Church Life, Ministry

Why Do You Go to Church?

The two preachers at my house have a disagreement in principle about church attendance. Oh, we’re both for it under ordinary circumstances! We grew up in families where everybody went to church. We loved Sunday School and Youth Group and special choirs. Really, seriously, most of the time we are eager to get up and go on a Sunday morning, to lead worship in our respective congregations.

But on vacation? There we disagree. I love to visit other churches on vacation. My spouse does not. And she may have a point. Church is our workplace, and maybe the occasional Sabbath spent on a beach or walking in the woods is a good thing. (Although we spent the last joint Sunday off on the road returning from vacation.)

Perhaps when I visit other churches I do it with the keen, appraising eye of a professional, taking notes for my own worship leadership. In fact, I’ve been guilty of preaching at one church while taking vacation from another, a kind of busman’s holiday.

Why do you go to church?

Some do it out of obligation, and others to see their friends. Some do it because they always have; it’s a habit. Some do it out of fear they will end up on God’s bad side. I’ve heard people say they went to church every week when they were younger because in the day of the Blue Laws, there was nothing else to do and nowhere else to go. I find I wonder this about the people who come and listen to me on Sundays, particularly when they look unenthused about the experience. Believe me, I bring that home to ponder.

Why *do* you go to church?

In October we heard the Ten Commandments in worship and received the reminder to keep the Sabbath holy. Christians worship on Sunday to mark the Resurrection. It’s our less elaborate adaptation of the Jewish Sabbath. Most people feel no cultural pressure to attend, and some have no experience with church, and others have made other choices for legitimate reasons of their own including past hurts.

Why do you go to church?

In February I visited my childhood church in Virginia, where, yes, I preached on a vacation Sunday. It’s the place I first heard the words “I was glad when they said unto me, let us go into the house of the Lord.” (Psalm 122:1, King James Version) And I think that’s the reason I keep going to church on Sundays, the reason I responded to God’s call to local church ministry: I go because I am glad, week in and week out, to go into the house of the Lord.

Why do *you* go to church? I would love to know.

Stained glass windows in the balcony at my childhood church.
Stained glass windows in the balcony at my childhood church.

20 thoughts on “Why Do You Go to Church?”

  1. I go to church primarily because I firmly believe that it is the corporate body of Christ that nourishes me. Oh, I can read the Bible, I can read challenging works on theology, but it is only in community that I really feel the presence of the Christ.

  2. I believe many people go to church out of obligation or because they grew up in church

      1. But as for me I go to get spiritual renewal. And for authentic community and transparency from the ministry.

  3. I go because the community, liturgy, music, and preaching fill something in me that doesn’t get filled otherwise…and because I am able to give to those things, by participating or listening. Community is first for me. For my spouse, it is music first and to the exclusion of all else.

    1. MaryBeth, I laughed as I read this. I could quote that precisely for myself and my spouse and it would be true. –Wendy

  4. I go to church for many reasons, mostly to connect with people and with God (not necessarily in that order).

    As a kid, we would go to the random Evangelical church when we were on vacation. I found that deadly and swore I wouldn’t do it to my kids, that vacation would be vacation. Then I discovered worship that truly fed me (I am a liturgical gal who truly enjoys sermons as long as they’re short.) Then, I became involved in church leadership and now I love going to church on vacations because I want to see how other people are doing it. (And if there is a RevGal anywhere near, that’s an added bonus.) So, about half the time, I bring (drag) my family to church on vacations.

    I wish more people would go to church on vacations just because our congregation has so many members who have never experienced a different church, and so they think that what we do is the thing every church is doing every time.


    1. That’s a great point. One of my favorite things is to visit other RevGals’ churches. I’ve had the opportunity to preach at a few, which has been wonderful.

  5. I need the renewal of God’s love and grace each week whether it is through the prayers, music, sermon or
    church friends, it feeds my soul. Were it my place of employment–??? Renewal for each of us may be different. Away from home, depends on the circumstances.

  6. I go bc I need to hear the words of grace – and if I don’t, I regret going. It’s almost always there – in the Scripture, or the prayers, or the music, or the sermon, or the people, or the windows, or in oh! so many different ways. And bc it is my native language, I almost always go to a Christian church.

  7. I go – in person (and even online when necessary) – because the liturgy, sacraments and Word call me. Call me to listen, to respond, to ponder, to be quiet, to think about my life in Christ, hidden as it is. There’s a pull to attend worship that has felt at times like joy, other times like obligation, guilt, dread, habit, yearning. For me, the worship liturgy is first, the community comes up along within it, beside it, along side it. Church is the people of God; liturgy, for me, is what I do in worship. It is an event in which I can participate in a holy ritual that links me to all the God seekers of the past. And that is my hope and comfort. I have gone for months without it, but I’m not settled until I return. I felt connected to liturgy as a parish pastor while leading it; I feel just as connected now from the pew. Maybe even more, since I don’t have to worry about being the leader “up front.”

    I moved from a UCC tradition to a Lutheran one in the early 1970’s, and now, because liturgy seems mostly lost to my Lutheran tribe here in the upper Midwest, to find my liturgical home in the Episcopal Church, which centers its life around the Book of Common Prayer. I’m a Lutherpalian, and it seems good.

  8. I go to church to gain a deeper appreciation of God’s grace, to feel God’s love for me and to hear His message for me. I go also for the wonderful community (both internal and external) that my church encompasses and for the beautiful music every week.

  9. I just returned from a month long trip to Africa, putting shallow wells in rural villages. We worked six days a week, about ten hours a day, doing physically and emotionally demanding work. Since I’m a pastor, I’m also expected to preach on Sundays. The first Sunday I ended up taking off because I was sick. So I spent a wonderful day, sleeping in, reading, and then sitting on the porch relaxing and talking with my teammate.

    The next Sunday we went to a six hour worship service where I preached. (It was a fundraising Sunday for them so even longer than they usually worship). And then two days the following week I gave a talk at their evening devotions, after full days of putting in shallow wells.

    When I look back on it, the worship service and the two devotions were incredible, powerful experiences. I’m so glad I had them. I will remember them forever. But the Sunday “sick day” is what I remember refreshing me and getting me ready for another week of putting in shallow wells.

    I usually go to worship on vacation because it nourishes me and I like to get ideas from other pastors. But I’m not sure I, or we as a society, know how to truly rest. And I want rest to be part of the Sabbath, and part of Sunday worship, for me. And maybe that means not going to worship at times.

  10. I go because for me, attending Mass is the source and summit of my Catholic faith and is the perfect way to keeping the Sabbath holy (at least for that hour). Mass is the point from which we are sent to do the Lord’s work and to show His love in the world. The faithful become projectiles of service and example. Like a football team emerging from the huddle where they hear the ‘word’, they break to bring that word to life in the action on the field.

  11. Great timing for this to show up in my FB feed! ON Sunday the Youth Group leader told me that the group was given “homework” to talk to 2 people (only one of whom could be their parent) about this very question. PArtly because at least some of them were sure that the musician and I were only there every Sunday because we had to be.

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