Games people play


 Shortly after graduating from college a friend of mine, Mike, and I began attending church together.  In spite of being the world’s biggest cynic and a regular doubting Thomas, I saw the value in attending church. 

We attended two churches off and on before I moved away.  The two churches were vastly different one was a church of about 600 in our community and the other was a mega church off approximately 4000 members.  But they both shared one thing in common, awful preaching. 

Mike and I usually went to lunch after services.  Usually we would try to top each other with our ridicule of the sermon.  Mimicking bad preaching became kind of a forte of mine.  One Sunday in particular stands out in my mind.  The pastor preached a 50 minute sermon where he repeated the phrase, “If you want to know God; know Jesus” no less that 8 times, and that was only when we started noticing.

We had other games we would use to entertain ourselves.  One of our old professors, Rich Israel (Professor of Old Testament and Biblical Languages), also attended the mega church.  He had an uncanny resemblance to Waldo (from Where’s Waldo).  Mike and I play a game of sorts during the sermon, where is Rich Israel.

One Sunday by chance, we sat directly behind Rich.  Our game was spoiled.  But we got to chat after the service, so the day was not a total waste. 

I asked Rich how he of all people endured the services.  He responded that he read the New Testament over and over again in Greek.  He encouraged me to redeem the hours and do the same (in English of course).  I felt convicted of my “game” playing and started self directed reading of the Bible during sermons.  I jokingly referred to sermons as “my personal hour of reflection.”

I estimate that between that time and my first setting foot in Floris, I read through the entire Bible twice.

Today by contrast, I have been thinking about the sermon all day.  This is not unusual at Floris.  The worst week at Floris is better than the best week at…well you know. 

Two illustrations in particular captured my imagination.

First:  Fear and doubt are the tensions that build our spiritual muscles.

Second (a story):  At the end of the movie “A beautiful mind,” the Professor is approached by a man who tells him that he has just one the Nobel Prize.  Because by shear will-power he has just put his hallucinations aside, he pulls a student aside and asks her if she sees the man.  She reassures him, “yes, professor there is a man there.”

As pastor of this church I have had periods where I doubted the goodness of God.  I sometime walk in this sanctuary, look up at the cross, and say to the person next to me, “do you see someone there?”  The answer has always been a resounding yes.

Merry Christmas Rich !

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By Ben Posted in Life

8 comments on “Games people play

  1. We’d go through the hymnal and find all of the hymns whose titles could be seen as suggestive. Hours of adolescent fun!

    Thankfully, we grew up and found value in the teaching of God’s Word. There are times my mind still wanders to what’s for lunch or why I need to go to Target after church, but most of the time I find great encouragement from the teaching. Our teaching pastor, Jeff is a very gifted teacher. We love him. http://www.adabible.org to download or you can podcast the Ada Bible Church services at itunes.

  2. Just about any hymn can be rendered X rated by appending “between the sheets” to it.

    I checked out your website a couple of weeks ago. Very cool. Our church’s website is boring and out of date by comparison.

  3. I’ve done that with fortune cookies, but never with hymns.
    I was fortunate as a teenager to wind up one morning sitting next to an older gentleman in church. I never saw anyone so active. Everything the pastor said he would be flipping around looking up verses to defend or dispute what was said. He never took anything at face value. I started sitting next to him on a regular basis, becoming familiar with the general flow of the bible, what was where, how to generally get around the bible. It was an invaluable experience. I sometimes wind up wondering what balsa wood tastes like, but mostly I get a ton out of any preacher good or bad, right or wrong, because I am really studying about what they are speaking on.
    I thought it was a sin for a church to have a good website.

  4. lol…I guess because at that point in my life I had no realistic expectation of finding a church that I would like better. As my sister put it, I choose bordom over trauma. I know better now. Hind sight is 20/20.

    Ask Kevin about my luck with visiting churches. I don’t think he has recovered yet.

  5. For the record, Rich Israel also preached the best sermon on “Slaying the Phillistines with the Ass of A Donkey” in recent memory.

    BJC

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