Off The Sanctuary Wall



How do you motivate people? One pastor had an interesting

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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

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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