|From the Editor -
||We are the Church
or was it Mick Jagger? Oh, and another thing: you can't eat meat if you're a Christian, because you have to be a veterinarian!"
An Audience of One
By Pat Sheets
Pastor Brown gazed sadly into the congregation. It was the first night of the spring revival and he was hoping for a full house, maybe even a visitor or two. He had spent weeks passing out flyers, making phone calls, and inviting neighbors. It appeared, however, that his hard work was in vain. His pan of the audience revealed only the faces of the usual church members who he was sure already knew Christ. His hard work had been for nothing.
Overcome with grief and disappointment, the pastor made his way to the pulpit and attempted to begin the service, but the lump in his throat would not subside. He decided to have a brief time of testimony, and then end the service so he could shed his tears in private.
With a fake smile and false enthusiasm, he began.
"I'd like to welcome you all to this evening's service. I thought we might do something a bit different tonight. Most of you have been in the church for years, so you know what being a Christian is about. I'd like to have a few of you stand up and give a brief testimony…"
"Oh, oh, pick me, pick me," rose a voice from the crowd as Cindy, the only teenager in the congregation, ran to the front of the church. She stood there beside the pastor, waving to the audience and chomping a piece of gum.
Hesitantly, the pastor said, "Well, Cindy, would you like to share with us what it takes to be a Christian?"
"No, but I've always wanted to stand in back of the pulpit! Hi, Mom!" Cindy yelled to her mother.
"Cindy, do you know what it takes to be a Christian?" The pastor prodded.
Cindy rolled her eyes. "Well, duh! Everybody knows what it takes to be a Christian! You have to read "the book".
"You mean the Bible," the pastor explained.
"No, I think it's Cosmo," answered Cindy with a puzzled tone. "And you have to know about the Four Imposters."
Hesitantly the pastor asked, "Do you mean the Apostles?"
"Yeah, that's it." Cindy looked into space, contemplating for a moment, then continued. "Let's see, there was John, and Paul, and George, and Ringo…
Have You Met A Real Christian?
By Dan Blankenship
Over the past ten years, I have noticed an increase in articles and news stories that try and portray most Christians as hypocrites and religious bigots, heaven bent on forcing others to convert to a religion created by man. I reject that view of the followers of the Christian way based on thirty years of experience enjoying the company of fellow believers.
I have not met Christians who banter on about non-believers. But I have met followers of Christ who explain that we live in a fallen world. "But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent's cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ." (2 Corinthians 11:3 NIV)
I have not met Christians who are quick to judge others actions, but I have met believers who are genuinely concerned with the eternal soul of complete strangers. "But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken." (Matthew 12:36 NIV)
Some say I have been very blessed to have not yet experienced the negative side of Christianity. That observation often confuses me, as I wonder how a true follower of Jesus, one with a transformed heart, can be a negative creature.
The Christians I have come in contact with have been committed to treating others with love and respect. They have devoured God’s word and work to better understand it each and every day. I have never had a follower of Christ tell me how evil another person is or that if we just eliminated another religion things would be better. But I have had many Christians talk to me about a loving God who sent His only Son to pave the way to a positive, rewarding, and beautiful life – a life more abundant.
"Yes" is the answer to my title; I have met a real Christian. I have met many of them. Hypocrites and bigots I have not.
Dan Blankenship is the author of The Running Girl – a Christian fiction suspense novel. Dan resides in Lowell, Indiana USA and you can contact him through the Letters page of this magazine.
"A veterinarian? Cindy, a veterinarian is a person who takes care of animals, like dogs and cats," the pastor tried to explain.
"THAT'S IT!" Cindy screamed as if the gospel had just been revealed to her for the first time. "Preacher, don't you have an Old English Sheepdog?"
"Well, yes, but what's that got to do with anything?" the pastor answered slowly.
"In order to get to heaven, you must have an Old English Sheepdog!" Cindy proudly announced.
"Now, wait just a minute!" Brother Bob trotted to the front of the church, ready for a fight. "That's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard!"
Bob arched his eyebrows and looked straight into the audience. "I'm here to tell you what it takes to be a Christian! It takes works!"
Shocked beyond words at the statement, Pastor Brown listened as Bob continued.
"I've been a member of this church for nearly forty years! I've worked harder on this building than Noah worked on the Ark!"
"That's great," Pastor Brown interrupted, but Bob was not finished.
"I remember the day I was married. I was standing right here in this very spot, waiting to say 'I do', when I heard a toilet running. I stopped the preacher, ran to the bathroom, jiggled the toilet handle and was back in time to kiss the bride! Now, that's the kind of work it takes to get to heaven!"
Pastor Brown hid his face in his hands as Bob continued his heroic story.
"Know why I walk with a limp? Because I fell of the church roof and broke my leg! I was trying to fix the steeple when a storm came. A bolt of lightning hit and knocked both me and the steeple to the ground. But the Lord does work in mysterious ways. Insurance paid for a brand new steeple and I can pick up over one hundred channels on my television if I'm standing just right!"
Bob turned to Cindy who was still standing on the platform behind him.
"And, missy, it's not an Old English Sheepdog that will get you to heaven. It's a Doberman!"
"A Doberman? Works? That's not what it takes to be a Christian," came a voice from the crowd. Pastor Brown was relieved to find that Deacon Murphy was about to speak, certain the learned man knew what he was talking about and could set the record straight.
"Bob, I'm surprised at you!" Deacon Murphy shamed. "You've been in the church long enough to know that it's not works that makes you a Christian. It's money!"
"Have you seen that nice car I drive? Well, just the other day I offered to give Mrs. Russell a ride home from church so she wouldn't have to walk in the rain. Of course, when she stepped in the mud, I told her she might want to consider walking. After all, she could use the exercise, and I know God wouldn't want me to get dirt in the new car He just gave me."
"Yes, the Lord is good! He blessed me with a house worth over a million dollars, and I use it for the Lord! Just last Christmas I had a party and invited the entire church… except, of course, people with little children. They make such a mess."
"And about this dog business. Only a pedigreed Airedale will enter the gates of Heaven!"
Pastor Brown began praying silently, "God, do you remember Samson?"
Before he could ask for annihilation, a woman draped in a cape and carrying a crystal ball floated down the aisle.
"Where did you come from?" Pastor Brown asked, almost afraid of the answer.
"I am Madame Theresa. You did not see me enter, for I am mystic. I am one with the universe. I am one with God."
"That's it! No more of this nonsense!" shouted the pastor, but Madame Theresa would not be swayed.
"I know the future! I know the past!" She continued, staring into her crystal ball.
"You want to know what it takes to be a Christian?" she chanted.
The entire room fell still as Madame Theresa rubbed her crystal ball, waiting for the secret of all the ages to be revealed. The congregation inhaled every word as she began slowly to speak softly, slowly.
"If - you - wish - to - be - a - Christian -"
Madame Theresa stopped momentarily, once again entering the trance through which she claimed God spoke to her. When she spoke again, every ear was glued to her words.
"If - you - wish - to - be - a - Christian, - you - must have ----a CHIHUAHUA!"
"A CHIHUAHUA?" The congregation shouted in unison. Total chaos followed as the parishioners adamantly defended their heaven-bound breeds.
The night was more than the pastor could bear. He fell to his knees and cried, "God, why am I here? I worked long and hard to prepare for this night. I used my own funds to have flyers made! God, I wanted to speak your word to an audience filled with the lost! Now I find that my flock IS the lost! God, what am I to do?"
Pastor Brown listened for God’s reply, but what he heard instead was Deacon Murphy yell, "A Chihuahua ain’t nothing but a Mexican rat!" It was in that moment that the pastor realized he had more in common with his lost flock than he cared to admit.
As the Battle of the Breed continued around him, Pastor Brown lifted his head towards heaven. "Lord, please forgive me. In my quest to fill your house, I have relied on my own understanding and resources. I come to you now, Lord, seeking your direction and wisdom as I attempt to reach the multitudes with your words.
As his prayer ended, Pastor Brown realized that the sanctuary had emptied. His eyes gazed on the empty pews before him. In the silence, he heard a faint whisper.
"To reach the multitudes, my child, you must speak, sing and worship to an audience of One."
With those words, revival touched Pastor Brown’s soul. He realized that God’s light can only be reflected when you look past the empty pews, idol works, and useless wealth of this world. Only then, when you are fully in God’s presence, can He use you as a witness to a dying world.
Later that night, as Pastor Brown thanked God for the wonderful revival service, he felt a familiar "thump" as Rags, his Old English Sheepdog, jumping onto the bed. He had just had a drink from the toilet, smelled like toxic waste, and it appeared that he had found the bone he buried in the rose garden last year.
Pastor Brown smiled as he ended his prayer. "And thank you, God, that I’m not depending on Rags to get me to heaven."
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".