A local Word on the Word

by Rev. Patrick Thomas Rabun
Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Here’s the church, here’s the steeple…

Do you remember when you used to play “here’s the church, here’s the steeple” with your hands?  You would clasp your hands together saying, “here’s the church,” then you would extend both your forefingers and say, “here’s the steeple,” then you would open your hands up exposing your fingers and say, “and open the door, and here’s all the people.”  

The new version of that is, “Here’s the church, here’s the steeple, open the door, what’s happened to the people?” 

No doubt you have read or heard over the past number of years that church attendance and membership, especially in the mainline denominations, is on the decline. There are some who keep broadcasting that the church is dying … but I disagree. Well, maybe if you are talking about the old, grey, formal, lifeless, gutless clubhouse church. Yes, maybe that church is dying.  You remember Archie Bunker from “All in the Family?”  I imagine if Archie were to take us to his church it would be something like this:

We have to attend the 11:00 service because that is the only one offered. And Archie would tell us, 

“There are two good reasons for this: I’ve always attended worship at this time and not having to go until 11:00 gives me plenty of time to sleep late in case I had a late Saturday night.”  

One of the things that catch our eyes as we enter the building is the fact that everyone seems to be wearing some sort of uniform. The ladies have on a nice dress, length – not too long, or too short, and all the men are in white shirts, ties and jackets. Now don’t go and doubt Archie’s commitment to this dress code. There has been many a Sunday when he had to stay home for church because he didn’t have a clean white shirt. 

Inside the church we see rocking chairs, and everyone is singing what Archie calls the “old hymns.” (Archie never seems to notice those “old” hymns were written in the early part of the 19th century, long after many of the others in the hymnbook.) 

The entire service lasts no more than 45 minutes or so, with the message given in about 10 minutes and usually to a congregation that is either half asleep or planning their afternoon activities. By getting out before noon they beat the rest of the crowd to their favorite restaurants.

You know something? I do hope this kind of church is dead. And many of them are closing their doors, but those churches that place Christ at the helm are not dying. They just are being criticized. And I am not saying that at times the church doesn’t need the criticism it receives, but then it should also receive the praise, because the church does do many wonderful things. I have always believed that the church is the greatest proof for the existence of God, because no matter what human beings try to do to it, the church continues to exist, continues to be an influence in the world, because it is God’s church and not the possession of human beings. 

God is in control, not us.  

The church is of God, and it will be preserved to the end of time for “the conduct of worship and due administration of His Word and sacraments.” It will continue to be the springboard of Christian fellowship and discipline.

After more than 2,000 years, there still seems to be confusion at times about the church and what it stands for. But we know that the church is not a church until there are warm bodies inside the building; warm bodies that are very human and very capable of making mistakes, but infused with the power of the transforming Holy Spirit and continue to move forward for the Kingdom of God.

Where will your warm body be this Sunday?             

   

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