Globe Syndicate

for release July 20, 2001

Another Way

by Melodie Davis

Why Join A Church?

A friend told me this true story. Her niece, before playing in a basketball game at her school, prayed that her team might win the ball game.

My friend, who is a minister, wanted her niece to think about the kind of prayer she had just offered. She said, "Maybe instead of praying to win, you should pray to be a good sport." The niece didn't say anything and this woman hoped the lesson had sunk in, and that she wouldn't be too mad.

But of course such "lessons" always turn around to haunt you. Several months later, this aunt was experiencing a serious sight problem. In a prayer, she asked that she wouldn't go blind.

The niece, upon hearing this prayer, gently chided her aunt. "Well instead of praying to not go blind, why didn't you just pray to be a good sport if you do go blind?"

Kids have a way of making us see things we didn't see before, or of stating the obvious. I was asked to be a mentor for a youth before he joined the church. He told me that he had been asked to explain his beliefs and also why he wanted to join the church. Then he threw me a challenge: "Well, I can't think of any good reasons I should join the church."  Why indeed, in this age of overcrowded, overscheduled lives; in this age where people sometimes prefer to sample a little of this religion, a little of that?

Longer ago, the churches in some communities functioned as social clubs-which is not exactly what I'm pushing here either. Today, in some areas of California, church attendance is as low as 15 percent of the population. Why not just worship God on your own, out in nature, or with a quiet candle? Why is the church more than just a place to hatch, match and dispatch, as someone has said in referring to traditional christenings, weddings and funerals?

My opening illustration gives one hint as to why one might join a church. The aunt and her niece were engaging in "accountability"-challenging each other's notions of prayer and religious thought. They were able to ask each other pointed questions - and still remain on good terms. The success of organizations like Alcoholics Anonymous or Weight Watchers has to do with accountability-as we become accountable to others, we do better in our spiritual walk or discipline. Perhaps those are bad examples, because they imply that we have weaknesses. Many of us don't like to admit that we have weaknesses, and we certainly don't want to encourage religion as a prop.

Yet, there is strength in committing yourself to others with whom you can converse, grow, and be stimulated intellectually.

Another reason for joining a church, and actually becoming active (not just joining it), is because as you get involved on committees, projects or small groups, you learn to know others beyond a superficial level. I enjoy talking with others beyond the "Hello, how are you" stuff, and that becomes easier when you are working together. You have plans to discuss, and know something about the life of the person beyond asking, "So are you ready to go back to school?"

But deeper reasons for joining a church have to do with actual theological teachings. For instance, in the Christian faith, being a part of the church is vital to the faith itself. This is for several reasons: to carry on the work of Jesus in the world, to work for justice and social issues, and to be part of a larger body of persons who all experience that special connection. Many churches include help for members as part of their on-going vision - not to be taken lightly in this age of mobile families who live far from each other. Having church members bring your family food when someone is hospitalized, helping out at funerals, and just being there at the high and low points of life is important to many.

If one style of church doesn't appeal to you, explore others. Fortunately there are many different kinds of churches: from formal to informal, country to urban, contemporary to liturgical.

Part of being alive is being willing to risk loving others deeply-and that entails risk that you will be hurt or disappointed by others. We may become disillusioned by the actions or immorality of some persons in the church. The church is not made up of perfect people. Rather there are all kinds of people who can grow, deepening their spiritual life and commitments.

I welcome your feedback: Have I convinced you, or what have I forgotten or gotten wrong? Write to: Melodie Davis, Another Way c/o Name\Address of YOUR newspaper; or e-mail:

You can also visit Another Way on the Web at

Melodie Davis is the author of seven books and has written her column since 1987. She taught feature writing and has won awards from a number of organizations including the National Federation of Press Women, Virginia Press Women and the American Advertising Association. She and her husband have three growing daughters.

NOTES TO EDITORS: text = 730 words; end material = 105 words

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