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23 January 2013

Mostly Harmless

GARDENDALE | Wed Jan 2, 2013 8:15am EST -- Several years ago in Gardendale, Alabama, a suburb of Birmingham, a group of people with similar interests began to meet in a community center they rented every other Saturday. The facility in an upper middle class section of town; an area where people took pride in their landscaping, had solid high-paying jobs, two and a half kids, etc.

There was nothing at all unusual about people meeting in the community center, but when word got out that the crowd was made up of parolees, convicted felons, and people who'd been accused of any number of crimes from petty theft to rape and arson, the community was none too happy, for obvious reasons.

Fairly soon it was discovered that the meetings were essentially seminars where attendees were given what amounted to step-by-step tutorials on topics like disarming alarm systems, offensive combat techniques, and weapons training. As this leaked out, the well-to-do neighborhoods nearby became paralyzed with fear. Sales of high-end security systems, video monitoring systems, and home window security bars nearly tripled in the first two months of the group's meetings.

Over time, however, the community residents were surprised that although there was an occasional burglary in the neighborhood or a petty theft at a nearby convenience store, the crime rate didn't actually rise. On top of that, the extra income generated by the facility rental allowed the community center to make improvements on its property, initially adding a baseball diamond and after a few years, a swimming pool. The leader of the group continued to make occasional appearances on local-access TV channels and in spite of being outspoken and having rather alarming commentary on some issues, his ideas never gained traction outside the group.

It wasn't very long before the group of people meeting in the community center came to be classified as "mostly harmless."

The above is a work of fiction; a parable submitted for your consideration. Has the Church become all bark and no bite? Are our meetings just informational seminars that rarely result in action or implementation? Do we expect to get by on our reputation or things we've done in the past? Are we really "mostly harmless"?

If we lived and practiced what Jesus taught and what we teach in our meetings, wouldn't we expect to see some crazy changes in our communities?

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