Over the years, I have noted several sleepers in the church.
The first one I encountered was Mr. Bassinger. I started singing in the choir at Southside Baptist Church when I was 10 years old. Every Sunday I was positioned on the outside seat on the row with the men. I always sat beside Mr. Bassinger. But, one Sunday, he happened to fall asleep during the pastor’s sermon, and he remained asleep as the choir stood to sing the invitation hymn, “I Surrender All.”
Just as the pastor was in the height of his invitation, Mr. Bassinger let out a rip-roaring snore and gasp. The pastor heard it, but was unclear as to what the racket was or from where it came. It caused no small response from the pastor.
Then, there was Mr. Wilkins, of First Baptist Church. Mr. Wilkins was a chronic-like sleeper. He said for a long time that when he sat down and got comfortable that he could not help but go to sleep. Mr. Wilkins was faithful to attend every service, but he was equally prone in every service to go to fold his arms and nod off to sleep in the metal chairs we had in the sanctuary. But, when the pianist struck the first invitation hymn chord, he always woke right up and sang the music with us — sometimes even responding to the altar call and going to the altar to pray.
Mrs. Funkhouser of the Methodist church our family attended for a while when I was a kid was particularly funny to observe. She would always sit on the back row. Usually about halfway during the sermon, she would lean forward and place her chin on the back of the pew in front of her. As she would sleep, her lower lip would flutter with each breath. At least she did not make any racket.
Miss Glondina, of the Willow Island Church I pastored for so many years, was apparently fond of the sanctuary pews as being comfortable to sleep on. Miss Glondina had never married, and had lived most of her life in her parent’s house with her sister. The two were very faithful to attend services. But, more often than not, Miss Glondina would stretch out on the pew and go to sleep, curling up in a fetal position. Being a tiny person, she did not take up much room on the pew between the people with her. The only person bothered by it all was her sister, who sometimes would jar her awake and shake her finger at her. I would just keep on preaching.
When one thinks of sleepers in the church, Eutychus of Troas (Acts 20) comes to mind. Eutychus fell asleep in a third story window and fell to his death while the Apostle Paul was preaching. Fortunately, Paul restored the young man to life.
On a broader scale, however, the contemporary Church has a more serious problem with slumber among its ranks. It is not found in the occasional sleepiness of individuals as such, but it is found in the overall spiritual sleepiness of the institution at large.
Our institution is characterized by too many sleepers. While we sleep, society worsens. While we sleep, morals worsen. While we sleep, our sensitivity to Biblical standards worsens. While we sleep, the political grip of the spirit of anti-christ worsens.
The Church needs to wake up!
Apostle Paul stated, “Let us not sleep … but let us watch and be sober.” According to W.E. Vines, the term sleep refers to “a condition of insensitivity to divine things as well as a state of conformity to the world.”
It is only as the Church is awake can we make a difference in the way ordained of God. But, as things now stand, the most of those associated with the church-like spiritual napping in the sanctuaries of don’t-say-anything-openly-about-God. You better believe the social elitists, politicians and economists who are engineering a new world order understand how important it is to get anti-God things done while the Church is dozing off.
After Mr. Bassinger’s sleepy snort, Preacher Byrd responded, “Whoever said that was of the devil!” When the church service finally came to an end, I tried to tell the preacher differently. But, by that time, most everyone in the choir and in the front pews was rather well embarrassed for Mr. Bassinger.
The Rev. Ron Branch is pastor of Faith Baptist Church in Mason, W.Va.