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Incidents and Attitudes

features_storm_couch.jpgMany of us have threatened to write a book about all the things we’ve seen in church. Shocking testimonies, embarrassing statements, scriptural blunders and incredible incidents have happened…like the preacher who got a little too rambunctious in his sermon and threw his leg up on the pulpit. Unfortunately, he got it stuck and had to have help to get it down. (There is a difference between anointing and enthusiasm.) Some happenings are comical, others are tragic.

The average church regularly suffers disheartening, disruptive incidents. Somewhere, on any given Sunday, the power goes out, the organ develops a horrific buzz, some little old lady passes out in the middle of the service and you have to call 911, the furnace blows up when it’s five degrees below zero, the A/C goes on the blink when its 95 degrees outside, you come in on Sunday morning thirty minutes before starting time and find that the church is flooded (that happened to us a year ago), some kid spills a liter of soda pop on the carpet in front of the main sanctuary doors, the volunteer janitor forgot to tell you that he was going camping over the weekend, and the same legion of devils that killed all the pigs in the Bible shows up in your sound system.

Those are the easy incidents. A little more difficult to take are the ones that hurt…like a caustic letter slipped under the office door from a disgruntled member who delivers a two-barreled literary shotgun blast on his way out the door…or a devastating moral failure by someone who was deeply involved in church operations…or the revelation that someone has been sowing discord among the flock. These are the things no one can write about in a book. In the same league are the notices from the division of taxation that you owe thousands of dollars in back property taxes, the church van that breaks down with fifteen young people twelve hundred miles from home, and the guest speaker invited for the twenty-fifth anniversary banquet at the most expensive hotel ballroom in town has a conflict in his schedule and calls twenty-four hours before the starting time and is so sorry that he won’t be able to make it and he knows you will understand.

The worst incidents, though, are the tragedies that take away precious people from the congregation…like the pillar in the church who suddenly loses his life to a heart attack…or the young man who went into eternity from the handlebars of a motorcycle…or the announcement that a saintly young mother in the church has been diagnosed with a terminal disease. These are the times and events that blow us away and we think we can’t recover.

But, PRAISE GOD, the church can survive incidents! Disruptive, costly, hurtful or crushing though they may be, we were built to last. The early church saw their leaders beheaded, imprisoned, thrown in jail or thrown into the fire. They were lied on, persecuted, plotted against and banished to the catacombs. They endured bouts of false doctrine, rancorous debate, divisive politics and preacher failure. They were run out of places to worship and out of town, but they survived every crisis. Through it all, they literally pulsated with revival and expansive growth. Paul cites a litany of occurrences that threatened to silence him or kill him. “None of these things move me,” he said. He demonstrated a resiliency in the face of adversity that proves the power of the triumphant Christ over every foe.

Incidents we can survive. Attitudes, however, are a different story. When an incident occurs that rocks us to the foundation, our biggest challenge is to keep it from infecting our attitudes. I have witnessed sad cases where people who have been maligned or wronged by others who should have known better, came down with terminal attitudes. Others felt that God disappointed them and became bitter, even hateful, toward God himself. Still others demanded perfection in everyone around them (excepting themselves, of course) and when it didn’t happen, rotten and rebellious attitudes took over.

Incidents, for the most part, are out of our control. We never know what that temperamental A/C unit is going to do. We can’t guarantee that no one will misbehave in church on any given Sunday. Or, what the mailman will put in the mailbox. Incidents come and go. Expect them. Meet them. Beat them. Don’t let your attitudes grow out of them. By the same token, I can control what the A/C troubles do to my attitude. I can make sure that misbehaving people do not kill a revival spirit. By God’s help, I can bounce back from every incident with a surviving attitude! “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” Yes, all things!

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