Ossie slowly climbed the stairs beside the gleaming pipes of the organ, footsteps muted by the red carpeting and approached the pulpit with reverence.
Pulling a soft cloth from his back pocket, he lightly touched it to liquid polish, rubbing the mahogany until it began to glow.
Ossie looked out upon row after row of polished pews. Few were still alive who could remember the days when they had been packed on Sunday mornings, people hanging on every word spoken from the pulpit.
In his mind's meanderings, Ossie felt himself transported to one signal day. Pastor Michael had been talking about the "priesthood of believers" and how every Christian was called to be in ministry.
"In fact," Pastor Michael had enthused. "I'd be the happiest man alive if next Sunday this church was empty, and every one of you was out there doing the Lord's business!"
As it happened, the following Sunday's attendance was even higher than usual. But Ossie, an usher at that service, noticed three fairly high profile members were not there.
Nor did they ever return.
A lot of books were appearing on the Christian bookstore shelves back then speaking of how the church had deviated from its roots. They had titles like "Jesus has Left the Building," and "Snakes in the Temple."
One thread that ran through this new thinking was that, like the Jews in the Old Testament, Christians had once again decided over the years that a king would be better than a God. Thus they had rolled out a whole unbiblical hierarchy of priests, bishops, even popes -- each step diluting the Christian's direct connection with God.
Churches became more concerned with numbers than with people. Church leaders began to define success one tithe at a time and, instead of cooperating with other churches to bring Christ to entire cities, they began competing for territory that was never theirs to claim.
Where Jesus envisioned thousands of small gatherings of people, sharing love and compassion, doing for others, mentoring each other, there emerged the megachurch, with fancy programs as commercial replacements for the speaking of the Holy Spirit.
But God was at work, selectively calling a handful from the church buildings and into the harvest.
Starry eyed idealists, Ossie had called them; folks so sold out for Jesus they gave up their television shows, their soccer games, even much of their family time to fellowship with those in need wherever they went.
Church leaders couldn't even acknowledge these revolutionary missionaries. They refused to accept money, saying God supplied all they needed. They declined to speak to assemblies, saying anyone interested in hearing from God could hear Him loud and clear on the streets every day.
Strange seeds were being sewn in the fertile soil of impoverished neighborhoods. Those who received these oddball missionaries felt love, sometimes for the first time, and responded in kind to others. Soon they, too, were peculiar people praying for anyone and everyone, blessing everyone and pointing them to God as the source of all things good.
Some of the poor and downtrodden came into churches, only to leave in disappointment when they didn't find more peculiar, loving, passionate people inside.
Some called it a revival, Ossie recalled, but others said it couldn't be, because nothing like this had ever happened before. This was new life, and it was life in abundance.
That was 50 years ago.
Now, the City Church was celebrating the dismantling of all boundaries between denominations, between races, between classes. Once that had occurred, God's glory had transformed the city so fast nobody could really keep track of it.
Businesses had flourished, not just financially, but in soaring employee morale and incredible outpourings of charitable work. Politicians were replaced wholesale by Christians who spoke of building the Kingdom of God as the only reliable way to affect any of the city's problems.
People today are prayer walking every neighborhood in the city. They know which houses still have people who don't know the Lord and spend extra time praying there, blessing the occupants and waiting in expectation for the day God touches their hearts.
We've taken the bars off the prisons. Everyone in there these days has accepted Christ. They realize they have a debt to pay to society and that God will use their remaining time in detention to His glory, so there are no escape attempts.
Ossie gave the pulpit one final polishing stroke.
There. All ready for Monday, when the museum would reopen.
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