers Day and Fathers Day is telling,” said McConnell. “Either churches are less effective in affirming fathers, or families believe Christian fathers don’t value their participation in worship services.”

Surely there are other factors involved, including travel and the time of year. On Mothers Day school is still in session, on Fathers Day it isn’t – so families travel to visit relatives, or go on vacation.

But all these factors and statistics aside, here’s what’s really striking: when you see the research on the impact of a dad’s faith and practice on their families.

According to data collected by Promise Keepers and Baptist Press, if a father does not go to church, even if his wife does, only 1 child in 50 will become a regular worshiper. If a father does go regularly, regardless of what the mother does, between two-thirds and three-quarters of their children will attend church as adults. If a father attends church irregularly, between half and two-thirds of their kids will attend church with some regularity as adults.

If a mother does not go to church, but a father does, a minimum of two-thirds of their children will end up attending church. In contrast, if a father does not go to church, but the mother does, on average two-thirds of their children will not attend church. 

Another study, focused on Sunday School, found similar results on the impact of fathers:

  • When both parents attend Bible study in addition to the Sunday service, 72% of their children attend Sunday school when grown.
  • When only the father attends Sunday school, 55% of the children attend when grown.
  • When only the mother attends Sunday school, 15% of the children attend when grown.
  • When neither parent attends Sunday school, only 6% of the children attend when grown.

Another survey found that if a child is the first person in a household to become a Christian, there is a 3.5% probability everyone else in the household will follow. If the mother is the first to become a Christian, there is a 17% probability everyone else in the household will follow. However, when the father is first, there is a 93% probability everyone else in the household will follow. 

Here’s the point of all these statistics: Dad’s impact on the kids’ faith and practice is HUGE.

Dads, let me encourage you with these words which Moses spoke by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to the dads of the new generation in Deuteronomy:

And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:6-9)