" For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully." (Romans 12:3-8)
Ok, kids, tomorrow is Sunday. I guess you all know this is the first Sunday for our new pastor, so you kids better plan on being on your best behavior. No chewing of gum or talking during the service. You wouldn't want to take a trip to the old barn mercy seat now would you. "No Daddy."
Don't forget to lay out your Sunday-go-to-meeting best, and be sure to shine your shoes. We must all make a good impression on our new preacher. I will go service our old gospel chariot for the ride into town tomorrow and when I get back, we all must get to bed early so as to be rested tomorrow for the trip into town.
All of a sudden it happened. How it happened, was very strange in and of itself. I must have been falling off into another of my strange message dreams as I seem to be having them quite regularly lately. I found myself in the middle of one of our church services of a much discouraged mood.
The entire congregation, not just some of them, but all were milling around the sanctuary, shouting at the top of their voices. It was as if the Rapture had happened and they had all missed out on that blessed event.
What was so bizarre about this entire unrehearsed commotion was that each member of our congregation seemed to be identified by a label in conjunction with their name and mysteriously affixed to their clothing. A rather unique labeling seemed to befit each individual personality, the scene so vividly displayed.
And this scene, unusual to say the least, was so out of character for our little fundamental conservative Bible-believing congregation.
"Where are the church bulletins? We can't have church without a bulletin. How will I know when to stand up and when to kneel and pray?" exclaimed Deacon Doubtful. As Deacon Doubtful continued to express his concern, many others also chimed in by expressing their apprehension. Sister Skeptic, who is usually rather quiet and doesn't take part in the service, stood and literally screamed, "I've heard enough! I want you to know I'm a Christian and have been a member of this church for 30 years! Why, my father even helped start this church! The Sunday morning bulletin has always been a part of our life!" Before Sister Skeptic could finish, she was rudely interrupted by Brother Backslider, who shouted rather loudly, "Sister, you may indeed be a Christian but you certainly didn't get it here!"
This contagious eruption continued into the start of the would-be service, which prompted the need for Pastor Logic to step in and explain. You see, Pastor Logic was a soft spoken man of God but he just couldn't take this needless commotion any longer.
In his usual soft-spoken voice, he began to speak. "You see, our beloved Sister Faithful has been sick for many weeks, and she couldn't get the bulletins printed. We'll just have to depend on our faith to carry us through this service, even as hectic as the outcome may become." After this short declaration from Pastor Logic, things seemed to settle down a bit and the service went on as planned. But lo and behold, when Deacon Grateful started to pray, positive emotions suddenly overcame the entire congregation. Certain supernatural events began happening throughout our small chapel.
First of all, Deacon Grateful started his prayer by asking the Lord, "Lord please let something happen in our service today that would not be in the bulletin.” And, oh how the spirit changed after Deacon Grateful prayed! The music worship minister led the hymns like never before, accompanied by all the loyal attendees. It was just as if our little chapel had been taken over by a band of angels. Even Sister "No Note", who had been banished from the choir, chimed in like never before. What a glorious time of singing we had!
Next came the announcements and offering, led by Pastor Logic. I'll never forget how the Pastor stood so firmly as he outlined the coming week’s church events. And this alone was rather unusual since he didn't even have to read the usual upcoming agenda from the bulletin.
"Deacon Boring" became so excited; he shouted a big "Amen" to the Pastor’s announcement remarks. You would just have to know Deacon Boring to appreciate this. You see, he was a good man but he had never gotten quite caught up in the spirit of the services before. And, yes, the offering plates seemed to be filled that day as well. Suddenly, when it came time for Pastor Logic to give his usual sermon, the chain of events continued to reverse the customary style of our worship. Throughout our little chapel, members and visitors alike began to spontaneously stand and give their testimonies. One by one they stood until most had given their statement. And when the spontaneous worship was concluded, all Pastor Logic could add was a big "Amen!” and a hearty “Hallelujah!" Well, we never had a sermon that day, as we didn't need one. You see, the sermon was real as the message of God's love was shown through the expressions of the many who testified that day. Also, what was surreal, no one bothered to check their watches during the service. Then, when the service concluded, almost everyone was found kneeling around the old fashioned altar in prayer. As the service concluded and folks begin to shift around a spontaneous unannounced singing broke out with the singing of that that old time song, "Give Me That Old Time Religion" to the tune of everyone clapping and hugging while exiting the chapel.
Was it a dream, a vision, or otherwise an aberration, that changed the attitude of this little church ? Could it have simply been the positive posture behind the spirited prayer of Deacon Grateful ?
Nonetheless, as you probably guessed, our little church never was the same again. The weekly bulletins did continue. However, the format underwent a holy redrafting. Now, instead of listing the order of service, the bulletins have a listing of church opportunities for service within the church, a listing of the church prayer needs and an outline of the pastor's sermon with ample room for write-in notes.
Whatever sparked this little church's turnaround surely paralleled the early church, when the power of God's Spirit came down. (Acts 2:1-4) Amen !
AUTHOR'S NOTE: A little reminiscing: I can still see my old preacher Daddy clapping in tune with the singing. And we kids knew not to ever act up in church. It wasn't unusual for Daddy to stop his sermon, step down from the pulpit and pass round a bulletin to have all us kids deposit our bubble gum. Then, he would step back up and continue his sermon never skipping a beat.
I remember when we young "puppy loves" would communicate back and forth during the service by showing each other hymn titles from the hymnals, as secret love messages.
I remember when Daddy placed a big attic fan in the side church window, to cool off the sanctuary. As he opened the windows on the opposite side of the sanctuary to draw in the cool air, all the bugs would instantly get religion by joining our congregation, and, for those of us on the side with the fan, hearing a word was virtually impossible.
And in the winter, the old central heater, the one with the floor grit in the middle of the room, would often times stop working, causing a big chill throughout the room.
Yes, those were the good old days of the Fifties. We were just kids, being kids. Loving each other and loving our church.
So, does this "old time religion" bring back memories ? If not, maybe your pa-paw will remember. You see I readily boast of being older than dirt, and twice as gritty. In fact, I'm old enough to have my Bible autographed.
Thus, when was the last time you heard the shout of an "Amen" or a "Hallelujah" in your church service? Saw someone kneel by their pew in prayer? Saw hands raised in praise? Simply heard the real true full gospel message being preached? (I Cor. 15:1-4)
I realize all church services must have some semblance of order. However, this story also brings back vivid memories of those old brush-arbor revival meetings where the "Amens" and the "Hallelujahs" echoed as the Spirit led. So, simply just call me an Old Time Religion dinosaur, if you will.
Additionally in support of the old evangelistic message, was that old fashioned church altar, which sad to say is missing from many of our churches of today. Now, I realize the physical make-up of that old altar was no different than any other construction. However, that old fashioned altar was very special for me, for that old altar was where I was first introduced to the Living God. "So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." ( I Corinthians 10:3)
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