Murphey: Church members hard to find



March 7, 2011 - 12:00 AM

Gary Murphey, pastor at Community of Christ Church, wants to share his Mormon faith.
Trouble is, nobody seems to want to listen.
“We can’t get people to come to the church,” he said. “What do you do? That’s a question I’d love to find the answer to.”
He has asked other pastors and hasn’t gotten a good answer. “Mainly, they say, ‘If you find out, let me know,’” Murphey said.
The Mormon faith pretty much toes the line with Christianity, Muphey said.
“We believe in God as the creator of all things, in the Trinity and that Jesus Christ came for all sinners,” he said. “We believe Jesus died on the cross to build a bridge for sinners to have a way to accept the grace of God and go to Heaven.”
Community of Christ is one of two Mormon churches in town. The other is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints on East Carpenter Street.
The traditional Bible is used at Community, a mile east of Iola along U.S. 54, and Murphey has no strong convictions about which version a person prefers.
“I think the only difference between the King James version and others is in the language and the way the word of God is presented,” he said. “They all say the same thing.”
Those who worship regularly at Community of Christ also believe that Joseph Smith was called by God to translate the gold plates he received from God and write an inspired version of the Bible, the Book of Mormon. It expands on traditional biblical accounts and tells the story of Jesus’ physical presence in North America, Murphey explained.
“It was not the second coming, though. He was in North America to anoint 12 disciples, just as in the Holy Land,” he said. “The book also tells the history of the Mormon people and what Jesus did while in North America.”

MANY NEED Christ in their lives, but don’t know who He is or how to get to know Him, Murphey said. Fostering that relationship is the role of his and other churches.
Murphey thinks there is urgency to bring more into the fold. He recalled attending a motorcycle rally in Arkansas that involved law enforcement officers and firefighters, active and retired.
“I saw a lot of people who needed Christ in their lives,” he said.
Noting that “love thy neighbor” is the great commandment, Murphey proposed that if “everyone was in tune with God, we wouldn’t have the problems we have today.”
He thinks many people are searching for a relationship with God and a church home, but try as he might, he is unable to get people involved with his church.
“We once had 80 or more who attended regularly,” Murphey said. Now, primarily because of attrition associated with age, the number is about 20 most Sundays and seldom more than 30.
He recalled when the church was built in the mid-1970s, members did all the work and completed the structure in short order. “It looked like a bunch of ants on the roof when we put on the shingles.”
“Most of our members are older and dependable,” he said. “We know about who is going to be at church each Sunday. Occasionally, we have new people come, but they seldom come back.” His supposition is that what Community of Christ has to offer “doesn’t fit the bill. Maybe if we could get them to understand better who we are and what we stand for, they’d come back.
“I just don’t know what it would take, maybe some motivational event, maybe a disaster, to draw people closer to God. Our doors always are open if someone is searching for a church.”

MURPHY, AS an elder, usually dresses in traditional manner, suit and tie, for Sunday services, but as most in the ministry observe, he thinks “God is more concerned with what’s in people’s hearts than what’s on their bodies.
“We don’t care how people come to church, as long as it’s tasteful. We want people to be comfortable.”
Services start at 11 a.m. and are preceded by Sunday school, if any youngsters are on hand. Several members are available to be with children and tutor them. A Sunday school class also is available for adults. Most Tuesday evenings women gather for Scripture study.
Services are traditional, with hymns, prayers and a message, which he gives once a month and arranges for others in the congregation to do other Sundays. Occasionally services include special music and there is a screen a speaker may use to accentuate what he has to say with technology.
“We used to have family movies once in a while,” but that has fallen aside with the drop in attendance, Murphey said.
Community of Christ does not have a formal altar call at the conclusion of services.
“We preach about people accepting the Lord as their savior and for anyone who wants to, or to seek counsel, myself and others in the priesthood always are available,” Murphey said.

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