“Tambourines?! Why this is outrageous,” Maude Perkins whispered to her husband Frank. “First drums, now this…Next they’ll be dancin’ in the aisles. Sorry, dear, but I can’t worship here anymore. This is not music unto God.”
“Not sure they’ll be a next time,” Frank said. ”My dear, we may be charter members but I never thought we’d see the day when drums and tambourines would blare out of these sacred stained glass windows.” Then when they looked around and saw some hands shoot up, they almost fainted. “This church has gone to the Holy Rollers,” they moaned, slipping out the back door before the Benediction.
And for the first time in fifty years their pews were vacant the following Sunday.
But they left too soon. The music at First Church toned down, returning to the old familiar hymns.
“What’s up with the music?” Tyler Smith asked his girlfriend Miranda. “Thought First Church had moved on to real worship---contemporary music. This service is deadsville again. God doesn’t visit us when we sing these old lifeless hymns. If they’re reverting back to traditional music, I’m outta here….”
“I hear ‘ya,” Miranda sighed. “Hey, I hear the praise and worship is totally awesome down the street at Second Church….”
And so their pews were also vacant the following Sunday….
“We’ve got to do something,” Pastor Larry told the church council, noting more folks were sneaking out the back door than drifting through the front.
“Simple solution,” elder Raymond Dithers said. “Offer two services. An early service for traditional worshipers and a later one for contemporary worshippers. This way everyone’s happy.”
So First Church resorted to two separate services.
But First Church also divided into two churches---the traditionalists and the contemporaries.
“We have to bring our church together again,” Pastor Larry sighed, throwing up his hands at another church council meeting. “I know…. We’ll have monthly potlucks. This will surely bring make us one body again.”
Everyone brought their favorite dishes to the first potluck supper. But the traditionalists sat on one side of the room, while the contemporary folks sat on the other.
Contemporary worshipper Alicia Fletcher ventured up to traditionalist, old Pearle Howard, trying to welcome her. ”Hello, Alicia here,” she said extending her hand. “Don’t think we’ve met….Welcome to First Church.”
“Pearle Howard, charter member here,” the old woman responded, offended. “Young lady, I was here when we first broke ground fifty years ago.”
Alicia’s face turned as red as her sweater.
Later that evening, shortly after everyone went home, Maude and Frank, who lived only blocks from their former church, smelled smoke and heard distant fire engines. Curious, they drove down the street and froze in disbelief as they saw First Church go up in flames. Firefighters were on the scene but it was too late. Their old church had burned to the ground…
The next morning the congregation gathered on the charred church grounds to cry and grieve.
”This is a tragedy,” they said, comforting one another…
Then through grateful tears, they realized no one was hurt. The fire was due to an electrical problem. If it had broken out only hours earlier at the church potluck it would have really been a tragedy.
They met the following Sunday at a nearby school for worship, returning to one service. The choir director arose to lead the morning worship. Then speechless, he felt the Holy Spirit say, Ask the people what they want to sing..
“Any favorites?” He asked, his voice quivering.
Much to her surprise, old Pearle Howard ambled up front and grabbed a tambourine, shouting,”Com’on church! Let’s praise God.”
Then after several choruses of “Majesty”, Cliff Drew, the president of the youth group, stood. “A fire may have ripped through our church last week. But did it really burn down the church? No, praise God, for we are the Church…What’s that old hymn we used to sing? As he started to sing hymn #558, “We are the Church”, everyone joined in, including the contemporaries.
The spirit of God filled the school gymnasium as they felt God’s presence as never before. Everyone sang, thanking God for his protection.
No longer were they the church of the contemporaries and the traditionalists.
They were one body---the body of Christ.
Somehow the hymns sounded very contemporary. And the praise choruses echoed words from favorite hymns beloved by all. The spirits of division and strife had been burned away.
First Church was finally offering up sweet music unto God.
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