Wednesday, August 22, 2007

"Out of tune" church argues over piano

Churches sometimes divide over music. One church divided over the lack of a musical instrument.
It seems this particular church had no musical instruments to accompany the singing in the worship service. Some members suggested getting a piano. It came up for a vote at the next business meeting. After much discussion, the matter was put to a vote. About half of the membership voted "No," since they had always been worshiping without a piano, thus killing the idea. Or so they thought.
The pro-piano half of the congregation decided on another strategy. They bought a piano on their own, with the expectation that the others would fall in line once they saw how it could help the singing. The next Sunday, however, did not meet their expectations. The anti-piano half were outraged and said they would not come back to church if the piano was even there, let alone played.
The following week was filled with a great deal of verbal back-stabbing over this issue in the community. In anticipation of what would happen, attendance was larger than usual the following Sunday in church. To everyone's surprise, the piano was gone! The pro-piano portion of the congregation was appalled that the opposing group would do such a thing, but the anti-piano people vehemently denied that they had done anything with the instrument. The whole church was in an uproar.
After six months, the piano was discovered. It had not been removed from the church at all. It was in the baptistry, which has not been used in all that time, either!
(Strange as this story sounds, Gerald Daniel of Clinton, Mississippi assures me that this actually happened somewhere in the United States of America.)
Many churches need to go back and read the Great Commission that Jesus gave the first Christians: "go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Matthew 28:19, NIV). Churches that keep their focus on evangelism do not get sidetracked with issues like the position of the piano or the color of the carpet. Put another way, when you keep your baptistry wet, you don't lose your piano in it.

Copyright 2007 by Bob Rogers.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Lutheran who was glad he didn't look like a Baptist

Somebody once told my associate pastor that I "don't look like a preacher." That begs the question: what is a preacher supposed to look like? Is he expected to wear a clerical collar, a black robe and have a stern or "holy" expression on his face? Or is he supposed to have a round, pink face and a round body? I've never thought that I wanted to look like a preacher, until I heard Dr. Laurence White.
Dr. Laurence L. White is senior pastor of Our Savior Lutheran Church in Houston, Texas. I heard him speak at an interdenominational pastor's meeting in Washington. Wearing a black shirt and white clerical collar, looked over the crowd, most of whom were wearing business suits, and he said, "I want to say something to you Baptists who have forsaken the traditional garb of the clergy. There are some advantages to looking like clergy." Then he told this story:
Rev. White was late for a speaking engagement in Georgia, and was driving way too fast, when he saw blue lights flashing in his rear view mirror. He pulled over, and the blue light pulled in behind him. The reverend noticed that the trooper who got out of the patrol car was very big. He pulled his belt up around his waist, and walked toward Rev. White's car, his hand on his gun. When the trooper looked in the car window and saw Rev. White, with his black coat and shirt, and white clerical collar, he started to laugh. Rev. White thought, "Oh, no. He's a Baptist deacon. I'm going to jail."
But instead, the trooper leaned in, pointed his finger in Rev. White's face, and said, "Forgive me, father, but you have sinned!" Then he gestured down the road with his hands open wide, and said, "Now go, and sin no more!"
So there can be advantages to looking like a preacher (or priest).
The Bible says that there is a clothing that all of us should wear. Job said, "I put on righteousness as my clothing" (Job 29:14, NIV). The apostle Paul tells us what we should look like: "Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience..." (Colossians 3:12, NIV).
So the clerical collar can be good and useful. But righteousness is even better.
(Copyright 2007 by Bob Rogers.)