Why Do People Join the Church?


Different people join the church for different reasons. In an exploratory study, Edward A. Rauff, Director of the Research and Information Center for the Lutheran Council in the U.S.A., asked 180 people to respond to the question, “Why did you join the church?” (Some interviewees indicated more than one reason for their decision.) Their answers fell into the following categories:

1. Family Relationships and Responsibilities. The dominant reason thirty respondents gave for establishing a relationship with a church was to keep the family together and to strengthen family life. The pull of a family member made them look toward the church.

2. The Influence of Christian People. Twenty-two said that they saw a difference in the quality of life of a friend, relative, neighbor, or co-worker, and then connected that difference in some way to the person’s religious conviction or church membership.

3. A Church Visit, Program, Special Event, Sacred Act. Nineteen recalled that when they visited a church for special occasions or were brought into some church programs, they felt called to a deeper awareness, reflection, or self-examination.

4. A Search for Community. A friendly atmosphere made eighteen feel at home when they visited a church. It bespoke a relationship that was warmer and deeper than they had experienced in non-church groups. This warm welcome made a return easier.

5. Personal Crisis. Seventeen felt they had lost control of their lives. Various events prompted a reordering of priorities and values and a reaching out to the church for help in meeting needs not previously experienced.

6. The End of Rebellion. Fifteen said their decision to join a church was made in response to a need to take up a role that had been laid aside, a need to “go home,” and return to former values and principles.

7. The Influence of Pastors. For twelve interviewees, the clergy were crucial in drawing them into a congregational relationship. The one-on-one interactions with clergy were milestones in the spiritual journeys that ended in church affiliation.

8. God’s Intervention. Twelve described their turning toward the church as so sudden and unexpected and so difficult to explain that it was “out of the blue,” an act of God. God’s kairos was also seen as a time of fulfillment, after earlier starts toward some church relationship.

9. The Journey Toward Truth. Eleven of the respondents pursued a personal and determined journey toward truth, often in the face of resistance. Square one, in some journeys, was a college course in intellectual history or the chance reading of some Christian author, or intense discussion with some Christian apologist.

10. A feeling of Emptiness. Eleven people who were interviewed noted a “feeling of emptiness” although they had “everything.” An aching,long-festering sense of hurt or sudden discovery of great loneliness nudged them along their way toward the church.

11. The Response to Evangelism. Ten felt they had been reached through the formal efforts of a congregation that initiated an evangelism thrust within the community. They cited the gentle, yet persistent concern of Christians for their present church affiliation.

12. The Reaction to Guilt and Fear. Ten of those interviewed gave rather intense testimony that joining the church freed them from a feeling of guilt and insecurity and gave them an assurance of salvation.

(The above material was published by The Pilgrim Press, in New York,NY.)

Christian Information Network