This was published in the SC Baptist Courier in July.  I never posted it here, but it remains relevant.  Church is more than a ‘thing we do that we can just stop doing.’  To believers it is essential.  And in reality, to deny its relevance is to be blinded to the reality of all too many lives and struggles.

Wholly Healthy: Church Good for Your Health

Our church hasn’t met for about two months now. Many of yours haven’t either. While this has been controversial, I applaud those who have stayed home out of concern for the safety of their brothers and sisters and respect for civil authorities. Pastors and church leaders have undoubtedly struggled with these decisions, but I appreciate their thoughtfulness.
Sadly, many public health professionals have casually ignored the importance of church gatherings to the health and well-being of worshippers. Church is seen as simply a social club, a choice, a hobby that can be deferred indefinitely. But this suggests a tragic lack of understanding.

Church meetings, aside from the Biblical imperatives that we gather together, are sources of great comfort to the lonely. It is well known that social interaction is healthy. Many men and women live alone, or have troubled home lives. For them, a church service is worship, learning and social time. It’s a place for them to love and be loved, and perhaps for a brother or sister to notice that they are struggling. This has enormous value, both to the young and especially to the aged, who may be widowed or unable to get out much at all.

It could be that a church member deals with substance abuse, and that a weekly, or twice weekly gathering serves as a powerful reminder of the love of Christ and the power of the Spirit. Possibly, that is what keeps him from relapsing, or comforts him when he does.

Another member may have terrible memories of trauma that haunt her. The hugs of church members, the music, the teaching might be the the beacon helping that sister to navigate the dark halls of her mind.

Guilt is a great burden. Who doesn’t carry some around? We need regular reminders that our sins are either forgiven, or can be, so that the weight of the past doesn’t pull us down every single night and day. Forgiveness is powerful medicine.
And as we ‘suffer the little children,’ we must remember that a children’s church service might be life-saving for a child in danger, whose parents may not attend but might drop him off each Sunday for services. (‘God works in mysterious ways,’ as the hymn by William Cowper says.) It is becoming clear that family violence has risen during the time of quarantine. A church services might be the portal to safety for an abused child, wife and mother to find help; or at least hope.

Furthermore, the gathering of the faithful, in so much as it is good for our mental health, can also benefit our physical health. There are well known connections between depression and anxiety and cardiac disease. Heart disease makes depression worse; but depression appears to make heart disease more likely.–heart-disease

It may be a while before we meet together again. I think we understand the reasons. But God speed the day. Because our faith and our health, physically and emotionally, are inextricably connected.


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