A colleague of mine shared a story with me once, a true story, of a church that had a problem:
This congregation had a young couple's class in the church basement, and it always ran about five or six people, that is, until a new couple came to church and took over the class.
In a matter of months, the sunday school class had grown to 25 or 30 people and there were several decisions for Christ that came out of the class.
But then somebody noted that they were eating donuts in that classroom.
There was rule in that church that no one was to eat anything in the church building -- not since the carpeting had been put down.
It was not acceptable, so a "committee of the concerned" brought their complaints to the preacher and demanded he tell this class how things ought to be done in their church.
The preacher prayed and thought about that all week long. Then on Sunday, he got up in the pulpit and addressed the congregation.
"It's been brought to my attention that there's a problem in the young couple's class," he said. "I'm told you've been eating donuts down there in your class."
Asking the teacher to stand, the preacher asked him "John is this true?"
(John said that it was true)
"John tell me -- how many people were in that class when you starting teaching it"
(5 or 6)
"How many are attending now?"
(25 or 30)
The preacher, looking now at the congregation,
"But you've been eating donuts down there ... and that's a terrible thing."
"John, tell me -- how many people have made decisions for Christ out of that class since you began teaching?"
(7 or 8)
"But you've been eating donuts down in your class ... and the rules say you can't eat in the building ... someone might stain the carpet."
The preacher paused for a moment and then called the ushers to the front of the sanctuary.
He said: "I'm going have the ushers take the collection plates and pass them down the aisles. I want every pack of gum and every mint, every package of tic-tacs, and all your cough drops put in those plates." (Of course they were filled.)
And when the plates were brought back to the front, the preacher calmly but sternly declared: "I don't ever want to hear another complaint about the young couples' class eating donuts, EVER again."
Now, what was the problem? What were these people so upset about?
They were upset about ... donuts.
Is there anything in the Bible about eating donuts? Is there anything in the Bible about eating food during a Sunday school class? No!
But sometime in this church's history, somebody had created a rule about eating in class/the building.
And the rule was more important than people being brought to Church.
And the rule was more important than new people coming to Christ.
But the Bible does not say one word about donut crumbs on the carpet.
Of course People will get upset anyway about such things because they get more concerned with their personal preferences than they are with God's Word. I know, "rules are rules," but don't let rules make us rigid!
The true rule book is the Bible -- not the local church policy handbook, or even our denominational doctrines.
Caring churches learn to present the unchanging message of Jesus in various and changing ways. (And sometimes that might include donuts!)
The moment you hear someone say "Oh no you don't, Not in MY church!" that church doesn't belong to Jesus anymore, and that's a dangerous place to be.
Jesus taught that worship was all about bringing others to Him.
We can go through the motions and obey all the "rules" and pretend God is pleased, but if we fail to show others the love of Christ, we've truly missed God's directions.
BY PASTOR JENNIFER HESEBECK
EXCELSIOR AND ZION UMCS