Copyright 2012 by Bob Rogers
Years ago when I lived in Mississippi, I visited the Empire State Building in New York City, and I heard a Southern accent from some young ladies. They asked me and my wife, “Are y’all from the South?” We said, “Yes, we’re from Mississippi,” and they said, “Well, we’re from Georgia, and it sounds so good to hear somebody from the South.”Actually, they didn’t say “Georgia,” they said “JAW-ja.” (And I didn’t say, “Mississippi,” I said “Miss-IP-y.”)
I was thinking, how would I feel if I was from New York and came to church down South? There are some great churches in New York; in fact, the Brooklyn Tabernacle is one of the greatest churches in America. But New Yorkers and Southerners have a different culture altogether. I wonder how we could make them feel at home? My sister lived in Manhattan for years, and now lives in Brooklyn. She says a “New York minute” actually lasts 19 seconds. I believe her. So read this rapidly, and maybe you’ll get some ideas for doing church “New York style.”
1. Everybody would have to line up outside the church, and when the doors opened, they would have to rush in as fast as they could and get a seat or find something to hold on to, because the ushers would shut the doors behind them in 10 seconds. Then the pastor would announce in garbled English, “The J-train is leaving the station now. Do not block the entrances!”
2. There would be different seating for Yankees and Mets fans, with armed uniformed policemen separating them.
3. Each member of the congregation would be given a headset so he or she could listen to the sermon in traditional or contemporary English, Spanish, Romanian, Korean, Vietnamese, Italian, Mandarin or Cantonese Chinese, Swahili or Yiddish. This would allow them to understand the service without having to actually talk to anybody else.
4. If somebody tried to sit in your pew, you would block his way and say, “Don’t play with me, man.”
5. The pastor would begin his sermon with, “Yo! Youse guys! I’m TALKIN’ to you!”
Our New York friends then could visit JAW-ja or Miss-IP-y or Luzy-anna and feel right at home. After all, didn’t the apostle Paul say, “I have become all things to all people, so that I may by all means save some”? (1 Corinthians 9:22, HCSB).