"They [the early disciples of Jesus] devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer."1
Yesterday we pointed out that one of the major benefits of a good church was improved family life.
Friendship. Two more important benefits provided by the church are friendship and a sense of belonging.
In their book, Growth, a New Vision for the Sunday School, Charles Arn, Donald McGavran, and Win Arn emphasize the important part that friendship plays in a live and growing church. Surveys and personal interviews have shown that this is what attracts most people and what keeps them actively involved. In fact, the number one reason people gave for joining a new church home was "the friendliness of the people."
Personal care. Another benefit of the church is its care for and support of its members.
I've belonged to churches where members band together to care for the sick, provide volunteer therapy for the handicapped, take meals to the shut-in, provide homes for the poor, give care to the aged, and provide social activities for the youth.
One church I belonged to sponsored a divorce and grief recovery program, and provided support groups for parents of teens and pre-teens, for codependents, for singles, for helping people with sexual, drug and alcohol addictions, for incest and rape victims, for those with eating disorders, and care groups for everybody in the entire church.
Inner peace and strength. It is true that some people go to church for false motives, but most, like me, are people who have blown it at times, who have fallen and made mistakes, are struggling to become the person they feel God wants them to be, and know if they are going to make it, they need a power greater than their own.
They go to church because here, in spite of their failures, they have found not only forgiveness and acceptance, but also a sense of inner peace knowing that their life is right with God, and strength to help them cope with the struggles of life.
To be concluded ...
Suggested prayer: "Dear God, thank You that a good church provides wonderful friendships, a place where members truly care for one another, and a sense of inner peace and strength that comes from meaningful worship with fellow believers. Please help me not only to be a receiver of these benefits but also a giver to others so that they, too, will experience all of these benefits. Thank You for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully in Jesus's name, amen."
1. Acts 2:42 (NIV).