It happened several years ago. In fact, it was long enough ago that I was still working full time in public education and supply preaching every chance I got. It happened during one of my supply preaching opportunities.

I had preached the best, most powerful, dynamic sermon on humility that probably had ever been preached. (This is a joke. I don’t really remember what I preached. But, I do remember the rest of the story.) I finished my message and gave the obligatory “every eye closed, every head bowed.” Every other church I said that in has always had some “peekers.” Most of them have been very sly at peeking. Others have been very blatant about peeking. But every church has had them.

Except this one.

This is the only church that I have ever preached in that everyone immediately closed their eyes and bowed their heads. I began an invitation that Billy Graham would have been proud of. As I scanned the congregation looking for signs of someone getting up to make a decision for Jesus, I saw it.

An older lady slumped over on the older lady next to her. We will call the one who slumped the slumper, and the one who got slumped on the slumpee. Otherwise, this will get a bit confusing. So, the slumper slumped over on the slumpee. The slumpee immediately elbowed the slumper. I guess the slumper must have had a habit of falling asleep and leaning over on the slumpee. Only this time the slumpee was having none of this. She gave the slumper a swift elbow. The slumper’s head kind of bounced up, but fell right back down on the slumpee, who immediately responded with another elbow. The slumper’s head went up and then back down. The slumpee responded with a third elbow.

It was then that I realized that the slumper was having some sort of issue. Either my preaching had stunned her, or she had passed out, or she was having some sort of seizure. I immediately went into emergency medical mode. I went to where the slumper was still slumping on the slumpee. The slumpee was still elbowing her. I whispered to the slumpee that I didn’t think that was helping.

I drug the slumpee out into the aisle, discovered she still had a pulse, which meant my preaching had not actually harmed her. I needed someone to call 911 or something. But everyone was still in his/her place with eyes closed and head bowed. Finally, someone peeked. They always do. He came to assist me. We got an ambulance called, which came and carried off the slumper, who it turned out had only had a seizure.

By the time the EMTs had carted this woman off, it was obvious that the invitation was over. But the church had planned to have “dinner on the grounds.” That is one of my favorite things about church. We prayed for the slumper, who we felt sorry for because she wasn’t going to have any “dinner on the grounds.” And then we ate and ate and ate.

As the party was breaking up, I stood up and walked over to the pulpit to retrieve my Bible. When I turned around, a very elderly lady was approaching me. She had the most beautiful blue tint to her hair. She had two new tennis balls on the front two legs of her walker (after all it was Sunday). And she came straight toward me.

I waited with some trepidation. After all, you never know what someone is going to say to you in church. She finally got to me and in the sweetest voice said, “Well Brother Joe, you really laid them in the aisle today.” I was speechless (which doesn’t happen often) as she walked on by.

Some things to think about. One, if you are going to slump in church, you need to be careful about who you sit next to. Two, always have someone handy who knows the number to 911. Three, “dinner on the grounds” is a great way to end any church service.

Joe Ligon

Senior Associate Executive Director