Do you ever wonder what brings people to church?

Not just on Christmas and Easter or Mother’s Day because it’ll keep your mom off your back, but week after week — willingly. Because you want to.

Chances are, many of you who are reading this attend church regularly, although some of you don’t.

If you don’t, do you ever wonder why others do?

I’m in church most weeks — I prefer my church’s Saturday night service and often go to a different church on Sundays — but even as a regular church goer, I still often wonder about it.

Sometimes it seems odd that people would get out of a warm bed or off a comfy couch or miss an event just to go to church. Every week.

Years ago I visited a little church at the edge of the county. They had a new pastor and I had gone to interview him for a story for the paper.

As I walked around the building trying to find the door, a man with messy hair, dressed in shorts and sandals, walked behind me. I thought maybe he knew where the door was, maybe he thought I knew.

We walked around the building, sort of together, eventually finding the way in. 

He went into the sanctuary and sat near the front. He didn’t seem to know anyone, but he didn’t seem too terribly uncomfortable.

When the service started, I sat in the back so I could observe the goings on better. I was especially interested in that lone gentleman. 

Why was he there? Why was he alone, and why choose this church? It sits a couple of miles back from the main highway, and unless you know it’s there, you wouldn’t know it’s there.

During the pastor’s sermon, the man appeared to be listening, although he didn’t nod or say “Amen” like most of the other people did. He didn’t sing any of the hymns or go forward at the altar call, but neither did he leave early to avoid it.

When the service ended, he just slipped out quietly, not staying to chat or shake anyone’s hand.

I’d love to have talked to him, to learn his story, what brought him there, what he thought about what he heard there, if he was moved at all. 

Did what he hear anger him? Comfort him? Help or confuse him?

Did he go back the next week? Why does anyone go back?

Why do I?

What is it that brings people to church week after week after week? I mean beyond duty or habit or to please a parent or spouse.

I once heard a sermon about how Mary, the mother of Jesus, who, when she learned she was pregnant, went to visit her cousin, Elizabeth, who was also pregnant. 

On my sermon notes I wrote: “Pursuit of community — Mary goes to Elizabeth, the only person who ‘got’ it and wouldn’t think she was nuts.”

I also wrote down some observations about the people around me, an older man and a little boy who were talking about toy cars prior to the service.

The older man told the boy, “I look forward to seeing you every week.”

Maybe that’s it. Maybe that’s part of why God created church, so people have a place to come week after week after week where other people look forward to seeing them.

Some people think church is an odd thing, and it is, but not really. Not if you’ve found the one where you fit.

Something else I wrote on my sermon notes: “We who were once not a people are now a family.”

There’s a verse in Psalm 68 that says, “God sets the lonely in families.” Other Bible translations say that he “makes a home for the lonely” or “makes homes for the homeless.”

That’s what God does when he brings people to church, the church universal and also to the local church. He sets them in families where people can care for one another and look forward to seeing one another.

I think that’s what most of us want in this life, don’t you?

So, maybe it’s not such an odd thing after all that people go to church week after week after week.

Maybe it’s more odd that people don’t.

Nancy Kennedy is the author of “Move Over, Victoria - I Know the Real Secret,” “Girl on a Swing,” and her latest book, “Lipstick Grace.” She can be reached at 352-564-2927  or via email at nkennedy@chronicleonline.com

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