Growing up in the Panhandle of Texas gives me a different perspective of church than some of you.  Here’s what I mean.  When you grow up in the Bible Belt (and yes, Texas is a part of the Bible Belt, some might even say it’s the Belt Buckle but I doubt that) you grow up in a very Christianized society.  In the Bible Belt, we were the last to turn loose of segregation, the Blue Law, and the last people to streak  long after the fad had peaked.  You didn’t grow your hair long and you didn’t listen to rock and roll.  If you were a Christian, you didn’t smoke, drink or chew.  And you certainly didn’t go with girls who do.  Well, some of us didn’t. 

And church was the same way.  It was conservative, main-stream Christianity and you read from the King James.  The choirs were always full, and when you brought in an evangelist to bring us “revival,” he preached hell fire and damnation. (“If you were to walk out the door tonight and get hit by a truck, where would you spend eternity?  Let me see a show of hands if you prayed the sinner’s prayer with me.  I see that hand.  And that one.  And that one.”) Revivals happened every year, usually twice.  There was the Fall Revival and then the Spring Revival.  And sometimes you had a city wide crusade in the high school football stadium where all the Southern Baptist (SBC) churches came together – but not the Methodist, Church of Christ, or Catholics.

The SBC churches in the Panhandle offered pretty much the same things: Sunday School, choirs, Vacation Bible School, hymnals, suits and ties, hard pews, offering envelopes with little boxes you checked to prove you were a good Christian, the King James Bible, organs and pianos, ice cream socials, and worship services at 11:00 am.  You also had Sunday night services, Wednesday night prayer meetings, and visitation on Tuesday where you went in pairs to some unsuspecting soul’s home because he happened to fill out the visitor’s card.  The rest of the week is when you had committee meetings.

There were, and still are, a lot of Southern Baptist churches.  What happens when you have so many SBC churches in one town is you start competing against one another.  I see that a lot today.  We aren’t members of the larger body of Christ Followers; we are members of a particular church.  If we get tired of the church because it’s not meeting my needs, or we get angry at the preacher, we move on to another SBC church.  I mean, after all, there are plenty to choose from and they all want my business.

But in the 70s things started to change.  More later.

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