Do you go to church every Sunday? Don’t lie. When many Americans were asked about their church participation during a phone survey, they exaggerated their record of attendance. A new study titled “I know what you did last Sunday: Measuring Social Desirability Bias in Self-Reported Religious Behavior, Belief, and Belonging” compares the results of identical surveys: one on the phone and one online.
It’s no surprise that participants were more honest on the seemingly anonymous online survey than when they were telling another human being their church attendance record. While the details of the study regarding specific demographics and denominations are very interesting, I’d like to hone in on the malady behind these symptoms. Why would we lie about how involved we are at church? This exaggeration of the truth reveals a misunderstanding of the worship of God and the grace of God.
Why do we go to church on Sundays? For one, the Bible prescribes a day of rest called the Sabbath. Historically, the church has celebrated this by refraining from work and gathering to worship God on Sunday, the day of the week of Christ’s resurrection.
Hebrews 10:24-25 says “let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Unpacking this a bit shows that your church needs you. You are called to meet with the body of Christ to encourage. I often need to be reminded of this when I begin to exhibit a consumer mentality, asking what the church does for me. Instead we should ask God, in prayer, how to and who we can spur on to love and good deeds in our churches. And be ready to receive some spurring ourselves.
While much more could be said about why we should go to church, let’s talk about why we should want to go to church. God does not need our worship. There’s no scorecard, and therefore no need to lie about how many points we’ve earned. Attending church makes one as much of a Christian as walking on an interstate makes one an automobile. So why would I want to get up on Sunday morning? In a word, thankfulness.
“He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God” (Psalm 40). Let us join with those who were wretches, now saved by amazing grace, to worship the living God who has adopted us as his sons and daughters.
If you have called on Jesus’ name for your salvation, he has made you new. We get his perfect scorecard. God is not counting how many times you go to church this year. He desires your heart—your love. Will you express your love and admiration for your savior every day this week? And on Sunday?