A couple of articles I’ve read this past week continue to roll around in my head. Both deal with life threatening circumstances, but the story line for each is completely different. Have you ever just felt dog-tired for no apparent reason? The young man who wrote of that experience highlights that it was a new phenomenon for him. I don’t really know his exact age, but from his picture I’d guess he was in his late twenties or early thirties. Actually he thought he probably had the flu. Maybe it wasn’t even that? Could it possibly be something as simple as a bad cold?
After all, it wasn’t that he was completely immobilized by his illness. He wasn’t, but something was wrong. He had a low-grade fever that wore on for about a week and he just didn’t have the stamina he was generally accustomed to feeling. That being said, he wasn’t totally bedridden either, but his lack of energy and stamina were sure-tell signs that something wasn’t right.
I marvel with the fact that he opted to see his doctor. Isn’t it generally a “guy thing” to take an ostrich approach and bury one’s head in the sand rather than go to the doctor? For the most part, I try to avoid them like the plague. After all, who knows what illness you could contract from just being in a place where sick people gather. Besides that, simply filling out the medical questionnaires can be exhausting. Saturday morning, one of the doctor’s offices I frequent sent me an invitation to set up an electronic portal. Of course, doing so required re-completing all of the paperwork previously submitted. It was a hassle. About half way through the process, I regretted that I started the exercise. It proved to require more time than I had available.
At any rate, the man apparently got in to see his primary care physician without difficulty. As part of the process, blood was drawn for a preliminary assessment. Before day’s end, his doctor was on the other end of the telephone telling him to go immediately to the emergency room at the hospital. His blood work had come back confirming an elevated white cell blood count. Under extenuating circumstances, a person’s white cell count might reach 12,000 while fighting infection. Unfortunately, his white cell count was at 94,000. The doctor had never seen a patient with a white cell count that high. There were also immature white blood cells in his blood stream that signaled other signs of trouble. Long story-short: “Hello Houston We’ve Got A Problem”.
Within a week, the diagnosis of acute lymphoblastic leukemia had been made. Starting chemotherapy on the day he crafted his blog, he was hospitalized and anticipated being so for the next four-to-six weeks. While medical practitioner’s provided no guarantees, it was thought that the outlook was hopeful despite the three- year treatment regime that would need to be implemented.
Can you imagine the range of emotions and adjustments the young man is currently undergoing simply wrapping his head around how abruptly his life has changed? Obviously he now has priorities he never thought possible. He is on a very different track from anything he ever anticipated. I felt compassion for him from simply reading of his experience. He has to be wondering, “Can this really be happening to me?”
While you allow that story to roll around in your head, the other thing that caught my attention over the weekend is a book written by Thom S. Rainer. The introduction to the book is equally captivating. The author begins by sharing a story that didn’t have a happy ending. In fact, he doesn’t even attempt to withhold that information. He writes: “I knew the patient before she died.” He goes on to chronicle the level of denial she angrily took to camouflage even the thought of the inevitable.
He reports that she was very sick but refused to admit it. Hope was limited and even that would require radical change. The patient wasn’t motivated to make even a slight change. Consequently it was only a matter of time. Perhaps in her defense, she lived longer than he anticipated, but the quality of life was marginal at best. Eventually, she succumbed, just as he knew she would because she refused to negotiate life differently.
Rainer’s book is entitled “Autopsy of a Deceased Church” with the by-line: “Churches All Across America Are Dying.” He writes: “She, of course is a church that was probably born out of vision and died because she no longer had a vision”.
In a video promoting the book, the following information is provided: “It usually isn’t a hugely traumatic thing that makes the nightly news. Its not like the building suddenly disappears or all the people vanish. It happens slow, day after day. But it can be so subtle that it is easy to deny. Even when the evidence is right in front of our eyes, it is always an option to be blind. We have to choose to see the signs.
- Decline is not an event. It is a process.
- Churches all across America are slowly dying.
- Do you know how to keep yours alive?”
The topic gave me pause for concern. Just as the young man who was summoned to go to the emergency room immediately, sometimes there is urgency in correcting wrongs or misperceptions that can surface quickly and without intervention cause great harm. The litmus test for our spiritual wellness is our attitudes and our commitment toward one another. It is the presence of love. Jesus said, “By this shall all men know you are my disciples if you have love, one toward another.
Another writer expresses it this way: “When a church isn’t well, there are warning signs. Sometimes it is the simple stuff: You can tell that a church isn’t spiritually well when its members – People who have worked together for years suddenly turn on each other and begin to argue about which is better:
- Praise choruses or hymns
- Guitars, keyboard and drums or a piano or organ
- Hymnals or words to choruses projected on the wall
- Four or five singers each with their own microphone or choir members each with their own robe”
(Churches have split down the middle over that one issue) By the way, a church split isn’t something that God orchestrates.The selection of music associated to worship is probably the biggest disagreement or area of conflict experienced in most churches, but there are others and they often relate to style of worship.
The list of things that Christian people can disagree on is probably unlimited. But disagreement and discontent doesn’t come from God. It is a warning sign that all is not well.
There are those who feel strongly that true worship takes place only when one enters the sanctuary for worship with a spirit of quietness and prayer. Consequently, there is the temptation to be offended and at times think of others as being spiritually inferior because they don’t share that same preference.
In contrast, there are those who feel strongly that true worship takes place only in an environment where everyone is friendly and welcoming. They enter the sanctuary with a hunger for fellowship – As they enter the sanctuary, they make a bee-line to whom ever they most want to visit with and their conversation may relate to where they left off the week before. They are not oblivious to the silence, the body language or the lack of engagement by the silent few. They are tempted to simply think of them as either unfriendly or unloving.
So which is the right style for worship? Both – It is a matter of individual preference.
So which is the wrong style for worship? Both – Anytime one’s worship experience results in becoming judgmental and discounting the sincerity of another person’s intent when it differs from your own isn’t worship. Worship is a matter of the heart. If you want your spiritual life to be healthy, growing, vibrant and joyful, those characteristics come from God and they are enveloped in an attitude of love.
All My Best!