“Church Love Story” : An Interactive Christian Novella

By @shantalisinggg

After the service, stacking all the chairs away, there’s one left. As you [pulled] it towards your stack you [felt] it yanked out of your hands. You looked up and were met with [a] handsome face and a winking eye. “I’ll take this one,” he said as he moved away with the chair. Shook Beyonce GIFs | Tenor

It [was] the next week at Bible study and the youth pastor had finished the session. “Would anyone like to pray to close?” The question was met with the usual silence. “I will,” the handsome winker spoke and grabbed your eyes. “In the name of Jesus…” he smirked.

“Everybody turn to Philippians 4:6.” Pastor had begun preaching. The verse on anxiety seemed apt as your anxious emotions continued to rise. Where was your phone? And why did you leave your Bible at home? This was not the day to seem complacent with the word.

The winker was right next to you and you noticed the glances he threw as you frantically searched your bag. It wasn’t there. You feel a small tap from on your thigh. A Bible lay on the right half of it. “From here,” he whispered, pointing at verse 6. You utter a small, “Thank you.”

The sun was shining midweek, however you are at church at a baptismal class. It was time to symbolically and publicly declare your new self to the wor- “Sorry I’m late, I couldn’t find the room.” A familiar voice interrupted your thoughts. “That’s okay John.” John.

“We were sharing what God [has] done for us when you came in,” Pastor explained. John shuffled slightly in his seat. “Has everyone said theirs,” he asked while pointedly looking at you. “Yes you’re the last one,” Pastor answered with a shy smile. “I’ll get started then.”

“It’s been a rollercoaster before and after accepting Christ, from my addiction to my depression. But I’m here today a happy guy leaning only on God. He’s really changed my life.” John had a tale to tell and it was evident. The whole room [lay] silent taking in his emotion.

You can’t stop staring. His love for God was true. “Thank you for sharing John. Let’s take a break everyone.” The others stood up and rushed to the buffet table. “Actually I need to speak to you [two],” Pastor gestured to you and John.

“Dad what’s up?” You didn’t know why your Pastor and father needed to speak with you. “He’s your father?” John [was] visibly surprised then turned [to him.] “You didn’t tell me she’s your daughter.” “I’m right here,” you interjected. “You can speak to me too you know.”

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The confident words didn’t match the thumping in your chest. The smell of his cologne was a little too strong but it was the bass of his voice you couldn’t stop thinking about. “Yes I can speak to you. I didn’t realise you spoke to be honest.” He did that smirk again.

“Well this is all sweet but darling I need John to shadow you for a bit as he’s getting used to how things run in the church, if that’s alright with you,” Dad chimed. You can tell it was more an instruction than a request. “Of course Dad,” you replied.

On that note Pastor turned to the sausage rolls and croissants and left you alone with John for the first time.

“What do you need to know,” you ask confidently. “I just want to be involved,” John smiled again as though everything was in jest. “What exactly do you [do] around here?” You could have sworn the question was mocking you. It’s impossible not to notice the many departments you [are] in.

From greeting at the door to playing second piano you knew [he asked] the question to rile you up. “Not much.” A cool reply. That’s what you [give] him – a sarcastic answer to his sarcastic question. Gbas. Gbos. “He said you wouldn’t be easy,” John chuckled and made his way to the food.

Who said you wouldn’t be easy? Was it your father? Or your friend Mark, the drummer who seemed to be getting close to the winker? John was talking about you? Having conversations about you?

The rest of the meeting went by swimmingly and ended with a group chat made for further correspondence. On your way home as Bethel Music blasted through your headphones, [the song] “It Is Well” paused to make way for your ringtone.

You wouldn’t normally pick up an unknown number but you felt you had to this time. As someone constantly in the church, it wasn’t uncommon for members to have your number and you not know. “Hello?” You begin tentatively. “You picked up,” a familiar bass responded. It was him.

Then a laugh sounded from the background. Mark’s laugh. “John? Mark? What’s happening?” “He said you wouldn’t pick up but I said you would.” John’s explanation unsettled you. You didn’t want to give him reason to be confident about you. He couldn’t have the upper hand here.

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“Anyway,” you hoped the boys could hear you rolling your eyes through the phone. “Mark are we still on for lunch tomorrow?” 

“Can I come?” No John you may not, you thought. “Yes you can man. I’ll send you the address.” Mark clearly wasn’t telepathic. This wasn’t [what] you wanted.

“Actually I would rather if you didn’t come.” Silence. “I think this is just for Mark and I.” What John didn’t know was that before his arrival you were sure about tall, funny, Mark. His constant encouragement [drew] you to him and his ability to comfort anyone was palpable.

Mark was THAT guy. All the girls gossiped about him and tried to get his attention. You had it. Not in the way you wanted but that was supposed to change, starting with lunch.

“Come on I’m sure it’s fine,” Mark started again. “What’s the worst that could happen? We eat food?” 

“You don’t know? She’s scared she’ll fall in love with me,” John added his unnecessary two cents. “Nah bro she’s definitely in love with me.” Mark said this next. Did he know?

John howled [with] laughter. Mark joined in. It was a joke. Not a funny one. “I’m hanging up. I’ll see whoever tomorrow.” You had had enough. At this point you had arrived home and got on with your routine. Chores, Bible reading, prayer, bed. Well bed with Twitter. What a day.

It was the next morning. With a couple hours more before you were to meet for lunch, you debate whether to text Mark for confirmation or not. John also texted while you were sleeping. “If you don’t want me to come I won’t be there.” It felt sweet. You didn’t reply.

You didn’t know what to say. You didn’t want him there, [did you?] You wanted time with just Mark. [didn’t you?] “I’m still coming,” the text from Mark read alongside the notification for the cup pong you had been playing since the night before. Mark was still coming.

After fixing your hair into a high ponytail and applying more lip gloss, you made your way to the cafe. Upon arriving Mark was instantly seen [with] smooth golden skin perfectly reflecting the sunlight. [He was] talking to someone. A girl. Of course. This is Mark after all.

“… And that’s why the gospel is so good because it’s a love story if you think about it. And that’s my cue to leave you ladies,” Mark [concluded] as he made note of your presence. You couldn’t help but smile. Even at lunch he was talking about Jesus. [Your] heart swelled a little.

After a quick hug you were seated and conversation quickly turned to the winker. “Do you think he likes you,” Mark asked. “Because he asked about you and I didn’t say anything.” “I don’t even know him,” you retorted. You didn’t come to talk about him. “Sorry I’m late guys”

A hand fell upon your shoulder as the strong cologne made its presence known. “You came,” Mark whispered. “Of course I did,” John replied loudly with his signature smirk. “Have we ordered yet?” His face was different up close, almost more handsome than you had noticed.

You shrug John’s heavy hand off and say, “It’s time for me to head to the church and get started on the baptism service brochures.” You get up quickly. You don’t know what is happening but you don’t want to be around for it. “I have to come with you.” John was still smiling.

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The church was quiet. The sounds of soft conversations and scuffling shoes were ignored. You couldn’t help but walk straight for the leaflet stand and straighten the crooked ones. “You can’t help it can you,” the smirker said in his low tones. “Help what?”

“Fixing everything,” he answered as he walked past you toward the church office where the printed sheets laid ready for stapling. You could tell this was going to be a long afternoon.

It didn’t take long to finish stapling. Why would it when when you tried your hardest to go through them fast. You figure John got bored with your curt replies and left to make himself busy elsewhere. 

“Darling why is John [wandering] around lost,” Dad asked [as he] stood in the doorway.

“He’s annoying,” You truthfully tell.

“You mean you don’t like him?”

“Not really. I think he’s arrogant.”

“I think he’s a good guy.” This is an odd response from your father. Your father always agreed when you complained about boys.  “He asked me about getting to know you.”

You froze. “What did you say?” Your words were tentative. “I said I’ll talk to you.” You let out a sigh of relief when he said this. “I know we’ve talked about Mark but I don’t know what’s happened since that conversation. Has anything changed?” 

“Nothing has changed really.”

“Hmm I see. I’ll leave you alone with that then.” Dad smiled warmly and walked over to plant a forehead kiss. “I’ll see you around or at home.” Few minutes after he left, loud chewing entered the room. “Have you eaten? Do you want some?” John returned with what seemed to be cake.

“Have I eaten? Have you fed me?” He chuckled and left the room again. You roll your eyes and grab your phone to text Mark, “bring food if you’re coming xxxxx.” Too many kisses. You remove all except 2 and await his reply. “KFC or Nando’s?? xx” your heart thumps at the message.

Close to 30 mins later, jovial laughter was getting closer and closer to the room you were in. John and Mark entered, each holding a bag. John [had] Nando’s and Mark [had a] KFC bag. “Yooo PK didn’t know which one you wanted,” said Mark. “So I got this and Johnny boy got that.”

“When did you get this John?” You hadn’t [noticed] him leave the church. 

“I went out after you commanded me to feed you.”

“You asked him to feed you?” Mark interjected. You almost forgot he was in the room. His face was scrunched adorably between his eyebrows.

“Well thank you for both boys I will enjoy it later. I ate something from the kitchen already.”

“You asked him to feed you?” Mark asked again. You are confused why.

“As a joke yes.” 

“Then why did you text me?”

You hadn’t realised Mark would act like this.

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“Because I wanted to. What problem do you have with that?”

“No problem at all. John texted me to say you hadn’t eaten and joined me when I was getting you food. I just didn’t know you asked him too,” Mark answered.

“Well now that’s cleared up,” John rejoined the conversation. “Are we going to the Bible study tomorrow evening?”

“Of course I’ll be there” you replied.

“I’ll remind you to bring your Bible tomorrow,” John winked as he said this and waltzed away through the door.

“Why?” Mark asked

“Does it matter? He’s reminding me to bring my Bible. Why [do] you need to know more,” you returned.

“I guess I don’t. Do you need help with anything?” Mark [was] frustrated. Why?

“I’m done. We can help with the women’s meeting for a bit before going home?”

“Fine,” Mark said.

The day finished and your routine was done. As you lay in bed you pondered Mark’s responses today. They seemed different. [Your] mind couldn’t stay focused on Mark though, it had to [wander] to John.  After a quick prayer for both of them, you fell asleep. The next day was dedicated to the girls. You rally the gang up in your bedroom and after serving lunch, the topic fell on John. 

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“I heard he went to jail before,” Grace chipped in.

“No I heard his friend went to jail for him, as in he should have gone,” Amanda added.

You had to interject. “This is gossiping guys please let’s not. We are women of God let’s not indulge in this and talk about movies or something.”

“Oh please we see how he looks at you,” Grace rolled her eyes.

“Does that make what I said wrong?” 

“Okay then, Mark it is.”

You roll your own eyes and get up to change the song. The conversation brushes past you as the girls gush about the church drummer. 

At 5 pm you all make your way to the church for the Bible study.

John was already seated when you arrived. 

“Not late today?” You smile at him.

“No not today,” John didn’t smile back. “I’ll go sit somewhere else so that Mark can sit next to you.” 

What did that mean?  John moved across the semicircle to another seat. 

“Yo PK what you saying? Did you get my text about your Bible?”

You did. You didn’t get one from John.

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The study delved into truly loving everyone as Christ loved. [It went] through how Jesus came to change an eye for an eye into turning the other cheek (Matthew 5:38). All this made you think of John who currently had turned a cold cheek to you. His usual glances were nowhere around. The warmth you once had and now miss was gone.

“Are you okay?” Mark was still there. You were currently sharing your Bible with him as you still forgot yours despite his reminder. His familiar eyes oozed concern and it reminded you of Mark before John came round.  John again? Even in thought you couldn’t escape him.

The session ended. “Would anyone like to pray to close,” asked the session leader.

Silence. The silence ensued. You opened your eyes and lifted your head slightly to look at John. His head was bowed and hands clasped.

“That’s okay I’ll close.” The leader began praying and the meeting finished.

John was quick to leave. Today he didn’t stay to chat with the group. Why? What happened?

“Eve what’s wrong?” Mark again.

“Nothing just thinking. Have you spoken to John since yesterday?”

“Kind of. It wasn’t anything odd. Why?” Mark started shuffling his feet.

“Something feels off that’s all.” You drift off into your thoughts once more.

“Hey is everything okay?” You sent a text to John. That’s all you could do at this point. This is the first text you sent him. 

The three dots appeared on your screen.

“Eve don’t get me into trouble.” That was all he said back. 

Trouble with who? The journey home was silent. You thanked Mark for the ride and entered your house.

“Hey Dad how was today?”

“It was great. Mark came to ask if he could ask you out.”

Mark did what?

“Mark?” You were still incredulous.

“Yes isn’t that what you wanted from our last discussion about guys? So I told him yes. Was I wrong?” This wasn’t the reaction your father anticipated.

“What about John? You said you liked him.”

“You said he was annoying.”

“I- …” you didn’t know what to do with this information.

“So I told John that you and Mark were praying on it and seeing how it goes. Eve did I say something I shouldn’t have?”

How could you have missed all this?

“Don’t worry Dad. Mark or John haven’t said anything yet, that’s why I’m surprised. I’ll talk to them both”

A quick hug for your dad and to your room you rushed.  You send one text to both boys.

“You talked to my father about me before talking to me???”

John called straight away. 

“It’s not like that.” This didn’t help decrease your anger.

“I didn’t know you and you didn’t notice me when I first started coming so I had to get help to get your attention.” 

“You also didn’t come up to me so…” you snapped back.

“I didn’t [know].”

His nonchalance started to bother you. 

“You haven’t said anything to me but you’re having conversations with my father and pastor about my business?”

“Yes.” Your anger increased another step.

“That’s it?” You are close to [your] boiling point.

“Why aren’t you giving this energy to Mark? I’m not your man.” 

You hang up. You have had enough for one day. You complete your chores, read your bible and do your prayers. Whilst in bed you open Mark’s chat and see he hasn’t replied yet.

“I’m sorry.” A text from John occupied the top of your screen.

“Are you with Mark??” A second replaced the first notification.

“No,” you replied.

“Can we go on a proper date???”

“No.”  You turn over in bed after sending. “Maybe I’ll think about it,” you send another text. You put your phone down next to you. 

“Can I call you rn??” Mark’s new text illuminated your screen and room.

“No we can talk tomorrow? I’m going to bed now,” you send back.

“Okay I’ll see you tomorrow xx” You read Mark’s text and don’t respond. It’s for tomorrow.

It’s the day of the baptism. Up bright and early, you made your way to the church with your father. Old hymns played on the car radio and loud singing flowed from your father and pastor.

“Are you excited,” he asked.

“Yes Dad I am.” the air [was] jovial and light. The sun [was] even shining.

You arrived at the church and [began] to set up the seats for the service. Half way through a bass you could recognise from anywhere asked, “Can I help you with these?” “Yes. Just make sure they’re all in line.” John [proceeded] to set the chairs in line with the ones you laid.

“How are you,” John asked. Before you [could] reply the church band [began] practicing their set. The banging drums distracted you and made you turn towards the drummer. Mark sent a smile from the stage. “I said how are you?” John repeated. “I’m fine how are you,” You sent back.

“Have you got your T-shirt yet?” The small talk felt so unusual from him. “Not yet.” Your reply was short. “We can share mine if you want. I’ll cut it in half and give you the crop top and I’ll wear my half as a skirt.” You had to smile at that simply for its silliness.

“Thank you for the offer. I’ll go get mine soon,” you chuckled and picked up another chair to put in place. “Can I get you on a date?” You dropped your chair.

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The music stopped and heavy steps ran towards you. “Are you okay!?” Mark sounded. “Yes I dropped a chair. I’m clearly fine.” You don’t like the attention Mark is attracting. “Did you hurt your foot?” Mark’s questions felt unnecessary. “What? Just relax Mark” John replied this time.

“Okay if you’re fine Eve I’ll go finish practicing but you call me if anything happens.” 

“Okay.” 

Mark felt patronising. Was he always like this and you didn’t notice? Mark walked back and John got closer to you to whisper, “I had a dream about you and I.”

“A dream?” “Yes a dream and I think it’s from God.” 

“A dream from God about you and me.” You couldn’t believe your ears.

 “Yes. We were married,” John continued. You can’t tell if he is joking or not. Anything was possible with this guy.

“You and I were married in this dream from God. Why did I dream about sailing the world then? Why didn’t I get that dream?” 

John burst into laughter, “I’m sorry I can’t continue.” 

So it was a joke?

“I heard Grace say someone said that to her and I wanted to try it.”

“So you’re joking?” You had to confirm. This [wasn’t] the first dreamer you’ve come across. 

“Of course I’m joking. I mean I would seriously like to get to know you. I think you’re an amazing woman of God.” This was a confirmation. You can consider John officially now.

“Okay. That can happen. We can talk about it later. Let’s finish these chairs and service.” Your heart is screaming. John wanted to get to know you? Mark. You forgot about Mark. You were supposed to have a conversation with Mark.

..To Be Continued

“Church Love Story” was created by Shanttel, a 21-year-old London native originally from Ghana. What started as a joke on Twitter, turned into a thought provoking interactive story that has  sparked a real discussion about how young men and women approach love in church. 

*NOTE- This story was edited for clarity for Five:22 Culture.

Want to know what happens next with Eve, John and Mark? Click on the Tweet below to check out more of  this talented author’s story and drop a comment to let us know what you think!

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