A pastor friend dolefully reflected on the slow growth of his church. The only thing he could find regularly in the church baptistry was dust bunnies.
As he pleaded with God to help him understand what needed to change, he seemed to hear the Lord say: “Your people eat each other alive. I can’t trust you with new members. Your people have become carnivores” — he was sure that was the word the Lord used — “and it’s cold in here. You have to be strong just to survive as a member.”
“But Lord, what can I do to change that atmosphere?” the pastor asked.
“Well, it permeates the whole church,” he seemed to hear back. “Let the church board attack it.”
And they did. At its next meeting the board members confronted the sinful ambience that had developed in their congregation and threw themselves in repentance on the mercy of God. He did not disappoint them.
After a significant period of deep heart-searching, it became plain that the issue was serious enough to bring to the congregation. The church members resolved to no longer counter any word of criticism. If anyone spoke negatively of a member, pastor, guest, or church leader, the person hearing the criticism was authorized to simply turn and walk away. They declared a church-wide moratorium on criticism.
And it worked. Not overnight, for sure, but within a few months the climate changed. The Son began to shine. The grumble factor faded, and joy replaced it.
Not long after, a woman who had not previously attended appeared at the door on a Sabbath morning. Friendly greeters asked her if she was new to the area. No, she had just been reading her Bible and had come across some questions she couldn’t answer. When she had told her pastor that she wondered whether she had been attending church on the wrong day, he had suggested that she contact the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
A few weeks later, the church scheduled a date for her baptism.
She was not the only one. Members saw that their church was a safe place to bring friends, and more and more people began entering the sanctuary.
Meanwhile, that new woman? Today she is an assistant Sabbath School teacher. And the baptistry? You will have a difficult time finding any dust bunnies in there now.
Don Jacobsen works with prayer ministries for the North American Division.
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