IT’S NOT UNUSUAL ON A CHRISTIAN CAMPUS to hear a parent express concern for their child’s spirituality. But it is a bit unusual for that conversation to be with a father worrying that his daughter is too religious.
I knew this young woman to be active in campus ministries, fun-loving, dedicated, and well-balanced. Yet her father saw her as dangerously religious. The degree of his fervor made me wonder if his cautions might, in fact, be more about him. And as our conversation continued, he did indeed tell me that he was once just like her, very committed to and active in his church. Through a series of situations, his church had disappointed him, and he had left it in anger and hurt, never to return. He didn’t want his daughter to experience that kind of pain.
We wound up in an interesting conversation about the value of church membership and church attendance. He believed, he said, that there was no reason to attend church. After all, he could commune with the Lord anywhere, anytime, and said he felt the presence of God more fully in a forest or seaside than he ever did in a church building.
I’m always tempted to ask people who use this line of reasoning how often they actually do intentionally seek God’s presence in that forest or at the seaside. (If all the people in singles columns who say they enjoy long walks on the beach at sunset do it so often, wouldn’t they meet there? Or is it, rather, that they like the idea of long walks on the beach . . . ?) Sometimes the reasons we advance as strongly believed truths are more truly thinly veiled excuses, adopted to help us feel less guilty or responsible.
That unusual conversation started me thinking about the benefits of faithful church attendance. While it’s true that we can fellowship with God anywhere and anytime, there have to be reasons why the God of the universe urges that we gather together in His name, and urge us to