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Lasting Finish
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Medical research shows that regular churchgoers live longer and are healthier than those that skip church. This is not a new discovery. In 1971, Johns Hopkins1 released the results of a study examining the residents of Washington County, Md. It showed that those that attended church weekly had significantly lower rates of heart disease, cervical cancer, cirrhosis, and tuberculosis. They also had lower suicide rates.

Subsequent studies over the last forty years confirm the trend.2 If anything, the health benefits of churchgoing seem to be increasing.

Does that mean that parking yourself on a church pew for two hours every week will add years to your life, and shield you from illness? It is not that simple. There is no “magic” in that pew. Regular churchgoers live longer because they are the type of people that go to church, not just because they go to church.

Today, the only people that regularly attend church are those who want to be there. These people try to follow the precepts set by Christianity—be chaste, be kind to others, do not become obsessed with material things, forgive others when they wrong you. Most importantly for our health—to take care of your body. “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?” writes Paul (1 Corinthians 6:19). 

Health Risks 

If you take Christianity seriously you try to avoid drug use, tobacco, and alcohol. You try to avoid gluttony. You limit sex to marriage and stay faithful to your spouse. Many causes of illness and death in today’s society result from lifestyle choices. Drug abuse, tobacco use, alcohol consumption, obesity, and sexual promiscuity all carry health risks. 

Not all regular churchgoers always succeed at being good Christians. Some fail more than others. Regardless, if you try living up to these ideals, you are less exposed to the risks of drug use (including alcohol and tobacco) and promiscuity than those not attempting to resist these temptations. It makes a measurable difference between the lives of churchgoers and those that are not or are only notionally Christian. God knew what He was doing when He set up His rules for living.

Does that mean attending church services has no health benefit? It may keep you healthier—if you are the type of person who goes to church. Those hours in church make me feel better. I lose myself in the beauty of the service. Life’s stresses fall away. I leave church at peace with myself. When I cannot go to church, I feel more stressed over the following week, and excessive stress is unhealthy.I doubt this effect can be measured. It could be just me. Yet even if going to church weekly keeps me alive longer in this world, that is not the main reason for going. After all, what happens in this world is less important than what happens in the next.

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Mark Lardas. Copyright © 2008 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

1Nice Guys Finish Last,” Time Magazine, Monday, Jan. 18, 1971, accessed Oct 2, 2008.
2Churchgoing correlated to longevity,” The Washington Times, April 3, 2006, accessed Oct 2, 2008.

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