The tone of his first words to me had a hard edge, "Our pastor preaches the truth here. Some people are afraid to hear the truth." I thought of a brilliant response, 5 minutes later. We were in Tulsa waiting for the funeral service for Mary Carr, Brenda's aunt, to begin and the man who spoke to me was a member of the church. I became more apprehensive when everyone from the church was called brother this and sister that. I suspected what was in store for us in the service, and watching it develop was amusing to me.
There were hymns sung and a prayer. Mary's sister sang a song that was quite good. When the pastor read the obituary, he looked out of sorts and uncomfortable and presented it poorly. Another of Mary's sisters sang and played the piano. It was really good. Then the pastor stood to speak & I suspected from his demeanor that he wasn't planning to do a eulogy. He was revving up for a good preach. He had a handkerchief in his hand, along with a wireless mike. This was going to be interesting. To his credit, he did talk about Mary and her impact on him, the church, and the hospital staff. He had not known her long since Mary had only lived in Tulsa since April, but he gave a clear presentation of the kind of person she was. I noticed that his talk was scripted and he didn't make any eye contact with the audience. When he did look up he didn't look at anyone.
It wasn't long before he was pacing and talking louder. He became more animated. Soon spit was flying and sweat was dripping. I was glad he remained on the stage. The performance was void of serious content or a coherent point, but the crowd did respond to the emotion. I was fascinated and amused by the performance. Several thoughts came. I wondered how many microphones rust during the year. I thought, "This man is the wrong color." I noticed that when he really got going he added the syllable "uh" to the end of his words: "praise-uh" & "Jesus-uh". He did say that Mary would want us to celebrate rather than mourn. In his way, he was doing that. It just didn't register on the celebrate meter for me.
When it was over I thought about Mary's personality & said to myself, "She would have liked this." It did fit her personality and was a fitting tribute to her. At the graveside there was some quiet conversation about the intensity of the service. A lady standing by called it a "Hallelujah Ho-Down". That was an apt description.
Dale & I talked about the church as we drove home. He said they have a vision to add 50 new families to the church. I said that would be a challenge. There are some people who will like and respond to the style of service they offer. But I think many will find it weird. I think that "weirdness" is a problem many churches face. I think the world looks at Christians and assigns us to the "weird" pile. We're not remarkable enough. And becoming more like the world in an attempt to be "relevant" isn't the answer. We need to be different in a way that makes the world want to know what we've got.
When and if we think of evangelism, we think like hunters. Go out into the wilds of the big, bad world and find a trophy to shoot our evangelism gun at. It's intimidating for both the hunter and the hunted. I think fishing is a better metaphor. Throw out a line with something that's appealing. Make them want it enough to bite and be drawn by the Lord into the kingdom. I pray we can become people who are fishers of men.