Irwinville Primitive Baptist Church
(Thanks to Bro Philip Conley for allowing us to
use this.)

This morning, we desire to write perhaps the most
unique entry of our Morning Thoughts.  To ensure
that offense is driven away, we plainly state at the
outset that this is a piece of satire, which is meant
to be read, noting the humour but also digesting
the thought being considered.  In no way does this
article reflect bitterness, malice, or ill-will.  Rather,
the art of pointed humour is rapidly vaporizing in
this "offense-driven" world in which we live.  If
this article makes you laugh, then it will be a
success.  If this article makes you laugh and think
at the same time, then it will be a blessing for
which this writer will be truly thankful.

During a regular Sunday service, the time has
come for the preaching portion to begin.  After
introducing his subject and making a few
groundwork remarks, the pastor very politely but
promptly states, "Please excuse me for a
moment."  After descending from the pulpit, he
exits out the side door, and stays gone for about
10 minutes.  While the congregation waits in
nervous silence, the minutes tick by interminably
long.  The singular question upon everyone's mind
is, "What is going on?"  When the door opens and
the pastor re-emerges, he very quickly and directly
ascends back into the pulpit and continues his
sermon exactly where he left off.  When services
conclude, some of the congregants approach him
and query where he went and what he had to do.  
With a somewhat surprised look on his face, he
responds, "I really had to go to the bathroom.  I
figured if anyone had a right to take a restroom
break during my sermon it would be me."

One Sunday morning, the members began arriving
upon the church grounds.  As usual, some of the
early arrivals gathered around the coffee pot to
fellowship and talk about what a great day it is to
be in the house of God.  Also as usual, the church
began to arrive in stages.  The "straight uppers"
walked in as song service got underway.  The "5
afters" arrived after the first couple of songs.  
Then the "10 afters", "15 afters", and eventually to
the "30 afters", that sometimes arrived during the
opening hymn and sometimes not until preaching
was underway.  The only thing out of the ordinary
was that the pastor was still yet to be seen.  The
song leader – quite perplexed – did not really
know how to proceed.  Some of the deacons
motioned for him to continue the song service for
a little longer.  To the "30 afters" surprise, they
actually got to participate in some of the songs
this Sunday.  Finally, after 45 minutes of singing,
the pastor strolled in seemingly oblivious to the
tardiness of his arrival.  As the congregation
wondered what had happened (Had he had a flat
tire?  Well, his clothes aren't dirty.  Did he
oversleep?  But his appearance doesn't look like
he was rushed.  Perhaps he lost track of time?  
Yet, he doesn't look ashamed.), he announced the
opening hymn and carried on as usual.  When
questioned about it afterwards, he said that
nothing had come up.  No car trouble, no alarm
issues, or anything of that kind.  What was the
explanation?  He affirmed there was not one.  He
simply did not get to church on time.  What is
there to be ashamed of?  People do it all the time.

One summer, the church met for regular services
during what is known as "peak season."  It is the
peak of vacation and travel by worldly standards
but the peak of church non-attendance by church
standards.  On this particular Sunday, the pastor
never showed.  After singing for close to an hour,
one of the deacons arose, read a Psalm, made a
few comments, and closed the services.  
Afterwards, some of the members called the
pastor's cell phone and discovered that he had
taken his family to the beach that weekend.  They
were having such a good time, that they decided to
make "an entire weekend of it."  When asked
about his responsibility, he stated, "Well we
thought about you during service time, and though
we were on the beach, we were with you in
spirit."  After coming back from his vacation, some
of the members approached him – their tempers
having not yet subsided from the episode –
wondering how he could be so callous to be gone
and not even get a "fill-in" so that the church
would not be lacking.  With a twinkle, the pastor
replied, "Do you get fill-ins when you plan to be
absent from the assembly?"

A particular church body had a pastor that had to
do all the preaching, praying, and song leading.  
Though the church had able-bodied male
members, none of them would submit to taking a
leadership role in church worship.  Further, most
of the congregation did not even participate in
singing and some chatted with each other while
the others attempted to raise chords of praise.  
One morning during worship, the pastor – as usual
– was leading the singing.  During the fourth verse
of "Amazing Grace," he stopped singing and
reached for his Bible to look up a reference for his
sermon that morning.  As one would expect, the
song died on the table mid-verse.  Without missing
a beat, the pastor exclaimed, "There it is!"  
Looking up, he noticed that the people were
sitting in silenced shock.  Even the normal
chatterers during song service could only look
forward (rather than at their neighbor) and stare.  
"Where were we?" queries the pastor and then
says, "Would someone like to continue where we
left off?"

To my knowledge, no pastor has ever done
anything remotely like this.  If one has, I apologize
for the resemblance in this satire.  Doubtless
though, many – if not all of us – have witnessed
some or all of these actions in members other than
the pastor.  One need only consider that pastors
are men as well.  Their standards are not higher
than anyone else (though it seems to be a
common, populist thought that they are).  One of
the clearest statements about the responsibilities
of church members that I ever heard came from a
dear old deacon that has long since left this earth
for his heavenly home.  He would always ask those
members that behaved like the pastor in the
scenarios above, "What if everyone in the church
acted like you do?"  Simply put, decency and order
would crumble and fail regularly.  What if all of us
were "10 after" or even "30 after" people?  What if
all of us on a given weekend decided to just think
about the assembly "in spirit" from some faraway
location?  What if all of us collectively needed to
go to the bathroom during service time?

Brethren, it is better to laugh while pondering
these things than become furious over them.  
Hopefully this piece has been a source of great
humour while also investigating some
commonplace behaviours.  As my dear, departed
father once said, "I can't give someone the want-to
to want to."  Sadly, the longer I live, the more truth
I see in that statement, but perhaps shining the
light on particular behaviours can encourage
people's "want-to" and maybe in the near future
they will "want to."  May all of us re-focus our
sight and align our vision to the heavenly plane of
Jesus Christ, set our affection on things above,
and desire to know nothing save Jesus, Him
crucified, and the power of His resurrection.

In Hope,

Bro Philip