We would stand there singing for what seemed an eternity to junior boys. Tired, rubbery-legged, and hungry for a bowl of beans and cornbread, my brother Stan, would evangelistically put his arm around me and convince me to go forward just so the preacher would let us out.
While our pastor was determined to get folks to the altar, he was a kitty cat compared to one high-powered evangelist who came to town for a week-long revival meeting. I’ll never forget him; he was six-foot seven with cold black hair slicked from front to back. He wore a black suit, no tie, and buttoned the top button of his nicely-pressed white dress shirt. When he pointed that long, convicting index finger of his when he preached, you knew he was talking about you.
When he came to end of his first sermon, he said, “I’m going to open the altar.” That was quite confusing to me because our pastor said if we ever wanted to pray, the altar was always open. You could even go to the altar during the offering if you wanted. Somebody, I never found out whom or when, closed the altar before our revival.
Now that the altar was open again, the evangelist admonished every one of us to bow our heads and to close our eyes and pleaded, “PLEASE! NO ONE LOOKING AROUND!” Just about the time I started to peek, he pleaded even louder, “PLEASE! NO ONE! NO ONE LOOKING AROUND!” Scared that I was about to commit one of the seven deadly sins, I closed my eyes tighter than a pair of stretch pants at a Weight Watcher’s convention.
The evangelist proceeded to talk about the miracle of salvation and then invited us to come forward as we sang a song of invitation. I knew I needed to go forward, for undisclosed reasons, and knew my brother Terry needed to go too, for the same undisclosed reasons, because he’s the one that talked me into doing what I don’t want to disclose.
Terry whispered to me, “I’ll go if you go.” I said, “I’ll go, but I can’t see with my eyes closed, and I’m scared to death to peek. If that preacher sees me with my eyes open, I’m a goner.” So the real miracle of that revival meeting wasn’t the miracle of salvation; the real miracle was getting to the altar with your head bowed and your eyes closed.
Terry said, “I think I can get us to the altar. Keep your head bowed, eyes closed, stay close, and follow the sound of my voice.” I said, “Okay, Bubby.” I kept my head down, touching the back of his shirt as we shuffled like two zombies to where we thought the altar was. I discovered right then and there that Terry was directionally challenged because when we knelt down where we thought the altar ought to be, the head usher stopped us at the back of the church and said, “You boys get back up there to your pew; church ain’t over yet.” Startled and scared, we ran past our pews and right to the altar only to discover that our brother Stan was already there, confessing all the undisclosed sins of his brothers to the evangelist!
Mark Hollingsworth is senior pastor of Edmond (OK) First Church of the Nazarene