Does going to church help with mental Health?
I will be sharing information from P. Adam McClendon and Jared Lockhart’s book, Timeless Church: Five Lessons from Acts. For our purposes, I will primarily use chapter two of the book titled, “The Gathering Church: We Live in Community.” We will learn how the early church was established, the essential elements of community, and how the church relates to our mental health.
What makes a church? According to the authors, the church must confess Jesus and show love to others. This confession makes and defines church, which is the person and work of Christ. Everything is foundational to the confession that Jesus is Lord. If you are looking for a church, this is the doctrinal truth of the Bible. A gospel-centric confession must be the number-one priority to consider before joining a local congregation.
An example of a confession from the early church was that “Jesus was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory” (1 Tim 3:16). My friend, this is the true Christ-centered church.
The Gathering Church
The authors discuss the gathering church as it was in the book of Acts, where people met together both formally and informally. The early church showed care and concern for one another, by loving their neighbor. This enhanced the mental health of the people and it was shown through loving acts and good deeds. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, the breaking of bread, the prayers, and God added to their numbers the ones who were being saved (Acts 2:42-47).
The gathering church is devoted to fellowship. The authors describe the fellowship as more than just being present together. This type of fellowship was meaningful and close, such as that of a family. They grew in their understanding of who Jesus was. They regularly experienced life together in both formal and less formal gatherings.
They also met in small groups throughout the week. The church gatherings during the week fostered community and connection. This type of sharing life together is powerful towards connecting believers to one another. It shows unbelievers something that the world does not possess. The gathering church meetings have two primary modes of fellowship. They met corporately and continually.
Both modes of worship facilitate discipleship. This empowers the church to move forward with its mission and purpose. The author states that church cannot be passively experienced, such as a movie or play. The writer of Hebrews 10:23-25 is our model for church.
23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Worship that is God centered takes one’s mind off themselves transfers focus to God. This act improves mental health because the focus goes from self to God (who is able). The authors describe that being together is conducive to encouragement, correction, and transformation. The very act of worship transforms us into the kind of people we want to be.
We all know what we should do, but we end up doing what we know to be wrong. Our habits will overrule us most of the time. Spending time together in worship helps us with disciplines and regimens that affect our habits.
We become like the people we associate with. This is true on many levels. Corporate worship is a physical act, but it is more than that. We submit through the bowing of our heads and our hearts in prayer. This teaches us to be humble and contrite before God.
When we partake in communion and this act of worship reminds us of the price that Jesus paid for our salvation. We submit to the head of the church, as we are taught the Word of God. This forms us into the kind of people who love Jesus, love his church, and look forward to His return.
Outreach is a type of worship that consists of edifying the body of Christ by spreading love beyond the walls of the church. This improves the mental health of the church and community. Outreach is a commandment of God that honors him. This type of worship is sharing of our means through selfless loving acts.
The Lord’s faithfulness prompts us to live out kingdom values. Something spiritual happens during outreach that goes beyond human understanding. It is a transcendental act with a stamp of approval from God. You automatically feel good when you help someone.
A healthy congregation reaches outside the walls of the church. Outreach is regularly engaging one another and not just on Sunday. It is living countercultural to the world. When people come to believe in Jesus, the fruit is outreach. It shows a hurting world the need for Jesus.
The early church in the book of Acts sold their possessions and belongings and distributed the proceeds to all that were in need. Okay, now that I have lost most of you. What part of the early church should we be doing? That is the question that each of us must wrestle with. The point here is that everything we have is God’s. How are we doing with our resources?
Please listen carefully. The authors say that the gathering church should never become focused on individual preferences, but on the person and work of Christ. A Christ-centered focus improves mental health because of HOPE.
When we go to church looking for an experience, we are conditioned to come expecting something from the gathering church, versus expecting to contribute to the gathering church.
An example, is to engage others and not look for them to engage us. The proper motive behind any program will build up the body of Christ and improve overall mental health.
People will often say that they feel disconnected in church and alone. I am quoting the author here, “A church that gathers only for the sake of gathering is unhealthy and may soon no longer be a church at all.”
The authors asked the following questions, “How many people did you invite over to your home?” Where were you serving in the church?” “In the church, with whom were you engaging, in whom were you investing?” You get the picture. It is a different concept to go to church and give of yourself, rather than expecting to get something.
Community and relationship take time and they take work. The rewards come by giving, not receiving. Each of us must be willing to put forth some effort. It takes putting our personal comforts aside and coming often to the cross.
The purpose of the weekly gathering is to focus on Christ, and His purpose to equip and encourage the lost and broken. I pray we will continually meet with Jesus and proclaim the message of reconciliation (2 Cor 5:11-21).
Another benefit of regularly gathering and engaging one another through the week is that we find the will to resist temptation. As we resist temptations our spirits grow stronger. We become spiritually mature.
We no longer act like babies who need milk, but we need solid food (Hebrews 5:14). We do not act like we did before Christ, but through disciplined acts become more like Christ. Our mental health improves when we are at peace with God.
Community holds us to a higher standard. The fellowship of community encourages us away from sin. For example, if the preacher shows up at the door, people can change behavior quickly. Higher standards of accountability come about in fellowship with Christ church.
For example, I am inspired to be a better person when I around certain people. I know that Christ is real in their lives shown by their virtuous acts. It makes me try harder when I am around Christ centered people. They inspire me and encourage me to reach higher.
The right kind of people can influence us positively, like the wrong people can influence us negatively. A community that encourages righteous living and resist the temptation to sin is pleasing in the sight of God. It furthers God’s kingdom and encourages Christian growth. This enables us to practice the truths of scripture, including obedience to God.
Remember the word, engage? The authors say that we must not idly gather in church. We should participate together in meaningful ways. Resisting the temptation to be alone is one way that improves mental health. Pushing past our selfish desires and reaching out to others is sign of Christian maturity. Acts of service improve mental health.
For community to be formed, we must be intentional in our actions. We must take the time to reflect on what living out our faith looks like. Our confession in Jesus must display itself in practical ways. Each one of us can participate by showing love to one another and doing good deeds. Self-evaluation is necessary to discover our contributing talents and gifts.
How do we engage one another with intentionality? Believers are the body of Christ, thus expressing our gifts for the good of others. The author suggests that we asked questions. “How are you protecting your thought life and marriage while away from your family?” “How are you doing in your walk with the Christ?” “Is your job just a job or is it a calling?” “How are you handling loneliness?” These are intentional forms of engagement.
Community is a benefit that we cannot ignore in our Christian walk. We must, however, be intentional in our walk with Christ. Engaging others in the church, the community, and the world. This is not popular talk, but it is necessary to spread the gospel, and fulfill the mission that every born-again Christian is responsible.
The benefits that church and community have on mental health are simple. God created us to be relational. Without each other, we deny ourselves of a God given privilege. We, also hinder our spiritual growth and sabotage our mental health. There are so many benefits to living in community. Why not start today. Store up treasures in heaven while on earth.
Therefore, I encourage you as I encourage myself, to be intentional in actions, words, and deeds. Let us not wait. Engage those that the Lord puts in your path with hope. Work for Christ to be all God created you to be. Find ways to improve your mental health. Seek professional help if needed for depression. Learn how to manage stress. Be willing to reach out to others when you are grieving a loss. Involve yourself in a Christ-centered church. “Love the Lord you God with all your heart all your soul, and all your strength, And the second is this: Love your neighbor as you love yourself. There is no greater commandment than these” (Mark 12:30-31).
We have many things to praise God for. Let us praise the Lord. Worship with Brandon Lake while we “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). Amen.