(This is a fictional story, inspired by a sign in front of a church building near my home.)
“Our Sundays are better than Dairy Queen.”
I shook my head as I read the words on the sign in front of the church building. But, then, those words were the very reason that I was here… standing in front of that same building… and now falling in line behind the others walking up the steps and through the large oak double doors.
A man in a suit smiled at me and handed me a bulletin. Seeing his suit, I was glad that I had worn khakis instead of shorts or blue jeans, and that I had chosen not to wear my flip flops. While I preferred to be more comfortable, I also didn’t want them to be uncomfortable. The polo was a good compromise.
“Welcome to Community Church,” the man said and held out his hand. I shook it firmly and thanked him for the welcome. “Is this your first time here?” he asked.
“Yes,” I answered. “I just moved into town and wanted to meet some brothers and sisters in Christ from the neighborhood.”
He seemed to grimace a little at “brothers and sisters,” but his smile returned as he pointed me into “the sanctuary.” “The service will start in about 15 minutes. You may get to meet the pastor before he kicks everything off.”
I thanked him again and walked into a large room with pews, stage, choir loft, pulpit… the normal furnishings. It was not the kind of place I preferred to meet brothers and sister, but I felt this was the place for me this morning.
Looking around the room, I noticed a group of people about half way up the aisle chatting together. I managed to find an empty seat right in the middle of the pack, and introduced myself. They were a nice group, mostly around my age.
It turns out that several of them had no plans after the service, and they were interested in my invitation. Just as we were talking about our plans, the pastor walked down the aisle, shaking hands and greeting people as he made his way to the front.
When he came to our group, I held out my hand and introduced myself. “I’m glad you’re here with us today,” the pastor smiled, and I genuinely believed him. “What bring you to our church?” he asked.
“The sign out front,” I answered honestly. (I had struggled with how to approach this issue, and decided direct honest was probably best.) “Did you know you misspelled ‘sundae’?” I winked at him.
“Is ‘sunday’ misspelled on the sign?” he answered surprised… I think he missed my wink. “I hadn’t noticed. I’ll make sure someone fixes that.”
“Yes,” I continued playing along. “‘Sundae’ is spelled s-u-n-d-a-e, but on the sign it’s spelled s-u-n-d-a-y.” Honestly, I was not trying to be a jerk. That’s just who I am, and it really is the reason that I was there that morning. “So, when do you serve your sundaes?” I asked.
He smiled at me… a little bigger. I hoped he understood.
“No, we don’t serve sundaes,” he answered good naturedly. “It’s a play on words.”
“Yeah, I know. But, I was wondering, would you and your family join me for sundaes at Dairy Queen this afternoon? My treat?”
“Ummm…” I think he was wondering what my angle was. What was I after?
“I’ve invited some other peope,” I pointed to the group around me. “I’m new to the area, and I just want to get to know some Christians from around here.” I checked my intentions… yes, I simply wanted to get to know my neighbors.
“I’ll check with my wife and get back to you after the service, okay?” he patted me on the back and walked up to the stage, taking a seat behind the pulpit.
I liked him. I really did. I could tell that he cared about people, and while he probably wasn’t sure about me yet, I could see us becoming good friends.
I chatted with the people around me for a while until the music started playing. The singing was really good. I knew some of the songs, and others were new to me. I appreciated the words of the songs, and I thought about them as much as possible.
The people around me, and as far as I could see the people around the room, were serious about their singing. I could only see a few people who appeared to be apathetic about the whole thing. I heard several of the men and women around me raising their voices to praise God.
When the pastor stood to preach, I admit that I was a little antsy. I had to not sat through a sermon in a long time. But, he did a very good job. His exegesis was solid, his presentation was understandable, and his application was challenging. I wanted to ask a few question – not because I disagreed with him, but because I didn’t understand something he said. Also, a story came to mind that I though would help some people with this teaching. I knew that I was not expected to say anything, so I didn’t. But, I did jot down a few things for later.
After the service was over, I talked to the people around me again, reminding them of my invitation. Several said they would meet me at Dairy Queen in a couple of hours. Some actually said they would go with me now and have lunch at Dairy Queen. Believe it or not, this was new to me. I only new about ice cream at Dairy Queen, but they told me that DQ had hamburgers, hot dogs, and chicken fingers.
I made my way to the back doors and shook the pastor’s hand again.
“So, do you think you and your family can join me at Dairy Queen this afternoon?” I asked again. “It turns out that some of us are going there for lunch now, and others are joining us for sundaes a little later – my treat, of course.”
“Well, I haven’t had a chance to talk with my wife yet. She’s in the nursery. I’ll have to let you know.” He turned and greeted the person behind me as I continued through the vestibule and out the front doors.
I noticed a few of my new friends lingering around in the parking lot – waiting for me probably – but I decided to try to meet a few more people. As I met people, I issued more invitations. Eventually I made my way to the men and women who were waiting for me.
“I need to wait a few more minutes before I go to DQ,” I told them. “If you want to go ahead, I’ll meet you there in a few minutes.”
One of the ladies spoke for the group, “No. We’ll wait.”
A few minutes later, the pastor walked out of the building with a woman and two children. He walked down the steps, over to our knot of people, and directly to me.
“Hey, is that offer still open?” he asked.
“Of course,” I said.
“Well, my kids heard me say Dairy Queen, so it looks like we’re coming,” he grinned really big. “Meet you there in about an hour?”
“Sounds great!” I answered.
The crowd separated, as we all made our way to our cars and headed for Dairy Queen.
(To be continued…)