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Beware of the Ghosts in Your Church

Old churches are creepy at midnight. There is just really no way around it. I have shepherded three antique churches, my current church predating the Revolutionary War. I spend a lot of time doing writing and research in the very late night hours in my study in my antique church. I sometimes envision myself like Martin Luther, hovered over an ancient manuscript, reading by candlelight in scholarly robes, while the Devil himself lurks in the hallways trying to distract me.

Every creaking sound and gust of wind has me questioning my lack of faith in the presence of ghosts living in the cemetery and sanctuary of this old church on the edge of the Great Dismal Swamp. While I know it is fanciful to believe in ghosts and the Bible gives clear evidence that when a person dies they either enter the presence of God or fall away into darkness, there are ghosts living in every church. Ghost members haunt the halls of contemporary church plants and ancient churches everywhere.

Here are four of the ghosts by name that commonly plague the living in our churches:

1. Somebody. This church phantom is a real workhorse. You can’t believe how much he accomplishes! You know, he is the one who is supposed to do everything you don’t or won’t do. “Don’t worry—Somebody will take care of stocking the kitchen with paper towels, ordering candles for the sconces, updating the audio visual computer …” Somebody is absolutely amazing!

Somebody lives in in every church because everybody thinks somebody will do it. The trouble about Somebody is, while he enjoys the accolades from what people think he accomplishes, he is actually very lazy. He is always shirking his duties to others. In fact, very often what everybody thinks Somebody is going to do just doesn’t get done.  

2. Unassuming. She is the one who quietly does all the things you don’t realize she does. Every time a visitor takes a request for information card out of a pew, they can let the church leadership know about their visit because Ms. Unassuming spent two hours in the church office tricking the out-of-date copy machine to make cards that fit in the odd-sized slots in the 100-year-old pews. She makes new copies of the card whenever they are running low.

Contrary to the assumption on the part of many church members, the pews are not honed from magical trees from Narnia and cannot produce their own pens and cards for the convenience of regular attender and visitor alike. If it were not for Ms. Unassuming haunting the halls of church meeting houses all across our land, many of those churches would be in far greater disarray.

She doesn’t do her chores seeking attention. She just wants to see the message of the Gospel go forward. Unassuming deserves a lot more credit than she gets, but most church members don’t even know she exists.

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chris@chrissurber.com'
Chris Surber is the Pastor of Cypress Chapel Christian Church in Suffolk, VA. He is also a religion columnist for the Suffolk News Herald.