A church were we attended burned down the other day. I remember the times I had in that church, and the people that attended there. I really don’t know what to think emotionally; I do hope that they had insurance on the building and that they can rebuild. However, it is the act of remembering that provides the most incentive for me.
It was in that church that we attended the longest. Our children attended there also. We still have friends that attend there. It was a strange place to me because what I have always expected from a “church” was, again, not what was actually there. Our children were not taught spiritual instruction, they were taught societal morals.
I did finally understand why societal morals were the primary focus, since for time I taught eighth grade boys in Sunday school. The advice, more like the overall goal, which was expressed to me, was to decide a moral lesson and then use the bible to teach it. The way it was put to me was that this was the easiest way to do a Sunday school. That this is what is expected to occur in Sunday school.
Moral lessons do not make Christians, holy spirit, makes Christians. If I did not teach some knowledge of God and His son Jesus Christ each and every time, then I was remiss in my obligation and in everything I know. It is not a moral choice that people need but a spiritual “rebirth”. People need the stories of the bible to “come alive” for them. The bible must become more than a prop for teaching a moral choice, but must become a source of enjoyment and wisdom and above all truth; truth about who God is, what He expects, and what He will give. This is what spiritual instruction is: the introduction and development of faith.
I chose instead to make Psalm 1 the focal point of the eighth grade boys Sunday school. This was the first lesson. It was called “The Midas Touch” and it was about making the scriptures your close friend, about making the scriptures a delight to you. It was also about how the scriptures would make men who would not fail, but would grow large and substantial men, men who prospered in everything they did. The boys were shocked, some were disdainful, and some were interested.
As time progressed, some boys stopped attending, the summer time came and attendance was low. The boys that remained were the interested in spiritual things so it was time to introduce the boys to some spiritual experience. It was time they learned that God was real and how they could and would recognize His spirit at work within them, and what to do about it. The summer Sunday school series became “How Does God Talk to Us”.
I taught it, the way everyone has learned it, from the examples in scripture. The example of Samuel and Eli is the first for how God communicates with people (Samuel “heard” what sounded like Eli to him); the example of Peter on the rooftop in Acts (Peter both saw a vision and heard a voice). In all cases the scripture shows this same pattern of hearing, or seeing, or feeling, or even smelling as God’s communication.
These things are not usually taught in Sunday Schools, but this instruction is basic spiritual understanding that all those who would “walk by the spirit” should know and have experience with in their lives.
Around the end of summer, the pastor began a series of preaching on the errors of “speaking in tongues”, the sign gifts, as he termed them. Every Sunday he preached against the supernatural manifestation of holy spirit, and specifically against “speaking in tongues”. I tried to keep a good distance from preaching since I did not have any desire to publicly confront and diminish the pastor.
It was Father’s day, I as preparing to teach the Sunday school lesson for the boys, when I heard a voice in my ear, it was a child voice, and it was repeating the same plea. The voice in my ear was pleading “Help me . . . help me” continuously. I looked around and I was alone in the room, I looked into the hallway, there was no one around me to make this request. I knew God had something “in the works” and that I have a part in helping. I began looking to find out what to do by following the voice. I went out of the room and around the corner. Some friends tried to talk to me and I excused myself from them. I saw him then, he was sitting in a chair, rocking forward and backwards, his arm folded in front of him. He was a handsome boy, around ten or eleven, with neatly trimmed dirty blonde hair. His mother was standing over him, with a frantic look on her face. I knew who this boy was at that time.
It was common knowledge that this boy had some very large problems, he was known to be very disruptive, he could hardly sleep, and most people believed him to be possessed by demons. When I first heard this, I knew that this boy and I would someday meet. Today was that day.
As I walked towards the boy, I asked the Father, “Well okay, today is the day, now what do I do?” It always amazes me how, within a few seconds, the spirit can bring years of memories into my focus. The memories all pointing to the solution, which in this case, was so simple. All that I needed to do was to lay my hand on him; nothing grandiose, nothing disruptive, the simple act of touching the boy would make the difference, after all it did before.
I walked up put my hand on the boy’s shoulder and the words “It’s Okay now, I’m here” fell out of my mouth. The boy slumped forward, his eyes closed, and he went to sleep. His mother came to hold him. About this time the pastor came from upstairs, somehow hearing something was going on. The boy’s father came down and scooped the boy in his arms, the boy was sound asleep. I heard the father excitedly ask the mother, “What did you do?” the mother said nothing and looked at me. I walked back to my Sunday school, leaving the commotion where it was.
The next Sunday, the father of the boy taught his Sunday school that God healed his son, the pastor taught that God does not do miracles anymore; the boy slept peacefully at home with his mother; and I went on with my Sunday school lesson.
These memories are what I thought about when I heard the news about this church and the fire that destroyed it. The building was insured, and they will rebuild it. The upheaval the fire caused will be abated and forgotten, the damage will be built over and the fire will become an old story.