By Joshua Trammell
It’s 7:30 AM, and we all know the last thing you want to do right now is go to church. The incessant beeping of your alarm slowly raises you up like Lazarus from the grave. Looking in the mirror, you look like Lazarus from the grave. But take heart wayward Christian! We can whitewash that filthy, unmotivated tomb in no time. Stop allowing yourself to appear “dead in your transgressions” at church. Fool them all with The Sluggards Survival Guide to Baptist Living (for young men only) – females should contact their head of household for instruction. Follow these four simple steps and you’ll have even the savviest of deacons believing you’re the second coming of Billy Graham.
Survival Tip #1: The Wily Windsor
Ninety percent of any churchgoer’s battle is won or lost within the small time frame between rolling out of bed and walking out your front door. Any self-respecting Christian you will come in contact with is privy to the information that “if you look good, you feel good.” Thus, those at church who “look good” are undoubtedly equated with those who are experiencing the good life of spiritual blessing. So stop being a sluggard! Wear a tie! Slacks and a collared shirt are a must in order to blend in, and above all else, avoid the abominable sin of the white socks and/or brown shoes with black pants. A tasteful trick of the trade is to arrive on time to church pretending that you meant to be early. In this rushed appearance, enter the main double doors triumphantly, necktie draped over your shoulders. This is an important detail. No one will judge you for being on time in fact, the notion that you were rushing to be early will earn you a few spiritual kudos. Upon entering the doors, promptly begin to tie your neck tie. This display serves multiple purposes. To the other young men in the church it asserts your dominance and higher degree of sophistication and spirituality. To the adults and elderly, it displays a sense of responsibility and an acknowledgement for “the good old days” when a good Christian man was synonymous with a sharp suit and well-tied tie. To the eligible females your age, of which there are probably none, this reveals your manliness and chaste virility. This next note is of primary importance! Should anyone ask you what knot you tied, always assert that it is either a single-Winsor, regal and refined, or a double-Winsor, official and businesslike. Regardless of the fact that you most likely only know how to attempt a feeble half-Windsor at the most, most gentlemen won’t really know the difference except by the name you give it. Leave the knot a little loose so as to make it appear larger without compromising its structural integrity. However, should an exceptionally astute man call your bluff, simply note that you choose this lesser knot because the others do not compliment your neck size or shape. Never admit that you don’t know how to tie them.
Survival Tip #2: Smile and Shake
This section applies mainly to interaction with gentlemen, but first, in a general sense of appearance, perfecting the smile and nod is vital to your Christian faith. A quick half smile and nod followed by a friendly good morning, if necessary, will allow you to pass by most members of the congregation without ever having to enter into meaningful conversation. Don’t be afraid to practice your smile in the mirror, it is not vain. A well timed smile, full of calculated charm, can do wonders in revealing your desired spiritual state to otherwise judgmental individuals.
Few tests of spirituality are as fundamental and important as the traditional Baptist handshake; a graceful tango of power and respect between two confident males. Never shy away from a handshake. Should you do this, this undoubtedly means you are hiding sin or guilt in your life. Likewise, Christian men pounce on few things more quickly than a half-hearted or wimpy handshake. Approach the individual confidently, smiling and making direct eye-contact. His acknowledgement in doing the same will nonverbally initiate the Baptist ritual. A technically sound handshake can mean the difference between acceptance and rejection. Remembering never to break direct eye contact, firmly insert the wide space between your thumb and index finger into the congruent space in their hand, keeping your palm firm but not overbearingly rigid. How hard he squeezes will determine how much authority he feels the need to exert over you. A firm grip shows respect and should be returned by an equally firm squeeze of acknowledgement and a smile of agreement. A brutal, hand-crushing, shake shows blatant disregard for any sense of worth you have. This shake cannot be salvaged but should be abandoned until the next chance meeting. Should he offer a loose limp shake, take advantage of this rarity, and crush his hand in a display of dominance.
Survival Tip #3: Give Grace to the Gossips
Next, you should consider the means to the preservation of your appearance within the church body. Elderly Ladies within the church should be your primary target. Not only are they easy to charm, but they are the grapevine through which all church gossip, good or bad, will flow. Graft yourself into this branch by making a little extra effort with this group. Always remembering to smile (wider than normal in this case) offer one nice complement and you will win their favor. Tell Bernice her flower arrangement is exquisite today, or comment on the latest shade of purple in Beulah’s hair. Short and sweet comments such as these will compound from week to week until you are widely known among the church body as “such a sweet young man.”
Concerning worship, when you pray or sing, make sure you are in a position where people can see you, yet you are not in prominent view. Front and off to the right or left is often a beneficial choice. In singing worship choruses, close your eyes constantly, and if the song seems particularly moving, tilt your head up and squint with an expression similar to agony. This is how spiritual people worship God. Get a feel for the church. If it is a church that encourages hand raising or types of spiritual aerobics in which you stand up, sit down, and kneel according to the “moving of the Spirit” (this will be rare in Baptist churches) then do so in accordance with what will make you appear most spiritual. Stand out in a way that is common by doing what the congregation does, but of your own accord and timing. This shows you are an independent Christian, moved by the Spirit. Should you be asked to sing hymns (this is common in Baptist churches) change your approach entirely. Stand up straight, and sing proudly – chin high, making sure to articulate with dignity and clarity.
Concerning prayer, length, although monotonous, is always equated with spirituality. When you pray, make sure that you show how religious you are. Don’t ask God for things or thank him for what he has done and who he is, pray little mini-sermons, illuminating spiritual truths designed to “minister” to those listening in hopes they can become as spiritually inclined as you. Flowery language such as the original language of the Bible, King James English, can add needed effect to the impact of your prayers.
So wake up you sluggard! Surviving a Baptist church doesn’t need to be difficult. Don’t look like a heathen. This Survival Guide could transform Charles Darwin into Charles Spurgeon. Follow these four steps religiously, and I personally guarantee you will see genuine spiritual fruit after your first three weeks!