Pla-Mor Roller Rink (Cleveland) – Open with Cautious Optimism

02/27/2015 § Leave a comment

An update on the “closing/still open” news regarding Pla-Mor Roller Rink in Euclid OH, Friday, February 27, 2015:

According to one of the owners* of the business, the rink was scheduled to close this past Saturday, February 21. The lease was up at the end of February, and it was decided, at that time, that they could not continue to stay in business as it remained unprofitable after six years of operation.  The last two skating sessions that my wife and I would attend were this past Tuesday and yesterday evening.  (This past Tuesday was a good skate session, but it also felt like a wake before a funeral.)

It was not until literally yesterday afternoon when another owner made a comment on his personal Facebook page stating “problem solved…open for business as usual.” From that announcement, word got out to everyone involved with the rink that disaster was averted. The previous preparations for a farewell skating session last night turned into a joyous celebration! I was less optimistic but I never rule out miracles! A lot of people, including me and my wife, were praying for a great outcome, and it happened!

There is a very good reason to celebrate Pla-Mor and its survival to remain open for business. The Pla-Mor name is significant in Cleveland roller skating history. Back in the ’60s, it was the first black-owned roller skating rink in Cleveland, and it was a venue that was supported mostly by blacks when there was a fair amount of “private” segregation from other roller rinks. [1] Today’s reincarnation of the Pla-Mor is the only black-owned rink in the area, as well. It is a resurrection of the old Rollerdrome that closed in 2008. Pla-Mor opened in 2009 and, by all visible accounts, was moving along well. While there were some warning signs that items within the building needed repair (roof, air conditioning and plumbing), everyone wants to see the business succeed and grow. It continues to provide all skaters, young and old, with one of the finest venues for roller skating in the entire area.

After the euphoria of Pla-Mor staying open dies down, there are some significant issues and even criticism that I have with yesterday’s announcement that should hopefully call for some changes by Pla-Mor management going forward.

If the business was unprofitable for six years, then why did it take the threat of closing to marshal some much-needed support for the business? While I admire the candor behind the announcement that the business is struggling, I’m curious as to why nothing was mentioned well before now about where things were headed. Even if it meant doing something as simple as raising admission prices over the past couple of years, I think the vast majority of people would understand–especially if you are effectively communicating with them.  I don’t expect owners to openly tell people that things aren’t going well, but consideration needs to be given to the uniqueness of the roller skating business and its customers.  I note this because skaters make up a very close-knit group of people of all ages. They will drive considerable distances to different rinks just to have a chance to skate and have a good time (even travel together out-of-state). Pla-Mor certainly has this type of following. People who have been loyally supporting them over the years have continued to come out in all types of weather to skate and fellowship together.

In retrospect, I believe that the ownership did not fully understand the loyalty and goodwill that they had with their core group of skaters. It is regrettable that the communication throughout this entire process from the business to its customers was poor to non-existent. When rumors had surfaced that the business would close last week, there was no announcement whatsoever from the owners to address or counter the rumors, and social media was very quiet–except for people who were loyal Pla-Mor skaters who had learned that the business was in serious trouble. They were the ones who were reaching out to others to provide information as to what was going on. The internal communication was also extremely poor. One of the employees who I spoke to did not even know that the business was staying open until just before the evening skating session last night. Others, including my wife and I, had heard the news well before then.

There was some initial skepticism about the timing of these events, but the closing of the rink was a definite possibility.  Pla-Mor’s competition, United Skates of America in Wickliffe, must have known something for them to start up a new roller skating session on Thursday nights (via a post on their own Facebook page) that was to begin last night.  They were previously hosting only private parties on Thursdays. It wasn’t a coincidence. They must have gotten word that Pla-Mor was closing, or at the very least, was on the ropes.

There is now a price increase for admission for the Thursday night skate session from $7 per person to $10 per person. The business is losing money and needs to raise its prices. I get it. It’s tough to make money in the roller skating business. It’s an older building that has good bones but it needs repairs, has high utility and operating costs, and it also requires costly insurance premiums. Most existing rinks, like United Skates of America, use pay-to-play events like laser tag to supplement their income. With that said, what is Pla-Mor going to do to maintain or even improve the present skating environment within its four walls? Skaters enjoy skating, for sure, and we will do it as often as we can as long as the floor remains in very good to excellent condition. Pla-Mor needs a little TLC in spots; however, the most important part of the rink, its floor, has been dirty at times and its quality is slightly removed from the old Rollerdrome floor, which by all accounts was nothing short of pristine. Even with this, it still has, in my opinion, the best floor in town.  If anything needs to be done, it must be to keep the floor and its surface in tip-top condition.  Once the floor starts going bad, everything else will follow it. (As a comparison, Rocky’s in Tallmadge had a horribly buckled floor by the time it closed in early 2013. It was a safety hazard that drove many skaters away.)

The owners stated that they need to buy the existing building in order to reduce their monthly obligation, which makes perfect sense. According to a previous news article about Pla-Mor, it was strongly implied that they were purchasing the building from the former owner. [2] It now appears that this did not happen.

In addition to doing a better overall job with communication, Pla-Mor should revisit its marketing/advertising strategy. It doesn’t need to be anything tremendously expensive, but it needs to happen. Running a rink is more than just having a DJ play music. Up until now, the business has relied strictly on word-of-mouth to bring people in. Sending out flyers is also not going to get people to show up. The rink should absolutely take advantage of radio advertising to reach its demographic audience and even cater special skating sessions to specific audience demographics; for example, have sessions for adults 25 and over.  There should be strong consideration given to operating more open skating sessions and marketing private parties to shore up revenues.

In addition, while social media has its own criticisms for its level of effectiveness, Pla-Mor has not posted anything on their own Facebook page, which is a mistake that is being compounded due to inactivity (Why go to the trouble of starting a page and asking for members of the page to only let it sit idle?). If it wasn’t for the social media outcry that the rink was closing and the desire of many to fight for it to remain open (even with the posting of a GoFundMe page [3] by a skater–astounding!), the rink would likely be silent today. The rink website is now down completely when it was up as recently as a couple of weeks ago. An inexpensive alternative to a website is the use of the Facebook page to market their business. It is reaching its most important group right now.  If you don’t have time to run social media or manage a website, then ask someone to help you.  I’m confident that loyal skaters who are web and social media-savvy will do it for free.  It will require trust to a certain degree, but at this point you don’t have anything to lose and much more to gain.

All of this is under the assumption that the owners are making all of the prudent decisions to run their business. Pla-Mor successfully got past the dreaded 2-3 year window where small businesses fail. The daunting task will be how they can overcome a significant deterrent for some people (higher admission prices) while delivering a quality product for its loyal group of skaters.

I’m really happy they are still open, but it is with a cautious optimism. As long as they’re open for business, my wife and I will be there.

*Owners names withheld.

1 Mark Souther, “Pla-Mor,” Cleveland Historical, accessed February 27, 2015, http:/​/​clevelandhistorical.​org/​items/​show/​621.​

2 Blogpost – Ray Jablonski (2009). Northeast Ohio Media Group. http://blog.cleveland.com/euclidsunjournal/2009/06/euclid_new_owners_hope_skaters.html

3 http://www.gofundme.com/n3epeo

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Roller Skating Enthusiasm – Akron’s G.S.F.E. Cade

06/19/2011 § 2 Comments

Harlan Ferguson - Photo from G.S.F.E. Cade website

(Number Three of a Series)

My wife and I decided to visit the newer version of Akron’s Rollercade skating rink, the G.S.F.E. Cade on a recent Friday evening for a special skating session.  We decided to forego our regular session at the Pla-Mor on Thursday because it would have been too much for us to do back-to-back sessions, especially on a work night.

The special session was to honor one of Akron’s well-known skaters, the late Harlan Ferguson.  The tribute to him demonstrates the camaraderie and loyalty of skaters throughout the Cleveland and Akron area.  While I did not know him personally, I know that he was a fun-loving person that the skaters in the area really appreciated very much, and their gesture of having a private skate session in his honor was very heart-warming.

The old Rollercade had a similar history to that of the old Euclid Rollerdrome where it closed and reopened under new ownership, except that the Rollercade was closed for much longer as a skating rink.  For a few years, it actually operated under the name Rollercade Bingo Hall.  The skating floor had remained in place for all of that time, and when it reopened under its present ownership, it was the only skating rink within the Akron city limits.  For some, the alternative skating rink in the area was Rocky’s in Tallmadge, a few exits to the north off State Route 8, but it was difficult to take Rocky’s seriously as an alternative skating rink because of its poor and inconsistent floor conditions.  It was dirty more often than not, and there were some warped or missing floorboards in the center area where, if you weren’t careful, you could go airborne or go down very quickly if you weren’t paying attention.  Needless to say, it was exciting to hear that the old Rollercade was reopening, for there was a real need for a better floor in Akron to skate on.

The name G.S.F.E. Cade doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue.  I guessed that it involved the names of the newest owners of the rink, and I was right (According to the website, the rink is owned by Greg and Sissy Edwards…there is no explanation for the letter “F” in the name).  Most people now refer to it as the Cade or the old Rollercade.  Either way, it is easy to get to by expressway on East Market Street in Akron, and its hours of operation are actually at different times than the Pla-Mor in Euclid, which allows diehard skaters to attend sessions in Akron and Cleveland on four out of five days during the week without a conflict (The Cade has sessions on Monday and Wednesday evenings, while Pla-Mor is open Tuesday and Thursday evenings).  This wasn’t always the case when the rink first reopened, but since that time it has turned out to be a good business plan over time.

The G.S.F.E. Cade has changed their floor since my first visit to the rink around 2008.  At that time, the original floor was still down, and it wasn’t a bad floor.  It was a little dirty at that time, and a little slippery from all of the residue that was there.  I suspect that its early condition was not due to neglect from the new owners.  It was an old floor with a fair amount of wear and tear from years and years of previous use, and it was likely beyond the point where it could stand much more of a cleaning or a major resurfacing or reconditioning.  It was still serviceable, and much better than Rocky’s floor.  The surface was a little too slick, however, to feel extremely comfortable moving quickly around the rink.

When we returned last month, we were surprised to see a brand new floor.  The website calls it a new rotunda floor.  It was in excellent condition, and the new ownership was careful to point out that no gum chewing was allowed on the floor, and for good reason—the wood on the floor was relatively “soft” under my wheels, which would not be conducive to a lot of scraping if something was to stick to the surface.  The floor is one of the most aesthetically beautiful floors I have ever seen, and the grip of your wheels as you rolled on the floor surface around the rink was very secure.  The softness of the floor, especially compared with Pla-Mor’s harder wood surface, was quite noticeable.  In fact, I found that, after a brief session of skating on it, I was little more sore than normal because it apparently requires your muscles getting used to the slight difference as you push off and move.

I also noticed something that I had not noticed before when I skated at the rink a few years back.  The overall surface of the rink floor was much smaller than what I was used to.  It is slightly smaller than Pla-Mor’s floor and Wickliffe’s United Skates of America.  In fact, it is the smallest floor that I am aware of in the Cleveland and Akron area.  The size of the rink, however, is in no way a problem for the avid roller…there is plenty of room to skate if you are moving around the rink AND if everyone is skating within their proper lanes…and there is your problem.  The lanes around the rink are relatively narrow if you consider that the center area is clearly defined by the direction of the floor boards, and if there is not any cooperation as you move about, you could be disappointed by the pace of the skaters if you are used to moving quickly on the outside.  Another problem with the new floor is if you prefer skate dancing.  Skate dancers move around to the music on the inside oval area around the edge while traffic moves around the floor in the skate lanes.  If you are a skate dancer like my wife is, you can’t do it effectively at the Cade as you can at other rinks, because the new floor center area was not smoothed out in the same way as the lanes around the rink.  The center floorboards are rough and uneven, and are only good for standing in place (the boards could literally hold your wheels in place without any effort, and rolling over them is like rolling over soft speed bumps!).  While you are ill-advised to travel through the center area while rolling around the floor, you also can’t dance on your wheels without potentially hitting a speed bump and taking a spill…a big disappointment for dancers.

The G.S.F.E. Cade is a great alternative for skaters who want to move at a pace that is conducive to Akron style skating…it serves the Akron well with its design, and the floor’s condition means that it will be a favorite for many for a long time to come.  Personally, while I like the floor, there are too many issues that prevent me and my wife from enjoying it more than just an occasional visit.  My home floor is Pla-Mor, and I look forward to it every week.

Copyright © Melvin Gaines. All rights reserved.  For additional content, please visit melvingaines.com and melvingaines.wordpress.com.

Roller Skating Enthusiasm – From the Euclid Rollerdrome to Pla-Mor Roller Rink

06/04/2011 § 1 Comment

(Number Two of a Series)

I was first introduced to the Euclid Rollerdrome in 2004, and thought that it was, far and away, the best skating floor that I had ever seen.  I couldn’t believe how smooth and well kept the floor was.  The floor’s excellent condition was because of the efforts of the rink’s owner, Keith Broda, who was a dedicated skater and lover of roller skating.  He really did a tremendous job keeping up the floor, if not the rest of the building.  It remains, in my mind, the most ideal roller skating experience in memory.

Jeff Piorkowski / Sun News

 

It was a complete surprise to all of us who regularly attended the adult skating sessions when the Rollerdrome closed in October of 2008.  It closed without warning, and our regular group of skaters migrated to United Skates of America for a brief period afterward.  It was a letdown to skate on USA’s floor in comparison to the old Rollerdrome floor.  The USA floor was not as well kept as in previous years and skating sessions in 2008 and early 2009.  There were several slick spots on the floor where there was moisture from the overhead air conditioning units.  It was also very dirty (my wheels were absolutely filthy after each session) and there were bits of debris on the floor where you could experience a sudden stop if you ran over something.  During one session, I witnessed a young lady barely get out onto the floor when one of her wheels caught a bearing or a loose item on the floor, and she fell and fractured both wrists.  From that moment on, I was concerned for my safety and my wife’s safety, and I knew that I would be scaling back from skating there unless there was a dramatic change to the floor conditions.

It was about five months since the Rollerdrome closed that The Big Rumor began to circulate throughout the roller skating crowd…The Rollerdrome was going to reopen!  A loyal friend of our group of skaters was trying to open up his own skating rink business.  I was hoping for the best but preparing for the worst because it was almost too good to be true–especially in the present economy where businesses were closing…not opening.  Nonetheless, there was a definite buzz in the air for a few weeks as we kept hearing about it more and more, but we could not confirm anything…until we heard that there was now a projected opening date at the old Rollerdrome.  When the word got out that there was a grand opening coming in the Spring of 2009, the management at USA tried to entice attendees with a super-discounted session the following week, but there was no way that I would be coming back if the old Rollerdrome was open again…it was no contest.  No, I haven’t gone back since then.

The grand opening of the Pla-Mor Roller Rink was a moment that I compared to the movie Field of Dreams.  It was an amazing sight to see the rink on opening night.  Bright colors…a clean floor…the newly decorated walls…lights…sounds of a booming speaker system.  Yes, it was the same floor in the same building that I remember, but with new signage, new posters, and fresh coats of paint.  It was a thing of beauty to me.  There was nothing grand or magnificent about it on the surface…it was merely a place where I was now able to pick up where I left off at Rollerdrome and build on those wonderful memories with some new ones…and enjoy skating once more.

The name Pla-Mor was a revival of an old skating rink near University Circle, and the name takes on the same meaning for those who skated there as it does for those of us who remember the glory days at Southgate, the older United Skates of America, and the Rollerdrome (for more on the ownership of the new rink, please refer to this article on the rink from June 2009 on Cleveland.com).

Pla-Mor’s floor is one of the best in the Cleveland area for skating.  The floor has not always been as exceptionally clean as the Rollerdrome floor, but it is still more than acceptable for skid-free skating.  The management, in fact, does an excellent job keeping debris off of the floor surface and makes sure that any issues that may develop are handled quickly.  It was recently resurfaced with a heavy varnish that took some getting used to when it was first applied, but the end result was an improvement to the surface after the rink’s reopening.  I enjoy fast skating on the outside of the rink, and a good grip is critical.  My wife is more of a dancer, and the skate surface in the center area is smooth and free of obstruction (I learned recently that not all floor surfaces in the center area are smooth…some surfaces are not sanded down properly and some can be so poor that they are warped.).  The Pla-Mor surface is firm and is a good fit with Bones wheels, as long as the floor is clean and free of excess dirt and your own wheels are clean.  I have been using a soft window-like cleaner to clean my wheels before every session to prevent unnecessary buildup.  A quick tip—if you use too harsh of a cleaner on your wheels, you could cause premature deterioration and dull their surface, which would adversely affect your grip and traction.

The floor of the Pla-Mor rink is a decent size.  At one time, the USA floor in Wickliffe was one of the largest that I had ever seen, but over time, the floor had lost real estate because of extra seating in the audience and because of the addition of laser tag in an adjacent area.  Pla-Mor has no obstructions or areas that can encroach the floor.  There is bench and chair seating available on three sides of the floor as well as an ample supply of lockers where you can pay an extra dollar to lock your personal belongings.  There is also a snack bar available, but a lady has been bringing in meals and desserts every week for about five dollars a plate that would rival most Thanksgiving dinner menus.  The air conditioning, at times, has strained to keep the rink at an optimal level of comfort, and the music has been more often good than outright bad.  There is much to be thankful for in that the diehard roller skaters now have a place to go once more each week to create more great memories.

 

Copyright © Melvin Gaines. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

Roller Skating Enthusiasm – Southgate Skates and Rink Nostalgia

05/28/2011 § 1 Comment

(First of a Series)

I’m writing about Cleveland area roller rinks because there just isn’t much available as a critique or a review of the quality and atmosphere (past and present) of the rinks.  My only qualification for making any commentary on the subject is that I consider myself a roller skating enthusiast (quad wheels, please, not roller blades).  I’ve been skating off and on over the past 30 years, and have seen my share of roller rinks past and present.  While some rinks were better than others, even the rinks that were in the “worst” condition was still one of the best places to lace up your skates and roll to the music.  To be an enthusiast for roller skating usually means skating wherever you could find a rink, even when you were traveling.  By my definition, a skating enthusiast rolls at least once a week or as many as three or more times a week.  I’ve skated in Cleveland, Akron, Columbus, Cincinnati, Dayton and Louisville KY.  Others may tell you that they’ve been to many more places such as Youngstown, Pittsburgh, and even Charlotte.  That’s what being a passionate skater is all about!

Personally, my fondest memories from the 80s occurred at Southgate Skates in Maple Heights, Ohio.  I started in 1980 during the disco craze and I got hooked from then on.  I learned to skate there (it took about a month), and it was in no time that I earned my nickname “Speedy” (which still has been revived from time to time even today!).  I was even employed there as a skate guard for a season, and was a DJ for a couple of adult soul skate sessions!  For all of those reasons Southgate was a special place for me, and I hated to learn when it was closing (about 1990) because it became too expensive for the owner to pay for the insurance costs to keep it open (at least that is what I was told).  From there, I wound up attending the United Skates of America roller rink in Wickliffe.  There were fewer choices for rinks in the 90s because it just became more expensive to own and operate a roller rink.  The Roller Palace in Mayfield Heights also shut down after operating for many years under financial difficulty.  United Skates was part of a larger company based in Columbus that had rinks in several cities, but even they were looking at ways to add profitability to their rink locations by adding laser tag, additional party sessions, and stuff like that to offset the liability insurance bubble.  I remember having to sign the waivers for every session, and I believe they still require them today.

Southgate Skates was converted to a rink from an old A&P grocery store.  It was a very inviting place when you walked in the door. The floor area was on the left as you came in and the DJ booth was on a platform not far from the entrance.  On the right were the skate rental area and the concession stand.  The rest of the area was made up of the customary orange uni-body tables and benches for eats and drinks, and some additional bench areas to change shoes and skates.

The lights and the music definitely set the mood for me and for the others there, and I enjoyed the jazz music early in the Thursday evening skating session (Searching by Roy Ayers and Knucklehead by Grover Washington, Jr.) to roll to, dance to, or skate backwards—much like a warm-up session before the soul music would play.  A great skating song at the time was “Taking the Waterfront By Force,” an instrumental by Ian Darby, and we even rolled to a little of “The Wall” by Pink Floyd.  There were many more great songs…just think back in the disco era for those great roller skating songs (which are much different than dance music songs).  I loved the routine, and I always looked forward to every Thursday evening there.

Southgate had its detractors.  It would always be labeled as a rink with a “small” floor area by its attendees.  In comparison to the other area rinks at the time, the rink was definitely smaller than the Roller Palace in Mayfield Heights (now defunct), and was much smaller than the United Skates of America rink in Wickliffe.  The advantage of Southgate, in spite of its size, was its location on the southeast side of town, which was very convenient as it was close to my home.  What I would learn over time, however, is that people who love to skate (including me) would drive up to an hour or more for the love of skating, and would wrestle in the minds about attending the special holiday sessions, including the crazy sessions at Roller Palace or USA that would be all-nighters.  Those were just as much events as they were for skating.

If you were to ask most people about the floor at Southgate, many would say that the floor was entirely too slippery.  It was actually in very good condition—almost pristine.  There was a large coat of varnish on the floor and it protected it from virtually any mars or scratches that would cause dips or divots.  It was very smooth to roll on, and for me, it was where I was able to move very quickly as I picked up speed on the outside as I moved around the rink.  If your skate wheels were in any way worn or too smooth, you would likely find the surface unnerving to skate on.  I started on Chicago brand wheels and added a jump bar for jumping on the floor.  Jumps did nothing to harm the floor (I wound up bending my jump bars a couple of times, though).  I also learned to never use urethane wheels on that floor—I almost broke my neck.  There would also sometimes be issues if there were a lot of people in the building.  Humidity was not a friend of the skater.  Skating at Southgate was an acquired taste, and it did take some getting used to if you were not a regular attendee.  If you compared it to the floor to the latter days of the Roller Palace, you would know that the Roller Palace floor was best described as chippy and rough—in rather poor condition.  There was virtually no varnish on the floor.  I understand that this was not like its earlier days at all.  The floor at USA was in good condition at that time, too, and was the largest in the area.

There were four poles in the middle of Southgate’s skating floor as building supports, which is often typical for converted use buildings.  The poles were not a danger to the skaters moving around the floor, and they were wrapped with padding and carpeting.  They were, however, a departure from other area rinks at the time that had no poles or obstructions.  The other barrier that was on the outside area of the floor was a railing that resembled a banister rail that was secured to the floor.  The rail, in retrospect, was a hazard in that there was no padding when you made contact with it.  I had the unfortunate circumstance of falling and sliding into one of the metal screws on the post of one of these rails.  I should have gotten stitches from the gash in my shin, but I still have it as a “marker” of remembrance to this day.  It was not long after that experience where I made sure that I would continue to get better as a skater to avoid slipping and falling.

Every rink has its good points, quirky areas, and even their bad points, but all of them still produced great memories for all of the skating enthusiasts that attended them.  Amazingly, I still see some of the people who attended Southgate Skates back in the 80s today at my new home rink, the Pla-Mor roller rink in Euclid, which was formerly the Euclid Rollerdrome.  As we are still skating today, some thirty-plus years later, we are a testimony to the love of roller skating and of the unbridled passion of the roller skating enthusiast.

Copyright © Melvin Gaines. All rights reserved.

A Fanatic For Christ

12/12/2010 § Leave a comment

As the holidays approach every year, first Thanksgiving, and then the Christmas shopping season, you would have to have lived in a cave to have not seen the change in television commercials promoting sales, early hours of bargain hunting, and even stores open on Thanksgiving Day and midnight on Black Friday.  The national retailers look to finish strong after a mediocre sales year with a flurry of activity, and they already know that the time and money spent in advertising is going to reach consumers that are ready, willing and able to make excuses to spend money!  It’s time to go Christmas shopping to get out of the doldrums.  I want to save money, so I need to spend money!  You know the drill.

The retailers spend money for advertising because they anticipate that their potential customers will resemble the woman in the red jump suit who is working out at the store lifting packages with one arm as if they are barbells, circling the dates on a calendar in anticipation of Black Friday for an early morning shopping fest while she flexes her muscles.  She also screams with delight as she reads the circular loaded with deals.  The stores want to see you spend money during the Christmas season as if you are in a state of frenzy.  They want shopping fanatics.

A fanatic, by the way, does not mean that you have to have a screw loose or that you are missing a few cards from the deck.  A fanatic means that you are a person who has a significant or even extreme amount of enthusiasm for something, such as in politics, or even, of course, religion.  We have seen extremism associated with both politics and religion, and most of us know when that extremism goes beyond reasonable sensibilities.  This is also evident when we look at fans (which is short for fanatic) of sports teams and the behaviors that are associated with being a fan.  Many sports fans will readily associate alcohol with being a fan, and we know that it doesn’t often end well when there is too much booze for sports fans.

I’m a sports fan, for sure.  I also love to watch college football, and I also love roller skating, and I’m a big fan of my wife, of course!  But all of those subjects, even my wife, have to be viewed from the proper perspective.  My passion for life itself must be derived from the one that gives the reason for me to be passionate for life…this is the zeal for Jesus Christ that every Christian should experience.

My point to all of this is that you do not have to be crazy to be a fanatic.  You can be a fanatic for Christ, for example, and not be characterized as a Bible Thumper, or as a Holy Roller, or “Goody Two Shoes,” or some other term that implies more of what are perceived as negative character traits than positive ones.  You can be a fanatic for Christ by living enthusiastically, positively, and pointedly for all of the things that Christ represents.

Please note that, while I have nothing against the word “fan,” the shortened version of the word “fanatic,” the two words come across with different interpretations.  To be a fan of something is OK, such as a fan of a musician or of a sports team, while being a fanatic implies even more of a commitment and a passion for something.  Given this conclusion, is your commitment to Christ more of that as a fan, or is it more like a fanatic for Christ?

When you have a healthy relationship with God through Jesus Christ, you can begin to see what it really means to be a fanatic for Christ.  Our challenge, especially as we are reminded over and over during the Christmas season about how Jesus is the reason for the season, is to see Christ in such a way where, to the average Christian, He means more to that person than just that of a favorite football team or sports figure…more than a favorite band or artist…more than an actor or performer.  The name of Jesus should fire you up in such a way where His name truly is above every name!

How do we capture that zeal, that passion for Christ that is missing at times?  The answer is in our relationship with Christ.  Our relationship with Christ will determine how we live and breathe for Christ, which others will see in our actions as we live for Christ at a high level.  Our life for Christ, in our relationship with Christ, helps us to build and develop relationships with others through Christ, and wins people over to Christ!  It is all accomplished through the power of the Holy Spirit, but we must always remember that the Spirit works through the believer that trusts in Him and relies upon His wisdom.  The love and trust for Christ is a magnet that attracts others who want to know more about Him directly to you!

To be a fanatic for Jesus Christ requires repetition and practice of an effective Christian lifestyle.  It requires practice because we have natural opposition to this effort because of our own fleshly nature, and because Satan does not want us to be successful in this lifestyle.  We have to overcome the things that are not healthy for us, especially sin, and move towards the things that create a bond with Jesus Christ.

First, being a fanatic for Christ means that we must forsake sin.

Romans 13:12-14

The night is nearly over, and the daylight is near, so let us discard the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us walk with decency, as in the daylight: not in carousing and drunkenness; not in sexual impurity and promiscuity; not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no plans to satisfy the fleshly desires.

Forsaking sin means more than just turning away from it.  Our attitude should be the same attitude that God has about sin.  He hates it.

Psalm 5:4

For You are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil cannot lodge with You.

Just as God has nothing to do with sin, He also wants us to have the same mindset.  Remember, because we are in the flesh, we must have an attitude that hates sin, because our flesh desires it greatly.  We can’t have a zeal for Christ if we do not forsake sin.

Next, a fanatic for Christ must have a heart of forgiveness.  Just as God has forgiven our sins because of our faith and trust in Him, we also must have a heart of forgiveness for others.

Matthew 6:14-15

For if you forgive people their wrongdoing, your heavenly Father will forgive you as well.  But if you don’t forgive people, your Father will not forgive your wrongdoing.

This includes treating others the way that Christ would have you to treat them, without malice or holding grudges.

Ephesians 4:32

And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ.

After forsaking sin and having a heart of forgiveness, a person who is a true fanatic for Christ is one who relishes in fellowship.  There is a desire to seek out others to share the passion that you are living out in Christ.  After all, it is God’s desire that each and every one of us shares the gospel with others (Matthew 28:19-20).  Our fellowship in Christ through the Holy Spirit gives us the confidence and the ability to fellowship with others.  Your message that you communicate to others is in line with the verses from 1 John 1:3:

1 John 1:3

What we have seen and heard we also declare to you, so that you may have fellowship along with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.

The fanatic for Christ does not chase persons away in fellowship; on the contrary, he or she draws people nearer to where they are comfortable in relationships of friendship.  Friendship is what allows for sharing, caring for others, and allowing the Holy Spirit to work deeply in the lives of those who are seeking the Lord.

A quick recap—a person who is a fanatic for Jesus Christ must readily forsake sin, forgive others, fellowship with others, develop friendships, and finally, focus on the strength, direction, and power of the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit enables us with the ability to withstand pressures and difficulties, and also fortifies us with energy when it is most needed.  Our focus, in order for the Spirit to work through us, is to listen to remain obedient to Jesus Christ’s commands:

John 14:15-16

If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.  And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever.

The Holy Spirit is always available to the believer in Jesus Christ.  The more that we focus on the Spirit, the more we learn about the abundant life that we truly have in Jesus Christ.  It is that life of abundance that creates the fanatic for the one who loves Jesus and lives for Jesus.

Are you a fanatic for Christ?  Is your zeal for the One who gave everything for you?  Think about what it truly means to live a life of enthusiasm for your Lord and Savior.  It should be a life of passion where you turn away from the things that ruin your fellowship with Christ and trust in His Word.

Copyright © Melvin Gaines. For more content, please see melvingaines.com and melvingaines.blogspot.com.

Here One Day and Gone the Next

04/12/2010 § Leave a comment

The following is a summary of a sermon presented to Akron Alliance Fellowship Church on October 5, 2008 featuring a discussion on 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.

I was at work Monday morning when I received an email from my wife informing me of some rather shocking news.  She had heard through a friend of hers a rumor that the roller skating rink that we had attended faithfully on Thursday evenings for the last four years was permanently closed.  The rink owner had apparently informed customers the night before that he would be closing his doors.  At first, I did not want to believe it.  I wrote back to Lynn to be sure that this information was true because (a) I did not want to necessarily take the word of the person who had sent her the email because she had been sending a slew of emails that turned out to be urban legends, and (b) while I knew that skating rinks over the years were becoming more and more extinct, I did not want to accept that yet another rink that had been in existence for many years was now gone.  After receiving more information later in the day, it was apparent that the roller rink that Lynn and I had just attended four days earlier was indeed closed forever.  It seems that the owner’s financial condition finally forced the move.  To all of us who attended the rink, however, this was a sudden and unpleasant development.  One day, the rink was open and well attended, and the next…gone.

I must confess that one of my great loves is roller skating.  It is an ongoing passion of mine, and anyone who is around me long enough knows full well what my interests or hobbies are… ministry, spending time with my lovely wife, football, and roller skating.  When I finally realized that the rink that I had frequented was now closed for good, it was, to me, as if someone had died.  I was very, very sad when I received the news, and I was in a state of mourning over the turn of events.  What was even more striking to me was the suddenness of the event.  The rink was open for at least three sessions since that Thursday, and there was no indication of a problem.  I had, in fact, just spoken to the rink owner that past Thursday, and he did not seem to give the impression that the rink was closing.

If we think about the sudden events in our lives, whether they are business closings, major or tragic events, or even life and death issues, they almost certainly will have a lasting effect in our lives, and the endings almost always are as memorable as the events that occurred prior to the end.  The endings are remembered because they are abrupt and unexpected occurrences.  When we are enjoying something that is ongoing, it is hard to accept when all of it comes to an end.  And so it goes with life.  Just as we have days that we live, we remember that those days are not promised to us.  It doesn’t change how we feel; which still makes it hard for us to accept when there is a sudden change.  It is one thing to know in advance that something is going to happen, as it is human nature to “prepare” for the event.  Not knowing of the change when it occurs is often, for all its worth, a shock to our system.

This turn of events reminded me of what Paul said to the Thessalonians when he was encouraging the believers to remain strong in their faith.  He had a brief visit during his missionary trip to Thessalonica but was there only about three weeks due to persecution, as he had to leave the area.  He wrote in 1 Thessalonians 2:18 that he wanted to return to see them, but his efforts were hindered by Satan.  It was apparent, however, that his heart was with those that he had preached to in Thessalonica and he had many things to say to them, and he was compelled to do so because he feared that Satan was attacking them, as well.  Paul knew that the people needed encouragement, and that they were reminded that it was important to remain steadfast in their faith and in Christ…no matter what was going on in their lives.  We need few reminders to know that Satan is a powerful enemy, and we are reminded that we overcome Satan’s temptations and distractions by putting on the full armor of God (Ephesians 6:11).  Sudden events tend to rattle us and shake us out of our comfort zone.  When all that we can see around us is uncertainty, the very uncertainty that we experience can be unnerving.  How do we overcome the uncertainty and navigate through the stormy seas of life?  See what Paul had to say to the Thessalonians in a prayer to the church as to how they were to always maintain a high level of focus on God:

1 Thessalonians 3:11-13

Now may our God and Father Himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you.  And may the Lord cause you to increase and overflow with love for one another and for everyone, just as we also do for you.  May He make your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints.  Amen.

This prayer sets the stage for Chapter 4, where Paul not only continues to encourage the Thessalonians but also seems to address questions about life and death, and the sudden events of life that may occur.  There must have been specific questions from the Thessalonians about what happens when someone dies.  We know that when someone dies it can be sudden and unexpected, or it can occur soon after one is taken ill.  In both of these situations it can be extremely traumatic for those who are looking at it from the outside.  Paul provides an answer of reassurance and comfort with his response:

1 Thessalonians 4:13-14

We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, concerning those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve like the rest, who have no hope.  Since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, in the same way God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep through Jesus.

Then comes the additional encouragement which must have been hard to grasp and yet ever so wonderful to hear as a reassurance that some of us will not experience death as we understand it:

1 Thessalonians 4:15-18

For we say this to you as a revelation from the Lord:  We who are still alive at the Lord’s coming will certainly have no advantage over those who have fallen asleep.  For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the archangel’s voice, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.  Then we who are still alive will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will always be with the Lord.  Therefore, encourage one another with these words.

This is the only mention throughout Scripture of the events that are known as the rapture.  Why was this revealed as it was specifically to the Thessalonians?  We cannot know with all certainty, but we can surmise that God must have known that the people needed something to look forward to that explained that God promised life after death and fellowship with Him.  This would also encourage the Thessalonians to stay true and obedient to God, as there was something to now look forward to once life on earth was over.  Not everyone needs this incentive, but it is nonetheless provided for all of us so that we can see that God does indeed love us and intends for all believers to have eternal life with Him.  What an encouragement!

Sudden events may rattle us or knock us off balance, and Satan may have an active role in these occurrences, but God is our eternal refuge that gives us comfort, security and safety.  The psalms proclaim Him as our refuge.

Psalm 16:9-11

Therefore my heart is glad, and my spirit rejoices; my body also rests securely.  For You will not abandon me to Sheol; You will not allow Your Faithful One to see the Pit.  You reveal the path of life to me; in Your presence is abundant joy; in your right hand are eternal pleasures.

Copyright © Melvin Gaines. For more content, please see melvingaines.com and melvingaines.blogspot.com.

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