Saturday, September 1, 2012

The Visitor

Disclaimer: This post has absolutely nothing to do with any particular church, but it collects the attitudes of many churches all over America. Not too long ago, a man visited a church in a big city. When he walked in the door, no one greeted him or made him feel welcome. When he walked into the nave, he chose a seat in the front, but an usher came and directed him to a pew in the rear. "Sorry, but the Wilkinsons have earned this pew, “he said. "They have given the most money to this congregation. They are the richest family, you know." Reluctantly, the man sat down. As members came into the church, they sneered at the man; they were haughty with him. Once the service began, the pastor of the congregation did not take a moment to welcome the members; instead, he gave endless announcements about fundraisers and the prizes one could win for giving the most money, bingo night, and how much money one could win, and finally, choir rehearsal. Not once did he mention anything about Bible study or fellowship. For this congregation, these do not exist. During the sermon, while many of the congregants listened, others chose not to. There were those who read newspapers, listened to the radio, and chatted among themselves. There were teenagers who played with Gameboys, making a lot of noise, and the visitor even saw a couple leave the congregation to go into the narthex and make out. The visitor was horrified, but not nearly as much as he was at the pastor's sermon. He spoke to his congregation about how those who were not Christians were evil, hell-bound, and should be stayed away from. He also insisted that those who were poor were cursed by God because they were immoral, and that the richest among them were the holiest because God only gives wealth to those who are worthy of it. Of course, this pleased the Wilkinson family. To this, he added that since the poor were unworthy undesirables, they should be grateful for whatever charity they are given from Christians, and that charity should be withdrawn from unbelievers who refuse to recant. Finally, he told his congregation that God's love is limited only to those who are moral Christians, and that He sends everyone else to hell because He does not care because they displease Him. This horrified visitor turned around to see if anyone shared his reaction, but they either did not care, or they were in agreement. The visitor, starting to feel nauseated, shook his head in disappointment. The man sitting next to him, wearing a baseball cap, said "What the %*#& is your problem, mack?" The visitor, shocked that he would swear in the house of God, let alone cover his head, said nothing in response. After the service, the members gathered to talk to each other in the nave. The visitor walked among the congregants as they talked among each other. "Hey, we're having a concert in the church next week," one person said. "There's going to be some genuine talent." "What choir is singing?" his friend asked. "Choir? There's no choir. No one wants to pay $30 to hear a choir sing a bunch of stinking hymns. We're going to have a blast: Christian heavy metal, Christian pop, even Christian rap. We might be able to get Point of Grace to come." "And $30 is the suggested donation?" "Suggested donation?! What planet are you from? Thirty dollars is the cover charge. You have to pay in order to get into the church." "What if someone can't afford the price?" "Tough for them. Nothing in the world is free. So, are you buying tickets or what?" "Yeah, give me three." He hands him money. Troubled, the visitor walked on to another group. "Will you buy our Girl Scout cookies?" two girls asked a group of people. "Don't you remember the rule, girls?" asked the pastor. "What rule, Pastor?" "Whenever you sell anything in the church, you must give me a free product?" "We thought you were kidding!" one girl spoke up. "Does it look like I'm kidding? With as little as I'm getting paid, young lady, the least you can do to thank your pastor is give him a box of cookies." "We're sorry, pastor." They give him a box of cookies. "I'll take two, thank you." They give him another box. Very angry, the visitor walked away, and went over to a group of women, one of whom stared at him from the corner of her eye, as if to say "Our discussion does not concern you." "Did you hear about Betty Martin's daughter? Fifteen years old, and knocked up! What a horrible job she did as a mother!" the oldest remarked. "I heard that she is going to be kicked out of the choir for this." another responded. "Good! A girl lewd enough to get herself pregnant does not deserve to be in the choir." "Did you hear about the Jones family? They want to join the congregation! The last thing we need is people like them at our church!" commented another woman. "Don't worry! The pastor is going to turn them doing lightly." another reported. "Why on earth would THOSE people even want to come here? It's like we're water and they are oil!" Finally, the visitor had enough. "STOP!" he screamed. Everyone spun around to his direction. "Why must you people behave this way? Why must you be so judgmental? So unforgiving? Why do you turn God's house into a marketplace? A place to exploit others? The poor? The children? And Pastor, why do you choose to lead this church down the path of destruction? Don't you understand that God cannot be mocked?" "What is it to you, anyway? Are you a member here?" asked a middle-aged man. "No, I am not. But I am a member of the Christian church. A church you claim to be a member of." "What we do here is none of your business--you are just an outsider!" "Actually, it is my business. I am an angel!" At that instant, the light of God descended onto him, and everyone became horrified. "God is not pleased with you people. He has noticed that you have become more concerned with pleasing yourselves and your selfish wants and self-righteous agendas than pleasing him. You all disrespect this place, and you only come here for financial reasons or to keep up appearances. I will say it again: God cannot be mocked. I am here to tell you that if you do not change course immediately--and I know you won't--you will disband in the near future, and there will no longer be services at this church." "Yeah, right!" a person yelled. "Like God would want a church to close down!" "Nice lighting effects nonetheless! How do you do that?" Everyone laughed. "Get the %#&& out of here, fool!" The angel sighed deeply, trying to hold back tears. "What more can I say? You have all been warned. I've done my duty." He then proceeded down the aisle in order to leave. An old woman, suddenly frightened, spoke up. "Wait! Is what you are saying true? Has God cursed us?" The angel turned back around and looked right in her eyes. "God didn't curse you. You cursed yourselves." He then left. Sure enough, the angel's prophesy came true. When the church seemed to be less and less like a club or a place to conduct business, and when the true Christians of the church needed spiritual revival or a place less judgmental, most congregants left. In three years, the church became completely dead. Finally, they no longer had the finances or congregants/visitors to stay open, and they closed their doors. Most of those remaining never went to another church. What is the moral of the story, children?"

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