Preaching in Mayberry? Lessons from The Andy Griffith Show

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Are you preaching in Mayberry?

March 23, 2023 -

FILE - This Oct. 28, 2003 file photo shows actor Andy Griffith sitting in front of a bronze statue of Andy and Opie from the "Andy Griffith Show," after the unveiling ceremony in Raleigh, N.C. Griffith, whose homespun mix of humor and wisdom made "The Andy Griffith Show" an enduring TV favorite, died Tuesday, July 3, 2012 in Manteo, N.C. He was 86. (AP Photo/Bob Jordan, File)

FILE - This Oct. 28, 2003 file photo shows actor Andy Griffith sitting in front of a bronze statue of Andy and Opie from the "Andy Griffith Show," after the unveiling ceremony in Raleigh, N.C. Griffith, whose homespun mix of humor and wisdom made "The Andy Griffith Show" an enduring TV favorite, died Tuesday, July 3, 2012 in Manteo, N.C. He was 86. (AP Photo/Bob Jordan, File)

FILE - This Oct. 28, 2003 file photo shows actor Andy Griffith sitting in front of a bronze statue of Andy and Opie from the "Andy Griffith Show," after the unveiling ceremony in Raleigh, N.C. Griffith, whose homespun mix of humor and wisdom made "The Andy Griffith Show" an enduring TV favorite, died Tuesday, July 3, 2012 in Manteo, N.C. He was 86. (AP Photo/Bob Jordan, File)

My late brother-in-law, Jerry, did not have an easy life. He was born into a “financially challenged” family in southeastern Mississippi. He and his younger sister (my wife) were both born with significant nerve-related hearing loss. Unfair could easily have been the watchword of Jerry’s life. He also had significant eyesight issues that plagued him for a lifetime. He had more than his fair share of illnesses, injuries, and surgeries. Yet, you were never around Jerry long before you heard some reference to The Andy Griffith Show.

It was a primetime staple in the 1960s and has been resurrected enormous numbers of times on cable TV. Jerry claimed that he had seen all 249 episodes—multiple times. He could cite much of the dialogue while watching reruns.

There was something about that Mayberry mob that appealed to him. Except for Andy, the cast was an accumulation of odd characters—misfits in many ways. Life hadn’t been exactly fair to many of them either.

Some of us preach to crowds like this.

Shepherding misfits and outcasts

There was Barney Fife, deputy to Andy’s role of sheriff in the fictitious North Carolina hamlet. Barney was anxious, high-strung, and reactionary.

Then there was Aunt Bee. She was a worrywart, handwringer, and a bit of a gossip.

The cousins Goober and Gomer pretty much define the concept bumpkin. Gomer was simple-minded, Pollyannaish, and gullible. He was a gas station attendant, a role that has almost disappeared from society. Goober, well, his name says it all.

One of the more notable characters was Ernest T. Bass. He was a rock-throwing, generally angry troublemaker. Combative is a kind way to describe his personality.

And Otis was an alcoholic who often put his drunken self into a Mayberry jail cell where the keys hung easily within reach.

All of them were unmarried, divorced, or widowed. They each had idiosyncrasies that drove the others crazy.

But, Sheriff Taylor (Andy Griffith) showed us weekly that almost anything could be overcome.

Leading like Andy

He kept forgiving Floyd the barber for never getting his sideburns even. Andy was constantly running interference between Barney’s bungling and the dismayed Mayberry public. He calmed Aunt Bee’s frequent fretting.

With those skills, Andy could have easily been a pastor. He didn’t make the craziness go away; he just helped everyone deal with it. And, often, he led them to find good in it.

Like me, you may see yourself as the “Andy” in the craziness that invades your life regularly. Most of us don’t think of ourselves as Barney or Goober or Ernest T. Bass. Yet other “Andys” might see us (at times) as misguided troublemakers in their Mayberry.

One way I have tried to process the “weaknesses” of my Mayberry mob is to attempt to identify a strength underlying the weakness I am experiencing in them. I simply think they’re carrying that strength to the extreme, making it an issue for the rest of us.

Those who appear arrogant may see that trait as self-confidence. Maybe those I consider lazy consider themselves laid-back and relaxed (too relaxed in my righteous estimation).

The ones who come across as pushy are really just assertive—on steroids. At least that’s how the “Andy” in me copes with the Mayberry where I live.

Not all weaknesses, of course, can be seen this way. But some can. If you look hard.

Ultimately, living successfully in any Mayberry is “making lemonade out of lemons.”

The attraction of Mayberry living

But understand, if I let others’ idiosyncrasies push me to my extremes, I just become part of the cast of misfits rather than an Andy, the agent of mercy and grace.

For some, Mayberry represented the “good ol’ days.” But, were they really that good?

Nostalgia can distort the past. While The Andy Griffith Show’s Mayberry seemed idyllic in many ways, the show was set in the ’60s. Civil and political unrest were rife. Vietnam was raging. Racial unrest was spilling into our cities’ streets. Assassinations in the US were almost common.

Yet, in this milieu, The Andy Griffith Show was a meteoric primetime success. Mayberry was a “sanctuary” of sorts from the realities of the day. Maybe it was the forgiveness, helpfulness, and understanding, though, that attracted viewers instead of some fictitious town. Perhaps the kindness, propriety, and moral values displayed were winsome to a weary population.

Where is the fruit of the Spirit flourishing today?

As you “Andy” your congregation, do they experience the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control? (Galatians 5:22–23).

Many of these nine elements were often evident in the 1960’s Mayberry.

If our culture is yearning for that too but looking for it elsewhere, surely that tells us something about us and about our churches. Centuries ago, a Benedictine monk wrote a prayer that the church has sung through the ages, “Come Holy Spirit, Creator, come . . . .”

Perhaps it is time to sing it again.

Times are hard in 2023’s Mayberry.

But we are not the first generation to live at a time when it’s tough to be a Christ-follower.

Come Holy Spirit.

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