Wineskins Archive

December 19, 2013

AfterGlow: A Basket to Put that In (Apr-May 1997)

Filed under: — @ 11:27 pm and

by Phillip Morrison
April – May, 1997

26There was nothing unusual about our daughter’s Sunday night phone call; long-distance replaced letter writing years ago.

She and Keith were fine; the academic and athletic feats of the older grandchildren were remarkable; the antics of the younger ones indescribable. It was all so familiar, so reassuring, so comforting, so … ordinary.

Extraordinary was a conversation that had taken place at church that morning. The wife of one of the pastors had come up to Bryn in a hallway. Full of compassion and understanding, she said, “Oh, Bryn, I just learned this week that your father is a Church of Christ preacher, and I can imagine the consternation and conflict it caused in your family when you became a Baptist.”

“I haven’t become a Baptist,” Bryn replied.

“But … But … I thought you taught in our Sunday School.”

“I do, and Keith also teaches, but we’re not Baptists.”

“You’re not? I don’t understand … what are you then?”

“Well, Bryn said, effectively ending the conversation, “I’m just what I’ve been since I was 10 years old; I’m just a Christian.”

The excitement in her voice was not diminished by the distance. “Daddy, that poor woman didn’t know what to do with my claim; she just didn’t have a basket to put it in!” “Why should that surprise you?” I asked. “You’ve been going to church all your life with people who don’t have a basket to put that in.”

When I related this true story to a friend, he said, “Be careful where you tell that; people will accuse you of thinking that it doesn’t make any difference where people go to church!” Yes, it does matter where people go to church, but it matters even more that people determine to be just Christians wherever they go. I must lay aside my pride and personal preference and be glad our children come from a heritage that values being Christian more than being a particular brand of Christian.

It’s sad, but not surprising, that in a competitive world like ours, churches have gotten in on the act. The declaration that one is just a Christian will be followed by the persistent question, “What kind?” Let the conversation go on for a while and we’ll sound like car salesmen trying to explain why our brand is better than the one down the street.

The car guys may talk about gear ratios, types of fuel injection, foot-pounds of torque, etc. Those may be important subjects, but they are lost on people who don’t want to buy a car. Church folks may debate endlessly such things as what will happen when Jesus comes again, which version of the Bible is best, what women can and cannot do in church, etc. But people who are not shopping for a church have no interest in these intramural debates.

I’ve spent my life trying to build churches, but I sometimes wish I had the power to destroy all the churches. If we could forget brand loyalty and start all over, maybe we could all learn how to be just Christians.Wineskins Magazine

Phillip Morrison

(Transcribed for the Web from the archived print edition by Neita Dudman)

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