The events described in the following report may or may not have actually happened.
The elders of my church called me into their office a few Sun days back. They said they needed to have a little chat with me. “Brother Shotgun,” they said, “It seems like the church is dying and we need you to help save it.”
Well, naturally, with me being the good Christian guy that I am, I wanted nothing more than to help, even though something in the back of my mind was wondering at how exactly the church of Christ could die. I told them that if there was anything at all I could do to help save the church, then I would do it.
They asked me if they could see my sword, so I whipped it out. A genuine sword of the spirit and as fine as any, maybe not as sharp as some, but certainly with less rust on it than others. The head elder shook his head and told me that what I really needed was a “Smith and Wesson double bladed Freudian broad sword.”
That certainly was a mouthful. I had to ask him what exactly a “Smith and Wesson double bladed Freudian broad sword” was. The elders explained to me that it was the latest rage in cutting edge weaponry for Christian warfare. He pulled one out of the storage closet at the back of the office, and it was one of the most beautiful swords I had ever seen. I felt all warm and fuzzy inside just from looking at it. It really overshadowed my old worn out “Sword of the Spirit.”
They told me that with my new “Freudian Broadsword” I could help tons of people with their personal problems, while at the same time preaching a message that sounded very good and wholesome. I could even use verses of scripture to back up my new psychology messages, and not have to worry about offending anyone.
You can just imagine how thrilled I was. I couldn’t wait to charge out the door, and meet Satan in battle with my new sword! Just before I could make it out the door though, the elders stopped me. “Whoa there brother Shotgun, don’t be so hasty, we’re not quite finished with you!”
One of the elders started pointing at my shield. “That son, is a fine shield of faith, but in recent years we’ve found that it’s a little too cumbersome. It doesn’t allow you enough freedom of movement, and there are philosophies out there now that it will not protect you against. We’ve got something better for you!” He went back to that same storage closet, and pulled out a brand new shield.
“This,” he explained while handing it to me, “is the Shield of Postmodernism”. That shield was beautiful. I couldn’t wait to hold it alongside my new sword, although I didn’t exactly understand why I would need such a thing. Once again, they explained to me the uses of my new weapon. Even after they were done explaining it to me, I still didn’t quite understand what it’s uses were. It was all I could do just to pronounce the name of it, “Shield of Postmodernism”.
Anyway, it seemed that unlike my old shield, this new one would allow me to move around a lot more. I could do more things since I wouldn’t be as burdened with the truth as I once was. They told me that in addition to my new maneuverability, I had a sure fire defense against old worn out Christian ideals. If we were to help the church grow, we would need these new shields.
I was really excited now. Two new weapons at my disposal, but before I could rush out the door, and rejoin the fight, the elders stopped me once again. “Brother Shotgun, you can’t have that shield of Postmodernism without changing that old “Belt of Truth” you have on.”
This bothered me a little. If they took my “Belt of Truth” what would keep my spiritual pants from falling down around my spiritual ankles? “Here you go,” the head elder said, as he passed me a brand new “Belt of Mysterious, yet Unattainable Truth”. He told me that they had all gotten a little too big for their old belts, and that these new belts fit so much better, and were a lot more comfortable. I took the elders at their word, and strapped it on.
I must have been a sight to see, standing there with all my new Christian gear. The armies of Satan surely would be shaking in their boots the next time they saw me! I turned to run out the door, but before I could, the elders stopped me once more.
“Where are you off to brother Shotgun,” they asked. “You won’t get very far with those old “Gospels of the Peace” you have on.” I hadn’t considered my shoes before, I just always took it for granted that I was supposed to spread the gospel around. They told me that for the places I was headed, I would need different kinds of shoes. The head elder pulled out a pair of boots from the closet. They were a huge pair of “Nike Air Warren Clodhoppers.”
“These,” he explained, “are useful for demolishing walls that people like that Kent B. True guy over at the Restoration Herald are always building.” I had always kind of liked Kent B. True, but the elders insisted that I needed a pair of “Nike Air Warren Clodhoppers” and besides, they did match well with the rest of my new Christian gear. I put on the best possible face as I strapped on my new boots, even though my enthusiasm over this new stuff was starting to fade a little.
Before I could even finish tying up my clodhoppers, the elders had pulled something else out of the closet. It looked like a really cool leather jacket. “Your “Breastplate of Righteousness” is just a little out of style,” the elders said. “In fact, it went out of style back in the fifties.”
Now I really was a little confused, but they insisted that I needed something new. They even opened a copy of Rick Warrens “Purpose Driven Church” to page 55 and showed me how out of date my breastplate was. “There’s no need to try and preserve the golden era of the fifties brother Shotgun!” They helped me take off my old breastplate and put on the new leather jacket.
“What is this thing?” I asked. They explained to me that it was the “Jacket of Outward Appearances.” With this new jacket, my righteousness was all but assured. During church services it would allow me to clap along with the music and dance in the aisles. When I prayed or a slow song was played, it would enable me to clamp my eyes shut, and waive my hands in the air. To everyone around me I would appear as if I had the most awful stomach ache, though they would take it as a powerful sign of my righteousness. It seemed a little ridiculous to me, but if it’s what I had to do to help the church, then I would see it done.
I was still struggling a little with my jacket, when before I knew it, my “Helmet of Salvation” was pulled right off of the top of my head. “You won’t be needing that anymore brother Shotgun” the elders said. “We have something better for you!” I really did have it in mind to protest this time, but before I could say anything, they had pulled out a trucker hat with the word “hope” on the front of it, and yanked it down over my ears.
Salvation, they explained to me, was too far off of a thing, and Heaven, too flimsy of a concept. What the church really needed today was hope for the immediate future. “Just look at all these wonderful testimonies about what God has done in people lives” they told me. “Isn’t it wonderful the things that God will do for you if you come to him?” This really confused me. I had been trying all along to think of others before myself and concentrate on helping the church through the good times and the bad. I didn’t understand this “Hat of Hope” at all. The elders explained to me that what the church really needed to help it grow was a way to connect with everyone. No one would come to church if they couldn’t get something in return. That’s part of what the “Hat of Hope” was all about.
I stood there, all decked out in my new Christian armor, and although I knew I should have felt exhilarated at the possibilities my new armor offered, something inside me just couldn’t accept it. I realized for the first time that all the elders had on armor exactly like mine, and they were all smiling and watching me with anticipation.
“Well,” said the head elder, “Aren’t you going to go charging out into the world now? I know you must be eager to go test out all of your new armor!” When I hesitated a moment, he went to the closet and pulled out a big mirror, maybe hoping that if I saw myself, it would spark some of my previous enthusiasm.
What I saw horrified me. I looked just like the world. I couldn’t tell the difference between that reflection, and the people I saw all around me in my daily struggles.
To the dismay of the elders, I desperately began tearing off all of the new armor. “You can’t do that!” they cried, “Who will save the church? Who will be our savior? We’re dying, cant you realize that brother Shotgun?” The cries of the elders intensified as I removed the last bit of armor. “You will tear the church in two brother Shotgun!” they cried.
I walked back to my old armor that was lying in a pile on the floor, and put it all back on. It was good to hold the “Sword of the Spirit” in my hands again. My “Breastplate of Righteousness”, though heavy, was a welcome weight. I felt secure with my trusty “Belt of Truth” back around my waist, and the sturdy “Gospels of the Peace” on my feet. I was protected once more with my “Shield of Faith,” and when everything else was strapped and buckled into place, I looked around for my “Helmet of Salvation” but couldn’t find it anywhere.
The elders who had previously been taken aback with my actions, seemed to have resigned themselves to my decision, and began to laugh at me. “Ha!” they said, “Now you have no hope at all. The old ways are dying. Our ways; the “new” ways are all that are left. You have no hope at all now. No one will listen to you; not with your “Sword of the Spirit” or your “Shield of Faith.” Your only hope is to put on our armor. That’s the only way you can keep from becoming obsolete. The only way you can keep from dying!”
I couldn’t believe I was hearing my elders say such things, they couldn’t be true could they? To my surprise, I found myself raising my shield of faith. “You’re wrong” I told them! Then from somewhere up in Heaven, thunder roared, and God’s hand reached through the roof of the church. He plopped that “Helmet of Salvation” right back onto my head, dusted off my shoulders, and booted me out the door, with a commandment it seemed only I could hear:
“Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that he may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace. Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.”
Keeping God’s words in mind, I walked back out into the world, with a tighter grip on my sword and shield, and the “Helmet of Salvation” planted firmly on my head!