“Barney Gets His Man” is a favorite episode from The Andy Griffith Show. In that episode, there’s a high-speed car chase, Andy carries a gun and an African-American citizen can be seen in the background when the criminal is apprehended
If that’s the only episode you ever watch, you might think Mayberry is a center for urban crime with a diverse population. If you watch more than one episode, you realize that’s not a good representation of Mayberry.
On the other hand, nothing much was true about Mayberry anyway.
Though based on the towns of Mayberry and Pilot Mountain, the show was filmed on Hollywood backlots. Just about the only real establishment on the show was Snappy Lunch, where you can still get a pork chop sandwich today. You can get a haircut at Floyd’s Barbershop, but that opened later because of the show.
We don’t like to think of Mayberry as fiction. Andy Griffith makes us nostalgic for the good ol’ days. The only hardened criminals in Mayberry were passing through. Prankster Ernest T. Bass never did anyone any real harm. And on Sunday, everyone in town, including Otis the lovable drunk, gathered at the All Souls Church.
What remains unchanged is the Great Commission that Jesus imparted to the church to make disciples of all people.
I travel to “Mayberry” a lot, and not just for the pork chop sandwich. I’ve got family nearby. I’ve run in the Mayberry Half Marathon. I also travel to Mayberry as a missionary.
“Mayberry,” or Mount Airy, is also known as pocket of lostness No. 159. Recently I stopped on the side of Haymore Street to look at some data about pocket No. 159.
One of three families with children has no father in the home. One out of four adults over the age of 25 didn’t graduate from high school. There is far more ethnic diversity than the TV show would have led us to believe.
About one in six families live below the federal poverty line. And 11,000 of the 16,000 people who live there do not know Jesus. Suddenly I realized that I was parked right in front of Andy Griffith’s homeplace. We are definitely not in Mayberry anymore!
Mayberry, if it ever existed like we see it on the show, certainly does not exist anymore. All across North Carolina are little Mayberry-like towns that aren’t like they were a generation or two ago.
What remains unchanged, however, is the Great Commission that Jesus imparted to the church to make disciples of all people.
Whether you are in pocket No. 159 or anywhere else, there are lost people all around you, often within the shadows of steeples of North Carolina Baptist churches. Filled with the Holy Spirit, and committed to the task of impacting lostness through disciple-making, your church and every member of it can make a difference.
While some may wish for a return to Mayberry, we have the opportunity for something even better. As the gospel transforms lives in our communities, we find ourselves on the advancing edge of the kingdom of God.