The Revolution

The preacher just needed a good spanking. At least that was the perspective of Dennis, our church’s three-year-old revolutionary. Let me back up and set the scene for you.

It was Sabbath, and we had a special guest leading our worship—a high-ranking church official. Forty happy worshipers sang, prayed and gave testimonies. It was one of those Sabbaths when you really feel the Spirit’s blessing of unity and joy. As a church planter in the 10/40 Window, hearing Turks praise Jesus is my fuel.

But maybe the testimonies this Sabbath were a tad too long. Maybe the prayer dragged on a bit. Maybe there were too many songs for special music. But it was such a high Sabbath that no one really noticed. No one, that is, except Dennis.

When you are three years old, a punctual lunchtime really matters. On this day, at precisely 1:26 p.m., there was only one thing standing between Dennis and lentil roast: the church official behind the pulpit. And Dennis decided he must be dealt with in a forthright manner.

Dennis’ father is Turkish. Many Turkish men name their sons after Bible prophets, Islamic greats, or historical tyrants like Genghis Khan. Dennis’ father chose the latter option. I was at the hospital to welcome Dennis into the world. At 3 a.m. his father, beaming with delight, announced to me, “I’ll name him after Dennis the Menace.” Well, as the proverb says, “A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches.”

That Sabbath morning, the church official was preaching in English (not his first language) through a Turkish interpreter. Sadly, the preacher’s English wasn’t the best, and the interpreter was a little rusty. The net result was that the deep spiritual musings that had seemed so inspiring to the preacher at 5 a.m. in his study now came across like selected readings from a car repair manual. Noticing the vacant stares of his congregation, the preacher tried to compensate by diving even deeper into the wonderful theological depths, leaving the floundering interpreter to make grand, desperate guesses about what he might be saying.

If no adult is brave enough to bring this senseless suffering to an end, thought Dennis, then I will! Sliding off his chair, he made his move. Like David advancing toward Goliath, all 30 inches of Dennis moved swiftly and confidently down the church aisle. Without a word, he swept toward the rear flanks of the high-ranking church official, wound up, and swung like a baseball hall-of-famer aiming for the grandstands.

It was a spank heard ‘round the world.

His payload delivered, Dennis fled.

For a brief eternity, every face in the congregation was paralyzed—torn between horror and delight. They wanted to sympathize with the preacher, yet Dennis’ stroke had expressed their sentiments rather well. What could they say that would simultaneously articulate two thoughts: “Shame on you, Dennis!” and “Viva la revolución! Bring on the potluck!”

Dennis’ mother was absent that day, so everyone turned to see his father’s reaction. And what a scene of serenity met their eyes. His sagging head bobbing up and down in rhythm with his breathing, he was sleeping like a baby.

The sermon went on for another 15 minutes. Not all revolutions succeed.

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