In the past, I thought going to church every Sunday was just one more item on the good Christian checklist, an act of obedience and a potential bragging point for the self-righteous. But over the past few years, I have discovered the actual value of worshiping God with our church family.
When I left home to go to college six hours away, I didn’t fully realize the true difficulties of starting a new chapter of life in a new place without knowing anyone who lived there. I had never been homesick before, and it hit me pretty hard in the first couple weeks.
My church helped ease that ache. Even though the place was not familiar, the hymns and creeds were. More importantly, the people treated me like a family member even though they had just met me. They showed a genuine interest in me. They invited me to their homes. They gave me home-cooked meals and desserts. They let me play with their children, and as the weeks and then years passed, they gave me and my friends the advice and comfort we needed. Now I know that nearly anywhere I go in the world, I will have my church family to welcome me.
The church does not only fulfill our need for community. It also provides spiritual support. I have learned from the wisdom and the example of those in both my home church and my church at school. During the times my faith wavered, their faith encouraged me. When I needed prayer, they offered it, and their presence and their belief strengthened my thankfulness for God's love and mercy.
You don't have to go to church every Sunday to be a Christian, and no congregation is flawless. However, if you never go, you miss the support, love and encouragement that comes from a group of imperfect people worshiping a perfect God.