Some statistics claim that less than 20% of America’s population attends church weekly. Has secular peer pressure overcome the religious voice? Various reports suggested laziness, unbelief, and logistical barriers for decreased attendance.

Do you appreciate your church? I’m not talking about the building, but the people. The word “church” comes from the Greek word ekklesia which means “assembly.” Jesus first talked about the church when He renamed Simon to Peter and revealed that He would build His church (Matthew 16:18). Jesus created a way to meet the spiritual needs of His followers.

I’m drawn to people whose love for God and others is evident. When my family first visited our church in Tennessee, we sensed a cheerful and loving atmosphere, and it felt good. We were greeted by several individuals who showed interest in us and immediately accepted us. The genuine welcome made us feel valued.

Several different denominations and backgrounds were represented in that assembly. Yet, the members were united in pursuing the same goals — praising, worshipping, and serving God, and learning how to live out one’s faith. Effort was given for harmony amid the different personalities, perspectives, and problems. Was there agreement on everything? No, but the spirit of love prevailed.

Many people were caring and friendly. They were sympathetic and responsive to each other’s needs. When one member faced adversity, others showed concern and support through prayer, phone calls, cards, and visits. Help was willingly given when needed. In other words, they took care of each other. This congregation’s compassion was also demonstrated through a food pantry program which supplied groceries and the gospel to the community’s needy.

Our church encouraged each other and rejoiced in each other’s successes. We valued the children and taught them about Jesus and the Bible. Sunday School classes and Bible studies were offered for all ages to help develop one’s spiritual growth and knowledge in the Lord.

In 1 Peter 3:8, Peter advised his readers to “live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble.” These five aspects of godliness help us serve each other effectively. When believers in Jesus Christ meet together and live as Peter directed, wonderful benefits emerge.

People are created for relationships, not isolation. There’s a story of a man who quit meeting with his church, so the pastor visited him at home. The minister took a burning log from the man’s blazing fire and placed it apart from the other firewood. With little conversation, they observed the flame in that piece of wood die. After returning that same log to the fire, they watched it begin to burn again. The man thanked his pastor for the visible analogy and concern, and rejoined the congregation. Paul wrote, “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25).

Are you a weekly church attender? If not, consider what you are missing. Friendships between believers deepen when they meet together regularly, study the Bible, share their faith and struggles, and feel connected. Hearing biblical messages provides hope and guidance in daily living. Once you taste the goodness of godly worship and friendships, you feel empty living without them.

Church shopping takes time and isn’t easy. It took over two years to find our present church in Georgia, where the Holy Spirit was felt 20 steps after entering the building. The members’ friendliness reminds me of my Tennessee church. And the congregation is active in living out their faith. Our closest friends are members of our weekly small group which meets at someone’s house for fellowship and Bible study.

The church isn’t comprised of perfect people, but sinners who seek God’s forgiveness. It’s not about religion; it’s about relationships — a connection with our Lord and each other. Let’s thank the Lord for establishing the church which unites us in our faith, and through which we experience encouragement, support, and God’s love in our lives.