A few years ago church marquees began illustrating clever messages in hopes passersby would reconsider missing the Sunday services. This is one of my favorites:
"As you pass this little church, be sure to plan a visit,
So when at last you're carried in, God won't ask 'Who is it?'"
Others are equally inviting.
"Are you wrinkled with burden? Come to the church for a face-lift."
"Don't wait for six strong men to take you to church."
"This church is prayer-conditioned."
A few Saturdays ago I had an interesting conversation with a few of my drama students as we traveled out of town to watch a play. Church was the topic.
One high school junior admitted he worked every Sunday and that his mother had done the same, telling him he could know God without attending a church service. Others in the vehicle had parents who forced them to go.
Then they asked my opinion. I agreed that they didn't have to go to church to be a Christian, but that I personally found it beneficial to have fellowship with other believers and to be challenged to persevere in my faith.
That conversation brought to mind a story I had heard, and I had to smile.
Apparently a church-goer had written a letter to the editor of a newspaper and complained that it made no sense to go to church every Sunday.
"I've gone for 30 years now," he wrote, "and in that time I have heard something like 3,000 sermons. But for the life of me, I can't remember a single one of them. So, I think I'm wasting my time and the pastors are wasting theirs by giving sermons at all."
This started a real controversy in the "Letters to the Editor" column, much to the delight of the editor. It went on for weeks until someone wrote this clincher:
"I've been married for 30 years now. In that time my wife has cooked some 32,000 meals. But, for the life of me, I cannot recall the entire menu for a single one of those meals. But I do know this... they all nourished me and gave me the strength I needed to do my work. If my wife had not given me these meals, I would be physically dead today. Likewise, if I had not gone to church for nourishment, I would be spiritually dead today!"
As someone who has moved over 30 times, I know how difficult it is to find a church "fit." Trust me, we have been in some real doozies, and in many cases it would have been much less frustrating just to stay home.
After all, there are endless "legitimate" excuses from which to choose: church is filled with hypocrites; it interferes with my golf game; they just want my money; it's nothing but a glorified country club; I need to sleep in; it's B-O-R-I-N-G, etc.
What I find interesting is that research also shows that sometimes people actually attend church for rather peculiar reasons: it improves their social status and helps with networking; it's a place to meet a spouse; it helps alleviate fear or guilt; it's a family tradition; there's nothing else to do; it gives them cause to dress up; maybe it can get their children on track; it's a way to make friends, and it helps them feel significant.
Whatever your rationale, I think the French philosopher Blaise Pascal said it best.
"There's a God-shaped vacuum in every man that only God can fill."
For many, church offers a place for people to glorify their Creator to have that vacuum filled.
In my opinion, that's the best reason of all.