Imagine being an old school Pentecostal who lapsed into a coma in 1980. Up till that time you remember attending Holy Zion Pentecostal church faithfully at least twice and perhaps three times a week. You recall how the choir sang the souls of the saints happy as you broke out in shouting and dancing to praise the goodness of your Lord. You remember the times of testimony where the saints gave honor to God, our beloved bishop, the pastor, first lady, ministers, mothers of the church, deacons, trustees and of course saints and friends. They then thanked the Lord for the little things, praising him for a reasonable portion of health, strength, the activity of their limbs, being in their right mind and always ending by asking the saints to pray their strength in the Lord.
And then there was the preaching. The pastor read a passage, gave his title and began the message in a paced, deliberate manner. Along with everyone else you listened attentively as shepherd and saints began their weekly journey into the call and response of God’s word. At first there was a stray ’well’ here and brief ’amen’ there. As the message progressed these grew slightly louder and more frequent until finally the minister said something that struck a chord leading someone to exclaim ’talk about it sah’! The preacher then moved through the message speaking of the glories of God’s power, character and wondrous miracles taking the time to tell us of how He created the world in six days, saved Israel through Gideon and his three hundred, delivered Goliath into the hands of a shepherd boy armed with just fives smooth stones and walked in the fiery furnace with three brave Hebrew boys.
By this time the message is reaching a fever pitch with much of the church shouting amen continuously. And then it happens. The preacher says ‘oh I feel my help coming on now’. The organist takes the cue, mans his station and provides the necessary back up. He then begins to talk about you and your situation. Your stress, problems, pain and confusion. He assures you that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is your God too. He preaches in such a way that you know that the God walked with Moses through the wilderness, led Joshua to conquer the city of Jericho, whispered to Elijah in the cleft of the rock, went before Esther into the king and healed proud Namaan of leprosy is with you too.
The preacher tells you that God sits high and looks low. And to prove it he wound down (or should I say up) by speaking of Mary’s little baby Jesus who came down forty and two generations. Jesus who walked up and down the shores of Galilee, turned water into wine, fed the five thousand, walked on water and healed blind Bartimaeus. He says that you too can know of Jesus’ power to heal and deliver just like the woman who had the issue of blood. The sermon now is at a frenzy as the preacher said that if we would but touch the hem of his garment we can be healed and freed. Now the place is a wreck. Everybody’s on their feet shouting, praising and some crying. The message ends with the pastor telling the saints that your times may be dark and seemingly hopeless but that’s alright. Because the crucifixion was also a dark and apparently hopeless time as the sinless Son of God died for our sins. But the grave couldn’t hold him he tells us. For early one Sunday morning He got up from the grave with all power in His hands. Don't worry he says, it may be Friday but Sunday's coming. The message ends with a crescendo of praise as the Hammond B-3 rages like a carnival, the choir belts out one last song and the saints fill the air and the church aisles with their praises.
Whatever was going on in your life before you came through the door now seems small and as light as a feather. The God who created the world and everything it in six days and then raised Jesus from the dead on the third day is with you. Whatever it is you know that He will work it out. While filing out with the rest of the saints you tell a friend ‘pastor sure did preach today.’
Now that was church, or at least how you remembered it.