A similar ritual is repeated at my church, also Tuesday mornings - with the difference being that everyone prays in turn, just a few sentences before the next guy picks up the theme. At Zephyrhills prayer time is typically hijacked by two or three "long pray-ers." With some men the prayer content is more like a sermon, and I tend to wonder if the guy praying is possibly making sure that whatever errors I spouted during my message are effectively corrected before everyone goes home!
Regardless, I'm always glad to for my visit. Usually the gathering makes my 53 years feel very young - and they're all very gracious with pats on the back, "thank you's" and "I've been meaning to buy one of your books"!
I plan to start with a great story about a man I met on the plane last year, when I was flying out of Dallas on my way to Kansas to speak at a men's retreat.
"What are you reading," he asked, looking at the copy of "GET REAL" I was thumbing through in preparation for my talk that evening.
I told him it was my first book and explained why I was flying to Kansas.
"Ah, religion," he said. "My wife's interested in that kind of thing, you know."
So we talked, and I asked him what he was up to. It turns out he was on his way back from Miami, where he had delivered a $300,000 check to a humble family who were the beneficiaries of a trust they knew nothing about. He'd decided to fly down and surprise them with the money because it would be more fun that way.
I liked the way he was thinking!
So I asked him a couple of questions. "Did you enjoy giving them the $300,000?" and "Did they accept the money, or did they turn you away?"
"Those are ridiculous questions!" he exclaimed. "Of course they accepted the money - they were thrilled. And of course I enjoyed the experience. Why wouldn't I be excited to offer a gift like that?"
"Well," I said - "You had this 'take it or leave it' response to what I'm up to this weekend and it made me think about how I'm communicating. The truth is, Jesus-followers have something to share that's ultimately worth a lot more than a big bag of money. Yet the curious thing is... very few people who categorize themselves as "Christian" demonstrate enough enthusiasm about their life of faith to generate much interest in others..."
So we talked some more. It turns out he's a lawyer, and a former attorney-general of Kansas. He was well-known in his day, garnered national attention for boarding Amtrak trains to arrest people serving and drinking alcohol, and made headline news when he notified airlines that they could not serve liquor while flying over his state.
The guy had more stories than we had time. He was a character, and I really enjoyed our conversation.
But, once again, I was left wondering what kind of a message we Christians are really offering, when there's not much about the way we follow Jesus that seems compelling enough to offer to other people?
I'm not talking about full-Nelson witnessing... what I'm talking about is living Gospel lives. I'm talking about living as if we really are "Holding out the word of life."
If it really is worth more than $300,000 and a plane trip to Miami?