A DAY IN CHURCH
Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.
"Ah, here come the parishioners, early as usual, plenty of time to shake hands, share hugs and swap stories about the family and the homestead. Nothing seems to have changed in this regard. Now come the stragglers and the late comers. Certainly there were those in my day. But there seems to be something a bit different with these folks than what I had expected. There's a more devil-may-care attitude about them, if you'll pardon the pun.
"They're all inside now. Let's take a peek at what a service is like nowadays, shall we?
"I'm taking a seat near the isle in the very last row where I can see everything that's going on. I'm especially interested in the congregation and how they react to the service.
"The first thing I notice is that the pews are very much less than half filled. I wonder if this is a common occurrence or if I have chosen an off day to visit. Surely this can not be the typical attendance of a church this size.
"The pastor is now coming forward and is about to speak. Ah yes, first the announcements. Various people come forth and add their personal note to the week's agenda.
"Watch, now the choir will, the choir will.... Pardon me folks of radio land. It appears the choir will not be singing today for some reason. Maybe they're all sick and that is why the church is so empty. I see they have some youngsters to fill in for the choir. And I suspect there were no talented people to be found in the congregation so they brought some street urchins in to play for them. That certainly was considerate of the pastor and the elders to do such a thing for the great unwashed and unsaved. However, I should hope these youngsters have clothing at home in better shape and that provide more covering than what they have chosen to wear for this occasion. I see baggy drawers, ragged garments, and much tattooed and pierced skin, especially at the midriff and below what I suspect might be called a short skirt or floppy shirt. Come to think of it, as I look around the room, I notice that most of the teens and several of the older folks as well are dressed in like manner. And along with bedraggled clothing I see many tattoos in the strangest places and baseball hats that somehow past notice as the wearer's entered the House of the Lord. Perhaps an usher will remind the wearers before too long.
"Ah oh. There goes the band. I say, there goes the band!! I hope you can hear me over the drums and the extremely loud and massive speakers they're using in this relatively small chapel!! I say, I hope......! Never mind, I'll resume my commentary after the band finishes their, whatever it is they're playing. Something from Woodstock no doubt because I don't recognize the tunes as being of Christian origin!
"Ah, there we go. They're packing up now. That was perhaps the longest half an hour I've experienced in a long time. I'm glad I had the earplugs from my last interview at a rocket testing lab, which, by the way, was considerably quieter than the past thirty minutes or so.
"The Pastor is now approaching the podium. I remember so clearly the rip snortin' sermons I used to hear when I was young. They were so powerful they had me cringing with guilt and down on my knees rededicating my life. I have flat knees even today for that very reason. Here he goes. Be prepared to weep and lament.
"Um, then again, maybe not. I do believe the pastor has somehow lost his voice, or maybe he lost his hearing having been standing so close to the band. Whatever the reason, I can hardly hear him. Perhaps he's merely making more announcements.
"Nope, that's not it folks, this is the sermon. Yes indeed, this is the sermon. It appears the pastor is telling the congregation how blessed they are to be among the saved and how they will miss the tribulation because of being taken up to heaven in a cloud. Well, I suppose such a message should at least give those present a feeling of relief if nothing else. Let me see how his message is being received.
"Hmm, I see the children don't seem to be aware a church service in progress, and the parents are more involved with their disruptive children, the ones not running up and down the isles, not controlling them, but playing with them, then they are listening to the words of the pastor. Here and there I see couples and groups of people who have chosen to bring their greetings and their conversations, begun at the door, into the service.
"Here and there I see people laid back in a pew with their eyes shut. No, they're not praying, they're taking a nap.
"Hold on, there's an older lady with her head bowed as if in prayer as she listens to.... Sorry folks, she was just looking for a needle that got away from the knitting she's working on.
"Well, the service is now over, the sleepers have been awakened, and the conversations are over. Now, I hope to have the opportunity to speak to the pastor and get his perspective on the church during these modern times."
"Pastor, I would like to thank you for allowing me to participate as a spectator in your service today. It was most enlightening, that I can assure you."
"I'm very glad you could be here Mr.... I don't think I caught your name sir."
"Oh, pardon me pastor, that was negligent of me. My name is Michael Jay Busybody and I conduct a broadcast where I interview people on the street you might say. As I sat through your service I couldn't help but notice some changes that have taken place in the procedures and in the overall conduct of the congregation from when I was young. I'm wondering if you find the same, and if so, what your reaction is to the change you find."
"Glad to meet you Mr Busybody, and I'm Pastor Jack. Yes Mr Busybody, there has indeed been a change in the church over the past half century. Of course since I essentially grew up in the church as it changed I don't have the same awareness of that change as would someone like yourself who is witness only to the beginning and the end."
"Yes indeedy Pastor Jack, it's rather a shock I must say. It's very much like knowing a person when they are a small child, then meeting them again when they're a bearded old man. It's hard to believe they are the same person. You say you grew up in the church Pastor Jack. Then you would know if what I witnessed here is typical of the churches today, and if there is indeed a change in the people and the message being preached. Would you be so good as to comment on your observations?"
"Certainly Mr Busybody. It is true that the message has been toned down considerably over the years. Most of the churches now prefer to preach on the love of God rather than the fear of God. I would say this is one of the biggest changes that has taken place over the years."
"You now preach the love of God. Yes, I can see how your message today would fit into that category. And having, as I suppose you have, preached both the fear of God and the love of God over the years, what do you see as a consequence of such a change of message? Would you say the typical Christian is now more Spiritually conscious and Christian-like in their attitudes and their conduct? What I mean to say sir, do you believe that the shift in emphasis has had its desired effects?"
"I'm sorry to say it has not Mr Busybody. I think you saw for yourself the outcome of such a message and the lax attitude. The respect for the Lord, for one another, and for the church as a whole has lost a great deal of importance it once held. But then, what can you expect Mr Busybody? The world is changing. The schools are now lax to the extreme, the courts are hardly more than a humorous sitcom, and even the army now caters to the soldiers instead of the other way around. The world in all its aspects has seen a great softening of its morals and its view of itself. What could the church do but change with it? If we preached a message like the ones we used to hear, why, this church would be so empty you could hear the echo of a pin drop."
"I must say Pastor Jack, I appreciate your candor. But as to the attendance of the church, I must say, I do believe I could hear a pin drop today, if it weren't for the chatter, the running children, and the mega speakers of the band."
"Yes, the band and the children. Those are, unfortunately, a part of the modern world. It was hard for me to accept the rowdy music and behavior. But you must understand Mr Busybody, this is a competitive world we live in. There are fewer and fewer people going to church, and more and more things in the world to keep those few from attending church. We must do what we can to keep these few people in church, and in our church rather than the church down the street. If this means we must soften our edges a little, and tone down our message a little, then so be it, it must be done."
"I see your dilemma Pastor Jack, but don't you think the message and the edges as you call them have been toned down a great deal more than just a little? And tell me sir, just how much toning down do you expect you will have to do in order to compete with the world and the other churches that compete for the few souls looking for a home?"
"Well Mr Busybody, the way things are going, I'm afraid we still have a long ways to go. And the more we compromise, the church that is, the more the world drifts into immorality and the things of the ego. And as the world goes, so, I'm afraid, goes the church."
"Pastor Jack, you seem to have a strong awareness of this problem, and you apparently are not particularly happy with the state of things as they are. If this is in fact the case, why don't you buck the tide and preach an old time rip-roaring message like they used to preach? Do you think such a message would bring more people to their knees and revive the Spiritual well-being of your congregation?"
"I'm afraid it doesn't work that way Mr Busybody. You see, this is not my church. I am an employee of the church. Those few people you saw in the church today can hire or fire me. I must preach what they want me to preach. And I'm sure you noticed that there was not a one in attendance who would stand for even a moment of a fire and brimstone message. On top of this Mr Busybody, there is the denomination to contend with. If this church was to somehow accept me preaching something other than what I do, or in some manner other than what I am, then the denomination would step in and force my hand. Like any other concern or business Mr Busybody, the denomination has very strict rules and doctrines a pastor must abide by in order to remain a part of their organization. And the denomination has decided that going the way of the world is the way to go. So I, like a teacher in the pay of the public school system, must teach what I am told to teach, no more and no less."
"I can see that you're between the proverbial rock and the hard place as they say. But tell me Pastor Jack, even though the church and the world seems to approve of you, that is to say, the churches have softened to the point of being silly putty, do you think God has also softened His demands and will, as you said He will in your sermon, take all these barely Christians into His Kingdom?"
"I have to say, yes He will Mr Busybody. It seems quite apparent that He has to take the wishy-washy Christian into His Kingdom, or else there will be no one He can take, since wishy-washy is about all that is being produced today."
"So it seems Pastor Jack. So it seems."
14Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? 15And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? 16And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 17Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, 18And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty. (2Cor 6:)
4Thus saith the LORD; For three transgressions of Judah, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because they have despised the law of the LORD, and have not kept his commandments, and their lies caused them to err, after the which their fathers have walked: 5But I will send a fire upon Judah, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem. (Amos 2:)
11Hath a nation changed their gods, which are yet no gods? but my people have changed their glory for that which doth not profit. 12Be astonished, O ye heavens, at this, and be horribly afraid, be ye very desolate, saith the LORD. 13For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water. (Jer 2:)
6My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children. 7As they were increased, so they sinned against me: therefore will I change their glory into shame. 8They eat up the sin of my people, and they set their heart on their iniquity. 9And there shall be, like people, like priest: and I will punish them for their ways, and reward them their doings. (Hosea 4:)
1Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, 2(Which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures,)......17For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith. 18For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, WHO HOLD THE TRUTH IN UNRIGHTEOUSNESS; 19Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath showed it unto them. 20For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: 21Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, 23And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. 24Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: 25Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. 26For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: 27And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet. 28And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; 29Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, 30Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: 32Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them. (Rom 1:)
7Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. 8For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. 9And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. (Rom 6:)