The Man on the Couch

There was this man, sitting on his couch.

He wasn’t sure whether he was awake or not. He might have been dreaming. He might have been in that sort of half-way state some people experience when just waking up. But right across from his recliner, sitting there on the couch, was a man.

The man looked a little bit like his buddy Fred. Ordinary clothes, slouched a bit. Relaxed. His imagination kept trying to tell him this was Jesus, but he couldn’t figure out why.

This is a work of fiction. All characters (except possibly for Jesus on the couch, if that’s who it is) and events are products of my imagination. Copyright © 2014
Henry E. Neufeld

“The problem,” said the man on the couch, “is that you are much too focused on the church.”

“I’m a pastor. I’m supposed to be focused on my church.”

“I don’t mean the people. I mean the building.”

“But the people need the building.”

“Do they?”

There was a long pause.

“Take this new education wing,” said the man on the couch.

“That’s the problem. I can’t ‘take’ it because I can’t get it built!”

“Yes. You’ve been praying about that. You’ve been asking God to help you get the money to start building it. But are you sure you need it?”

“I have new Sunday School classes cropping up. We can actually overbook our rooms just with committee meetings. The church is growing! We need room!” He didn’t know why he was arguing with the man on his couch. He just couldn’t stop.

“There are other times, whole days, when the church is entirely empty.”

“Well, we have to meet people’s schedules.”

“People have homes.”

“You mean we should hold committee meetings in people’s homes?”

“I suppose that would work. You might try less committee meetings. For example, think of the last meeting of the trustees.”

“I’d rather not.” He sighed. The trustees’ meeting had lasted nearly three hours and then they’d agreed to restudy everything and meet again.

“Yeah. It was a waste of time, wasn’t it?”

“I just don’t know how to make it work.”

“That’s true. That’s why you’re such a wonderful pastor. One of the reasons, at least.”

“I don’t feel very wonderful.”

“No. You can’t get things moving. Did you know that you have one of the most active congregations in the city?”

“No. I never checked.”

“Another reason I like you.”

“But I can’t get this new building program off the ground. It’s like we grew to fill the space, and then we can’t get over the next hill.”

“Maybe the next hill is over there.” The man on the couch was pointing out the window.

“Over where?” He looked out the window. The city was out there.

“How many members do you have who have homes large enough to hold a Sunday School class?”

“I don’t know. I’d guess a hundred or more.” He wondered about the non-sequitur. The number of people with large enough houses wouldn’t be a where.

“There.”

“Where?”

“There. Those homes.”

“But they’re all over the city! We have members coming from everywhere!”

“Just so! What an opportunity!”

“Opportunity?”

“They could invite their neighbors. ALL. OVER. THE. CITY!”

He stared blankly at the man on the couch. “I don’t think they’d do it.”

“When you needed to buy instruments for your praise band, what did you do?”

“I prayed. I taught a series on worship.”

“And when you needed people to be more welcoming to those who came onto the church property, what did you do?”

“I prayed. I taught a series about hospitality in the church. Then I twisted some arms.”

“And it worked. You have the fastest growing church of any denomination (or not) in your city. Now maybe you need to teach about hospitality in the home.”

He looked at the man on the couch. “People meeting in their own homes on Sunday morning? But they couldn’t get to church!”

“Ah. They wouldn’t get to hear your sermon.”

“You sound sarcastic. I put a great deal of work into my sermons.”

“You do. It’s commendable. But what would happen if you taught a bunch of those lay people—a hundred or more, I think you said—to offer a message from God’s Word themselves? Do you think you could teach someone else to do some teaching?”

“We could use technology. Pipe the sermon in over the internet.”

“You could. Or you could equip all those people to share God’s Word. Or some of each. You could even do some of the equipping over the internet!”

“I could.”

“Be careful what you pray for.”

“I was praying for a new education wing.”

“Now you’re going to pray for a hundred or more education centers.”

“How do you know that?”

“I know you. Once you’ve got the vision, you just can’t stop yourself, even though you try.”

He looked around again. There was no man on the couch. He wasn’t sure if he was awake or asleep. The idea of merely raising funds for an education wing now looked easy. And he wasn’t going to do that. He could just imagine the trustees’ reaction when he said that people were going to be meeting for church in their homes. Insurance? Budgets? Maintenance? Liability? More than a hundred centers of witness.

Fun, he thought. He liked trying to do something real!