Category Archives: Satire

Pastor Discovers New Church Growth Method

Got Faith Community Church
Pastor Chip Smith has served as  pastor of the “Got Faith” Community Church in Barnesboro, Pennsylvania since 2004. Barnesboro is a small rural village located near Altoona, but since it is situated off the beaten path and has a declining population the church has  difficulty attracting new members.

The church was known for many years as Faith Community Church but Pastor Chip’s predecessor changed the name reckoning that a new, cool sounding name might attract more people.  But many in the area choose instead to drive to Horseshoe Curve Christian Center, a large mega church, on the outskirts of Altoona.

Computerized training babiesThe church growth idea began innocently enough but in retrospect Pastor Chip feels it was a sign from the Lord.  It was on a Sunday morning that  Mandy, a high school student, brought a computerized baby to the Morning Worship service as part of a parenting class weekend assignment. The “baby” was programmed to cry at specified times, intending to remind the student of the rigors of parental responsibilities.

The small congregation warmly welcomed the new baby. They refered to the baby as “it” since it was gender neutral from its external appearance giving passersby no indication of whether it was a he or she.  Mandy generally sat in a pew with her parents and grandparents, but the addition of a new baby made for an even warmer sight.

Mandy and family with babyFollowing the service many photos were snapped of the smiling  four generation family.  An older member quipped that it was refreshing to hear a baby cry (even if it was during the congregational Scripture reading).  He welcomed more of the same as he looked from one side to the other of adults gathered in the sanctuary.

The idea later hit Pastor Chip when he observed the offering and attendance slip prepared by the ushers. It stated the number of people in attendance and just below that number the ushers also added, “Computer Baby”.

“It was like a light that came on” chimed Pastor Chip when interviewed by our ALFN reporter. He had agonized over the slumping church attendance and then began to wonder if he might count the baby as part of the attendance.  After all, it did use the nursery services and it was publicly welcomed during the opening exercise. Then it hit him; why not invite more of the babies to church as a supplement to attendance?

TeacherHe called the local school and spoke to Ms. Frackville, the teacher of the parenting class. She was pleased to allow the babies to be used by the church during the summer vacation. She assumed the church would likewise use them for parenting classes. That summer the church had a sudden spike in attendance of 25, doubling the usual summer attendance. This bolstered Pastor Skip’s self-esteem and he was lauded by his pastor peers for the increase in church growth during the usual summer dog days of  church attendance.

But a looming crisis was on the horizon as the date was approaching for the new school year to begin. The babies needed to be returned.

After a bit of brainstorming Pastor Smith  went online but found that computerized babies were very expensive even if purchased “used”. However in a board meeting Frank Davis recalled a baby doll his sister played with as a child. It had a pull spring that uttered phrases such as, “I love you Mommy”;  “I want a drink of milk”; “Hold me Mommy”.  The board determined that this talking baby had enough human-like qualities  to count as a real baby toward church attendance and the good news was that these doll babies were available in both sexes and less expensive than the computerized models.

The church is now running 275 though admittedly a large number are now in the nursery. Buzz about the church’s growth began to spread in the small community about  Got Faith’s growing attendance so that the adult congregation has expanded as well.

The board did vote down a suggestion by Deacon George Zeal to purchase an entire lot of 1,500 beanie babies he found at clearance price on Ebay. They determined that the beanie babies just weren’t real enough to count toward legitimate attendance.

This prompted a church split with George departing to start his own church in  nearby Beantown which now reports an attendance of 1501. He named the new church,  “The Matthew 19:14  Church”.

Our ALF reporter interviewed several concerning this new innovative church growth method. Charles Harris, a long time professor of Bible, declared, “You’ve got to be kidding me!”

But James Logan of the Emerging Church Network lauded the concept as a creative way to see church growth. He referred to the Great Commission where it states, “Go into all the world” and asked, “What part of ‘all the world’ do you not understand?”

Pastor Chip is now in demand as a church growth specialist and has had the opportunity to speak at several large church growth conferences.

Mr. WonderfulAsked concerning future plans he said they are considering another means of growth; a life-like “Mr. Wonderful” his wife gave him  for Valentine’s Day several years ago. “Mr. Wonderful” is handsome with a big smile (big feet also.) When you press his cloth hand, in his distinguished deep male voice, he utters phrases like, “Honey, take all the time you want.  I don’t mind waiting for you one bit.” Or “You’re perfect JUST the way you are; I wouldn’t change ONE thing.”

Pastor Smith considers how having some Mr. Wonderfuls around might just prompt the men in the church to tend better to their marriages.  And who knows; perhaps taking couples to the next level will include the addition of a few Mrs. Wonderfuls who are known for such thoughtful expressions as, “Here Dear, you take the remote control.  Whatever you choose we’ll watch together.”

At the conclusion of the interview with our ALFN reporter Pastor Chip stated, “These are exciting times at Got Faith. It’s almost like we have a revival.”

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Lady discovers her spiritual gift is sending forwarded emails

For many years Mildred Swanson had struggled as she was trying to determine her spiritual gift. Whenever her pastor periodically addressed the topic of discovering and using one’s spiritual gift she felt convicted since she could not identify a specific gift.

However she rejoices in that she has now discovered her spiritual gift; sending email forwards. She collects all the email addresses she can and adds them to her growing email contact list, now numbering in the thousands. She knows very few of them personally, but is certain her emails are a source of blessing and surely people want them.

Several times throughout the day she forwards messages to her growing list of collected addresses, considering her forwards to be uplifting moments in the recipient’s day.

Our ALF reporter, SCW, managed to sit down with her in her modest home in suburban Walla Walla, Washington where she carries on her “ministry” from her home computer. She excitedly told us that she has sent as many as 38 forwards a day and feels she is now reaching millions for Christ as she considers how many of her forwarded messages are in turn forwarded by others ad infinitum.

Her forwarded emails vary but essentially she sends anything that she feels might be of interest to others. She sends inspirational stories, virus warnings and the touching emails she regularly receives from rich widows in Nigeria.

According to our ALF reporter, Ms. Swanson senses a “leading” to forward them.  When asked if she reads the messages prior to sending them, she replied, “O my! I  don’t have time to read all those emails; I’d rather invest my time in forwarding them.” She not only wants to provide opportunities for others to be blessed, but she herself also expects an extra blessing from the chain emails that promise a special blessing if you forward them on.

Our reporter managed to contact Les Longenecker by phone. Les, who is on Mildred’s list stated, “I don’t even know Mildred Swanson and have no idea how she got my email address. Actually after a week of getting her messages I placed her on my spam list so I don’t even see them now, although I guess I’m still on her list. For a week or so before I filtered her, all throughout the day my email would pop up with another “You’ve got mail” and it was from Mildred Swanson!

ALF also interviewed her pastor, Dr. Willard Frankhauser, concerning Mildred’s understanding of spiritual gifts. “Although this [email forwarding] is not listed in the Bible I certainly believe there may be modern gifts that are not specifically mentioned but nevertheless have the essential qualities of spiritual gifts” he responded. When pressed concerning the inevitable frustrations or fury from indisposed recipients of Mildred’s “ministry” he shrugged his shoulders and smilingly demurred: “Mildred is a sweet lady and a long-time member of our church. I am sure she means well and I’m also on her list.  Some of her material is a bit far-out but I expect readers will use discernment and of course there’s always the delete button.”


Worship Pastor fired for not being “cool” enough

Cht Samuels

Chet Samuels

Farmers Branch, Texas – Two years ago Chet Samuels became the worship and arts pastor at the Farmer’s Branch Outreach Center, a large independent church in the burgeoning Dallas suburbs.  He initially felt at home in his new setting and the church seemed to be receptive to his ministry.

His problems started when he began to open the weekly worship practice with a brief devotional based upon the devotional, “Our Daily Bread.” Some of the worship team felt it was a waste of time and they should read it at home on their own if they chose to do so. Some felt it was “legalistic” that he would even bring it up.

But his real problem surfaced when he began to insert a hymn into the 45 minute worship set. The final straw came when he directed the congregation away from the Powerpoint screen and instructed them to turn in their hymnals.  Many did not even know what he meant and began to pass the hymnals up to the front creating chaos in the church.

On Friday he was dismissed from his position.

Senior pastor Sam Smucker explained, “Hymns are generally regarded as ‘not cool’ and in this extremely competitive Dallas church market we just can’t afford to be identified as anything but “cutting edge cool.” The Living Word Community Church over in Grapevine is just killing us and we have lost a steady stream to them. The last thing we need is a hymn to destroy the church. Furthermore, many of our members complain they just can’t ‘get into worship’ if they sing a hymn. Chet is a nice enough fellow but just doesn’t fit around here. With his gifting he would probably be a better fit in a small town in the panhandle.”

A very candid Chip Hopkins who serves on the FBOC board elaborated, “Chet just wasn’t cool enough. We tried to get him to style his hair and wear a Bluetooth ear device at all times (even when he sleeps.)   We wanted him to dress with an open front shirt (preferably Hawaiian) but he had the gall to periodically wear a tie. That is so uncool!”

Pastor Chet does have an Ipod and Iphone but some have noticed he seems to have trouble using them. Hopkins stated, “He just sort of fumbles with the controls and seems unsure of himself. It sure doesn’t do much to instill confidence in his leadership.”

Chet was disappointed at his dismissal and wondered how it would look on his resume but is seeking direction from God. He feels there just must be some place he can serve although he does recognize he is perceived by many as rather old-fashioned.

Note: To avoid any further confusion the custodial staff collected the remaining hymnals in the FBOC sanctuary and will try to donate them to a homeless shelter or nursing home.

Inventor of SPAM wins Nobel Prize

  SPAM

Stockholm, Sweden – The Nobel Prize committee announced that Frederick L. Sternman has been awarded the Nobel Prize for his contribution to mankind.

Men shaking hands

Sternman is widely recognized as the inventor of SPAM email.  Like many great accomplishments his began small.  He tells his story, “In 1994 I was on several bulletin board discussion groups and had carefully collected the various email addresses of participants. I believe it was in October that I sent out a group email using these collected addresses advertising my Aunt Hildah’s mop solution for cleaning hardwood floors. It was at that point I realized the great potential for this. Although no one bought any of Aunt Hildah’s solution it’s as if a light came on. Thousands, even millions, could be reached inexpensively. Now in 2007 I marvel at how many have been impacted by my invention.”

Nobel Prize committee chairman Hanz Gunsberger smiled as he handed Sternman the prize.

He noted the following benefits to SPAM email and the great good it has done for mankind.

  • Many lonely people appreciate these messages. “They just don’t get much email and the human touch is so needed in our hectic, fractured world. This just brings people together in our global community” Gunsberger noted.
  • The dissemination of information just not available elsewhere, including products describing medical conditions people are not even aware they have and are very uncomfortable speaking to their doctors about.
  • Making prescription medicines affordable to all.
  • Providing top notch financial and investment advice.
  • Expanding educational opportunities making college degrees available to all.
  • Posting info about good, well-paying careers that people can do at home from their computer in only minutes a day.
  • Helping rich African widows distribute their fortunes to worthy causes.
  • Helping people to learn foreign languages. (many SPAM emails are in another language so the recipient must study to understand the message and thus learn a new language!) 
  • Providing downloadable software at a fraction of market price.

There are many, many others noted Gunsberger and more all the time. “SPAM is the gift that keeps on giving.”

In accepting the Prize Sternamn stated, “This is just so incredibly meaningful to me. To think I am now in the same league with Yasser Arafat.” (Sternman converted to the Islam religion while in prison in the late nineties while serving time for internet fraud.)

Fellow Nobel prize winner Al Gore stated, “I am very happy for Fred. As the inventor of the Internet I am especially pleased to see my technology used for such worthy causes. The way I see it every email of this type is one less tree cut down for paper. He’s a brilliant man.”

A smiling Jimmy Carter, also a Nobel Prize recipient in the past stated, “I believe Fred has done much to advance world peace. Furthermore I have ordered products from these emails and they really do work.” 

But not everyone is happy. Jim Samuel who runs a firm devoted to stopping SPAM says. “I can’t believe this! These unsolicited messages are a tremendous nuisance, expense and time waster.”

Nobel prize chairman Gunsberger bristled at Samuel’s remarks, “There will always be hateful, intolerant, narrow-minded, bigoted people bent on stopping human progress” he stated. “We must ignore them and do the right thing. Furthermore hasn’t Jim Samuel heard of the delete button!”

Gunsberger gave some hints at future prize nominees but emphasized they had not been voted on yet. Those under consideration include:

  • Osama Bin Laden (Peace)
  • Dr. Jack Kervakin, who developed the partial birth abortion procedure. (Medicine)
  • Ruth Beder Frinkman, professor at Columbia who first identified homophobia. (Sociology)
  • John Starswell, who invented PacMan
  • Richard Simmons, for promoting fitness worldwide
  • Karen Laftery for inventing the hula hoop, (Physics)
  • Larry Flint (Literature)
  • Elias P. Spamnen for inventing canned SPAM (posthumously)

SPAM website

“Church Serves Starbucks Coffee”

 

We were visiting in Williamsburg, Virginia and decided to see what churches were available so we turned to the Yellow pages in the phone book in our hotel.

I suppose competing for church visitors is pretty hard these days but it’s been awhile since I looked through church ads in the Yellow pages. It was quite an eye opener.

One church attempted to attract visitors by it’s large display ad promoting their choice of dress as ”casual clothing” and their choice of drink as “Starbucks coffee.”  I’m not kidding. We didn’t attend the church although I periodically do enjoy a strong cup of coffee.  

Both features are worthy of comment but in today’s post we will examine the coffee.

Our ALFN reporter did some research on this matter and discovered that a Barna survey among 700 potential church goers determined that 76.23% of those surveyed feel churches generally have bad coffee.

Freddie Smith, a twenty-something IT specialist was interviewed by phone. “I tried several churches but they all had really bad coffee. It’s gonna take a lot for me to ever try church again. If the coffee is bad what does that say regarding whatever else they have to offer?”

Mick Tome serves on his church’s S&W committee in Mount Hope, Washington to identify strengths and weaknesses in his church. “We realized we just weren’t making the grade with our coffee and pastries so we spent 3 hours discussing this”, he shared. “We tested various coffees and pastries and sought the Lord on this matter. We are going with Seattle’s Best (a regional favorite) for coffee and Panara Bread for pastries. Sister Martha had been getting the pastries Saturday night at the local Piggly Wiggly but will now be traveling 75 miles early each Sunday morning to Walla Walla to get an assortment of fresh pastries from the nearest Panara Bread.”

Pastor Wally Cleaver from Hinkletown, PA shared of his burden for souls and his contention that one of the greatest hindrances to reaching the lost in our generation is bad coffee in church. He sees their use of Starbucks as a means of fulfilling the Great Commission. Pastor Cleaver wiped a tear from his eyes as he recalls the years of bad coffee as his church used the cheapest they could get from the Ollie’s Bargain Outlet in nearby Lancaster. “How could we have missed something so obvious?” he stated.

Pastor Eddie Haskell serves a country church near Hickory, North Carolina.  “The coffee really isn’t an issue for us”, Haskell reports, “any hot, black coffee is fine but our people and community know good pastries. We are going with Krispy Kreme and everybody is really happy. We’ve seen several new families start coming.” He added, “Our special ‘Christian’ weight loss program is also growing and we are considering forming a committee to study what is contributing to this growth.”

Starbucks spokesman Wilfed Stoner shared his enthusiasm on these marketing agreements. “The coffee cafe in local churches represents a massive new market for us”

ALFN finally interviewed Dr. Perry Minson, distinguished professor of church growth at Fuller Theological Seminary who has studied this issue extensively.  “I am not surprised at these developments. We are seeing churches becoming more and more user friendly.  Churches are studying enhancements such as quality pew padding (partnering with Sealy mattress), valet parking and bottled water. For instance we find churches that provide bottled water have a 3.2% increase in their retention over water coolers” stated Minson.

In our research on church promotion techniques AFLN found little reference to terms such as Biblical preaching, sound doctrine, holy living or hymns. In fact these terms seem to be a real turnoff to “seekers”.

Pastor Chip Stallworth, pastor of the “We’re Cooler” Center in Castro Valley, California said these terms are anathema to today’s modern church. “The closest we would ever use is ‘relevant teaching’ but never ‘Biblical preaching'”, he stated as he sipped from his mint creamy latte. “We always seek to be relevant. That’s the main thing!”

Local pastor has multiple doctorates

Church

Shiloh Church in Andersonville, ND

 Andersonville, North Dakota – Rev. James Burmont pastors the Shiloh Church, a small, independent congregation in the plains of southern North Dakota. He began his ministry as a second career when he was 35 , working bivocationally to provide for his wife Gladys and their five children. He works as a “honey dipper”, that is cleaning out septic tanks.  He always had a dream to complete his education, having attended the county community college when he was right out of high school, but never finishing.

In 1998 he got his first email account and was overjoyed as he began to receive email.  He especially noted an email offer to complete his degree and proceeded to do so earning his bachelors degree in 1999. But the email offers for continued education flowed in and he reasoned it was because he was such a good student. He went on to get his Masters degree.

But was especially intrigued by the offers for a doctorate. He felt this was an answer to prayer and that likely in attaining such a high level of academic achievement he would be able to devote himself full-time to his ministry and eventually retire from the honey dipper business. That was in late 2000.

Now in 2007 the Rev. Dr. Burmont has seventeen doctorates. He explained that the email offers continued to come and he reasoned that it was merely an acknowledgement of his hard work and a recognition of his life experience.  He felt the more the better and he actually enjoyed filling out the paperwork and felt the small fee was more than reasonable in light of the prestige of a doctorate.

When asked by our ALFN reporter if he dealt with any pride Burmont acknowledged, “Well, it really is hard to be humble when you just might have more doctorates than anyone else in the world.” (In fact Burmont is making inquiry with the Guinness Book of World Records regarding this very matter.)

When asked concerning future plans Burmont said he was going for 25 doctorates but would “probably” stop at that point.  He expressed concern that such a high degree of education might make it hard for him to relate to his small, rural congregation.

In fact there has already been some confusion with some in the church and community believing him to be a medical doctor. He explains that he still tries to help them using advice he receives through emails. Recently he was approached at the Piggly Wiggly supermarket by Martha Fernwald, who inquired about her hives. Burmont recalled an email he had received several weeks earlier about a “miracle ointment” and was able to pass this helpful information on to a very appreciative Martha.

He also receives questions concerning financial matters, apparently because people assume that because he has all these doctorates he must be knowledgable on all issues. Burmont has been kind to pass on offers he has received from generous wealthy Nigerian businessmen who have died and left a fortune and want to bless others with it. He feels really good about using his advanced education to help these needy people achieve financial success.

Burmont still has not seen his dream of full-time ministry but believes his service is a sacrifice since with his degree of education he could probably go anywhere, including the top seminaries.  He also feels the honey dipper business keeps him humble and in touch with the people.

Overhead to PowerPoint proposal creates firestorm in local church

Overhead projector

Fair Grove, Missouri – When the Rev. Dan Smith graduated from seminary he was enthused to take on the world and begin his ministry. His first church call was to the 125 member Fair Grove Community Church (FGCC). He moved to Fair Grove with his wife and two children in August 2005 giving no thought to a potential church conflict. He had a vision to impact the greater Fair Grove area for Christ.

Smith followed Rev. Sherman Baxter who retired after serving the church for 35 years.

Several months after taking the church he proposed using PowerPoint or as he said (later to his regret) “taking the church into the 21st century.”  His plan was to use the PowerPoint system to help with congregational singing and he also envisioned reinforcing his sermon points and placing illustrative photos up during his messages.

This created a church firestorm that Smith never would have imagined.

The opposition to his PowerPoint proposal was led by Cecil “Butch” Snyder who has been a part of the church since he was saved in the mid seventies.  Butch had been in the local Hell’s Angels motorcycle gang and had been delivered from drugs and alcohol. He was now one of the three deacons in the church.

His opposition stemmed from a concern that in using PowerPoint the church was “drifting toward liberalism.”  They had been using the overhead projector when he first came to the church and now were on their latest model, purchased in 1999. It had always worked fine as long as he could remember. Why fix something that’s not broken was his reasoning.

In an exclusive interview with our ALFN reporter he stated, “If the overhead projector was good enough for Peter and Paul it should be good enough for us.”

File cabinetAlso opposing the change is Sissy Jones, who since 1978 has cataloged the transparency sheets and now maintains a large file of all songs the church regularly sings arranged alphabetically, topically, by Scripture reference and by date going back to 1969. The sheets are kept in a special file cabinet the church purchased in 1985.  Some of the transparency sheets are yellowed and brittle requiring special care.   Especially precious to Sissy (shown filing in the photo to the left) is the original transparency sheet of the very first song the church sang using the original overhead projector, “This Is The day That The Lord Has Made.” Sissy normally spends about 10 hours a week maintaining the extensive transparency library but sees it as a “labor of love.”

Maude Ferkfinder is concerned for her son, Jimmy, who dropped out of high school and is a little “slow.”  Since 1993 has had a ministry sitting beside the projector during services and placing the lyrics on top when the congregation is singing a particular song. She’s concerned Jimmy won’t be able to able to have a  role in what Pastor Smith is calling “the PowerPoint team” and wonders what effect this might have on his esteem and desire to attend church and continue to serve the Lord. When speaking to our ALFN reporter she wept openly concerning the stress the situation has brought. “We must not stop caring for others” she tearfully said.

The treasurer of the church, Wally Barker, is not necessarily opposed to the PowerPoint transition but is troubled as a “good steward” that the current overhead projector is not that old. When interviewed he pointed out that, “We had the previous overhead model for fifteen years so I reckon this one still has lots of life. Also we have three spare bulbs and I’m told they won’t work in the PowerPoint projector and we also have a practically full box of blank transparency sheets. What would we do with them?  This looks like it be like our mimeograph situation five years ago” 

Frank Sherman, who is among the more studied in the church, takes issue “in all due respect” with Deacon Butch’s assertion regarding the overhead being used by Peter and Paul.  He is almost certain they would have used one of the old green hymnals stored under the stairway in the church basement.

Pastor Smith, although flabergasted at the controversy, has temporarily withdrawn his PowerPoint proposal for the sake of church unity but is confident he will in time win over the support he needs.

In the mean time another controversy is brewing in the church concerning the recently installed automatic scent distributors in the restrooms. Deacon Butch asserts that Peter and Paul would never have approved of such devices.

Old hymnal