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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Empty and Full (06/04/09)

TITLE: Ebenezer's sad, slow decline
By Gregory Kane
06/09/09


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Ebenezer Gospel Assembly was on its last legs. True, Pastor Smyth was well past retirement age, but he could still preach a fiery sermon hot enough to send the most recalcitrant sinner trembling to his knees. Yet the membership roll was in free-fall with the average age of the communicants in the mid-50s. Ebenezer simply couldn't compete with the seeker-sensitive, family-friendly, minibus-ferrying churches that were sprouting up elsewhere in town.

When Hope-and-Life Miracle Church moved on to the same road as Ebenezer, the two pastors exchanged pleasantries and chatted positively about the extent of the harvest field. Yet within one month, Ebenezer's three remaining teenagers had found a spiritual home in the youth ministry down the road with its innovative talk of podcasts, techno-worship and virtual discipleship.

June saw the grand opening of Hope-and-Life's sparkling new auditorium and a family fun day was organised to celebrate the occasion. Since the consecration took place on a Saturday, most people from Ebenezer decided to drop in for an hour or two. The following day, as Pastor Smyth looked round his faded sanctuary, his heart sank at the number of long-standing families who were no longer there.

The first signs of disquiet came with the return of Mrs Archibald. The pastor had secretly been relieved to see her go, her incorrigible tittle-tattling an unsightly blemish on the sanctity of his congregation. Yet even Pastor Smyth was intrigued to learn what had so disturbed the old scandalmonger.

It was the preaching, she whined, or rather the lack of it. The pastor at Hope-and-Life never spoke for more than ten minutes and much of his advice was lifted straight from daytime TV talk-shows. None of that old-time religion, she fussed, preaching that called people to mend their ways and walk in reverence. In her humble opinion it was a social club masquerading as a place of worship.

That night Pastor Smyth got down on his arthritic knees to ask God's forgiveness for the sins of gossip and pride. Yet Mrs Archibald's words had heartened him and he prayed that his ailing congregation might still be turned around.

The following March, Hope-and-Life (or H&L as it was by then being called) broke through the 500 barrier and announced a new building programme to accommodate the swelling numbers. One week later Hugh Thomas, the church treasurer, left his wife and moved in with one of the youth counsellors. The uproar in the Christian community was intense. Pastor Smyth added his name to a petition calling for the man to step down. But the pastor at H&L supported his man to the hilt, arguing that the heart of the gospel was forgiveness and no one had any right to judge or condemn another. A few people left in protest but their loss was more than offset by scores of new visitors who applauded such a modern, open-minded approach to adultery.

That September Ebenezer Gospel Assembly hosted an evangelist for one week of revival meetings. But the day before the crusade started, the leadership at H&L announced a week of free concerts featuring a medley of famous Christians singers and musicians. On the final day of the lacklustre revival, even the evangelist asked permission to finish early so that he could go and enjoy that evening's concert.

By January the situation had reached crisis point. Pastor Smyth had injured his knee in a fall, the church roof was leaking and termites were wreaking havoc with the pews. Even with the converts from the revival, Sunday attendance was down to its lowest level in decades. Weary and discouraged, the pastor sat down with his members to vote on closing the church. But just then it happened. The archangel put a golden trumpet to his lips and blew a note that echoed round the world. Half a million angels flew through the earth and snatched up the saints in glorious rapture. In a heartbeat the sanctuary of Ebenezer Gospel Assembly was emptied - with not a single soul left behind.

The pastor at H&L took the worldwide disappearances in his stride. A few of his more contrary members had vanished but the bulk of his congregation was still intact. The Sunday after the Event, his church was full to bursting with people desperate to know what they should do. God loves you the way you are, the pastor told them, business will go on as usual. And by the way would anyone like tickets for the hot-pot supper this coming Thursday?


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This article has been read 578 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Charla Diehl 06/11/09
You did a great job of giving a true picture of what's happening in so many of today's churches. So many lost sheep--we must continue to pray for them.
Verna Cole Mitchell 06/11/09
You surely caught me at the end with your well plotted story that shows the sadly realistic condition of many of America's churches today.
Carol Slider 06/11/09
Bravo! This is a subject near and dear to my heart-- yet I rarely speak or write about it, for the "H&L" mentality is so deeply engrained in so many churches now, I fear I would offend someone. Your approach is just right: deft, pointed, yet with plenty of heart and good humor. I look forward to finding out who wrote this!
Mary Knoll Santos06/12/09
GOD bless you for writing this with boldness and courage!!!

Such a sickening and wearying sad state of the modern, mainstream, disillusioned so- called evangelical churches! I yearn for a "remnant" church of our Holy, Saviour and King Jesus Christ where my family and I could worship Him and serve Him in the beauty of holiness and Truth!

Amen!







Mariane Holbrook06/14/09
You knocked this one right out of the ballpark! Kudos big time! I wonder how many pastors could have written this story. This is a story that needed to be told. I hope it gets wide coverage and places high.
Sharon Kane06/14/09
A very big 'ouch' factor in this. A powerful story that needs to be told. May we indeed be found ready. Great writing.
Chely Roach06/14/09
Wowzers! I dig the edgy message, and a great tie in to the topic. Nicely done...
Mona Purvis06/15/09
Strong message written with passion. True picture of many congregations. There are some very good churches that are large and well-attended. Mine is one. My pastor, by the way, is from South Africa. The word is preached and not milked down. Billy Graham is a member of my church, but he's not physically able to attend. I thank God for pastors who stand strong! Great story.
Mona
Karlene Jacobsen 06/17/09
Excellent message! A winner in my book!
Glynis Becker 06/17/09
So glad you didn't mince words at all with this. Unfortunately for the world, this story is full of truth and it saddens me. Our pastors need to be encouraged to preach the word..thanks for the reminder.
Sara Harricharan 06/17/09
Very interesting piece, thanks for sharing. I was wondering where it was going and whether there would be a happy ending to it. nice job.
Bryan Ridenour06/17/09
Powerful reminder to those in the Remnant...stand firm and be true to the Word of God. May God bless you for sharing such a powerful truth.