by Dave Moody
One of my earliest memories growing up as the son of a Methodist preacher was ringing the church bell on Sunday morning.
Mr. Turner, a elderly member of my Dad’s congregation, would swing by the parsonage where we lived and take me with him as we walked across the fresh cut grass from our house to the church. He’d open up the front doors of Cumberland Mills United Methodist Church with those large, heavy skeleton keys that had just been jingling in rhythm by his side on our early morning walk to the church.
Up a small flight of stairs which were almost out of reach for my small legs, especially in a suit and clip-on tie, to where the rope for the bell was secured from last week, right where “we” left it. Mr. Turner would carefully untie it, wrap it a few times around his elbow for leverage, and with all his might start the pull and release motion that caused the bell to ring. I remember the first time I heard the sound of that tremendous bell up close. To a four year old, it was the loudest thing I had ever heard.
As our routine became more and more familiar, I often joined in to help Mr. Turner pull the rope and ring the bell. It was Sunday morning, after all, and all God’s children were welcome in His house.
I often think back to those earlier times and this faded childhood memory. It was in the middle of the ‘60’s when hippies sang protest songs against the war, and black and white meant more than just the color of your TV set.
But in those days, for the most part, people at least stopped to acknowledge God. To hear the bell ring out across the town every Sunday morning. It was a chance to pause for a moment, even if just for an instant, to know there was a God.
Today, Sunday is just another shopping day. Or race day. A time to watch football or golf or some other program on television. Everything is open, unlike those days of old when every store was closed on Sunday. Today, Sunday is just another work day for so many.
And from all indications, fewer folks attend church regularly on Sunday morning in America than ever before. So, think of how many millions of people are not in a pew on Sunday.
I still believe we have a church bell to ring. But it might look a lot different than the one that Mr. Turner and his scrawny little sidekick use to ring in the ‘60s. We have a culture today that needs and wants to hear the message of hope. They are truly seeking God. But we have to reach them in different ways.
As Paul did in Athens (Acts 17:22-31), where he met the city’s leaders and scholars, and using their culture, pointed to the statue of the unknown god, and said this is the one I came to tell you about.
We still have a bell to ring… a film to produce… a sports ministry to organize… a music and arts school to build. All in an effort to grab the attention of someone long enough to share the truth that God loves them and cares for them. That’s the bell we need to ring today.