XXVIII Cold prickly churches or warm fuzzy churches by Bill Hunt
When I first became a spirit-filled Christian, an elderly woman told me a tale about a village where everyone threw "cold pricklys" at each other. The "cold pricklys" would cut and make a person bleed, wounding them for days. But that's all these villagers had been raised to know, to throw "cold pricklys" and wound each other terribly. Many people died from the wounds and were buried in the rocky cemetery on the hill. Otherwise, the village dispensary did a booming business and made the head doctor very wealthy.
Until one day a young man showed up in the village carrying a strange bag over his shoulder. Although villagers who encountered him would hit him with a "cold prickly" wounding him, he did something very strange. After being hit, he'd get off the ground, reach into his bag, and pass them a "warm fuzzy." This "warm fuzzy" was a very different kind of thing.
Each villager would examine it for hours until, well, actually, he or she would begin to laugh or cry or do whatever made him or her feel good. This, of course, was a whole new feeling, for these villagers had never felt good before. Now, there's more to our tale, but we'll get back to that shortly.
At this point in our lives, Mary and I made what we feel was ultimately a mistake.
As we examined a new church community to serve, Mary and I saw the problems, grieved together and cried. We labored and toiled to affect this church, but most results seemed futile. We could not please the people no matter what we did. Their agendas were very different from our own. However, the main point is, God did not leave us; he worked with us.
For one thing, a retired couple in the town noticed our low salary levels and supplemented our monthly income with a modest gift. This couple's generosity blessed us month after month as we worked through our trials. They were a very gentle couple, but they were determined to help.
I resolved, most of all, to meet our staff payroll with God's help. I felt it would be unfair to have our self-sacrificing staff miss a paycheck. Well, God and I worked together. I found myself with no other recourse than to pray the money in. Invariably, payday after payday, the ministry checks would arrive slowly.
Up and down I would pace praying for hours "storming heaven's gates," spiritually commanding the checks to come in. Pentecostals call it "praying through." Sometimes the total would be reached the day before payday. Sometimes the checks would arrive in the evening when people drove by and noticed the lights still on. Sometimes they wouldn't arrive until payday morning itself. But payday after payday, month after month, I prayed the checks in.
The miracle was this: never, ever, did the funds fail to total so I could pay the staff on time. God never failed me, not even once. I learned that God was faithful in answering prayer.
There was one family that shone with the extreme light of kindness and love. In my most solitary and lonely times when I was most discouraged, this bright, cheerful woman would unexplainably show up with her daughter and her son, or her gentle, business executive husband to share wise advice or a cheerful word. She'd always leave my face and a heart shining with warmth from her godly love.
Her children and her husband always wore joyous eyes and smiles blessed with this amazing kindness. She'd cast out love as a force and leave it clinging to my person as she smiled and left. I knew God had sent her each time.
"By this, all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another (John 13:35 NIV)."
Yes, there are healthy churches and there are sick churches, and there are churches somewhere in between.
The two great commandments give us the first priority of measure, love. I remember our favorite small churches: Grace Chapel and Boonville Assembly, both in Upstate New York, and Brunswick Assembly in Maine.
We also enjoyed some larger churches: Grace Fellowship and their sister church, Tulsa Christian Fellowship. The latter conducted home cell prayer groups of tremendous power. I know, because they ministered to me in my hour of need.
Like these, the Early New Testament churches were small home churches with the possible exception of some like Antioch and Jerusalem. These churches were built on the manifestations of the person of the Holy Spirit. They functioned in the fruits, gifts, and ministries. The building of the Body of Christ is the work of the Holy Spirit.
“Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (Eph 4: 3-6 NIV).
Let me finish my tale.
Unfortunately, because the young man was a stranger with strange ways and strange gifts, so many villagers pelted him with so many "cold pricklys" that he finally succumbed to his wounds and died.
After his burial, some of the villagers found his strange bag near the now empty tomb and opened it. They began to play with the "warm fuzzys." Indeed, within a few hours, these villagers found themselves so delighted, they began to pass the "warm fuzzys" out to their friends, relatives, and well, to just about anybody.
The "warm fuzzys" spread throughout the village and the whole countryside. Everyone played with them. Pretty soon, the villagers came to realize they became a new people; they all changed.
Well, that is, all except the head doctor at the dispensary who no longer received any business. But one day, to let you in on a secret, someone gave him a "warm fuzzy." He ended up making a sign and hanging it outside his door: “OPEN FOR PRAYER.” Now what kind of dispensary do you suppose that was?
(True story #28 in the series, “100 Million Miracles.”)