THE CHURCH THAT WAS

by CHARLES ROBEY
(Trussville, AL, 35173)

PROLOGUE

As I grew up in church, that Old Time Religion wasn’t the exception but the rule. One might think its origination was in the '40’s or '50’s. Not so, its beginning actually dates back to the founding of the first early church, found in (Acts 2:41-47).

So, I ask you. how would your church look like if it really embraced that same old-time religion?

According to Greg Surratt, “spiritual growth shouldn’t be measured by how much we know, but by who we love. And if we’re really growing, we’ll love more people.”

Remember the old fashioned lyrics of “Give me that Old Time Religion” and “Makes me love everybody.” Do those phrases describe today’s modern-day church? If not, why not?

Here we go again with another Christian fiction writing of purpose. So, come now and join us in this reading of “THE CHURCH THAT WAS”

“Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.” (Hebrews 13:7)

I must have been so tired from all that doctrinal research study for my graduate dissertation that I must have immediately fallen asleep.

The next thing I realized, it was a Sunday. A Sunday long past. I found myself briskly walking down our neighborhood sidewalk. Was it a vision, a dream, simply my imagination, or a divinely-led personal messenger?

Whatever the reason, it was beyond me. The day could not have been more pleasant. The unobstructed sun was shining brightly down, neighboring birds were chirping out their favorite tunes and there was an occasional distinctly happy dog bark echoing through the air.

The neighborhood churches were in full swing. Occasionally a trolley car would swish by on its usual Sunday route, clanging profusely as it went by, only stopping at the various churches. Nothing unusual, as the trolleys would only stop at the church junctions on Sunday.

I wasn’t in a shopping mood. A good thing, as all the stores were closed for Sunday, So, why am I here? Apparently, my thoughts must have been telepathic or divine broadcasts.

Unexpectedly, a somewhat strangely dressed gentleman walking down the other side of the street caught my eye as he ran across, dodging a trolley as he ran to meet me.

“Top of the morning, my good man. I happened to catch your amble stroll from across the street. May you allow me to help?” he asked, apparently understanding my confused mood.

I didn't have a chance to reply before he continued, “I was just about to attend the church on the corner. Would you like to join me? You see I am a regular attendee at this little community church. I love it so, for I can walk there from home with no bother.”

Not waiting for an answer, he suddenly grabbed my hand and away we went. I really didn’t mind, however, as I had grown up in church before my business ventures took me elsewhere.

As we walked up, I happened to catch the church bulletin board heading which read “Welcome to Community Church, The Friendliest Church in Town.” It wasn’t long after entering that the church lived up to its reputation.

There they were, everybody who was anybody. The town mayor, the police chief, the school principal and many of the other distinguished citizens of our little township. All gathered around like a bunch of long-lost cronies. After being greeted by all, we sat down.

Soon, the service started with the pastor giving the customary meet and greet segment. This lasted about five minutes or so, with everyone taking part. I don’t think I’d ever seen so much hugging and hand shaking in my entire young life.

The meet and greet ended and the service starting with the folks gathering around the front altar, as the pastor led in prayer. Just about the entire congregation were kneeling at this old fashioned well-kept red velvet altar.

After the altar prayer came the singing. I knew these hymns, as my dear old Dad and Mom would sing them back when I was younger. Before realizing it, I grabbed a hymnal from off the back of the pew and joined in the singing with the lot of them. These old fashioned hymns really brought back memories. What a good feeling it was, having the Scripture given in song!

Next was the main attraction, the preaching. Mounting the platform and placing his wrist watch on the pulpit, the preacher loosened his tie, and he began reading from his big black King James Holy Bible. Preaching up a storm, he began thumping that old Bible as he read, letting us have it right between the ears.

He seemed to be preaching directly at me all the while, as he pointed that big finger down which seemed to reach directly into my face. How on earth did he know me, I pondered apprehensively as I sank down in my pew. The more he thumped, the lower I sank.

Occasionally, this

old-time preaching was met with a well-placed Hallelujah or Amen as the Spirit led. What an atmosphere this was! It was as if the Lord himself was down here guiding the mood of the service.

After the preacher’s long sermon ended, he moved from the preaching platform and walked down in front of us all. Thank goodness, that’s over, I thought in relief. At this, the preacher seemed to let up a little, as he gave us all an out, by issuing an invitation of repentance, backed up by Scripture. (I John 1:8-9)

Following his personal repentance invitation, the choir began to sing a hymn of inspirational reassurance, verse by verse. There must have been five or six verses. It seemed like it anyhow. The more the choir sang, the more people moved up to that old fashioned church altar for prayer. Some were shouting, others were crying to beat the band. While others were praying words of comfort for their companions and friends.

Tapping me on the shoulder, my unknown friend asked if I too would like to join all the others in altar prayer. Yes, I would, for something had gotten hold of me. As I rose from my seat, however, it all ended. The inspirational vision ended as quickly as it began, with no church, no altar, no people. And sad to say, there was no new-found Old Time Religion church-going friend.

Just exactly who was this new-found friend? Was this a superhuman being, or was it actually a human bringing a message from God? Based on my knowledge of Scripture, I feel like I know. (Hebrews 13:1-2) Nonetheless, the message was well-received, that fateful Sunday morning. (James 2:25)

Did I go to sleep in church, causing this well-timed vision? Surely not me, a well-trained Bible college professor. I realize I had some progressive issues with our pastor’s ongoing sermon series on the seven churches of Asia, as given in Revelation Two and Three. However, I had agreed, within my spirit, to work through these issues, and not to raise a dispute.

What did I do, as a result of my uncommon, revealing vision? I scrapped the research on my upcoming lecture serious entitled “The Benefits of the Modern-Day Church” while falling on my knees in some serious repentance. Now, my lecture will be “The Benefits of that Old Time Religion, The Church That Was.” Yes, something surely got hold of me. Amen!

EPILOGUE
It is a very good fellow church member to whom I owe the prompting of this fictional parable. We both are in agreement with respect to the long forgotten Old Time Religion church concept.

I am not meaning to sell those churches short which still hold to the “Full Gospel” concept as given in (I Corinthians 15:3-4). You see, we both are older than dirt and twice as gritty. He and I both long for a taste of that Old Time Religion again. If our modern-day churches would only realize the simplicity of the Gospel.

It's not what we do, what we pay, or who we depend on for this simple gospel to take effect in our lives. It’s simply our acceptance of God’s free grace, by way of our faith. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

This concluding song lyric sums it all up. Amen!

SOMETHING GOT HOLD OF ME (Songwriter: John Fields)

At first when I heard of some people who claim
That the old-time religion was real
I said "I'll go down, take a look at the crowd
For just that weak-minded I feel."
I walked up the steps and I peeked in the door
But the devil said, "don't you go in!"
But I said, "it won't hurt me I'll just step inside
And I'll set as far back as I can." (but-)
Something got a hold of me (praise God)
Yes something got a hold of me (O Lord)
I went there to fight, but I'll tell you that night
God certainly got a hold of me.
They sang like they meant it, they all clapped their hands
I said, "it's commotion, that's all."
"when they get down to pray, I'll just get up and leave
For I don't wanta be seen here at all."
But I bowed that time, he got started to preach
And he looked straight down at me
He told ev'rybody how mean that I was
He didn't talk like he thought much of me.
I sat in my seat just thinkin' it o'er
And then they all started to pray
The fire fell from heaven, I fell to the floor
I prayed there and God had his way. (for-)
Something got a hold of me (praise God)
Yes something got a hold of me (O Lord)
I went there to fight, but I'll tell you that night
God certainly got a hold of me.

Yes, I can still envision my dear ole preacher Daddy singing this song at the top of his voice, along with the playing of his old trusty six-string guitar. Amen!

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