Years before Ray Stevens recorded his hit song about the squirrel that got loose at the First Self-Righteous Church of Pascagoula, I actually witnessed a bat get loose in a Mississippi church.
I was the minister of youth and music at the church. Once I was leading a song in a Sunday evening service, when it happened — a bat swooped down from the ceiling and headed straight for me. I jumped out of the way. The preacher swung his hymnal at the bat. If he had hit it, it would have sent the mammal flying into the lap of the church’s very dignified organist. I still remember the organist’s expression: both hands raised as if in surrender, a look of horror on her face.
Since the preacher missed the bat, it flew into the choir loft, where youth choir members jumped and swatted at it and screamed at it. A boy named Travis missed the bat and hit the microphone that was suspended from the ceiling, sending it swaying like a pendulum, and somebody yelled, “Travis, don’t!” Then it flew into the congregation. A whole row of elderly ladies jumped on top of their pews faster than a television evangelist. Finally, a rancher named Ron beat the bat against a wall with his hymnal, opened a window, and dumped the deceased creature onto the church lawn outside.
At this point, I didn’t know what to do or say. The pastor leaned over to me and asked me to say a public prayer before we continued. Years later, I asked him why he didn’t say the prayer himself, and he replied, “I was laughing too hard!”
That memorable event in my church life reminds me of an important truth. Sometimes we can let things get into church that distract us from our main purpose. We get distracted by jealousy, personal agendas, ego, etc. Sometimes people get concerned about issues like the color of the carpet or the style of music or the translation of the Bible that is used, rather than the main purpose of the church, which is to proclaim Jesus Christ crucified for our sins and raised from the dead.
So the next time you get excited about some issue in the church, step back from it a moment, and ask yourself: am I chasing a bat or am I seeking God?
(Copyright 2010 by Bob Rogers. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Read this column each Friday for a mix of religion and humor. For more “Holy Humor,” go to the Web page of First Baptist Church of Rincon at www.fbcrincon.com.)