What if someone offered you an opportunity to extend your lifetime, enhance your marriage, and help you find more meaning and purpose in life? A rigorous study by Tyler VanderWeele at Harvard University can help us find what this sounds-to-good-to-be-true solution is.
VanderWeele found that regular participation in a religious community was a major contributor to human flourishing. Studies over many years found that attending religious services at least weekly is associated with 25-35 percent reduced mortality over 10-15 years. One study even found that regular attendance over a lifetime yielded an average of 7 additional years of life.
Church attendance was also found to yield 20-30% reduction in depression and 3-6 times lower suicide rates. In addition, participation in a local religious body was found to reduce divorce by 30-50% which not only impacts spouses, but their children, parents, schools, and communities. Participants also reported greater satisfaction within their marriages.
Not surprisingly, those who attended services regularly were found to be more generous in their charitable giving and more likely to volunteer. They were more inclined to be engaged in their local communities and found greater meaning and purpose in life.
Researchers also examined those who had their own private religious practices but did not attend services and found that while this also yielded positive results, meeting together with others was essential in producing the benefits cited above.
Who knew? God did. Which is why He inspired the writer of Hebrews years ago to advise us not to neglect the assembling of ourselves together. God does know what He’s talking about and His Word is again proven to be for our good. God has promised to bless those who seek Him and we ignore His commands to our detriment.
Many believers have long known that Christianity is beneficial not only in the next life, but in this one also. Rigorous research has verified this yet again. Another article in the January/February 2020 issue of Christianity Today cited a study of ten Christian congregations in Philadelphia that found each of them contributed $140,000 worth of social services to their community each year.
A larger study of 90 churches examined all the ways that they contributed to their local economies and found benefits ranging from 1.2 to 2.5 million dollars per congregation. If governments had to pick up that tab, it would mean higher taxes and likely less efficiency.
The CT article went on to state that while many nonprofits do good work, no other organizations do as much for their local communities as churches. Suicide prevention, grief ministry, addiction suppression, homeless prevention, preschools, and food pantries are just a few ways churches are reaching out and meeting needs not just of their own members, but of the larger area. And this doesn’t include Christian missions in the third world that are feeding children, providing clean water, and delivering education.
Even avowed atheist Richard Dawkins has some appreciation for the church. Why would this famous evolutionary biologist be saddened by the decline of the Christian Church in Europe? Because he knows of the positive impact it has on reducing crime and maintaining a civilized society. Even though he argues against God’s existence, he admits that acting on such a belief benefits both he and others. He said, “Ending religion is a bad idea. People may feel free to do bad things because they feel God is no longer watching them.”
Even those who don’t believe in God can’t argue with the benefits His people receive and provide to their communities. If you made a resolution to attend church in 2023, follow through for the glory of God, your neighbor’s good, and your own benefit. Blessings, George