. . .What? Trouble Where? In Church?
This is a list of places that we can get into trouble :
2. Protest Rallies
3. Boxing Matches
4. Dark Alleys
Church? Yes. Church. You didn’t see a typo. It’s a little-known fact, according to some church-going people, you cannot get in trouble while attending church. They may have a point. They may be right as rain, but in my own personal case, I can testify to the fact that in my shaky, struggling life as a Christian since August of 1973, I have found that (in some) churches, it was easy for me to get in trouble. Without really trying. But it took a long time for me to believe that trouble can pop up even in the House of God.
Before I go any further, just let me say that this story is NOT about YOUR church. Or anyone’s church of choice on or off of HubPages. That’s the beauty of worship. We can worship God in a church house or out of a church house. That is merely my opinion, so please do not gear your keyboards to write me a good dose of harsh emails. I am just being honest.
And let me tell you about myself before I go into my times of accidental-trouble I found in a few churches when I was newly-born into the Kingdom of our God. I am now 57 years of age. I am a granddad. I have three wonderful grandchildren. A husband of 36 years to a saint-of-a-woman. I worked 23 years in the local newspaper. That tells my entire personal history.
Except that I am not a troublemaker. Fact of the matter is, I hate trouble. In any form. From any source. I want to, in my meager way, make a peaceful impression to the world while I am living in the world. And not be laid to rest with a dark cloud following my surviving family around saying that “I” was a pure troublemaker. A friction factory. Hard to please. And even harder to get along with. These, to me, aren’t good legacies to leave behind. For anyone.
In 1973, if someone had walked up to me and said, “Kenneth, you had better watch out. Satan sometimes like to attend church in disguise,” I would have laughed in that person’s face. Then rolled on the floor laughing again as he or she stood in amazement staring at me. I tell you no lie. I was one-hundred percent convinced in that day and time that a church house was THE safest place to be when you are honoring your God and not fighting the devil as you would six days a week. I guess I didn’t notice the sign on my forehead that read, “S-U-C-K-E-R.”
When I started studying the Bible and found in the Book of Job where ‘the sons of God appeared to God along with satan,’ that opened my eyes. Satan does like to (sometimes) try and needle his way into our church services. In the most unique ways. Ways that many times defies the conventional wisdom of believers. And old saying goes, “give the devil his due,” so I guess I am giving Satan a little credit for being (sometimes) successful in causing trouble even in God’s house of worship.
I found the hard way. First-hand, the clever, hidden ways that satan hit be broad-sided on a few occasions when I wasn’t on guard when I was visiting a select few churches where I knew the congregations on a first-name basis. This type of hurt is the worst. My point is: being hurt by a stranger is easier to deal with than being hurt, humiliated or dejected by someone you call a friend. And when the friend is a believer in Christ, well, I guess I just expect more from this type of person.
I was walking out of the church house after a wonderful time of worship and just commented casually to a guy who I had known for years, “You have a great-looking church building here. Wish we had one where I go to church,” and kept walking. “Do what?” I heard (from my friend) as I kept walking. I stopped. He approached and said, “What did you mean by that remark--we have a nice church building? Is there a reason why we shouldn’t have a nice church building?” he asked with such verbal-speed that I couldn’t think of how to answer.
I tried to explain my innocent remark. But that didn’t work. I tried to apologize. But that only fell on his deaf ears. I was now at a point of panic. My friend was serious. And looked upset. His face was now turning pale. “Listen,” I said. Humbly. “I didn’t mean anything by it,” I continued. “I am sorry if my innocent compliment offended you for some reason,” I added. And this guy still looked angry.
He finally replied, “Well, that’s okay, but in the future, just be careful what you say,” and walked back to the church building leaving me standing there to digest why he was upset to begin with. And to this very day, I have yet to know the reason for his anger. I have seen him in public lots of times, and he is not the same as he once was--friendly, comical and humble. He just speaks briefly and keeps on going.
I tell you the truth. I cannot count the times that his ‘advice’ to watch what I say in the future’ has crossed my mind over the years. And the countless times I have broken-down, dissected, and diagrammed what I said to him about having a ‘nice church building,’ and still cannot find in that compliment, what made him so angry. But mankind is masterful in rationalizing. I put this in proper perspective. A lot of times. Maybe he was having a bad day. Maybe he was having trouble in his home. And other easy, manufactured explanations. None seemed to work, so I just faced the fact that I did offer him an apology to make this right. Even with his mysterious warning, I have learned to just live the best I can and let things like what this guy said years ago, lay where they lay and leave it alone.
This incident is very mild. Tame. Not worth a discussion, compared to other troubles and occurrences I have not only witnessed, but heard about in church-related matters over the years.
At a church I was attending in 1974, this particular denomination has a system of allow the congregation to elect a pastor when the current pastor is called elsewhere. I will omit the boring details, but on one somewhat-quiet Sunday evening, my church was having an election to replace our current pastor who was leaving to pastor another church. Things were going as smooth as WD-40 on a rusted nut, when the results of the voting was announced, a man in the back of the church house stormed out, “What are you folks doing?” Naturally, the pristine southern gentlewomen of our congregation gasped with surprise. Other members looked at this member is disbelief that he had committed a cardinal no-no of yelling out a remark inside the sanctuary of the church house. I kept my mouth shut. And stayed out of sight.
The preacher who was to take our pastor’s place was in attendance and took quick exception to this man’s remark and rose from his pew and started walking in the man’s direction. A sigh of fear, “oooh,” came from the congregation. The church deacons, caught by surprise, didn’t make it to these two elderly men in time before the new-pastor-to-be said, “What did you mean, yelling in God’s house like that?” The rebellious church member only glared at the preacher without answering. But he didn’t help matters any by raising his hand as if he were going to strike the preacher who was still waiting for an answer. “You gonna slap God in the face? Huh?” the preacher, who was now angry, asked in a heated tone. No punches were exchanged. No blood was shed. Just a few more idle threats to save face as the angry church member and his equally-angry wife left in a huff leaving the rest of us in a stunned condition.
My personal incident with my innocent compliment, and this near-brouhaha, are only two highlighted incidents that I was privy to from 1973 to 1974. There are more. And even after viewing these two elderly men almost ‘go at it,’ I was still, I guess, ‘looking at the world through rose colored glasses,’ by not believing that a church house is where satan can do his best work. I am too much of an idealist. I guess. I was raised by strict, Christian parents with strict, Christian morals and ethics. What was God’s, was God’s, my mother often said. I assumed that applied to His place of worship, the church house. And to my way of untrained thinking, satan couldn’t cause trouble of any shape or form inside the church house. That is what I believed.
Here are a few more detailed incidents that I heard about in those early years of my following Christ.
1. In a gospel singing at a nearby church where I live, there was this, yes, elderly church member who sang and played his guitar in the song service on Sundays. He was very talented. But also very stingy. One Saturday night, during a gospel singing at his church, a visiting singer, a talented young man with a beautiful voice, walked to the stage to sing, but confessed that he had forgotten his own guitar at home. His eyes fixed on the elderly man’s shiny guitar. The elderly man’s eyes met the eyes of the young man. There was an obvious silence between the two men for a moment. Then, in an angry tone, the elderly man handed his guitar to the young singer and said, “Here! Take mine,” and walked back to sit with his wife. Both he and his wife fumed and stewed over this for weeks to come. I was told. All because of the young man wanting to borrow a man’s guitar.
2. A family who sang gospel songs were giving a concert at a rural church in another county near my hometown. Simple and harmless event. You would think. When the concert had ended, the youngest son of the dad who led the group received a few more compliments (for his talent on the steel guitar) than the dad for his singing. Outside in the church parking lot, one word led to another and before you could say, ‘praise God,’ the man grew so angry with the son that they almost came to blows. The onlookers who were in attendance at the concert were agasp. Still, I was appalled, but not fully-convinced that the devil can cause trouble in our outside of a church house. But I was slowly changing my mind.
3. I have heard to church members having a ‘falling out,’ a rural term for a spat, because one of the church members got a new pickup truck. Or sang a song better than the other church member. Okay. I concede. Satan can use human emotions for his benefit, only if we allow it. That would be the only door open to this ‘spiritual bully,’ in my way of thinking.
4. Some churches in the early seventies had all-day singings and ‘dinner on the ground,’ a southern tradition that has it’s roots to the early 1800’s when church congregations would fellowship with the community by providing food, music and good times, all day long, for anyone who wanted to attend. There has been reports of a few ladies, good cooks in their own right, having sharp, jealousy-fueled words with each other all because someone gave one lady a few more kind words about her southern fried chicken than the other lady’s German chocolate cake.
5. Church members, I am told , have had heated disputes over Biblical teachings on everything from the usage of alcohol, smoking, and even gambling. In olden times, there was no debate on these three issues. They all three were sin. But in latter years, and with new-thinking and eased-interpretation, some church-goers changed their stance on two of these three items--usage of alcohol and gambling, but most church members of any faith, would agree that smoking cigarettes does harm to our bodies, ‘the temple of the Holy Spirit.’
6. Female church members , in years past, have been known to let jealousy (because of a new dress, hat, or shoes worn by another woman in church) crop up in church and this led to grudges that were never resolved. Because of a new dress? Are you serious?
7. In football season when some church congregations are split--one side for Georgia and the other for Tennessee, this has been a sore spot for years. And a hard burden to be borne by church pastors. I got an idea. Play football on Saturday. Worship God when it’s time to worship God.
These, friends, are just seven of the numerous incidents (with satan’s fingerprints on them) that I have heard about in years past. I cannot say with a clear conscience that in my older years, that my human emotions have always been in check. I would be lying if I did.
What I am struggling to admit to you is, “I now can believe that the devil can and does cause some form of confusion, when he is allowed, in some church-related events.”
I would sing, “I’m a Believer. I’m a Believer,” by Mike Nesmith, Peter Tork, Davy Jones and Micky Dolenz, or commonly-known as the Monkees, but that song might be a cleverly-disguised ‘tool of the devil’ and cause some church members a lot of grief.
And I am way too old to fight.