By Bob Dickey
We receive some odd messages on our church building answering machine, but a recent message surely must be among the most bizarre. The voice said, “Hello, My name is Charles _________, and the reason for my call is to make you aware of my phone service called, `Charlie Cheer.’ Charlie makes a phone call to shut-ins, the sick, the handicapped, and the elderly; and he does that every day. He brings them humor, inspiration, and some nostalgia. If you wish to know more about the service, you may call me at _________ Have a good day!”
Now, at first, I thought this might be a trick message planted by one of my preaching colleagues. Some of my friends have been known to make strange calls and humorous requests just to have a laugh at my expense. So, I approached the “Charlie Cheer” service cautiously. To my surprise, I found that this was a genuine service being offered to area churches, and Charlie was really “on the level.”
When I called to talk to Charlie, a gruff voice answered. I asked to speak to the Charles of “Charlie Cheer” and soon came to realize that Charles was moonlighting. I was relieved to know that his family had some other means of support to depend upon besides his new cheery church message service.
Charlie cautiously inquired why I was calling; then, when assured that I really was a preacher at an area church, happily provided more details about his calling service. I found out that his telephone calls are available on six different topics (including baseball), but his most popular ones are humor, inspiration, and nostalgia. His regular charge for this service to an individual is $12 a month, but for churches, he has reduced the price to a mere $5 a month and that is for a call every day. What a bargain, I thought! I told Charlie I was impressed. I said he must care a great deal about the sick, elderly, and other shut-ins, to make so many calls every day. He replied (and that is when the bubble burst), “Well, I do it all by computer recording.”
Isn’t it amazing what lengths we will go in order to fulfill our personal responsibilities? I keep thinking that nothing would surprise me anymore that modern churches might practice, then, along comes something like this “Charlie Cheer.” Now don’t get me wrong. I think there may be a place for Charlie’s service, and I’m satisfied that there are shut-ins that will be delighted to get just such a call every day. The thing that I have a problem with here is the cold and uncaring way we cast off those who may need our help and encouragement. Are we all too busy to make a personal call or visit? At first thought, “Charlie Cheer” seems to be a service with an unbeatable price, but what our sick and elderly really need is a little bit of our personal time and attention. I realize the importance of computers, and I know the value of an answering machine, but we must not reduce our individual responsibility to something that can be discharged by a recording.
It is the same problem we have with evangelism. Most want someone else to do it for them. But Charlie can’t do it for me. The preacher can’t do it for you. And the Missionary Society can’t do it for the church! “Pure religion and undefiled before our God and Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world” (Jas. 1:27)
No doubt, Charlie’s service will do well, and bring some cheer and comfort to others. The only question I have is: Will we?
Guardian of Truth XXXVIII: 7, p. 11
April 7, 1994