A preacher was asked by his bishop to deliver a sermon in a huge cathedral. Long before the sermon was to begin, more than three thousand persons had filled the cathedral to capacity. Loudspeakers were hooked up so that the sermon could be heard by thousands more standing outside. “Just look at that crowd,” said the bishop to the preacher. “How many disciples would you say are out there?” “Three or four, perhaps,” the preacher replied.
How many disciples would you say are in your congregation each week? How do we distinguish between routine “Churchgoers” and Christian disciples? Who among them attends for some vague reason, such as “It’s the thing that’s expected of me once a week”? And who among them is seeking further direction on how to follow Christ more closely, more sincerely — how to love Him more dearly? Who can say? Such judgments are not for us to make — with one all-important exception. Each of us can pass judgment in this regard on ourselves: “What am I doing here?”
Are you a Realist, or Idealist?
A well-known Christian preacher once met a Russian actress. “I suppose you are a religious man?” she asked. “Yes,” he replied, “I suppose I am.” “Aha!” said the actress, “you are religious because you are weak. You want someone to hold your hand. You want God to hold your hand.”
The clergyman told the woman that she had it all wrong. And he gave her some well-used examples. He doesn’t ask God to wipe the tears from his eyes. He wants God to give him a handkerchief so he can wipe the tears from other people’s eyes. He doesn’t ask God to hold his hand. He asks God to give him strong arms with which to reach down and lift up the fallen and the outcast.
“Then you are an idealist?” asked the actress. “I suppose I am,” said the preacher. Whereupon, the actress waved him away, saying, “I am a realist.”
“That got me thinking,” the preacher said later. “Am I a realist or just an idealist? Is Christianity just a beautiful idea, or is it real? Does it work?”
Does it work? Each of us needs to decide for ourselves.