Can you believe that yesterday I overheard another conversation about Christianity? Amazing! This one was between "Ann" and "Betty." And it's made me wonder: Are other Christians these days feeling as Ann does? Do any of you guys?

Ann: I feel weird telling you this, but I haven't been to church in seven months.

Betty [gasps]: You're kidding. But you've been going to your church since forever. You practically run that church.

Ann: I know. At first I was just taking a week or two off. And that week became a month. Then two. And now it's been seven.

Betty: Well, that happens. Maybe you just need a new church.

Ann: I don't know. More and more---and I can't even believe I'm saying this---I find myself wondering if I really care about belonging to a church at all.

Betty [gasps]: Ann!

Ann: I'm serious. If you take away the part about communing with God---which is so intimate and personal it can't really be communicated anyway---what is church? It's mostly a social club. It's definitely what amounts to a franchise branch of a larger, nationwide business. And say what you want about church, but it is a business. Churches make a ton of money---which right off the bad is a little suspect, you know?

Betty: But that's such a negative way of looking at it, Ann. Churches do a lot of good.

Ann: They do. And so do lots of great organizations. You don't need church to do good. You can volunteer for the Red Cross. In fact, I'm uncomfortable with a lot of the "good works" that churches do. Because they so often make it clear that what they're really doing is trying to convert people. It's like you're helping people---but at the same time you have going on this agenda for them. It always feels so kind of creepy. Kind of impure, really.

Betty: Dang, Ann.

Ann: I don't mean to sound all negative about it. I do appreciate the wonderful benefits of church. I'm just not sure it's right for me anymore. My walk with God feels stronger than it ever has. I still pray; I still study the Bible; I still try to pay attention to God all the time. It's nice not to have someone telling me what the Bible says and God thinks. Without all the sermons and classes I've been hearing and going to all my life, I feel like my communications with God are clearer and more direct. And I can always get together with my Christian friends to discuss the Bible, or whatever. I just don't see why church is so important. If it's true that Jesus is wholly present within me as the Holy Spirit, why is church necessary?

Betty: Wow, Ann.

Ann: Seriously. What can man add to the presence and working of the Holy Spirit?

Betty [whispering]: I think that really handsome guy over there is listening to us---and taking notes.


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