Thursday, June 16, 2016

The Church of the World (Sequel to The Sanctuary)

The huge neon sign over the building said, "The Church of the World." Sam Bilberry led his crew of new converts in that direction. He had to admit he was not optimistic. But maybe this one would be different. As they entered the building, they walked into something that looked just like one of the world's parties. No drugs and sex of course (at least in most cases). Alcohol was more negotiable, though there was usually some attempt to control it. But otherwise it was distinguishable only by close observation.

"This looks just like where I used to party," said Tammy, one of Sam's charges, with a shudder.

The room was full of people mingling around, talking, or out on the dance floor dancing, or at the food tables partaking of refreshments. The music that blared loudly from the speakers was secular tunes ,with the occasional Christian song or secular song reinterpreted in a Christian way. The sound people threw in an occasional comment, some subtly Christian.

As Sam walked through the room, he knew the church regulars would be instructed to mingle and attempt to turn the conversations in a Christian direction. There would also be unbelievers present, of various types, some just checking it out, some genuinely interested, some looking for a discussion or a full blown argument, and even some who were genuinely evangelists for atheism, come to shown the stuck-up religious people the error of their ways. Sam heard one interesting conversation about the perennial topic of the problem of evil. He also heard many more casual discussion, including a couple making plans to meet later that night in a less restrictive venue.

He walked up to a man standing by a pillar, trying to make himself look as unobtrusive as possible, while still advertising his presence. He was one of the appointed order keepers, if things somehow got out of hand.

"When and where is the instructional meeting?" Sam asked him.

He was pointed down the hall and given directions from there. The instructional meetings were generally at a different time. But evidently this church was big enough that they could have some people mingle while others went to instruction.

When Sam's group entered the room, they more than doubled the size of the class, and the instructor seemed more than a little nervous. He gave what Sam tended to call a one-point sermon about our need to have hope. It was mainly about morality, with a little self-help thrown in. One of Sam's charges, a young man named Charles, liked to ask difficult questions. He was  asking the instructor questions like, "What is our hope in?" and"What do we do about the fact we often fail to have hope?" The instructor grew more and more uncomfortable.

As they walked out of the building, Sam looked back at his people and saw them all shaking their heads.

"Can't we find something different?" said one of them named Carol.

"Perhaps I could be of assistance," said a voice behind Sam.

Sam turned to see John Thompson of the Sanctuary. "Don't tell me the Sanctuary has decided to change its mind," replied Sam.

"No, I'm afraid not," answered John. "I tried to persuade them, but they are too afraid of somehow being corrupted. But I may be able to help in another way."

"I have been the Sanctuary's outside representative for a long time and have learned a lot of things. There is another type of church that exists. They say they are following the ancient principle of being in the world and not of the world. Frankly, I have often wondered if they were right. But I am strongly committed to the Sanctuary and am not yet ready to make the move. But they sound like they may be the right thing for you. They tend to be hard to find, because they have been persecuted by the world for being intolerant. But I have contacts and know how to find some of them. If you are interested.

Sam huddled his new converts around him and discussed it. He turned to John, "Lead on," he said.

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