When I was in high school, my father was pastor of a country church in south Mississippi. A lot of work needed to be done around the church, like mowing the grass and cleaning the church cemetery, so it really helped that the preacher had two teenage sons — me and my little brother.
Some of the members may have thought that two teenage preacher’s sons were not such a good thing, since my brother and I sometimes played football in the hall of the pastorium. I would hike the ball down the hall, then block my brother into the walls as he tried to get by me to touch the ball before I could count to ten. It was a good thing that my Grandfather Rogers knew how to fix a hole in a door. But Dad found more useful things for us to do. The church building itself was an old worship center built at a time when the congregation was larger, with way too many pews for the number of people coming. I think we had enough seats for 300 people, but only around 100 people came to worship. Dad said that the crowd would look a lot better if we moved some of the pews out. That was not hard to do, because the pews were not nailed to the tile floor. I remember one particularly large woman always sat on the second pew, and she would grab the first pew to brace herself as she sat down. The other end of the pew would slide forward when she pulled her end toward her. So we had church with one front pew turned at a 45-degree angle from the others. After church, we’d just push the pew back in place.
One Saturday, Dad had me and my brother Todd rearranging pews. We worked all morning, moving, arranging and trying to decide which pews to remove and how to space out the remaining ones so that it would hold a smaller crowd, but still look good in that big sanctuary. We were half done, and decided to take a lunch break. The pews were in a state of chaos, turned every direction, as if the big lady had sat on every pew in the building.
After lunch, we went back to the worship center, and were surprised to find out that the cleaning crew had come and gone. The floor was swept, and everything was clean. But they didn’t change any of the pews; they just left them in the chaotic arrangement they found them. I’ve often wondered what they thought went on at our church that week to cause the pews to be in such a state.
Sometimes we clean our spiritual lives the way that cleaning crew did the church pews. We clean around things, but don’t really change the most important thing: our hearts. The Bible says, “Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in His holy place? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart...” (Psalm 24:3-4, HCSB).
So the next time God’s Spirit tugs at your heart to change, don’t just sweep around the pews. Put them in order.
Copyright 2008 by Bob Rogers. Read this column each Thursday for a mix of religion and humor. You can read more “Holy Humor” on the Web page of First Baptist Church of Rincon at www.fbcrincon.com.