Church. What’s it good for anyway?

In the past couple of weeks, I’ve come across two different people describing their thoughts on church. Well, kind of. One person talks about the positive aspects of organized religion/Christianity, and the other shares about why he does not regularly attend worship at a local congregation.

What do you think about these perspectives?

In his first post, Donald Miller says, “I don’t connect with God by singing to Him. Not at all…. It’s just that I don’t experience that intimacy in a traditional worship service.” He goes on to explain this phenomena from the perspective of learning styles:

Research suggest there are three learning styles, auditory (hearing) visual (seeing) and kinesthetic (doing) and I’m a kinesthetic learner. Of course churches have all kinds of ways for you to engage God including many kinesthetic opportunities including mission trips and so forth, but if you want to attend a “service” every Sunday, you best be an auditory learner. There’s not much out there for kinesthetic or visual learners.*

The post by Jack Hoehn doesn’t address these same questions or issues, but looks at the role of organized religion in the world, focusing on positive aspects.

God-lovers—no matter how sincere and how wonderful their solitary walks in the woods with Jesus or their spiritual encounters with God himself while climbing mountains—don’t build schools, don’t build hospitals, don’t train nurses and doctors, don’t run orphanages, don’t print books, don’t educate…. Churches do that.

Later, he uses personal experience to flesh this out a bit:

For 13 years Adventism made me the richest physician in the world—I was so rich I could afford to treat anyone I wanted for nothing or next to nothing, because I was working for the Adventist church! Your 10th egg, your Sabbath profit, your tithe by the thousands or millions put together into the hands of men and a few women on committees, wasting time on policy books, and home deposits, and conference offices, still let me rescue over 500 women of obstructed pregnancies with surgeries at no cost to them. It let me drive four-wheel trucks through rivers to get to little clinics where everyone wore a blanket due to the high mountain African cold. It let me ride a boat through swamps where no one even owned a blanket. Organized religion let me build hospital wards for sick children suffering the same malaria crises I remember from my Kenya childhood. Church let me train and graduate Nurses and Medical Assistants who would go out into the bush and jungle and run little clinics that were lights in the darkness, and teach in SDA schools that would graduate people like the Obamas and Nelson Mandela’s children.

If you either currently participate in a local congregation or you used to, what factors are important to you in making that decision? Do your thoughts match either Miller or Hoehn, or is your experience something else entirely?

*UPDATE: After reading this post, Ed Dickerson shared via Facebook that his congregation incorporates multiple intelligences in each week’s gathering. He also shared resources he developed on the topic, available at iFOLLOW. How could you use this learning theory in your faith community to connect with a wider range of people?

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