Recently, I read the newsletter of a Phoenix pastor that intrigues, plus brings a chuckle. Ken Page of Orangewood Presbyterian Church in Phoenix writes, “I once asked my Sunday School teacher what heaven would be like, and she replied that ‘Heaven will be a lot like church, but it will go on forever!’
That was the day I decided to become a sinner!
I was in fifth grade. I liked singing, but it wasn’t as good with words like Ebenezer and prostrate. Mostly church was just stuff I didn’t understand, and an hour was already too long. Forever?!
Over time I began to understand. If she had said that heaven was a lot like Christian camp pool only forever, I would have gotten it immediately. Of course I loved the archery, the silly games, but I also sensed something was different about the people. There was a palpable love at camp.
There was way less teasing and bullying and sarcasm, and if an adult was around when these things happened (sometimes I was the perpetrator) they handled it . . . gently. It was almost . . . as if . . . they valued us . . . even the fifth grade boys!
A few years later, I would have gotten it if she’d said heaven is like youth group only forever. Youth group was awesome--again, silly games and pizza. But there was also something different about youth group.
My gifts were valued there, and my faults were tolerated and nudged toward better behavior. My school friends were into bad things. My youth group friends weren’t. They actually had two groups of friends, too, but we didn’t have to fit in with the crowd when we were with each other. We shaped each other’s lives for the better!
My senior year in high school, I actually would have gotten it if the teacher had said “heaven is like Sunday School, only forever.”
That was the year that a close friend of mine died on a Saturday night. I found out in Sunday School. I burst into tears and ran from the room crying.
Back in the 1900’s men didn’t cry in front of others. As soon as I got into the parking lot, I realized that I didn’t actually want to be alone. No sooner did I turn around than I found that my whole class had followed me into the parking lot and we cried and prayed together, and we did it for LONGER THAN AN HOUR!
Heaven is like the very best parts of church, only forever! Church should be a taste of heaven that one day we will have forever! Yeah! I get it!”
Thank you, Pastor Ken!
There are some essentials for any church that intends to effectively portray the love Jesus Christ has given to us . . . and hopes to effectively extend it to others. These non-negotiables have transcend time and culture:
1) Every church should uphold the gospel—the good news of Christ; 2) every church should teach God’s Word as its ultimate authority; 3) music is a must, as it helps a soul transcend the pressures of “last week;” 4) prayerful leadership and people able and willing to share their “ quest for heaven; 5) opportunities to read the Bible together and study it as to how it pertains to our daily lives; 6) congregational prayerful worship; and 7 )Sunday school.
The last entry is extra important, as it makes a huge difference in a person’s life to grow up enjoying Sunday School. Never is Sunday School boring, as adults called to this ministry make it fun.
Ultimately, church is for worshiping God together in community. It is also a place where people can go to be renewed in spirit. It is a place to find truth. But, the best of all churches is where love is present and new comers are enjoyed.
People want to return when they feel cared about and welcomed to return. A copy of the church’s mission is the best gift to hand to them, along with the phone number of the pastor and the number of one additional person (like a deacon, or elder) who can be called to pray, answer questions, or assist in times of trouble. Of course, no one is looking for perfection, right? For, while here on earth, there are no perfect people. We are a forgiven people!