Is there something different about church friends? According to Thom and Joani Schultz, church friends affect people differently than non church friends. In their book Why Nobody Wants To Go To Church Anymore…, they cite research which shows church friends can actually make people happier. As they put it, “the more church friends a person has, the happier he or she is.”
The research comes from an article published in the American Sociological Review. The authors of the article are Harvard public policy professor Robert D. Putnam and University of Wisconsin sociology professor Chaeyoon Lim. Commenting on the research, Putnam concluded, ‘Church friends are super-charged friends, but we have no idea why…We have some hypotheses, but we don’t know for sure’
Putnam and Chaeyoon discovered that the significant factor in a person’s happiness is not religious practices or even religious services. Instead it is in the connection to others in the religious community. They write, “People who frequently attend religious services are more satisfied with their lives not because they have more friends overall…but because they have more friends in their congregations…In short, sitting alone in the pew does not enhance one’s life satisfaction [rather] only when one forms social networks in a congregation does religious service attendance lead to a higher level of life satisfaction.”
Why are church friends “super-charged friends”?
If the church friends are followers of Jesus, then the answer is pretty clear. The Bible refers to followers of Jesus Christ as the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:26-28). It is God’s way of telling believers that they are the physical manifestation of Christ’s presence on earth until he returns. This is a big responsibility. But it comes with some tremendous perks. Specifically, when we connect people to followers of Jesus, we are in a way connecting people to Jesus himself.
It is for this reason that Thom and Joani encourage Christians to become “match-makers”. They write, “It’s not our job to make people Christians. Our role is simply to connect people to Jesus. We set up the date. God lights the fire. And the Holy Spirit takes it from there…”
It is great to know that Christians have the potential to be “super-charged friends”. But that ability is useless, unless you and I are willing to become “match-makers”.
What would it take for us to become “match-makers”?
It would take Christians who truly believed that the best thing we could do for those who don’t know Jesus, is to bring them into networks of people who do know Jesus. It would take some serious prayer. It would take some intentional and thoughtful effort. And it would take some stepping out and trusting Jesus. But isn’t it worth it?
Jesus has given his followers the ability to bring happiness to others for a reason. I believe it is because Jesus knows that when people experience happiness in community with his followers, they will soon experience happiness in community him.
Who can you bring happiness to this week?
Who can you be praying for this week?
What gathering can you invite them to?
All quotes taken from Thom and Joani Schultz’s Why Nobody Wants to Go to Church Anymore: And How 4 Acts of Love Will Make Your Church Irresistible pp 206-207