That’s What We’re For
By Daniel Pann
He nervously cleared his throat before continuing. It was Wednesday night and we were taking prayer requests. "My wife and I are going to be separating for a time. We would like the church to pray for us."
I had been counseling them for several months and his comments came as no surprise. A hush fell over the small group gathered together for a season with God and each other. People looked at one another as if needing reassurance for what they weren‘t sure had been spoken. It was all right to remember the missionaries, elderly and shut-ins, but it wasn’t often to list something like that.
Privately, individuals wondered if the wife was too embarrassed since she’d immediately left the sanctuary. Others questioned his timing, motives or whether or not something like that should be public knowledge. Weren’t things like that best left at home and outside of the church? What would people think if problems like this leaked out of the place of worship and into the community? "There goes our reputation for clean living and fine domestic tranquility," some worried.
Still the church rallied around this family of eight. A couple offered their pop-up for him to sleep in to avoid using his van. The church’s kitchen and other facilities were made available.
Later, a "concerned" member would step inside my office before Sunday school and mention a few mumblings and groaning from anxious parishioners regarding this problem. According to them it didn’t look good for the husband to be staying in a camper trailer behind the church while his wife and kids remained at home. Besides, he only intended to make his wife and family look small by revealing any marital difficulties.
My face flashed in anger and the complainers were invited to speak with me face to face. I knew one of the self-appointed guardians of our church was the concerned member’s wife and the other had more free time than compassion. While leadership was aware of the particulars, these two had no inkling as to what was taking place in this little family’s life and the role the church was playing in keeping a fragile marriage together.
I looked back to the time when God was not first in our thoughts as a congregation and it showed in attendance, spiritual growth and commitment. People came to us angry, stayed angry and eventually left angry. Through a series of bumps, skinned up shins and other hard lessons, we began to listen to Him. Amazingly, positive things started to happen. There was a sweeter spirit, a desire to grow closer to God and a common purpose.
We were cautioned from Scripture to expect a renewed onslaught from the devil and he came at us from all sides. Several homes faced marriage crisis, financial ruin threatened others and there was a six-month run where every week someone was in the hospital. I criss-crossed from one town to another, praying with some, eventually burying others, and watching a few more fade away. For all we did right, why were things going wrong?
We continued to pray steadfastly for those with cancer, lung disorders, heart troubles and emotional stress, but when this request came along, most were unprepared. The challenge was upon us. The line had been drawn in the sand. Was God able to do above all that we could ask or think or was that just so much religious nonsense. Were we really supposed to bear one another’s burdens?
By way of affirmation, the Lord began to encourage us. For the next several Sundays, decisions were made for Christ. Whole families came to join with us by way of baptism. A young man professed faith in Jesus after a year of struggle. Other homes were being mended as well.
God did not offer us the option of picking and choosing which area of service to be involved in. What He did ask of us was compassion, trust and obedience. With a renewed understanding of why each one needs the Lord, we were able to overcome the negatives and be part of the greater picture.
That’s what the church is for, to lift up the fallen, encourage the weak and remain loyal to Christ – in spite of it all.
Dr. Daniel Pann has been a pastor for over twenty-four years. He is the author of ‘A Pregnant Woman Beat Me.’ His second book, ‘Fished All Night For Nothing’ is set for release in the fall of 05. He and his wife Cindy reside in southern Michigan along with their children and grandchildren. Visit him at www.drpann.com
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