The recent sub-zero weather at Christmastime reminded me of the difficulties of weather-casting for churches, and how often we get it wrong.
We planned an outdoor Easter worship during Covid spring, but church leaders decided on Good Friday that the forecast monsoon on Sunday would prevent this. However, Sunday came as a bright and sunny day.
Several years ago, we had to make a snow call on Saturday, and though the next day was icy and cold, roads were passable. This was in the days before we had instant communication, like email and Facebook, so we made rounds of phone calls to church leaders and asked everyone to spread the word.
On Monday morning, I got to church and found at least one person walked or drove to church the day before and obviously found the doors locked. He (or she) left a sign on the door: “Ichabod”—the Old Testament word for “the glory (of God) has departed.”
This person judged us for urging people to stay home that day, though I do regret they apparently didn’t get the word the day before.
A similar criticism happened when the U.S. government shut down public gatherings in 2020. Our church leaders met on Monday morning and decided we’d obey the mandate and not meet until further notice. We announced this electronically and pretty quickly got a note back from a man who took us to task for obeying government instead of God.
“How dare you close God’s church?” he fumed.
However, his own church announced later that week they’d close, too.
Churches may face hard choices from time to time, and the price of leadership is bearing the brunt of those who disagree.
One church faced a difficult choice when a church member was convicted of sexual abuse and removed from his position in public service. Church leaders approached him about repentance and counsel, but he refused, declaring he’d been falsely accused. After a number of entreaties the congregation voted to withdraw membership from this man, reasoning that his recalcitrance was a terrible witness for the church in its community.
Certainly this was a unique situation, and a terrible one, and most churches never have to face issues of this magnitude. But it does underscore once again the price of leadership.
It’s said that a Civil War soldier scavenged the battlefield for clothes, and put on blue pants and a gray jacket, and was shot at by both sides!
If one takes a stand, offering guidance in transition or difficulty, he or she will, no doubt, be a target. But we must exhort all church members to be supportive and not declare “Ichabod” if decisions are not to their liking.
“Reflections” is a weekly faith column written by Michael J. Brooks, pastor of the Siluria Baptist Church in Alabaster. The church’s website is siluriabaptist.com.