The experience for a first-time visitor in many … churches goes something like this:
You drive into the parking lot of the church at 10:40 Sunday morning.
You assume you’re five minutes early because the sign says the service begins at 10:45.
You’ll soon discover that the sign still needs to be changed to show the new minister’s name and that it definitely doesn’t reflect the proper starting time of the service.
The grass was cut yesterday—good thing, because it was badly needed.
You can tell because nobody raked, and the lawn looks more like a hayfield.
As you walk into the church, you’re greeted with a melancholy "Good morning" and handed a bulletin.
The bulletin has a line through it because the copier hasn’t been serviced in a while.
You head toward the sanctuary and take a seat.
You wait for twenty long minutes because the service doesn’t actually begin till around eleven o’clock.
At about 11:02 a piano player begins plunking out some chords on the piano.
She’s not very good, but she’s been doing it for forty years, and nobody has the nerve to tell her it’s time to step aside.
Someone shuffles to the platform and says, "Please take your hymnals and turn to page 150. We’ll sing all five stanzas of ‘One Day.’"
The song leader has no musical talent, but he’s the only one courageous enough to get in front of this crowd and try.
After struggling through a couple of hymns, the song leader says, "Now we’re gong to have a special number by the girls’ trio."
One girl gets up from the back row and heads to the front.
In the silence, everyone turns and watches her walk forward.
About the time she gets to the second row, a girl sitting in the first row stands up and heads to the piano.
The girl from the back row says, "Sheila is sick today, so there’s only two of us. Bear with us because we haven’t had much time to practice this."
They sing "Give of Your Best to the Master."
At the end of the song, someone says, "And all God’s people said…"
You feel like shouting, "We can do better than that!"
But the crowd mumbles, "Amen."
After the song everyone watches the two return to their seats.
When they are seated the song leader shuffles back to the platform and says, "Now we will take up the offering. Will the men designated to take up the offering please come forward?"
Three men get up from various parts of the sanctuary.
One of them nods to a fourth man, who either forgot he was ushering or was needed in someone’s absence.
The fourth man, in a brief panic drops his hymnal, gets up, and follows the other three to the front.
One of the men prays methodically, "Our majestic heavenly Father, we thank thee for this day and all of thy bountiful blessings. Please bless the gift and the giver. In Jesus’ most precious holy name we pray, amen."
The piano player plunks out a few more chords as the offering plates are passed.
The service continues in equally haphazard fashion.
If communion is served you struggle to watch how everyone else partakes so you can follow suit.
When the sermon is delivered, you battle to stay awake during a message that is long on time and short on content.
When the invitation is given, no one responds.
When the benediction is over, you’re relieved and head for the door as quickly as possible.
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