By Curtis K. Shelburne: Religion columnist
I wonder if some of the humor that crosses my desk in the form of books or cartoons in ministry magazines is funny to anyone besides preachers.
In one cartoon from Leadership Journal, a pastor is preaching in front of a projection screen filled with colorful graphics, and one guy in a pew says to another, “He spends 20 hours on each sermon: an hour on biblical research, and nineteen hours on his PowerPoint presentation.” It’s not a knee-slapper, but modern preachers smile.
Some of the stuff in the “Harmony” series by Philip Gulley is like that, but I think most of what he writes anyone who likes a good story can enjoy. (The books are best-sellers, so that must be true.) Before Christmas a few years ago, one of my closest friends, recognizing that I really needed to de-stress, gave me the set of “Harmony” novels, saying, “Read these! They’ll be good for your soul!” He was right.
The main character in the series is Sam Gardner, preacher at the little Quaker “Harmony Friends Meeting” (Church). They may be Quakers, but you could put any name on the sign and any preacher would recognize (and probably give a name to) every personality type represented in that little church.
In one book, Sam talks about the church’s annual revival.
The church I grew up in had annual (at least) “gospel meetings.” We didn’t call them “revivals”—mainly because that’s what other churches called them and we were just like other churches in being dead set against being just like other churches. Besides that, we could pretty much count on success if all we announced was a “meeting;” a real “revival” is harder.
I laughed out loud listening to Sam describe the various evangelists the church had invited over the years to lead their revivals.
There was “Mohammed the Baptist, who had grown up Muslim and was converted by a missionary.” He wore “a turban and robes and took kids on camel rides in the parking lot.” There was Miss Marcella Montero who had been a 4-H Fair beauty queen and then moved to Hollywood and almost become famous and, well, it’s a sordid and spicy story. Then there was “Billy Bundle, the World’s Shortest Evangelist” who had once been a professional wrestler and now preached perched atop a big pulpit Bible.
But the evangelists always went on down the road, leaving Sam feeling a little deflated and wondering if maybe he should have sinned a good bit more early in life so as to have an eyeball-popping testimony.
Billy was booked way into the next year and could pack a pew. Sam guessed being revived must have really tired people out because at the midweek prayer meeting right after Billy went on down the road, only three folks showed up to pray. Hmm.