At the end of the sermon he shared this story:
Two summers ago I was visiting a student of mine in a church in Texas. Nearby was Anson, Texas, where my dad had his first church. My dad took me there to visit when I was 10 years old, but I wanted to see it again. Anson is small so I figured I could just wander around and find the church. I found the Baptist church – it was large, and the Methodist church. But I couldn’t spot the Presbyterian Church – it was a small town and must be close.
Soon I found the Jones County Museum, open on a Sunday afternoon. I stopped and figured that they would know where the church was. As I walked up the steps of the building there it was on the cornerstone – First Presbyterian. I hoped the Presbyterians had built a new building, but the lady inside told me that First Presbyterian had closed in 1984, and sold the building to the museum. She said that there is a room up front where I could see the congregation’s history.
So I walked up just off the chancel – there was my father’s old study – it was now the heritage room and all that was left of that church.
It haunted me to be where there was once such a vibrant church.
In my position at the church, I get to listen to the sermon three to four times every Sunday, and actually I think I get a bit more out of it that way. As I listened to this story it struck me service after service that quite apart from a small Presbyterian Church in Texas, he could have been describing almost any church in Europe. When I enter the dome in Cologne, I am struck by the magnficience of it. There is a powerful sense of that place as a monument to God. However, in reality, it is largely just a magnet for tourists. So much so, in fact, that the Munster in Ulm contains a tourist shop in the lobby and the side of the Dome in Cologne is given over to a camera shop. To most Europeans, the beautiful artistry that so moves me, is representative of a religion that has failed to meet their needs.
When I asked Dr. Singleton’s permission to share his story with you, he shared another interesting thing he had once been taught. He told me that a movement usually begins with a man. It spreads to men, and then as it becomes a movement, it has a moment of peril when it can either explode with growth or become a monument. If it becomes a monument it will eventually be just a museum. The great cathederals of Europe have ceased to represent a movement, they have become museums.