I have written many times about Chalcedonia Baptist Church where I grew up. I have written several times about North Canton Baptist Church where I have attended many times. And I have mentioned Open Bible Baptist Church in Holly Springs where I went a few times when I was married.
So, one would think as much as I have written about church that I would have lived a good Christian life. But that simply isn’t the case.
Oh, I know God. I know Him in my soul. He saved me on a hot summer night in 1974 as I bowed and prayed at an old-fashioned altar. When I stood up, the congregation was singing a song called “I Can Tell You The Time.” The song is in the red church hymnal.
The chorus of the song says, “I can tell you now the time. I can take you to the place. Where the Lord saved me by His wonderful grace. But I cannot tell you how. And I cannot tell you why. But He’ll tell me all about it in the bye and bye.”
I remember this like it was yesterday. But it was a long time ago.
I don’t think God keeps score on the bad we do and the good we do. If He does, I’m seriously behind in the fourth quarter with the clock running out.
There was a time in my life that I went to church every Sunday for about 10 years. Then there was a period where I didn’t go at all for about 10 years. Then the last 10 years it has been few and far between.
I am one of those people that have mastered the art of making excuses for not attending church. I’m not proud of it nor should I be. But it is the truth.
But I remember the first time I walked in to Open Bible Baptist Church with my then-family. I wore a shirt and tie and immediately felt overdressed and out of place.
The pastor, the Rev. Floyd Ellis, took to me immediately. And it wasn’t just me. He took to everyone in the small church.
The more we went, the better I got to know Floyd. I told him that I just didn’t feel comfortable in church because I had made so many mistakes in my life. But Floyd just put his arm around me and told me I would always be welcomed at their church.
What makes this so incredible is that not once did he ask me what mistakes I had made in my life. He didn’t care about mistakes. He reminded me that we all make them.
Floyd is as country as they come. He is the real deal. He is a true pastor to his small congregation. And for anyone that thinks their life doesn’t measure up to attending church, Open Bible doors are open to you.
I wish I had listened to Floyd more. For he not only opened the doors to his church to me, he opened the doors of his heart even though I did nothing to deserve it.
And though I turned and walked away, I had learned a valuable lesson that would take me a while to apply to my life. That lesson was to never judge anyone. Floyd didn’t just preach it, he lives it.
I know every parent wants their children to do better than they did. But I believe my generation as a whole has sorely failed to live up to that. Look no further than me for the perfect example of this failure.
This is why most of my columns are about people from another generation. They worked to hold their marriages together. They went to church together. They loved one another.
But I thank God every day for letting my daughter do better, live better, and love better than her Daddy ever has. Because of her heart, she will one day share her life with another and not be alone.
I am thankful for every relationship God has given me. For out of every one of them, I learned something. And some I miss.
Chris Collett is a lifelong resident of Cherokee County.