A Scientific Argument for Church

On Sunday April 12th we began a sermon series at The Edge Church called “Why Church?” where we wrestle with the validity and significance, if any, of the local church. That morning, I (Pete) shared from a scientific approach – I was careful to not quote Scripture and simply use data, science and facts to demonstrate a point.

The sources I chose to use were almost exclusively non-Christian. In other words, I did my best to use “unbiased” opinions of scientists, researchers, pollsters and other authorities instead of quoting from the Bible to make the case for the local church.

Allow me to explain what I mean by approaching this topic with a scientific mindset…

The Scientific Approach

When thinking about the church specifically, someone who’s taking a scientific approach might make statements such as these:

The church is irrelevant in today’s culture/age

The Bible is filled with many inaccuracies and cannot be trusted

Science and religion don’t mix

Religion is a crutch for the weak minded

Church has and does nothing for me

When taking this approach to church, it’s no wonder we struggle to validate the purpose and need for a local church! But before we throw the baby out with the bathwater, let’s take a look at why church matters from a scientific standpoint.

Scientific Benefits of Regular Church Attendance

Below you’ll find hard data, mostly found by unchurched, non-Christian sources, as to why church matters and how it benefits us.

PHYSICAL – it boosts our immune system (according to Duke Medical Center), lowers blood pressure (according to the New York Times) and causes us to live 7-14 years longer (according to webmd and MANY other sources).

EMOTIONAL – It gives us more personal satisfaction in life (University of Chicago), lowers our risk of severe depression by 22% (Canadian Journal of Psychiatry) and increases positive emotions while also decreasing negative emotions (Gallup poll – see chart below).

churchgoers - increased positive emotions via gallup poll

PERSONAL – Attending church regularly helps us to manage life (Bainbridge, William Sims, “The Religious Ecology of Deviance,” American Sociological Review, 1989, 54: 288-295) and time (Freeman, Richard B. 1985. “Who Escapes? The Relation of Churchgoing and Other Background Factors to the Socioeconomic Performance of Black Male Youths from Inner-City Tracts.” National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper No. 1656) better, we’re more likely to complete academic degrees and achieve other academic goals (Regnerus, Mark D. 2000. “Shaping Schooling Success: Religious Socialization and Educational Outcomes in Metropolitan Public Schools,” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion39: 363-370. Also see, Regnerus, Mark D. 2001. “Making the Grade: The Influence of Religion Upon the Academic Performance of Youth in Disadvantaged Communities,” University of Pennsylvania, Center for Research on Religion and Urban Civil Society Report No. 3 44: 394-413.) and it gives us an increased mental well-being (Johnson, Byron R., Ralph Brett Tompkins, and Derek Webb. 2002. “Objective Hope—Assessing the Effectiveness of Faith-Based Organizations: A Systematic Review of the Literature,” Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, Center for Research on Religion and Urban Civil Society).

MARITAL / SEXUAL – It benefits our marriages, helps us rate our sex partners as ‘extremely enjoyable’ (U of Chicago again) and causes us to be much less likely to have sex outside marriage (one source of many- this source is likely religious).

There are many, many more studies from other sources – Christian and non-Christian – that demonstrate the benefit that church attendance has on our lives.

Why don’t you consider being a part of The Edge Church here in Knighdale? Come skeptical, come with questions, come ready to disagree – but most importantly, come as you are. Your marriage, emotions, physical bodies and personal lives will be better for it.

Palm and Easter Sundays

Easter 2011

This week, often called Holy Week in more traditional Christian circles, feels a bit like the “Superbowl” of the church. Statistics often show that churches double in attendance on Easter Sunday. There are many who come to church for a variety of reasons on Easter. Think of it like Christmas: it’s simply a time of year where more people think about God and about the local church and, consequently, decide to attend.

This Easter will likely be no different for us at The Edge Church. As the lead pastor of a recently planted church, I confess that I don’t quite know what to expect this Sunday. We could potentially have a flood of visitors that exponentially increases our church size. Or, we could have only a few new families visiting. Either way, I always say that numbers don’t matter – and they don’t. But they’re important to watch and prepare for, and I don’t yet know what to expect for our first Easter.

I also feel a bit of pressure, if I’m honest, with what time of sermon to prepare. There’s no question that the Easter message is the top reason for us to celebrate! The message of Easter is central to what we believe!

But what about those who come to church only on Easter? They’ve heard this message dozens of times, haven’t they? The pattern of egg hunt, resurrection message, salvation invitation is used every year and they’ve potentially made up their minds on how they’ll respond to the invitation. Right?

I was messaging several pastor friends who have a creative flair to them, wondering what their thoughts were on an Easter message. Some were wrestling with the same burden I felt – the curiosity of what goes through Easter attenders’ minds and what content to preach that morning.

There’s no question that the Holy Spirit convicts the hearts and minds of people. And yes, we need to create opportunities for people to, “do business with God” (as I like to say). Our first Easter service won’t be any different. But how I present the message, and how our team presents the message through song, videos, announcements, kid’s programs, is of vital importance.

I’m proud that our team has also devised a video series that we’re calling #churchawkwardisms. These videos, depicting awkward church situations stemmed from true stories of being embarrassed at church, will start on Easter Sunday and will tie into our next sermon series.

I’m proud that our worship team is talented and capable of singing some incredible songs and leading us in worship. I can’t wait to celebrate that morning by singing the songs we’ve chosen!

If you already attend The Edge Church on Sundays, here are two things you can do to make our first Easter service something to be remembered:

1- Invite someone to church! Studies show that 4 out of 5 people invited to attend Easter actually come. Help us spread the word by inviting people, giving out the invitation cards or by sharing this image on social media and tagging your friends:

Easter Edge Church Invitation

2- Pray that service would be powerful and moving. If God doesn’t show up, all this is for nothing! We need God to show up in a powerful way and move in people’s hearts.

If you’ve never attended The Edge Church, we would be honored to have you as our guest. We never embarrass guests or call them out. You can sneak in, catch a free coffee in the lobby, drop your kids off for their age-appropriate rooms and slip into the auditorium without ever identifying yourself as a visitor.

For everyone who comes on Easter and beyond, we will always strive to accept you where you are and encourage you toward where God wants you to be.

Hope to see you this weekend!

Pete