USA (MNN) — A study published this week in the journal American Sociological Review
hints that church is a social club after all.
Rather than satisfaction in an
interpersonal relationship with God, the
researchers think that the happy people
they found in church congregations may be finding their fulfillment from closer
ties to earthly neighbors.
The report said that personal
happiness couldn't be attributed to individual prayer, strength of belief, or an
understanding of God's love and presence. Instead, researchers found empirical survey data showing that the
happier a person reported themselves to be, the more close friends they had in
their religious congregations.
Evangelist Sammy Tippit
summarized the findings from the article this way: "People who have 10 more friends in church
are happier than people who have 10 or more friends in the secular world, but
it doesn't have anything to do with God. "
He also notes that the
researchers don't make a distinction between faith as a way of "being" and religion
as a way of "acting." Or perhaps they made too clear a distinction and
compartmentalized friendships from the ethos that governs the motivation behind
how people live their values.
Tippit says, "The people who have
10 or more close friends in church are the people who are the more involved,
the people who have been walking with Christ the longest. The people who have the strongest faith are
the ones who are the most involved. So
how do you separate their faith from their friendships? "
It's more than the social ties
that create this bond being explained by the report. "The tie that binds us is the Spirit that
dwells within us. The study has taken
some tangible things, made some great observations, and then drawn conclusions
about the INtangible. They got out of
the realm of science and into the realm of personal bias."
How does a believer explain that bond found in a church halfway across the world in sweet worship? How can you quantify a relationship created
by instant closeness? The Gospel calls it Love, as in, "By this
all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."
Tippit says this is the best way
to explain the heart of what the study tried, but failed, to explain. "The closest way to explain it is the
family. We're brothers and sisters in
Christ. That's a spiritual bond and a spiritual connection that is an amazing
one. Sometimes, you take two people from completely opposite backgrounds, and
they are made one in Christ."
So what does this all mean for
the Gospel? "In a day in which
relationships are shattered, we in our faith have something to offer," Tippit
says. Living as Christ-followers shows a
depth of genuine relationship that strikes at the core of community. "I think as we pursue an in-depth
relationship with our brothers and sisters in Christ, it can become a physical
expression of what God can do in the human heart, to heal relationships and
give us the kind of relationships that will make us fulfilled in life."
The study, hinting that community
makes people happy, is not incorrect, but it fails to explore the facets of what makes community and Who
created it. Sammy Tippit offers more tools to dig
deeper. Click here for more.