the weblog of Alan Knox

He went to church

Posted by on Aug 23, 2010 in discipleship | 23 comments

He went to church

Life was not going very well. He left his recently emptied home Monday morning for his commute to work. The sign in the front of the church building near his neighborhood read, “Come here for a blessing.” He rolled his eyes.

Monday was bad. Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning, he saw the sign again: “Come here for a blessing.” Tuesday at work was worse. Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning, the sign derided him: “Come here for a blessing.”

Somehow Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday were even worse than Tuesday. And the echoes in the empty house seemed to laugh at him. By Thursday, when he saw the phrase, “Come here for a blessing,” he was ready for a blessing.

So, Sunday morning, he found himself pulling his sedan into the parking lot. The attendants flagged him through the parking lot and into a space. The man at the door smiled and handed him a folded piece of paper. As he was going to say something to the man, the man turned toward the family behind him to hand them some folded pieces of paper.

As he paused inside the door, he marveled at the hive of activity that he found. The family behind him pushed past and found a pew. He sat beside them by the aisle. The husband of the family nodded, then turned toward his folded piece of paper. So, he looked at his paper, too. At the top of the paper were the words, “The Blessing of God.”

Good. He needed a blessing.

Soon the music started. The band leader told everyone to stand and sing and be blessed by God. So, he stood and tried to follow the words on the big projector screen. Everyone seemed very excited. The words seemed strange to him. But, he tried to sing along, because he wanted to be blessed by God.

They began to pass big metal plates across the pews. The man at the front said that those who gave money would be blessed. So, he reached in his wallet to get some money. He really wanted to be blessed, so he thought twice and gave a little more.

Someone began to give a speech about being blessed by God. Some of the words were strange, like in the songs. But he understood that Jesus and God wanted to bless him. That’s good, because he wanted them to bless him. He needed them to bless him. He repeated the prayer at the end of the speech. He craved a blessing from God.

Then, everyone was leaving. He turned to the husband of the family. The husband shook his hand, and said, “It’s great to meet you.” As he was preparing to ask about being blessed by God, the family made their way past him and out the door. He stood there for a moment and a few people nodded at him. One man shook his hand.

Slowly he made his way back out the door and to his car. He drove back home. He did everything they asked. He went to church. He sang the songs. He gave his money. He listened to the speech. He said the prayer. Was he blessed?

He cried himself to sleep that night in his empty bed.

The next morning, the sign in front of the church building read, “Come here for a new life.” He wondered if that was a lie too.


23 Comments

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  1. 8-23-2010

    Wow

  2. 8-23-2010

    Wow!

  3. 8-23-2010

    My frustration exactly… for 30 years now.

  4. 8-23-2010

    Alan,

    Wow! Two or three are agreed!

  5. 8-23-2010

    Yeah… well… could someone translate “wow” for me? Is that good or bad?

    -Alan

  6. 8-24-2010

    I saw that he went to church.

    I noticed my neighbor’s recently emptied home. He doesn’t seem to look up and wave when we drive by any more. I noticed he was often out washing his car while we passed by going to church. I thought “he should be going to church, not washing his car”. Now his home is emptied and he is suffering the consequences. I wondered if I should ask him to go to church. But then, a strange thing happened. He came to church! I am certain he looked at the carefully placed “How to Become A Christian” section of the bulletin. It’s right on the front! He listened intently to the pastor’s sermon, so I know he heard what I think he needed to hear. He even gave money during the offering time, so I know he must have been blessed by the praise songs. I didn’t get to talk to him because we had to hurry to the restaurant for lunch, but Deacon Smith said his family sat by him and said it was great to meet him. So, I am sure he felt welcome. I am glad I saw that he went to church. I sure felt better knowing he wasn’t home washing his car. He is finally getting right with God.

  7. 8-24-2010

    Eric,

    That is the perfect response to my story! Yes! I’m going to feature your response tomorrow morning.

    -Alan

  8. 8-25-2010

    Another “wow.” A good one, but a painful one at the same time. It’s so true.
    Eric’s response was PERFECT.

  9. 8-25-2010

    Bravo Alan! Too often people attend Church and confuse blessing from God with acceptance by man and a warm fuzzy feeling af contentment after hearing an inspiring song or strong message. In reality true blessedness is often NOT what makes us content, just take a look at the Beatitudes! Do we “feel” blessed when we are persecuted? Mourning? Poor? Reviled for our faith in the Lord Jesus? Regardless Jesus says we ARE blessed!

    And bravo Eric for getting the point. When we are truly blessed by God’s grace we respond in faith with true charity.

  10. 8-28-2010

    I do understand how easy it is to be lost in the crowd. Where are those who speak and not just nod? I have had members stare at me at some churches I have visited. My last experience was to visit a main line church that was so formal compared to my previous church. I was welcomed with open arms, invited to stay for their fellowship time afterwards, and greeted by several asking me where I lived, and how did I come to find this church. I have been there two years, and still feel special. Recently I hurt my knee and was not able to attend. I have received many get well card, and phone calls. I hope this fellow finds a similar church.

  11. 6-21-2011

    This is a sad commentary on the church for sure. At the same time it kind of reminds me of the lame whining people about reading the KJV. I do not think it is the only version. However the journey with God is not a cake walk.

    If reading an older text or going to more than a church or two before finding one alive with the Holy Spirit is what someone has to do…. oh boo hoo

    The rich young ruler came to Jesus and left sorrowful. The disciples left everything to follow…

    Church attendance is not a formula or vending machine, you put in x you get out y.

    God wants our hearts not our seats in pews. The truth of God is in the Word and in people. There is that saying “when the student is ready the teacher appears”. When a person is hungry for God seeking to find Him. He promises to supply and fill.

    People who want something from the church know how to call or email the staff. People who want real connection and community know how to make connections and conversation in new situations they find them selves in. You get out of life what you put in to it.

  12. 6-25-2011

    After I read this post, my heart sank. It sank for all the times I’ve failed people just like this. It sank for knowing full well that there are people who do just that…and are considered at the same level we think ourselves to be. But most of all my heart sank because I wanted to reach out there and hug the man and love on him and listen to him and be a part of his life.
    I am optimistic because over the recent year God has truly tugged my heart toward this kind of love. I, we all, fall short. We all act this way every now and again – of smugness and assumption. But I am glad for God’s goodness and mercy and revelation as we go through this life trial and error.
    But may we never EVER be Christians who live life by a trial-and-error basis. May we always ALWAYS be vulnerable, uncomfortable, and sacrificial in meeting new people, looking deep into their eyes, and LOVE them.

  13. 3-26-2012

    I am speechless, WOW!

  14. 3-26-2012

    Ouch and amen! My heart breaks for all those for whom “church hurt” is keeping them from the relationship with God that He desires so much that He gave His only begotten Son to ensure our access. I pray that we are convicted to BE the Church, and not just in the church building or assembly. The potential for this type of disappointment and a claim of “false advertising” begins as soon as we tell people we’re Christians.

  15. 3-26-2012

    Sad but true that he went to a church where he did his duty according to their way of doings things and found out the hard way that their churchology turned all of them into none of them.

  16. 3-26-2012

    this is what we go through all the time. People go to church, expecting the promise on the sign to keep its promise and then return home feeling like they were betrayed. This is where the body of Christ needs to step in and BE the CHURCH that Jesus died and rose again for. His blood covers us. But it doesn’t just do that. It gives us the authority to live as Jesus lived…Love as Jesus loved…have compassion as Jesus had compassion. But we fall short. Lord help us to BE a blessing to the ones looking for one. amen.

  17. 3-26-2012

    Where do I begin? I know the hurt that caused him to cry himself to sleep… Wondering if he was blessed.. You see; we who have been Christians for some time KNOW that he was blessed spiritually.

    But the sad fact is, HE does not. He doesn’t have someone to explain to him God’s blessing and favour. hat he needed that Sunday was not some mystic encounter with God. He needed love and acceptance. Someone to tell him that it will all be ok.. eventually.

    You see, we are relational beings… We need relationship to understand God. In my heart, I know this man was blessed because of his actions, but I wonder… Will he ever go back? Did he even understand the prayer he prayed? Answers only known to him and God, but I’m certain:

    He did not feel blessed. He did not experience God that Sunday morning. He experienced RELIGION. One that tells us if we follow a formula that we will be blessed, rich, etc, etc… But was he? Did he truly encounter the God who gives hope that morning?

    I think not.

  18. 3-26-2012

    and please help us not to judge except by God’s word.

  19. 3-27-2012

    Thank you everyone for continuing to discussion this post. I did not write this as a condemnation to anyone. Instead, I wrote it as a reminder: God typically works through his children (i.e., you and me). But, we must be willing to submit to him and interact with others. Sitting in a room with other people does not indicate that someone is hearing from God or that we are following Jesus.

    -Alan

  20. 6-12-2012

    If only this were “just” a parable – I wonder how many times this story or something like it is replicated in people’s lives the world over? Sadly I know from many people’s stories and from personal experience that an awareness of encountering God and being blessed at church is often sadly absent. Similarly missing is our awareness of and focus on others – a corporate act of worship can so easily really be a gathering of individuals looking out for themselves rather than a true community. Thanks for this – and Eric for his addition.

  21. 6-12-2012

    Joe,

    Thanks for commenting and for pointing out Eric’s comment, which made this post much better than it was. I especially appreciate that fact that Eric recognized the point of my post. The post is not intended for us to point our fingers at those who are doing everything wrong, but to examine our own hearts and motivations when gathering with others. Thanks for bringing that our in your comment as well.

    -Alan

  22. 6-15-2012

    This reminds me of what a friend once said to me about church. He stopped going as a child. He said to me, next time you go to church, try to see it through the eyes of a first timer. Growing up in church, that was hard for me to imagine. This must have been what he meant…..

  23. 1-15-2013

    The question I would of course ask is, how did he and the church define blessing? Clearly the sample church here needs some help in greeting newcomers also.

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