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Off The Sanctuary Wall

Charles Lowrey


How do you motivate people? One pastor had an interesting approach.

A depressed, overweight, single man came to him because he couldn't lose weight or find a date. The pastor said, "I can help you. At 8:00 in the morning, be ready to exercise."

"I've tried all the exercise programs around, and they don't work," the man replied.
"Just be there at 8:00. This one works."

The man was ready at 8:00 the next morning. When the doorbell rang, he went to the door and a gorgeous woman in an exercise suit said, "The pastor told me to tell you that if you can catch me, you can marry me." And then she took off. He was so overweight he couldn't catch her. The routine continued every day for the next three months. He lost about 50 pounds.

The morning after he'd lost the 50th pound, he was a lean, mean, running machine. He knew today was the day he'd catch her. He was ready before 8:00 and couldn't wait for the doorbell to ring. When it rang, he ran to the door and jerked it open-just in time to see the biggest woman he'd ever seen dressed in a jogging suit standing at the door.

"The pastor told me to tell you that if I can catch you, I can marry you." Last I heard, the guy was still running.

Most of us aren't innovative in our motivational methods. We resort to guilt whenever we can, especially at church. Many people tell me that they've been on so many guilt trips at church that they'd like to get frequent flyer miles. Are churches supposed to be travel agents for guilt trips, or is there a better way?

Sociologists observe that there are tribes in Africa where, if a member does something wrong, the witch doctor performs a Death Dance. He carries a death bone and points it at the guilty person. The person falls over as if dead from the shock of having the death bone pointed at him. They isolate him and the entire tribe is forbidden to speak to him again. His physical needs are met, but the person dies in less than six weeks from the guilt and lack of encouragement. He only needs someone to tell him, "Hang in there, you won't die. Sister Jones had that bone pointed at her, and she's playing tennis now. You'll make it." On any Sunday there are people in your church who are dying on the inside and need a word of encouragement.

When I was growing up, we sang a song called "Rescue the Perishing." One verse says, "Down in the human heart, crushed by the tempter, feelings lie buried that grace can restore. Touched by a loving heart, wakened by kindness, chords that are broken will vibrate once more. Rescue the perishing, care for the dying."

There are people in our churches who are dying, maybe not physically, but emotionally and spiritually. They're down in the human heart, crushed by the tempter, and need a touch of grace so the broken chords will vibrate once more. The Beach Boys have a song called "Good Vibrations." That's exactly what "Rescue the Perishing" is saying. We need to be a church of good grace vibrations-where the broken chords can vibrate again.

Charles Lowery is pastor of Hoffmantown Church in Albuquerque, New Mexico. (

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