Saturday, January 02, 2010

Why Do So Many Go to Church?


That's a good question -- why do so many go to church when there are so many other things to do?

I've been doing some reading about and by Edgar Dewitt Jones.  Dr. Jones was the founding pastor of the church that I pastor.  His ghost seems to hang over the church, but instead of trying to run from it, I've been trying to understand the legacy.   Back in the day, he was one of America's great preachers, serving a term as President of the Federal Council of Churches.  When absent from the pulpit in Detroit, it was filled by the likes of Harry Emerson Fosdick.  I think he may have envisioned Central Woodward Christian Church as a sort of Riverside Church of Detroit.  Anyway, he filled the sanctuary every Sunday, and was renowned for his sermons.  In one sermon, which I found in a book of sermons published near the end of his life (Sermons I Love to Preach, Harper, 1952), Jones speaks of monuments erected to remind a nation of forgetters of the important events of life. One of these being the church.  But why do we go?

Every once in a while a minister, unwisely, I think, preaches on "Why Don't More People Go to Church?  Rather, his subject should be "Why Do So Many People Go to Church?"  Think of it:  there are many other places to which one may go of a more entertaining nature, where he is freer to move about and do as he pleases.  As Harry Lauder used to sing, "Oh it's nice to get up in the morning, but it's nicer to lie in bed."  It is often a privation to leave a comfortable house on a cold or storm-swept day to attend a church several miles distant.  Nevertheless, all over this nation and other lands people continue to go to church in season and out of season.  The surprising thing is not that attendance at public worship is dying out, but that it is very much alive.  Churches are ubiquitous; theaters, baseball fields and race tracks are not."  (p. 51). 

Jones preached this sermon prior to 1952 -- probably in the late 40s, when church going was much more important socially/culturally than now.  Today, we might add in there golf courses and soccer fields!  And having spent a large chunk of my ministry, serving churches in Southern California, I would add -- going to the beach!

So, why do we go? 

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