It was a normal worship service. Until Big Randy walked in. Everything was moving as expected. No surprises. The musicians were skillfully playing […]
It was a normal worship service. Until Big Randy walked in.
Everything was moving as expected. No surprises.
The musicians were skillfully playing the right rhythms so the congregation would be able to follow the worship singing. The children were eagerly awaiting their special story time. A couple older folks were watching the children, remembering what it was like to care for three kids under 7 years of age during worship. Peace filled the room.
Then Big Randy stormed into the church like a Cape buffalo on a warpath. His shouts announced his arrival long before he hit the doors. When he roared in, everything stopped.
Children were terrified, shrinking into the safety of their parents’ laps. Most of the congregation tried to keep singing, but it was difficult to sing above Big Randy’s voice.
The musicians? They did not change their beat. Their duty was far more important than Big Randy’s arrival.
The pastor, knowing Big Randy well, sat still, prayed silently, and waited to see how the Holy Spirit would lead.
Big Randy, so drunk that you could get drunk yourself just by smelling his breath, was praising God. Loudly. Very loudly.
“Jesus is our King, our Redeemer, our Saviour, our Brother,” Big Randy blubbered through his beer. “I am a sinner, but Jesus loves me anyway,” Big Randy continued, his words slurred by the alcohol that was now his only friend.
A couple deacons moved to Big Randy’s side, guiding him like pilot boats bringing a huge ship through a difficult channel of the bay. The deacons had been confronted by Big Randy before, several times. Demon rum seemed to bring the worst out of him. Though his words uplifted God, his life was fueled by drugs and alcohol rather than by love for God.
Big Randy followed their guidance, still proclaiming God’s goodness with drunken roars as they moved him toward one of the back rows. The men began asking him questions about his life and soon the worship service was proceeding again.
* * *
For a few uninterrupted minutes.
Then Armaund arrived.
Armaund lived under a bridge near the church. He had no real home, and his only friends were a gang of murderous drug dealers. He was scarred, angry, strong, and dangerous, a man to be avoided at all costs.
“Church” had never been on his list of places to visit.
Armaund crashed through the doors shouting blasphemies against everything divine.
“I am the devil!” Armaund proclaimed.
From there it got worse, terrifying the congregation and transforming the worship service into a palace for demons.
The pastor, who had heard Armaund berate others in the village beneath the bridge, bowed his head and prayed silently with the fervency of the apostle Paul.
“Now is Your time, Lord. The enemy is here, challenging us to rise and fight him. Or to run and hide. I call for Your Holy Spirit to come with full divine power into our service right now, Lord. The enemy declares war. Please show us Your peace.”
* * *
The pastor waited, eager to see what the Spirit would do.
It didn’t take long. Almost immediately there was a stir on the back pew where Big Randy was sitting with the deacons. Big Randy, still breathing drunken fumes, rose unsteadily, found his legs, and marched silently toward Armaund. Like a snake toward a mouse.
Like a Christian toward the devil.
Big Randy is called “Big” for a reason. He towers above everyone, is shaped like a large truck, and moves as if on a mission to “clear the road.” Everyone moved aside to give him space as he stalked toward Armaund.
Armaund felt him coming and turned as Big Randy walked directly into his face.
“You will not blaspheme my Jesus in this house of worship,” Big Randy proclaimed.
That brought out the worst in Armaund, who continued his hate-filled words, now directing each one into Big Randy’s face. None of that deterred Big Randy. Now standing only inches from “the devil,” Big Randy grabbed Armaund’s shoulders and commanded the devil to “leave this man right now!”
Armaund, nearly blown away by Big Randy’s drunken breath, shouted even more loudly. So Big Randy released his hold on Armaund’s shoulders and shifted his giant hands to the jowls of the enemy.
“Come out of this man right now!” he shouted nose to nose with Armaund and the demons who had taken over the man’s life.
The battle, loud, powerful, demonic, and divine, captivated the church for nearly 20 minutes. Armaund’s demons tried to outshout Big Randy’s commands, but Big Randy’s connection to his Jesus grew stronger with each of the demons’ screams.
Suddenly, like that long-ago day on the stony shore of Galilee, the demons fled. Armaund, so weak that it seemed the demons had taken his bones with them, collapsed into Big Randy’s welcoming arms. Big Randy, fully sober, as if he had been drinking only the “Water of Life,” hugged Armaund like a newborn baby.
“He’s ours now,” Big Randy shouted loudly as the pastor, the deacons, the old folk, the parents, the children, and several strangers rushed to join the celebration.
* * *
The musicians began a brighter rhythm and struck higher notes. Everyone joined in singing a new song, “The Song of the Redeemed.”
* * *
When I heard this story I was amazed and filled with questions.
“Did this really happen?”
“Are Armaund and Big Randy real people, or just made up by the storyteller?”
I quickly learned that the story was true and that these were real people.
Then I had more questions:
“Why did the pastor sit quietly and pray, rather than jump up and solve the problems?”
“What church members are so in tune with the Holy Spirit that both Big Randy and Armaund feel comfortable attending?”
And the most important question of all: “How can I help my church be like this congregation?”
Dick Duerksen, a pastor and storyteller living in Portland, Oregon, United States, is known around the world as “an itinerant pollinator of grace.”