It started like this: I peered at the caller ID display. "Christ Life A G," I said towards the hallway. "What the hell is that?" *
"I have no idea," Mindy answered from the office next door.
"Well, I ain't answering it. Maybe they'll tell voice mail what they want."
They did tell voice mail. Three times in the 10 minutes before I sucked it up and returned the calls.
Never once has the Catholic priest called me. Nor the Presbyterian minister. Likewise the Lutheran pastor has never felt the need to contact me. My own minister hasn't even called.
And that's a good thing.
I do hereby apologize to evangelical ministers everywhere. We, your congregants, have done you the horrible disservice of measuring your success exclusively by the number of our fellow pew-warmers that you attract to each and every church service. This need for numbers has driven us all to do some pretty dumb things.
One of those dumb things is calling me to explain that even though John Q. Sinner has been screwing up his probation, all is well because you (and Jesus) are intervening in his life. No matter how sincere John Q. Sinner is, never - ever - call the probation officer. And if you must call, please don't tell me how J.Q. Sinner, after you spent five hours with him on Friday afternoon, eventually prayed "the sinner's prayer".
(I also apologize for responding to this grand revelation with a terse "And?")
(Nah, I take that back. I don't apologize. If you spent five hours with me I'd be willing to say whatever it took to get your money and get you out of my hair.)
C'mon y'all! We evangelicals appear to be the only ones falling for this bullshitola. Its getting to be embarrassing. Even if J.Q. Sinner is for real and becomes involved in church, he is likely only going to stick with it for a few months. We have to face the fact that our churches are middle-class institutions. J.Q. probably isn't compatible with a middle-class institution. He doesn't really want to fit that mold. I know it surprises you, because it damn sure floored me, but he'd have to give up a lot of good things to live a middle-class life. Its culture/class-centric of us to think he wants to be us.
I hope J.Q. is sincere. I know that you are. So, kick him in the butt and then work right along side him as he takes care of business. Show him that God isn't going to make life easy. Teach him that God will give him strength and purpose. But stop trying to park him in a pew.
And don't stand between John Q. and I. I've got my butt-kickin' boots on.
*It was Christian Life Assembly of God.