Sunday, October 30, 2011

Small Churches

The College Church, the church I attended in Searcy for the first 23 years of my life, was huge. I’m pretty sure there were well over a thousand members there. But in the surrounding cities and counties, the churches were often much smaller.

From time to time, our family would visit these smaller congregations, especially if my dad or brother or brother-in-law was preaching. One Sunday morning, we attended a church with less than 10 members. The members sat on the left side of the auditorium, and my family sat on the right.

Christmas dinner (about 1990) at the Southwest Church of Christ in Little Rock, Ark.
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Elizabeth writes:
I attended a small Spanish-speaking church until I was about 16 years old. My mom taught Bible classes there, and my dad always led singing. Sometimes the services would last forever because the announcements portion would turn into a congregation discussion time. I knew a lot more details about those people’s lives than any young person really needed to know.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Book Launch

Now I know there’s only one Good Book … but I think this is a pretty good book.  It’s been out for a couple of weeks now, but today is the “official launch” date.  (Close your eyes and imagine the sound of popping corks from non-alcoholic champagne bottles.)

If you’d like to check it out, Growing Up Church of Christ is available on Amazon … just click one of the links below: (paperback) (Kindle edition)

Many thanks,

Here’s what others are saying:

“A narrative with funny, poignant memories.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Speaking as one who ‘grew up Church of Christ,’ author Mike Allen has crafted a written time capsule that literally transported me back to childhood in a single evening. His superb collection of personal vignettes is delivered in a heartwarming and vulnerable style that taps into a wide range of emotions from laughter to tears — at times in but a single page. I read it in one sitting and enjoyed every minute.” —Dr. Joe Alexander, associate dean of The Jack C. Massey Graduate School of Business, Belmont University

“In Growing Up Church of Christ, Mike Allen strikes a unique balance. He manages to give us a fun and nostalgic trip back to our youth, while at the same time provoking thought on some weighty matters.” —Steve Lake, regional director of advancement, Harding University

“Overall, if you ‘grew up church of Christ’, you’re going to be amused and find yourself having many of the same memories that Allen shares … I laughed, cringed, and even shed a tear or two while we strolled down memory lane but [was] thankful for a chance to peek inside another [preacher kid’s] childhood.” —Paula Harrington, thinking Jesus blogger

“… I feel funny calling him ‘Mike’, but after reading his book you feel like old friends.” —John Dobbs, Out Here Hope Remains blogger

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Sitting vs. Kneeling

Jim Woodroof was the preacher at the College Church in the 1970s.

I can still picture him sitting there on stage, with the other men, in tall wooden chairs.  The chairs were like thrones, solidly-built with padded seats.

And when a man would walk up to the pulpit to lead the opening prayer, or maybe the prayer just before the sermon, Brother Woodruff would leave the comfort of his padded seat and take a knee on the stage.  With his face in his hand, he would bow before the Lord.

Now I know I should have had my eyes closed during this time … but instead, I’d sit in the audience and watch him.  And his action had a profound impact on me.  The reverence.  The respect for God.  The idea that we were talking to Someone who was very important indeed.  All of this was expressed to me … in that kneel.

Other kids were impressed as well.  We’d sometimes imitate Brother Woodruff during prayers at school.  Getting down on one knee.  Placing our face in our hands.  Paying homage to the King of Kings.


Saturday, October 15, 2011

3 Times a Week

I attended church services and/or Bible classes 3 times a week for over 32 years.  That’s close to 5,000 assemblies (not counting gospel meetings and vacation Bible schools).  But there was one time, I had another idea…

We played in Harding Park on Sunday afternoons.  War games or sports games. Running around in the wide open spaces with the other kids from the neighborhoods.  Sweating and yelling like crazy.

At about 3:30, moms would stick their heads out of doors, calling for their boys and girls to come home and get ready for the 4:00 church service. The park would be mostly deserted after that.

On one afternoon when the calls came, I decided not to run home. Not at 3:30 or 4:30 or even 5:30. I just put my head down and kept on playing. I was having too much fun. I would have kept on going too, right through the “late service”--the 6:00 evening worship service--if Dad hadn’t driven over to the park to find me … if he hadn’t rolled down the window of our car and shouted, “Hey, boy, hop in!  We’re going to church!” 

Yeah, if Dad hadn’t come by and picked me up, I might still be playing in the park right now.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Absolute Truth

In elementary school, my list of absolute truths was long.  One of them, one of the things I knew for sure, was that singing church songs with instrumental music was wrong.  Dead wrong.  No doubt about it.

I’m not sure how I knew this.  I don’t remember Bible class lessons or sermons about it.  But I’m pretty sure there were conversations with parents and teachers and friends.  When it came to Christian music, no pianos were allowed.  No guitars.  Just voices—singing and making melody in our hearts.

Imagine my surprise, then, when my class at Harding Elementary (a Church of Christ school) was practicing a church song for an upcoming program … and my teacher stepped behind the piano.  She played along as we sang the song.  In 12 years, I had never witnessed such a thing.

And what do you think I did?  Well, I did what any good Christian would do.  I refused to sing.  And so did some others in my class, mostly the boys I think.  (We were mature beyond our years.)

Our teacher, appearing slightly perturbed, looked out at us and stopped playing the piano.  She sized up the situation and said, “Listen; there’s nothing wrong with practicing this song with a piano.  In a few years, you will be doing the exact same thing in the high school chorus.”

She raised her eyebrows and paused for effect.  I got the message.  It was time to start singing again … with the piano.

I felt a tiny tremor in my faith that day.  I’m not kidding.