Way back in the late 1960s or early 1970s, there was an old geezer (he must have been nearing 60) working as a buyer in Acme Markets’ Buying Department. I’m not sure how this eccentric man, who owned a sugar company with his sister, kept things honest since the company bought sugar from his company. All I know is he was considered to be rather wealthy.
This man thought outside the box. I don’t know about his spiritual background, but one of his dreams was to start a drive-in movie theater in California to have church services there. I can just see a couple in their car or parents with their kids sitting in their car with the speaker hooked on the window!
WAIT A MINUTE! I wrote the above over a week ago and since then I have seen websites that show people participating in a church service at outdoor movie theaters because of the coronavirus (see one example at https://whyy.org/articles/honking-hallelujah-drive-in-movie-theatre-in-pa-becomes-church-during-coronavirus-shutdown/). I guess that “eccentric old man” was decades ahead of his time!
A second scenario is Barb, my wife, and I, a number of years ago, attended a new church. After attending for a short time, I asked one of the leaders how I could get information about the church and how we could get information on becoming members.
He told me the church has a dinner twice a year where some of this information was available. When I asked him when the last dinner was, he informed me it was about two and a half years ago! He then went on to tell me that the church didn’t have members because some of the attendees wanted to be incognito!
I am not criticizing the drive-in church because of the circumstances. However, they do miss some of the criteria that constitute a healthy church. The second church, with no members, is missing much of what God has given us, even if it is a Bible believing and following church.
As many of you know, a church is not just a building or a location to go to. Rather, a church is all about God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit and people who have like beliefs of who Jesus Christ is – the Son of God, whom God sent to die on the cross for our sins, was buried and arose again to sit on the right hand of God the Father. This was God’s plan because he required us to be perfect in order for us to enter into heaven. Since we are all sinners, Christ, the perfect God/man shed His blood as a sacrifice so that all who believed in Him will be accepted by God the Father.
A church is a close knit community that interacts with one another, encourages each other spiritually, people of prayer, one that makes disciples, which loves and cares for its members as well as those outside the church and develops leadership, just to name a few characteristics.
The church we attend, like many other churches I’m sure, is communicating to its congregation via computer, with five to 10 minute video meditations, full church services on Sundays and items for prayer during the week.
Barb and I attend a small group of 16 people once a week. We had not met in three weeks. Yesterday was the first time we met via a conference call to pray for each other and people we know (and don’t know). Even though there was a bit of communications prior to that in the form of phone calls and emails, this was the first time we were all together. Boy, it was nice to hear all the familiar voices.
There are also the plain old friendships in church that we miss like: The “man-boy” whom I toss wrapped butterscotch candy to most Sundays; kids stopping me for life-savers; the man who looks like Santa Claus who always has a joke (or several) – I do enjoy the jokes, the best of which I try to repeat to others but something is off in my timing (instead of a belly-laugh, I get a groan); the gifted man who always takes time to shake hands with our adult son and me with encouraging words and the many other people we just stop to talk to.
When the coronavirus is under control and our government gives us the okay to not be housebound, I think most of us should do two things: Give thanks to God for his protection and have some meals with our family and dear friends!
Jeff Hall, of Honey Brook, contributes columns to Berks-Mont Newspapers.