Tuesday, August 22, 2006

First class all the way

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
This article was brought to my attention by a parishioner. Now I've seen it all.

ABILENE—On Sunday mornings, six-year-old Adrian Teller goes to Sunday school through a VIP entrance, avoiding the "cattle class" at the front desk. "It's worth the $15 per week," says mother Sandy Teller who has embraced Abilene Baptist Church's "First Class Kids" option.

The church is one of a handful to experiment with premium nurseries and Sunday school classes. Children in the First Class Kids program enjoy premium snacks, private bathrooms and personalized lessons. They are separated by a curtain from other children, to avoid causing jealousy. "People want choices of service," says pastor Ron Jacobs. "If we can offer 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. worship times, why not first class and economy class Sunday school?"

You can read the whole thing here. Of course, what I failed to mention is that it's another beautiful spoof from Lark News. Or is it? Some church's have become so commercialized, it's not quite so obvious what's real and what's a joke. I was listening to a radio advertisement for a church the other day. It wasn't until the end that I figured out it was a church. It sounded like some kind of amusement park or funland for kids. Here's a related story: "Man's prophetic actions offer lifestyle of fun."

It also made me think of a church that was being built close to my house last year. Driving past it, my wife and I said, "Oh look, we're going to have a new movie theatre closer to our house." I couldn't tell it was a church until they put a little cross up at the top one afternoon. I'm embarassed to say I was almost dissapointed. But I'm still not sure if I was dissapointed that it didn't look like a church, or that it wasn't a cinema. I know what the right answer is, just not the true answer.

On a related note, our parish secretary forwarded me this wonderful story with a similar theme, origin unknown.

I saw him in the church building for the first time on Wednesday. He was in his mid-70s, with thinning silver hair and a neat brown suit. Many times in the past I had invited him to come. Several other Christian friends had talked to him about the Lord and had tried to share the good news with him. He was a well-respected, honest man with so many characteristics a Christian should have, but he had never put on Christ, nor entered the doors of the church.

"Have you ever been to a church service in your life?" I had asked him a few years ago. We had just finished a pleasant day of visiting and talking. He hesitated. Then with a bitter smile he told me of his childhood experience some fifty years ago. He was one of many children in a large impoverished family. His parents had struggled to provide food, with little left for housing and clothing. When he was about ten, some neighbors invited him to worship with them. The Sunday School class had been very exciting! He had never heard such songs and stories before! He had never heard anyone read from the Bible! After class was the teacher took him aside and said, "Son, please don't come again dressed as you are now. We want to look our best when we come into God's house." He stood in his ragged, unpatched overalls. Then looking at his dirty bare feet, he answered softly, "No, ma'am, I won't ever."

"And I never did," he said, abruptly ending our conversation.

There must have been other factors to have hardened him so, but this experience formed a significant part of the bitterness in his heart. I'm sure that Sunday School teacher meant well. But did she really understand the love of Christ? Had she studied and accepted the teachings found in the second chapter of James? What if she had put her arms around the dirty, ragged little boy and said, "Son, I am so glad you are here, and I hope you will come every chance you get to hear more about Jesus." I reflected on the awesome responsibility a teacher or pastor or a parent has to welcome little ones in His name. How far reaching her influence was! I prayed that I might be ever open to the tenderness of a child's heart, and that I might never fail to see beyond the appearance and behavior of a child to the eternal possibilities within.Yes, I saw him in the church house for the first time on Wednesday. As I looked at that immaculately dressed old gentleman lying in his casket, I thought of the little boy of long ago. I could almost hear him say, "No, ma'am, I won't ever."

And I wept.

1 comment:

Texanglican (R.W. Foster+) said...

It turns out that the Abilene article is a parody from a Christian mag called "The Lark News." I got pretty worked up when I read it, which is sad. It shows how plausible the story above is that I actually believed it!