1. Sharing Worship Matters
The Baptists are as bad as the Presbyterians, Pastor Luke tells me. Members of both congregations use Labor Day Weekend as an excuse to stay away from the service where white and black, Baptist and Presbyterian, we worship the God who made us all. But in our divided world, it really does matter that Presbyterians and Baptists, blacks and whites, worship together. Sunday 10:00 a.m. at First Baptist. See you there.
2. Ernesto has his green card!
I have written about my friend Ernesto in the past. Here is what I said after his first visit. That was December 2013, and Ernesto, who is from Cuba, but works in a chicken processing plant in Arkansas, had been in Trenton to renew his temporary work permit. He came by again last December, and we helped him a little bit, but mostly he was just checking in. He remembered generosity and kindness shown. I wasn’t expecting to see Ernesto this week, but he walked in and waited patiently. His smile was irrepressible and his embrace spontaneous. He showed it to me. His green card. He can stay. He said he loves the country that has given him his freedom and he loves the God who blesses his life.
Ernesto won’t have to travel from Fort Smith to Trenton for immigration purposes any more. But he says he’ll come back for a visit sometime and that some day he’d like to show me Cuba. “I’ll take the pastor to Cuba,” he said. I’m looking forward to the day, Ernesto.
3. Conduct Unbecoming a Presbyterian
The call came late Tuesday afternoon. The rest of the staff had left for the day, so I answered the phone
“Good afternoon, Langhorne Presbyterian Church. This is Bill,” I said.
“Hi, Bill,” the woman’s voice on the other end of the line replied. And then she asked me if I was aware of the fact that some people from our church had been out knocking on doors just this past Saturday.
I acknowledged that, in fact, I did know this, thinking about the team from our Evangelism Committee that had been in one of the large apartment complexes a few miles away passing out brochures and inviting folks who do not have a church home to visit LPC some Sunday. People who live in large apartment complexes tend to be among the least churched in any community.
“I’m calling to tell you that I don’t think they should be doing this,” she told me.
Concerned, I asked if they had said something to offend her, or if there was some rule against it in the complex. She answered that there was no rule and that they had been quite polite, had only said that if she was looking for a church home she might want to visit LPC, and then they gave her a brochure and a postcard describing our life as a worshiping community and our children’s, youth, and adult programs; our opportunities for service and care.
“They shouldn’t have done that,” she insisted.
Again I asked if they had been inappropriate in any way.
“They’re Presbyterians!” she responded, a little agitation rising in her voice. “They’re Presbyterians. That’s not what Presbyterians do. It’s what born-again Christians do.”
As the conversation continued, she told me that she had been raised a Presbyterian and that she still attended Presbyterian services, as least at Christmas and Easter. She had been to LPC one Easter. “We old school Presbyterians don’t knock on doors,” she said.
I wondered aloud if we Presbyterians, old school and otherwise, ought not be knocking on more doors and if we might do well to consider what it means to be born again.
She said she’d be writing a letter.
When I told the chair of our Evangelism Committee about the call, he was pretty sure who our caller was, and, in fact, absolutely sure once we talked a little more about my conversation with her.
He also told me about what else happened that Saturday morning when the little team of a half dozen or so started knocking on doors. There were lots of knocks with no response or just a quick “thanks” as the door closed. But there were also at least a couple of young parents who said it was funny, because they had been thinking about finding a good church, and, yes, they’d like to come. There was a faithful Roman Catholic who said he wasn’t looking for a new church, but encouraged our team in their work. There were people of other religions – immigrants, Muslims and Hindus – who said they would like to know more about Christianity. At least one follow-up conversation has taken place.
Is knocking on doors and inviting someone who’s looking for a church home to visit ours conduct unbecoming a Presbyterian?
Of course it is. I know exactly what the caller was talking about. But maybe that’s one of the reasons there are fewer than half the Presbyterians there were less than a generation ago.
By the way, I was not a member of that faithful team that went out knocking on doors this past Saturday morning. I have some good excuses, but what it comes down to is that, well, I guess I might think it is conduct unbecoming this Presbyterian. Oh, not that I think it shouldn’t be done by anyone, it’s just that it is out of this Presbyterian’s comfort zone, and I really don’t like leaving my safe places.
When David’s wife Michal upbraided him for dancing in streets as the Ark was brought into the city, he replied, “I will make myself yet more contemptible than this…”
I hope the woman on the other end of the phone joins us for Easter worship next year. I really do. But as for me, I need to be willing venture more often into that unsafe place of conduct unbecoming a Presbyterian, to making myself yet more contemptible – in a nice Presbyterian sort of way.
See you as we join with the Baptists on Sunday!