I attended Fourth Street Missionary Baptist Church in Columbus, Ga., once. It was at the invitation of a former high school classmate, Johnny Flakes III. His father, Rev. J.H. Flakes Jr., was preaching that day.
I still remember the sermon –What will be your report?
I hear Rev. Flakes’s stirring voice as I type out those words. ”What will be your report?” Flakes was speaking specifically of the day when we all get home.
In her book, One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp says that we aren’t running out of time but actually heading toward timelessness. She says that much more eloquently than I have but you get the gist of it.
Rev. Flakes made it clear that when we get to the place of timelessness, we’ll have to give an accounting. Hand over the report card, so to speak.
When I attended Fourth Street Baptist, where Rev. Flakes has been preaching for 50 years, the church body was small. There might have been a hundred-and-fifty people there that day.
Tim and I stood out because, other than a girlfriend who went with us, we were the only white people there. They say that the churches are the most segregated institutions remaining in the South and it’s true, if you discount the country clubs. (If this sort of thing intrigues you and you haven’t yet read The Big Eddy by David Rose you might want to get a copy.)
I don’t know if the folks at Fourth Street still greet visitors the same way now that they have 3,000 attending, but when we went, Rev. Flakes asked us to stand, then the whole of the church filed past us, and welcomed us. Tim was probably a lot less enthusiastic about that welcome than I was, being that he’d rather people didn’t notice him ever, for anything.
I think there’s something honorable about a receiving line. Having everyone in church pass along the pew in front of us to shake our hands or hugs our necks seemed so hospitable to me. I loved being able to look into the faces of everyone there that day. I wish all churches had a way for us to greet one another in a similar fashion. Sometimes I look around the church I attend and wonder, “Who are these people?” It disturbs me that I don’t know a lot of them by name. Do you ever feel like that?
When Rev. Flakes III first told his wife that God was calling him to preach, she responded: There ain’t no way God would call you.
I’m no preacher but I’ve heard that same sort of surprised reaction from more than a handful of people over the years. It can be disheartening, really, when we get to counting up all the people who expect less from us than God does.
What will be your report?
It’s a good question. One we all ought to ponder more thoughtfully.
Mike Owen at the Columbus-Ledger has written a wonderful article about Rev. Flakes, click here if you’d like to read more about the preacher who has been faithfully serving the same community for the past 50 years.
Imagine. Fifty years in the same pulpit.
I bet when Rev. Flakes Jr. hands over his report, God is going to reply, “Excellent, Johnny. Excellent.”