60 Seconds - A Church or a Courthouse

There are defining moments in our lives.One such moment for me was in a friendship I had with a Baptist minister, Herb Hatfield, many years my senior. One day he said to me, "David, when you pastor, make sure you build a church and not a courthouse."

A courthouse is where people are convicted and sentenced with some type of punishment. A church is to be where people, who are already guilty, go to find redemption and forgiveness.

As one has reminded us, "People need loving when they deserve it the least."

In Psalm 18:35, David wrote to the Lord, "Your gentleness has made me great." The phrase "has made me great" means, "abundantly increased my mercy for others." He is expressing that the Lord's gentleness toward him had increased his capacity to show mercy toward others.

Henry Ward Beecher said, "The church is not a gallery for exhibition of eminent Christians, but a school for the education of imperfect ones, a nursery for the care of weak ones, a hospital for the healing of those who need assiduous care."

When William Booth died, his funeral was held in a vast exhibition hall in London, with 40,000 people attending. Among the crowd were thieves, tramps, harlots, and the lost and outcast to whom Booth had given his heart, and for whom he greatly cared. Unknown to most, royalty was there, too. Far to the rear of the hall sat Britain's Queen Mary, a staunch admirer of Booth. Beside her on the aisle was a shabby, but neatly dressed woman, who confessed her secret to the queen. Once she had been a prostitute, and the Salvation Army claimed her for Christ. The woman had come early to claim an aisle seat, she said, guessing that the casket would pass within feet of her. As it did, she reached out and placed three faded carnations on the lid. All through the service, they were the only flowers on the casket. Queen Mary was deeply moved when the woman turned to her and said simply, in words which could stand as William Booth's epitaph: "He cared for the likes of us."

"The worst prison would be a closed heart" (Pope John Paul II, October, 1991).

Dave Arnold, Pastor
Gulf Coast Worship Center
New Port Richey, Florida, 34654