Blessed Sunday Assembly part one
25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as the custom of some is, but exhorting one another; and so much the more, as ye see the day drawing nigh.
Sunday morning. www.youtube.com/watch
For the "many", the majority of mainstream Christians in Group One, it plays something like this fictionalized story:
Group One. 8:22 am. A typical evangelical family begins feverish preparations of showering, selecting from their nicest clothing in the closet, and picking out clothes for the kids. Mom agonizes over which shoes match the outfit, jewelry, nylons, dress, and top. She was up ahead of everyone because her hair and makeup add at least a full hour to her prep. Dad selects one of his suits and chooses from among the 25 or so neckties and a coordinating pair of "dress" shoes. He dons a fancy watch as he yells out: "30 MINUTES!!" The kids still in bed whine "DO WE HAVE TO GO TO CHURCH?"
Dad got "saved" 16 years ago from a sinful life. Likewise Mom, and they married "in church". They have been faithful, involved members of their church assembly the entire time.
His wife asks "how do you like this outfit?" "Fine, fine, looks great", he quickly replies without more than a glance. She asks him "what about the shoes? Do they match OK or should I wear these?", as she holds up two similar pairs of shoes in the color of taupe with about 3 shades difference. They both look just fine to him but the question adds to the tension as the kids again protest being forced to move quickly so they can leave for church.
"YES!" Dad thunders, "it is our family's duty!" "But it's BORING!" the kids cry back". "OUR family GOES TO CHURCH, NO MORE ARGUMENTS! -our family will serve the Lord, now shut up!" says Dad with tense finality, followed by gulping down his coffee. He's hungry too, as are the kids, but since he is the Sound Tech, he needs to be there 45 minutes early, as does his wife, a choir member. They grab their Bibles, notebooks, crayons, Gameboys, snacks, and some other church gear and jump in the car.
The 15 minute drive to church is tense, Dad is clearly working to control his temper and calm down after becoming resentful over his wife's preparing herself for church making him 10 minutes late. And the kids are already talking about food. It is only 9:34 a.m. He offers a bribe of taking them to Burger King (which he detests) or Taco Bell if they will behave untill after church. The kids aren't too thrilled about waiting another 3 hours to eat, and his wife settled for only a cup of highly sugared coffee.
Arriving at church, Mom and Dad put on their best smiles and give a hearty "Praise the Lord" to their friends. The kids quickly hook up with other kids who have just been through similar experience for the past hour and they are all glad to get away from their parents as they hang out in the parking lot or around the church building.
Dad immediately goes into the sound booth where there are already problems with loud guitar mics, and vocals that can't be heard. Going through several mic checks, speaker checks, and amplifier adjustments he restores balance to the sound system as the choir warms up with a practice song named "Going to the Enemies Camp", ("gonna take back what he stole from me"), -a rousing, dance-beat, boogie style "worship" song.
As Dad observes the swaying, hip-shaking, hand-clapping worshippers, many of whom he knows well enough about to realize they are living anything but a victorious Christian life, he wonders if anyone even thinks about the words they are singing and the problems they have in their marriages, family, jobs, battles with alcohol and drugs, chronic sickness, business ethics, personal morality, and pleasure seeking...
But his thoughts are interrupted by elderly Sister Parham who has stopped by his station to complain about the volume "hurting my ears". Sister Parham is known as a woman of prayer but she is oblivious, in his thoughts, to the importance of the sound and video systems in making a successful church service.
Promptly at 10am the show starts. The musicans and the choir begin, the colorful lights flood the platform with eye-pleasing effects, the large video screens show the Choir Director in her immaculate outfit, and the choir lifts their voices together with the latest Hillsongs arrangement "Anointed" which was purchased for the church Music Dept. from their $12,000 yearly budget, which included travel to a Worship Leaders Music Conference in another state.
The Video Dept. of their mid-size church of 300 registered members, has a separate budget of $15,000 for monitors, lighting, and cameras which the church has been upgrading as the finances come in. Dad really would like a new sound board and a professional consultant to help smooth out the electronics, but that will have to wait for another fund-raiser to meet the needs of the church.
After 45 minutes of contemporary "worship" music, the choir steps down. Assistant Staff Pastor Derbin steps up to a mic and reads Ezekiel 43:19 Thou shalt give to the priests the Levites .... to minister unto me, saith the Lord Jehovah.. He then makes a few comments regarding the needs of the church, new carpeting, repainting outside, and fixing the holes in the parking lot in order to help make the church attractive to the community.
Bro. Derbin then reads 1 Kings 5:5 And, behold, I purpose to build an house unto the name of the LORD my God,....". This is followed by reminders of how "God wants to bless His people and when you pay your tithes and offerings you will be blessed, like our patriarch, Abraham". Bro. Derbin goes on to encourage everyone to "get behind our churches vision for going to the next level." A wealthy realtor just back from a 10 day Bahama cruise agrees with a nod, and writes a tithe check out for $5,000 on a real estate commission.
A single mom with two children who works for $8.50 and hour also agrees and writes out her weekly tithe check for $35.00, even though her gasoline now costs twice that amount per week her income is shrinking, and her car needs repairs. The realtor will have lunch with the Pastoral staff after church at Red Lobster, the single mom will go home and fix macaroni and cheese.
Dad, over in the sound booth knows all this, he knows the single mom is not making it just as a number of other families are in similar or worse circumstances due to illness or job layoffs. But he dutifuly writes out his own monthly tithe check for $600, and another gift check to the church for $250... After all, he too is on staff and tithing is a mandatory requirement for all staff positions. He and his wife have been "faithful supporters" with both their time and finances for many, many years.
As God nudges him, Dad wonders why some of the folks tithe but are not "blessed". As God gently injects thoughts into Dad's mind, he wonders why even though they tithe, they still have family, health, and debt problems.
Something is not quite right but he cannot put his finger on it, as he keys up a pre-recorded intro tune for Dr. Mark Beesley, Senior Pastor. But since his conversion 16 years ago, he cannot imagine doing anything different from church as he knows it.
11am. Dr. Beesley, looking confident and resplendent in his finely tailored, tan-colored Italian suit, elegant Cartier watch, Giorgio shoes, perfectly groomed hair style and beard, steps up to the glass podium. After warmly greeting the assembly, He opens with a cute, humorous story that he found online earlier in the week. (He spent several hours on Saturday crafting the sermon he was about to deliver). Then he thanks publicly by name those church staff that had accomplished a number of needed tasks around the church: the recent fund-raiser, a repair to the plumbing, fixing a broken exterior light, and thanks everyone for the mini-getaway to a hotel in the resort city of Lake Tahoe.
(the single mom and several others secretly wish they could afford a vacation to anywhere as it has been years and years, but HE is the Pastor and "deserves" it.)
Up in the sound booth, Dad wishes he could afford to take his family somewhere special too, and Mom has been bugging him about it. For a fleeting moment he thinks, "I just paid a $600 tithe, what would God do if I used it for my family instead?") -Just as he thinks that "heretical" thought, Dr. Beesley reminds the congregation yet one more time about the penalty of "robbing God" as it says in Malachi, chapter 3, and he shares his desire to see "each one of you blessed with One Hundred-fold prosperity".
As Dr. Beesley launches into the deep water of his sermon, Dad's stomach begins another round of rumbling clearly audible to his teen-age assistant who pretends not to notice.
From his post, Dad observes the crowd of about 225 people and quite a bit more.
Up on the platform in her stylish outfit, Mrs. Beesley, (Pastor Debi), smiles for much of the sermon, nodding her head often, and making various appropriate facial expressions reflecting admiration for her husband, understanding, compassion, happiness, sadness, and vigorous agreement as Dr. Beesley covers the enumerated points of his message.
Suddenly, Dad glances down at his unopened Bible, which he carries with him, but has not really read seriously in many months. He recalls how years ago he literaly devoured the Words of The Book, but now.... Well, he is really busy with his job, family, serving the Lord as the Sound Tech at church, helping with fund raisers, and working on the building. Dad hopes God understands these things.
Dr. Beesley is speaking about current events and one of his hunting trips. Dad hates to admit it, but it IS pretty boring, but hey, that's The Man Of God up there, and who is Dad to question church. Dad is just a No-Name cog in the gears of their assembly as his eyes sweep the sanctuary.
His kids up there on the second pew from the front, are clearly going stir crazy with hunger and boredom. Dad thinks they are just too immature to grasp the eloquent oratory of Dr. Beesley who focuses his messages on reaching "the quality" people who will help him build "the Kingdom". The painful thought comes to him his kids know a lot about church but they do not know much at all about Jesus.
Dad's friend, Frank who appears to be taking notes is actually drawing cartoons which now fill up an entire notebook, a couple of the teens have made their ump-teenth trip to the restroom, and even faithful Deacon Jones is glancing at his watch repeatedly. Week after week, the same thing.
Dr. Beesley forges ahead on point #8 from his message. By this time, Dr. Beesley has to explain the humorous illustrations for numbed minds struggling to keep focus on his words. A couple of the singers are nodding off while other minds are daydreaming, planning their week, or what will they eat for lunch. A couple of visiting families appear focused on every word spoken from the church platform. One of them, the wife of a College professor, dabs at her eye with a Kleenex.
In conclusion, as Dad keys up "Amazing Grace", Dr. Beesley asks for a reverential silence as he gives "the invitation to accept Christ into your heart". Requesting "that with every head bowed and every eye closed, those who would like to get saved indicate so by raising your hand". He reminds everyone to not look and give privacy to the "seekers". As Dr. Beesley ministers "salvation", he states "I see hands going up all over the building", and says "God bless you, and you, and you sir, you mam."
From his station in the sound room, Dad, who has his eyes open so he can modulate Dr. Beesley's mic and the choir who softly joins in with the song, notices that only 4 hands were raised in the building: one of the teenagers (who keeps giving side-glances at his group of friends), the visitor lady who was dabbing her eyes, an emotionaly disturbed man who had attended the church for the last 6 years, and a seedy looking man toward the back who slipped in late to the church service.
Dr. Beesley then prays for those who lifted their hands while much of the congregation wonders if they can open their eyes now, and many do so. Dr. Beesley then dismisses the majority but requests those who lifted their hands to "come forward" where they are warmly greeted. A couple of the Deacons assist Dr. Beesley in greeting the "new members of God's family", and getting their personal information such as phone and addresses for followup. Dr. Beesley and his wife, Pastor Debi will personaly follow up with the College professor's wife.
At 12:17 service is concluded to the relief of all, including Pastor Debi, (who wonders if the offering will cover the weeks bills for the church). Smiles return to many faces and a number of small groups quickly decide to meet and eat together at homes and restaurants.
They have fulfilled "not forsaking our own assembling together..." as they gathered into a church building, They had minimal interaction and conversation with the majority of people there while looking over the heads of those in front of them as they all as they faced the platform. They dutifully contributed to weekly collection "for the church", and listened to the sermon given by the Senior pastor of the church.
Dr. Beesley will dine out with several staff personnel and the realtor at Red Lobster, where he is well known by all the food servers. Part of the conversation will center around funding ads for the church up on some local billboards featuring large photos of Dr. Beesley and Pastor Debi, and possibly some other special advertising around town. An increase in visitors will help offset the expenses involved, especially if they can book one of the Prophets to come minister in a revival.
Dad is wondering if he can talk his kids into a modest, budget stretching restaurant instead of Taco Bell. As he gathers his family, God again interjects a questioning thought that stirs something deep inside Dad: "is this what Jesus really had in mind when He said "...I will build my church"?
Dad wonders to himself, "is that you God?"
to be continued...
I read your weekly blog this morning after work. Sad but true. I've grown closer to God by NOT going to
I read the one before this one the other day, and when I got to where you were talking about the wilderness, the Lord impressed to me that He's been taking me thru one. I've been praying for a fellowship for some years, but it hasn't happened. I listen to UBBS when I'm not working but it just isn't the same. The Lord impressed me that He wants me to learn to walk with Him. It makes sense because without Him there's nothing. He'll be the only One there when hard times come, like prison, want, persecution, etc. Don't know what's in store yet but only time will tell.