When dealing with people who have no church affiliation, we often hear the line, “I don’t need to go to church to be good.” This frequently comes from someone who has had a bad experience with the hypocrisy of a church-goer. However, new research data shows collateral benefits of worship and involvement in a church. The study by Johns Hopkins researchers shows a connection between being socially isolated and dementia.
The study involved 5,022 dementia-free U.S. adults aged 65 or older with an average age of 76 and not living in a residential care facility. The data showed that socially isolated adults have a 27% higher chance of developing dementia than those who are not socially isolated. The study defined social isolation as “having few relationships and few people to interact with regularly.” That included whether the person attended religious services or participated in social events. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also reports that social isolation is responsible for other serious health conditions, including heart disease and depression.
These studies are not designed to validate attendance at worship or involvement in church activities. However, they show the collateral benefits of worship in a corporate setting. Meeting together in a church setting meets the criteria for preventing social isolation. Worship and Bible study are always on a regular schedule, so participation is not sporadic and allows a person to associate with the same group of people regularly. If the group is following the instructions of Jesus and the example of the first-century Church, participation provides the ideal environment to avoid social isolation.
Galatians 6:2 tells Christians to “Carry one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” In Acts 2:42-47, we read that the early Christians were together daily (verse 46) and shared food and fellowship. The acts of worship encourage people not to be socially isolated. Singing together (not listening to someone else) is a recognized tool for avoiding social isolation. Who hasn’t enjoyed singing with others around a campfire? The communion service is not just vertical with Christ but horizontal as we join in a common act of spiritual oneness.
Tragically, many churches have fallen into the same trap as the Corinthian Church did by letting human power struggles produce social isolation. (See 1 Corinthians 11:17-34.) According to the Bible, true worship provides a way to be at peace with God while living with others and avoiding isolation. God has given us many ways to improve our lives, and we should not overlook the collateral benefits of worship and avoiding social isolation.
— John N. Clayton © 2023