Why I go to church

 

PeopleCrossOn the way to church last Sunday, I saw that a friend of mine had checked in on Facebook at a Buddhist temple near her home. She had not shared a status remark, only choosing an icon that indicated she was “feeling peaceful”.

This person was not raised Buddhist. In fact, she was raised in a Christian culture but had left religion some time ago. I wondered… was she looking for God again and just happened to end up in that temple? Or did she intentionally go there seeking the peace about which she posted?  I looked forward to our visit next month so we could talk about it over a meal.

But I couldn’t get it out of my mind as I pulled in to the parking lot of my own beloved place of worship.

I arrived a little late. The music had already started as I settled in to my seat and soon, the pastor began to speak. He’s an excellent teacher and normally, I don’t want to miss a word, a nuance, a pearl.

But I was distracted as I thought again about my friend who was sitting in that Buddhist temple at precisely that same moment. I wanted to understand how our experiences might be similar or how they might be different.  I started asking myself why do I go to church on Sunday mornings? Was I there, like my friend, to feel peaceful? or was there something else?

(As an aside, while peace is often found at church, sometimes it just isn’t because well, there are people there. If feeling peaceful is the main reason I go, perhaps I could spare myself the effort and just go chill on the bluff over the ocean near my house by myself. Now THAT would be peaceful.  A friend of mine once joked “church would be so great if it weren’t for all those people”.  While we might laugh at that, if we were totally honest, we might agree. People at church sometimes just bug! Sometimes they might even snub us.  And those in leadership might even fail us.  We can get hurt and jaded and as a result, we might stop going.  I’ve sure had my share of experiences along these lines and understand the initial emotions. But I digress.)

church1

SO… why DO I go to church?

I know I don’t go because I think I have to or because it suddenly makes me more spiritual or because I believe it is the only place where God is found. I don’t go because I think I’m better than you; in fact, I go to church because I’m a mess, because I can sometimes lose my way and forget who I am.

I go to listen to a guy I trust share from the Bible about Christ’s character and His plan and how I get to participate in it despite how flawed I am.

I go because I need community.  My grandfather used to say “if you want to become a better tennis player, than play with someone who is better than you.” I need to regularly sharpen and deepen my faith by regularly rubbing up against others who live in the way I claim to believe because frankly, sometimes my blade just gets dull.

I go to church to expose myself to even more opportunities to serve. To serve when it doesn’t fit into the schedule or when it’s unglamorous or when it’s awkward or when it costs something is service like none other. I can get pretty insular which can sometimes lead to depression and when I give or serve, I swear, it snaps me right out of it. I can serve in many places in my city and I can send a check to an NGO I trust, but to serve where you will see those people again and again… well, it’s like a shot of Vitamin B.

I go to be reminded that I’m a daughter of royalty and don’t need to be afraid of terrorism or any other earthly insecurity.

But mostly, I go to church because I’m grateful.  I can’t explain to you, but even after all these years, the idea that God would still want to hang out with broken and flawed me still surprises me.  So I go.

I go to join my spiritual family in showing appreciation for, honor and reverence and homage to Jesus… the One I love, trust, and to Whom I owe my life.

And oh yeah… we SING!

 

“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”

Proverbs 27:17

“Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”

Colossians 3:16

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  112. First, let’s get a little historical perspective on American health care. This is not intended to be an exhausted look into that history but it will give us an appreciation of how the health care system and our expectations for it developed. What drove costs higher and higher?

    To begin, let’s turn to the American civil war. In that war, dated tactics and the carnage inflicted by modern weapons of the era combined to cause ghastly results. Not generally known is that most of the deaths on both sides of that war were not the result of actual combat but to what happened after a battlefield wound was inflicted. To begin with, evacuation of the wounded moved at a snail’s pace and this caused severe delays in treating the wounded. Secondly, many wounds were subjected to wound care, related surgeries and/or amputations of the affected limbs and this often resulted in the onset of massive infection. So you might survive a battle wound only to die at the hands of medical care providers who although well-intentioned, their interventions were often quite lethal. High death tolls can also be ascribed to everyday sicknesses and diseases in a time when no antibiotics existed. In total something like 600,000 deaths occurred from all causes, over 2% of the U.S. population at the time!

    Let’s skip to the first half of the 20th century for some additional perspective and to bring us up to more modern times. After the civil war there were steady improvements in American medicine in both the understanding and treatment of certain diseases, new surgical techniques and in physician education and training. But for the most part the best that doctors could offer their patients was a “wait and see” approach. Medicine could handle bone fractures and increasingly attempt risky surgeries (now largely performed in sterile surgical environments) but medicines were not yet available to handle serious illnesses. The majority of deaths remained the result of untreatable conditions such as tuberculosis, pneumonia, scarlet fever and measles and/or related complications. Doctors were increasingly aware of heart and vascular conditions, and cancer but they had almost nothing with which to treat these conditions.

    This very basic review of American medical history helps us to understand that until quite recently (around the 1950’s) we had virtually no technologies with which to treat serious or even minor ailments. Here is a critical point we need to understand; “nothing to treat you with means that visits to the doctor if at all were relegated to emergencies so in such a scenario costs are curtailed. The simple fact is that there was little for doctors to offer and therefore virtually nothing to drive health care spending. A second factor holding down costs was that medical treatments that were provided were paid for out-of-pocket, meaning by way of an individuals personal resources. There was no such thing as health insurance and certainly not health insurance paid by an employer. Except for the very destitute who were lucky to find their way into a charity hospital, health care costs were the responsibility of the individual.

    What does health care insurance have to do with health care costs? Its impact on health care costs has been, and remains to this day, absolutely enormous. When health insurance for individuals and families emerged as a means for corporations to escape wage freezes and to attract and retain employees after World War II, almost overnight a great pool of money became available to pay for health care. Money, as a result of the availability of billions of dollars from health insurance pools, encouraged an innovative America to increase medical research efforts. More Americans became insured not only through private, employer sponsored health insurance but through increased government funding that created Medicare and Medicaid (1965). In addition funding became available for expanded veterans health care benefits. Finding a cure for almost anything has consequently become very lucrative. This is also the primary reason for the vast array of treatments we have available today.

    I do not wish to convey that medical innovations are a bad thing. Think of the tens of millions of lives that have been saved, extended, enhanced and made more productive as a result. But with a funding source grown to its current magnitude (hundreds of billions of dollars annually) upward pressure on health care costs are inevitable. Doctor’s offer and most of us demand and get access to the latest available health care technology in the form of pharmaceuticals, medical devices, diagnostic tools and surgical procedures. So the result is that there is more health care to spend our money on and until very recently most of us were insured and the costs were largely covered by a third-party (government, employers). Add an insatiable and unrealistic public demand for access and treatment and we have the “perfect storm” for higher and higher health care costs. And by and large the storm is only intensifying.

    At this point, let’s turn to the key questions that will lead us into a review and hopefully a better understanding of the health care reform proposals in the news today. Is the current trajectory of U.S. health care spending sustainable? Can America maintain its world competitiveness when 16%, heading for 20% of our gross national product is being spent on health care? What are the other industrialized countries spending on health care and is it even close to these numbers? When we add politics and an election year to the debate, information to help us answer these questions become critical. We need to spend some effort in understanding health care and sorting out how we think about it. Properly armed we can more intelligently determine whether certain health care proposals might solve or worsen some of these problems. What can be done about the challenges? How can we as individuals contribute to the solutions?

    The Obama health care plan is complex for sure – I have never seen a health care plan that isn’t. But through a variety of programs his plan attempts to deal with a) increasing the number of American that are covered by adequate insurance (almost 50 million are not), and b) managing costs in such a manner that quality and our access to health care is not adversely affected. Republicans seek to achieve these same basic and broad goals, but their approach is proposed as being more market driven than government driven. Let’s look at what the Obama plan does to accomplish the two objectives above. Remember, by the way, that his plan was passed by congress, and begins to seriously kick-in starting in 2014. So this is the direction we are currently taking as we attempt to reform health care.

    Through insurance exchanges and an expansion of Medicaid,the Obama plan dramatically expands the number of Americans that will be covered by health insurance.

    To cover the cost of this expansion the plan requires everyone to have health insurance with a penalty to be paid if we don’t comply. It will purportedly send money to the states to cover those individuals added to state-based Medicaid programs.

    To cover the added costs there were a number of new taxes introduced, one being a 2.5% tax on new medical technologies and another increases taxes on interest and dividend income for wealthier Americans.

    The Obama plan also uses concepts such as evidence-based medicine, accountable care organizations, comparative effectiveness research and reduced reimbursement to health care providers (doctors and hospitals) to control costs.

    The insurance mandate covered by points 1 and 2 above is a worthy goal and most industrialized countries outside of the U.S. provide “free” (paid for by rather high individual and corporate taxes) health care to most if not all of their citizens. It is important to note, however, that there are a number of restrictions for which many Americans would be culturally unprepared. Here is the primary controversial aspect of the Obama plan, the insurance mandate. The U.S. Supreme Court recently decided to hear arguments as to the constitutionality of the health insurance mandate as a result of a petition by 26 states attorney’s general that congress exceeded its authority under the commerce clause of the U.S. constitution by passing this element of the plan. The problem is that if the Supreme Court should rule against the mandate, it is generally believed that the Obama plan as we know it is doomed. This is because its major goal of providing health insurance to all would be severely limited if not terminated altogether by such a decision.

    As you would guess, the taxes covered by point 3 above are rather unpopular with those entities and individuals that have to pay them. Medical device companies, pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, doctors and insurance companies all had to “give up” something that would either create new revenue or would reduce costs within their spheres of control. As an example, Stryker Corporation, a large medical device company, recently announced at least a 1,000 employee reduction in part to cover these new fees. This is being experienced by other medical device companies and pharmaceutical companies as well. The reduction in good paying jobs in these sectors and in the hospital sector may rise as former cost structures will have to be dealt with in order to accommodate the reduced rate of reimbursement to hospitals. Over the next ten years some estimates put the cost reductions to hospitals and physicians at half a trillion dollars and this will flow directly to and affect the companies that supply hospitals and doctors with the latest medical technologies. None of this is to say that efficiencies will not be realized by these changes or that other jobs will in turn be created but this will represent painful change for a while. It helps us to understand that health care reform does have an effect both positive and negative.

    Finally, the Obama plan seeks to change the way medical decisions are made. While clinical and basic research underpins almost everything done in medicine today, doctors are creatures of habit like the rest of us and their training and day-to-day experiences dictate to a great extent how they go about diagnosing and treating our conditions. Enter the concept of evidence-based medicine and comparative effectiveness research. Both of these seek to develop and utilize data bases from electronic health records and other sources to give better and more timely information and feedback to physicians as to the outcomes and costs of the treatments they are providing. There is great waste in health care today, estimated at perhaps a third of an over 2 trillion dollar health care spend annually. Imagine the savings that are possible from a reduction in unnecessary test and procedures that do not compare favorably with health care interventions that are better documented as effective. Now the Republicans and others don’t generally like these ideas as they tend to characterize them as “big government control” of your and my health care. But to be fair, regardless of their political persuasions, most people who understand health care at all, know that better data for the purposes described above will be crucial to getting health care efficiencies, patient safety and costs headed in the right direction.

    A brief review of how Republicans and more conservative individuals think about health care reform. I believe they would agree that costs must come under control and that more, not fewer Americans should have access to health care regardless of their ability to pay. But the main difference is that these folks see market forces and competition as the way to creating the cost reductions and efficiencies we need. There are a number of ideas with regard to driving more competition among health insurance companies and health care providers (doctors and hospitals) so that the consumer would begin to drive cost down by the choices we make. This works in many sectors of our economy but this formula has shown that improvements are illusive when applied to health care. Primarily the problem is that health care choices are difficult even for those who understand it and are connected. The general population, however, is not so informed and besides we have all been brought up to “go to the doctor” when we feel it is necessary and we also have a cultural heritage that has engendered within most of us the feeling that health care is something that is just there and there really isn’t any reason not to access it for whatever the reason and worse we all feel that there is nothing we can do to affect its costs to insure its availability to those with serious problems.

    OK, this article was not intended to be an exhaustive study as I needed to keep it short in an attempt to hold my audience’s attention and to leave some room for discussing what we can do contribute mightily to solving some of the problems. First we must understand that the dollars available for health care are not limitless. Any changes that are put in place to provide better insurance coverage and access to care will cost more. And somehow we have to find the revenues to pay for these changes. At the same time we have to pay less for medical treatments and procedures and do something to restrict the availability of unproven or poorly documented treatments as we are the highest cost health care system in the world and don’t necessarily have the best results in terms of longevity or avoiding chronic diseases much earlier than necessary.

    I believe that we need a revolutionary change in the way we think about health care, its availability, its costs and who pays for it. And if you think I am about to say we should arbitrarily and drastically reduce spending on health care you would be wrong. Here it is fellow citizens – health care spending needs to be preserved and protected for those who need it. And to free up these dollars those of us who don’t need it or can delay it or avoid it need to act. First, we need to convince our politicians that this country needs sustained public education with regard to the value of preventive health strategies. This should be a top priority and it has worked to reduce the number of U.S. smokers for example. If prevention were to take hold, it is reasonable to assume that those needing health care for the myriad of life style engendered chronic diseases would decrease dramatically. Millions of Americans are experiencing these diseases far earlier than in decades past and much of this is due to poor life style choices. This change alone would free up plenty of money to handle the health care costs of those in dire need of treatment, whether due to an acute emergency or chronic condition.

    Let’s go deeper on the first issue. Most of us refuse do something about implementing basic wellness strategies into our daily lives. We don’t exercise but we offer a lot of excuses. We don’t eat right but we offer a lot of excuses. We smoke and/or we drink alcohol to excess and we offer a lot of excuses as to why we can’t do anything about managing these known to be destructive personal health habits. We don’t take advantage of preventive health check-ups that look at blood pressure, cholesterol readings and body weight but we offer a lot of excuses. In short we neglect these things and the result is that we succumb much earlier than necessary to chronic diseases like heart problems, diabetes and high blood pressure. We wind up accessing doctors for these and more routine matters because “health care is there” and somehow we think we have no responsibility for reducing our demand on it.

    It is difficult for us to listen to these truths but easy to blame the sick. Maybe they should take better care of themselves! Well, that might be true or maybe they have a genetic condition and they have become among the unfortunate through absolutely no fault of their own. But the point is that you and I can implement personalized preventive disease measures as a way of dramatically improving health care access for others while reducing its costs. It is far better to be productive by doing something we can control then shifting the blame.

    There are a huge number of free web sites available that can steer us to a more healthful life style. A soon as you can, “Google” “preventive health care strategies”, look up your local hospital’s web site and you will find more than enough help to get you started. Finally, there is a lot to think about here and I have tried to outline the challenges but also the very powerful effect we could have on preserving the best of America’s health care system now and into the future. I am anxious to hear from you and until then – take charge and increase your chances for good health while making sure that health care is there when we need it.

  113. I don’t know how I came on this. I love trying out things on my iPad and found this. What is church? It is the physical and spiritual body of Jesus Christ. He lives in us and we live in Him. The church is my mother, father, sister, brother, children, grandchildren and on an on. We are all there because we are family and families gather on Sunday’s to be together, to check on each other and to be encouraged and loved by each other. Take my church from me and you have taken everything and my very support system.

  114. Sylvia, you are so smart! I was raised Catholic and we were ‘trained’ to go to church. Unless sick or out of town, we went to church. It was a chore and I didn’t want to do it. God has met me in CEBC and I go to be with Him and see what he has for me, and what I can do for Him.

    This mess will see your messy self there soon!

  115. I am happy to be included in this discussion as this is good stuff. I hope you are getting lots of love and encouragement from folks in your church. I’m certain they are getting lots from you. Where else can you hear the word of God on a consistent basis?

  116. Sylvia; you wrote what my spirit mirrors . I love going to church & you put that love into words; brought it to light; reinforced community & reinforced purpose .. I hope you’re always there with me with the same spirit!

  117. I’m so glad you wrote this and I read it. 🙂
    Thank you for sharing. Sometimes I feel like I’m the only one who feels that way.

  118. Hebrews 10:25…. As usual, God expresses his ❤️ through your writing talents! Grateful for you this season and always! We will be together until Jesus takes us home.

  119. Thanks for writing about this topic! It’s important. I’ve asked myself many times, “Why do I go to church and why do I continue to attend the church that has so deeply hurt me and continues to frustrate me?” The answer has come back so plain and clear many times, but clearest has been when I felt God prompt me with, “Do you still love your family, the people who have hurt you the deepest? Have you walked away from them? Do they frustrate you? Are you planning to give up on them?” And then I sensed that God told me, “You are free to give up on them. They have been very hard on you, but ‘I’ will NEVER give up! They are my children.”

    The church is my family just as my biological family is my family. And I need both. Beyond needing family I am called to worship God in community, which I love doing! However, there are days, honestly, I don’t want either one of these, but I can’t allow myself to base my life on feelings, because my feelings are very deceptive. The truth is, if I show up, God is always there to meet me ~ His faithfulness far outweighs mine!

    1. Wow, a lot said there. It is true, that we have to develop the ability to see Christ, no matter what people around us might do that hurts as we continue to develop the “mind of Christ”. Thank you for reading and hopefully sharing this blog!

  120. I have avoided organized religion like the plague for a long time now. I have to say that never have I ever heard a Christian churchgoing person express themselves like this.

    1. Thank you for taking the time to leave that comment Alicia. I hope you will sign up to receive future blogs as I’d love to hear from you.

  121. Nice. I think that God’s church is supposed to be exactly what you wrote. A place for folks who truly want to know God, to learn about God in a place that worships God and speaks truth about God with a group of people who know that they are nothing without God but everything with Him, created by Him for relationship with Him and redeemed by Him alone. Such love. It knows no limits. To rest in that while sitting with my beloved, crazy, wonderful church family is all I need. Ever.

  122. WHY DO I GO TO CHURCH?HMMM;I GO TO CHURCH TO WORSHIP GOD;NOW IKNOW GOD IS EVERY WHERE,AND I CAN WORSHIP HIM EVERY WHERE,BUT I GO TO CHURCH TO HEAR THE WORD OF GOD,TO TELL HIM I LOVE HIM,TO THANK HIM FOR SAVING ME FROM THE DEPTHS OF HELL,HOW HE REACHE DOWN AND PICKED ME UP AND SAID I HAVE BEEN WAITING A LONG TIME FOR YOU TO COME TO ME;I GO TO CHURCH TO MINGLE WITH OTHER OF GOD’S CHILDREN WHO LOVE HIM AS I DO; I GO TO CHURCH TO HEAR GOD’S WORD TAUGHT BY A BIBLE SCHOLAR,WHO GIVES ME A NEW PERSPECTIVE;I GO TO CHURCH TO SING PRAISE;I GO TO CHURCH BECAUSE I LOVE TO GO,I CAN NOT WAIT FROM ONE SUNDAY TO THE NEXT TO HEAR GOD’S WORD.I AM SOOOOOOOOOO THANKFUL GOD PLANTED ME AT CEBC,A CHURCH I CALL MY HOME!!!!!!!!!!!I GO TO CHURCH SIMPLY BECAUSE I LOVE TO GO,TO WORSHIP MY FATHER,AND TO BE NEAR THE THRONE OF GOD.I LOVE MY CHURCH,I DO NOT KNOW WHY GOD PLANTED ME THERE,BUT I HAVE A CHURCH HOME,ALL MINE AND WHERE GOD IS.I GO TO CHURCH BECAUSE I LOVE WHAT ALL IT IS AND STANDS FOR.THANK YOU FOR BEING A FRIEND OF GOD TO ME, I LOVE YOU MOST!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    1. This woman Joyce is a bonafide angel in many of our lives. She means this stuff and I appreciate the comment so so much.

  123. You so beautifully put into words what I feel in my heart. I go to church because I want and need “family”. As a single woman with no family my church is my family. The younsters there are my children to encourage and help raise in the Lord. I go because Jesus said “where 2 or 3 are gathered in my name I am in the midst. I go to get the physical and spiritual hugs that corporate fellowship provides. I go to be fed God’s word. Sure I can study at home alone but the spiritual interaction with the “family” beats going solo any time. I go because I want to go. Jesus told me to “lnot forsake the assembling together with other believers.

  124. I recently started to attend a Universalist church but already know it’s probably not for me. I was raised in a religious home but was also disillusioned by it and left when I lost my first marriage because I felt so judged. This blog is really good though.You have said things in a way I haven’t heard religious people ever say them. Would you talk to me if I wrote a private note to you? I am inspired by you! It looks like you have written allot but not for awhile. Will you be writing more?

    1. Hi Sandra- I’m so glad you wrote. (Have we met before?) Please feel free to send me a private message through Facebook and of course, I will respond. I don’t know what city you are in but maybe I can help you find a good church to check out and give it all another go. God bless you!

  125. I completely agree with you. Sometimes, I go to church not thinking of anything and then, it is like the Pastor is talking directly to me. Some days, it is peaceful. Some days, my heart aches and I cry. I love to worship, but I can do that anywhere.

    Thank you – great Blog

  126. A friend of mine shared this on her Instagram and I liked it a lot. I’ve been disillusioned with church for a long time and haven’t dearkened a door in many years. This has made me think about checking things out with God again.

    1. Hi Jason, I hope you do as it can become your spiritual, familial, and social lifeblood. I’m glad you found me here and I hope you will “subscribe” so that you don’t miss out on future blogs.

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