The Importance of Going to Church (part 1)

15 Jul

Perhaps one of the most disappointing things for a Christian, is to see another person who at one stage claimed to be a Christian, turn their back on the Lord Jesus Christ and no longer follow him. It is particularly discouraging when this person is a good friend, or a family member. It is even more devastating though, when it is one (or more) of your own children who turn their back on God.

It is not something I have personally experienced, and I pray every day that I never will. But I have grieved with other Christian parents who have, and ‘grieve’ is certainly the right word to use. It really is heart-breaking for a parent to see the child they love so dearly, choose death instead of life. In this situation the inevitable question these parents ask is, “What could I have done differently?”

First of all we need to understand that coming to faith in God is a supernatural act of the Holy Spirit, that we can’t make happen. Only God can do it, for faith is a gift of grace from Him (Eph 2:8). But at the same time God expects us to co-operate with Him, and be His servants that He can use and work through. The Apostle Paul tells us that he and others planted the seed of the gospel and watered it, and then God made it grow (1Cor 3:6-7). While only God makes the seed grow, we can prepare the ground (plough, plant, water) in an attempt to produce optimum conditions for that growth to take place.

This is our responsibility as Christian parents, in fact the Bible commands us (Deut 6:4-9) to raise and nurture our children according to biblical principles where they grow in knowledge of God, and learn what it means to follow Jesus Christ. One very important and yet very simple thing that helps us do this, is becoming increasingly neglected in our culture. Studies show that one of the best things we can do for our children is to ensure they go to church regularly. I was very surprised by the following statistics from the US (Greg Laurie, Harvest Ministries, 5th Oct 2013):

  • If both parents regularly attend church, then the chance of their children later attending church in adulthood is 72%.
  • If Dad regularly attends church but Mum does not, then the chance of their children later attending church in adulthood drops to 55%.
  • If Mum regularly attends church but Dad does not, then the chance of their children later attending church in adulthood drops to 15%.
  • If both parents attend church irregularly, then the chance of their children later attending church in adulthood drops to 6%.

While raising our children in a biblical manner involves more than what we do on Sunday morning, these statistics suggest that regular church attendance alone increases the odds of our children being followers of Christ in their adulthood by 66%. We probably shouldn’t be so surprised by this, after all the Bible commands us to regularly meet together. Not only does this elevate God, but it is also for our own good, God knows what is best for us, even when we do not. These figures highlight that regular church attendance is important, and has inspired me to write a series of future posts outlining some of the reasons why.

Regular church attendance on its own though is no guarantee that our children will come to faith in Christ. At the end of the day all we can do is our best, and if we follow God’s instructions in His Word, then we can be confident we have given our children the best opportunity we could. Not every family has two believing parents, or even two parents. All God asks is that we do the best we can with whatever circumstances we have, and trust Him to do the rest, knowing our mighty God is bigger than these statistics.

My parents sent me to Sunday school but never attended church themselves and were not Christians, so the odds were stacked against me – probably somewhere less than 6%. But as Jesus told his disciples, “with God all things are possible” (Matt 19:25-26). When the odds are against us, we must do our best, and then be in regular prayer for God to do the rest. God can overcome any odds. I’d be happy to pray for you also, just let me know.

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5 Replies to “The Importance of Going to Church (part 1)

  1. We had this very discussion on our way to our Growth Group tonight – just before receiving this email. The blog was on an absolute revelation to Scott and I and has challenged and encouraged us tremendously.

  2. Great little article John. I have seen similar stats somewhere else before but can’t remember where. What is very powerful is the impact that Dad attending church has. This seems to go hand in hand with the idea that the Father is the spiritual head of the home and has been given the huge responsibility of leading in this way. It seems like a big ask but even the simplest step of turning up to church with our families can have a lifelong impact. Naturally God will be at work on the life of a Dad who sees the important link here and as Dad grows in Christian maturity so will his family.
    It raises the problem of how do we achieve a similar effect in kids who are not in a position to have Dad at church. Something Rod and I have been chatting about.

  3. We were never meant to walk the journey alone. I wonder at, and thank God often, for his provision of a Church family who, while not being in your pocket, are always there to help when you need it most. It’s God’s love compelling us. I have four adult children all brought to church from the time they were born and involved in it, as well as prayer and Bible Stories/reading at home throughout their growing years – three now follow the Lord closely and one does not. And it is a heart ache. I ofen lie awake at night crying out to God for them. But I can still see God’s hand on that one in remarkable ways – as if God is drawing them to Himself despite their reluctance.

  4. We agree with your comments Dawn.
    We have 3 children as you know, 2 who are going on for the Lord so far and one who is not. We brought them all up in the same way. That one seemed to make a good start but something happened. We agree with your comments about the role that the church family has in achieving this desirable objective. There are so many temptations and allurements in the world. The church has to strongly demonstrate a christian alternative in support of the example given by the parents. In the end though, it is the work of The Holy Spirit to bring together all influences and strengthen or overrule these as He sees necessary. Ultimately the child makes the call though. We see evidences in our 1 as you do in yours. We are also encouraged by the verse “Train a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.’ Prov. 22 v 6.

  5. Thanks so much John for putting this together. It is always interesting to read supporting statistics and also the responses from those above. Even in this case, where we would like to think that church attendance by parents has some influence on the children, it’s not until you see the numbers that you realize just how much that is the case! I am always grateful to the Lord, for even though neither of my parents went to church, until they were both saved in their mid 60’s, they did send my brother and I to Sunday School with family friends who lived across the road. That family faithfully took us each week for many years and God used them to provide an opportunity for us to have exposure to the Gospel, to church life, and to a living Christian example. Those wonderful friends are still in my life today! Although my parents could not be the spiritual influences I needed when I was young, God provided another way. I believe therefore that taking kids under your wing, mentoring them and being a ‘parent stand in’ (their own parents permitting) can also be a means of seeing those statistics fulfilled. In turn, the Lord can also be using those kids to have an influence on their unsaved parents. Although I don’t have kids myself, again I’m trusting to be a spiritual ‘substitute parent’ for my niece and nephews, until their parents can also fill that role. God is faithful!

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