Why Do We Go to Church?

Our own Richard Flory recently appeared on the illustrious Research on Religion podcast discussing why people go to church.  Here’s the summary of his interview… check it out!

A recent Barna Group survey found that roughly 60% of regular churchgoers could not remember any new religious insight from the last time they attended churc, and 50% could not remember any insight from the previous week’s service.  So why bother gettin’ out of bed, gettin’ on your Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes and trudging down to the local congregation?  We take up this issue with Dr. Richard Flory, associate research professor of sociology at the University of Southern California and director of research at the USC Center for Religion & Civic Culture.  Based upon a blog post he wrote on this topic, Richard speculates that it might not be the spiritual message that lures us to church service, but rather the communal aspect of worshiping together that draws us together every Sunday.  We discuss some of the demographic possibilities for these research findings as well, contemplating whether age, gender or the clergy’s lack of dynamism may have something to do with why people report tuning out during the sermon.  The second half of our discussion then looks at the role that churches play in the community and we talk about Richard’s research on church activism in Los Angeles following the 1992 riots, a topic near to the heart of your host since he was living in L.A. at the time.  Prof. Flory details the various means that churches have tried to heal the city vis-a-vis charity, advocacy for social justice, community development, and interfaith dialogue.  He provides several examples including work done by Rev. Mark Whitlock, Cecil Murray of the First AME, La Voice PICO, and other groups.  He concludes by noting how churches must first be interested in developing the spiritual life of its congregants but then develop those interests in such a way that they entail community outreach.

  • E. Turner

    Puritan theologians spoke of attending worship as “attending the means of grace” indicating that in public worship one would encounter and benefit from the presence of God. I would think that God’s presence is the only reason public worship continues to survive, since better preaching, professional music, and more agreeable company can be experience in my easy chair, in front of my television.


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