We church-go­ers don’t al­ways walk our talk

Calhoun Times - - OPINION &VOICES - Dick Yar­brough

I am oc­ca­sion­ally asked to present the weekly les­son in my Sun­day School class. I do it with the clear un­der­stand­ing that ev­ery­one in class ac­cepts the fact that I need the les­son’s mes­sages worse than they do.

I am Methodist by birth and by the grace of God and my momma. The Methodist Church was founded by John Wes­ley along with his brother, Charles, in Eng­land. The Wes­ley brothers spent time in the Sa­van­nah area dur­ing the pe­riod that Gen. James Oglethorpe was busy or­ga­niz­ing the colony of Ge­or­gia and mak­ing sure we would al­ways be the largest state east of the Mis­sis­sippi River, and one day would con­tain the old­est stat­e­char­tered univer­sity in the na­tion with an abun­dance of Rhodes Schol­ars and No. 1 NFL draft choices. To say he was suc­cess­ful would be a gross un­der­state­ment.

The most re­cent les­son in which I talked to my­self and in­vited ev­ery­one else to lis­ten in was about act­ing like Chris­tians in­stead of claim­ing to be one. There is a big dif­fer­ence.

We Chris­tians can be a petty, judg­men­tal and down­right hyp­o­crit­i­cal crowd when we choose to be, which is a lot more times than God would like. We for­get that it is not how we act on Sun­day morn­ing that counts, it is how we be­have the rest of the week.

This is where John Wes­ley comes in. My les­son that day ended with this ad­mo­ni­tion from the great man: “Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the peo­ple you can. As long as ever you can.” My friends, that will preach.

It is no se­cret that the in­sti­tu­tional church, in­clud­ing the Methodist church, is in trou­ble. A study by the Pew Re­search Cen­ter in 2015 found that as older church- go­ing adults pass away, they are be­ing re­placed by a younger crowd that has much lower lev­els of in­ter­est in or­ga­nized re­li­gion than did their par­ents and grand­par­ents. Some of that has to be be­cause the younger gen­er­a­tion watches how the rest of us church- go­ers con­duct our­selves when we don’t know they are look­ing at us and they don’t like what they see.

This at­ti­tude even car­ries over to young peo­ple who at­tend church reg­u­larly. One church told of their teenagers on a mis­sion trip iden­ti­fy­ing them­selves as be­ing “in Christ” rather than call­ing them­selves Chris­tians be­cause they had ob­served that Chris­tians don’t al­ways be­have Christ- like.

One of my fa­vorite sto­ries con­cerns the late evan­ge­list Billy Gra­ham. In the days be­fore air travel, Billy Gra­ham was in line at a train sta­tion try­ing to change his ticket and deal­ing with a rude and un­co­op­er­a­tive clerk at the win­dow. After sev­eral fu­tile at­tempts to re­solve the sit­u­a­tion with a bu­reau­crat un­will­ing to help him, Dr. Gra­ham po­litely thanked the clerk and left the line, not know­ing a news­pa­per­man was stand­ing be­hind him. The jour­nal­ist later wrote that was the great­est ser­mon Billy Gra­ham ever preached. He didn’t try to pull rank. (“Do you know who I am?”) He didn’t lose his tem­per. He was kind and cour­te­ous. The Billy Gra­ham he saw in pri­vate was the same one we saw in pub­lic. He walked his talk.

When I have writ­ten about Bill and Glo­ria Gaither, who are to gospel mu­sic what Beethoven is to sym­phonies or Pavarotti to “Nes­sun Dorma,” I have got­ten a goodly num­ber of re­sponses from peo­ple who know them or have met them and who say they are as gen­uinely nice in per­son as they seem to be on tele­vi­sion. I would be crushed to hear oth­er­wise.

A good step to­ward walk­ing our talk as Chris­tians is to read Gala­tians 5: 22- 23 in which the apos­tle Paul talks about the Fruits of the Spirit — the qual­i­ties we should live by. They are: Love. Joy. Peace. Pa­tience. Kind­ness. Good­ness. Faith­ful­ness. Gen­tle­ness. Self­con­trol. My chal­lenge to you: Try to get through one day ex­hibit­ing all nine qual­i­ties. I read that pas­sage daily and haven’t made it yet. I might have an out­side chance if we would drop the re­quire­ment for pa­tience but I’m not op­ti­mistic.

That doesn’t mean I don’t keep on try­ing to do bet­ter. As un­qual­i­fied as I may be as a Sun­day School teacher, after ev­ery les­son I present not only do I learn some­thing, I get a spir­i­tual kick in the pants and say to God: “Thanks. I needed that.”

You can reach Dick Yar­brough at dick@ dick­yarbrough.com; at P. O. Box 725373, At­lanta, Ge­or­gia 31139 or on Face­book at www. face­book. com/ dick­yarb

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