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From the Editor -
Patricia Sheets
We are the Church
Featured Article
ChurchPoor Ole Miss Minnie Mabel
By Patricia Sheets

I would like to dedicate this column to a dearly departed friend – Miss Minnie Mabel Motley. Poor Ole Miss Minnie passed away recently, the victim of starvation. It was a slow, grueling death that could have been prevented, but Miss Minnie could not find the nourishment she needed and eventually succumbed to her doom.

It all started when Miss Minnie became disgruntled with her neighborhood grocery store. She had shopped there for years but was never really satisfied. She made repeated complaints to the store manager about occasional blotches on the celery and the deplorable manner in which the store displayed green beans. He always assured her things would improve, but he never kept his promises. In spite of his negligence, Miss Minnie continued to shop at the store. Every Saturday morning at 6:00 sharp, Miss Minnie grudgingly made her way through the aisles of the less-than-perfect market.
New Spice for Good "Food"
By Debbie Porter

There was a time when families would attend church on a Sunday – and any other time the doors were open – with a real eagerness to sit and hear the preacher’s sermon. For that matter, there didn’t even have to be doors – just an evangelist or teacher of the Word and the people would come from miles around ready to be "fed". They would stay until the "feast" was done and even take "leftovers" away with them to satisfy their hunger until next time.

As the years have gone by, that willingness to sit still, and open our ears and hearts to receive, has somewhat diminished. Not everywhere, but in enough churches for pastors to see the following evidence:

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One day Miss Minnie arrived at the store to find the door locked and a sign announcing new operating hours. The store was going to open at 6:30, a full thirty minutes later than usual! Miss Minnie was appalled. How could they do this to her after all the loyalty she had given them? It was simply more than she could take, so she went back home and sulked about how badly she had been treated.

The following Saturday, Miss Minnie decided to visit a new super-center that had just opened. She had heard the vegetables were always fresh, and since she loved vegetables, she decided to give it a try. Her first several visits went well. The store was huge, the people seemed friendly, and they did indeed have the largest selection of vegetables she had ever seen.

Just when Miss Minnie was beginning to feel comfortable, she made a harrowing discovery. Someone had re-arranged the vegetable aisle and placed the tomatoes right beside the fruit! Everyone knows that a tomato is a vegetable and should be placed next to the lettuce, but there they sat between the cumquats and pomegranates! She stormed from the store and vowed never to return to such a den of inequity!

Miss Minnie immediately began searching for a new place to shop and found a small store on the outskirts of town. It was not as close to her home as the other stores, but she was willing to drive the distance if it held to its claim as "the ultimate shopping experience".

It took only one visit to realize this store was not for her. They sold motor oil! Was this a place to buy groceries or auto parts? How confused the customers must be! Miss Minnie refused to be a part of such impiety and ran from the store in disgust.

For the next several years, Miss Minnie searched vigilantly for a place to shop. She tried super-marts, chain stores, warehouse stores, and even the corner market, but eventually she became disgruntled with each of them and moved on. In one store, a customer stepped on her toe. In another store, the cashier failed to greet her. One by one, she eliminated every store within traveling distance of her home. Having exhausted every possibility for a place to buy food, Poor Ole Miss Minnie died of starvation.

There is an important lesson for Christians in this story. Just as Miss Minnie sought to find the perfect grocery store, many Christians spend a lifetime searching for the perfect church. When they realize it doesn’t exist, they ban religion entirely and eventually die of spiritual starvation.

The problem is so prevalent that I have come to refer to it as "Christian Cruising." Christians cruise from one church to another hoping to find perfection. What they find, however, is that churches are filled with people. Inevitably, feelings will be hurt, misunderstanding will happen, and disagreements will ensue.

As the wife of a pastor, I have repeatedly witnessed the pain and suffering created when someone leaves the church in conflict. Whatever caused the problem is never resolved and a long-term wake often occurs with enough force to topple everything in its path. The aftermath is devastating.

In 1 Timothy 2:5, we are reminded that, "There is only one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and people. He is the man Christ Jesus." (NLT) God knew our fallacies. He realized that His church would consist of sinners saved by Grace, so He left a lifeline; He left His Word, the cruxes of our belief.

So, the next time you become disgruntled with your church, I urge you to seek God’s wisdom before deciding to cruise on down the road in search of something better. After all, you wouldn’t want to wind up like Poor Ole Miss Minnie!
Pat Sheets is a freelance writer with an offbeat sense of humor. She lives in Virginia Beach, Virginia, with the three men in her life: Jack, her husband, is a pastor. Duncan and Barkley are pound-saved mutts but none-the-less, her "boys".

LIFE LESSONS FROM 2004:
I have learned that no matter how much you love a person and want to help them, if they don't live a life with God in it, they are destined for unhappiness, turmoil and strife. My role is to pray for them and to love them, but not to be a crutch or victim to that person's actions. (Dian Moore)