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Zip-Line Church

By Mike Ruffin The Braves played in Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium from 1966-1996. That’s 31 years. This will be their 20th and final season playing at Turner Field. Next year, they’ll move into a brand new state-of-the-art park up in Cobb County. I expect the one after that to be built on the shores of beautiful Lake Lanier. When you look at a map that shows where their season ticket holders live, the move makes sense. There are other advantages to the new location. If they need to call up a player from the AAA Gwinnett Braves, he’ll be just an Uber drive away, for one. But as someone who lives south of Atlanta, I’m sorry they’re doing it. It’s going to make it much more complicated to get to the old ball park. Make that the new ball park. The new place is called SunTrust Park. It’s named for the bank, not as an indicator of Helios worship. It’s part of a huge development called The Battery Atlanta, which, its website modestly proclaims, ‘will be the South’s preeminent lifestyle destination.’ I didn’t know lifestyles have destinations. I think what they mean is that there will be stuff to do there, and the stuff will be fun. And expensive. It will feature dining, shopping and lodging of both the temporary (an Omni hotel) and long-term (550 ‘modern residences,’ which sounds to me like something out of The Jetsons) varieties. There’s no telling what kind of attractions the stadium will feature. I mean, at old run-down out-of-date Turner Field, you could have a radar gun measure the speed of your best fastball. They’ve already announced the inclusion at the new place of a zipline that will transport folks from one end of the concourse to the other. This will be cool. I know I want a kid stuffed with cotton-candy, hot dogs and Coke zipping over my head. What could go wrong that a long hot shower featuring much scrubbing with anti-bacterial soap won’t take care of? Oh, lest we forget, they’ll also play baseball there. Maybe a few folks – you know, the old-fashioned ‘traditionalists’ – will go to actually watch the games. It all reminds me of the way church is getting to be these days. Lots of stuff is going on at church. Some of it ranks right up there with a zip line. A long time ago in a city far, far away, our daughter went to a church’s Vacation Bible School during the summer between her kindergarten and first grade years. On Thursday, she came home excited because they were going to have a waterslide on Friday. So on Friday she went to Vacation Bible School with her swimsuit on under her clothes. When she got home, we asked her about the waterslide. ‘They just laid a big sheet of plastic on the side of a hill and sprayed water on it,’ she said. ‘It wasn’t that great.’ ’But you know,’ she continued, ‘You can’t judge a church by its waterslide.’ Maybe not. You probably shouldn’t judge a church for having a waterslide or zip line or whatever, either. And I understand the desire to try to attract folks to the church. I really believe, though, that we need to think long and hard about what we’re doing. We may inadvertently be sending the message that Jesus is not enough of an attraction. Another church in another community where I once lived had a big giveaway on Easter Sunday. They gave away a big screen TV, a Caribbean cruise and a car, among other things. They had a bigger crowd than we did. That’s understandable, though. All we had to offer was a crucified and resurrected Lord. Michael Ruffin is curriculum editor for Smyth and Helwys Christian publishers and a native of Lamar County. He has served Baptist churches in Fitzgerald, Adel and Augusta. Ruffin also has served as Associate Professor at the School of Religion at Belmont University. He preaches at The Rock Baptist Church at 11 a.m. on Sunday.

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