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The Emergency at the Beginning of the Church Service

June 14, 2014

Titus 3:1 – “Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good…”

That last phrase hits home especially hard to me.

Be ready to do whatever is good.

imageBe ready.

As a Boy Scout, I was constantly reminded of the motto “Be Prepared.” It proved to be a powerful truth throughout my years in Troop 65 in Hershey, Pennsylvania.  In numerous camping situations we found ourselves face-to-face with an obstacle, from sudden downpours to an injury while on the trail. Our training kept us ready.

It also applied to us in the church, as I found out.

I served as an interim pastor in a North Carolina country church located in the woods down the road from Raleigh. Ah, these were good, good people.  The congregation members really wanted to grow in their love for the Lord, and I enjoyed the intimate feeling of strong fellowship and sincere desire to serve Jesus on a daily basis. Our prayer group grew.  Our Men’s Bible study strengthened.  Our Woman’s Outreach expanded.

I looked out over the congregation on a September evening as the choir finished their song “All I Need is Christ” and headed down the steps to find a seat.  We had been meeting for about a year and had grown to approximately ninety in number, with the evening service strong in attendance.

I stepped toward the podium, but I hesitated.  I saw a dark-haired man in the third row, clearly agitated, begin to rise.  He was thin, nervous and pale.  His eyes were dark and haunted.

“Please help me,” he called out.  “My wife is planning to leave me.  She wants to take the children.”  He looked up at me and then turned toward the rest of the people.   “I know I’ve done her wrong in the past, but I repented of that, and came to Christ.  I became a Christian, and I told her so, trying to live it and be the right example, the right husband.”   He wrung his hands.  “It’s been over six months, and she still won’t forgive me.  She says she wants to leave.  I… I don’t know what I’ll do if she leaves me.  I love her.  I love my kids.”  He started to weep.

My mind raced back to the incident of my youth in rural Maryland, when a woman came to our country church and cried for help in the middle of the service.  Her husband had abandoned her.  She was desperate, needing care and comfort …  and yet our church was unable to stop the course of the service and help her.  (You may remember that I shared that in this blog about two weeks ago.)

I remembered that all too well.

We couldn’t let that happen here.

“Brother, come up here,” I called to him as I came down the steps.  He pushed himself forward and fell down in front of the altar.  “Men, get up here, and quick.  We’re going to pray for this man, whose name is…”

He looked up. “Dan.”

“We’re going to pray for Dan, right here, right now.  Come lay hands on this fellow Christian in need.  Jeff, you pray first.  Mike, you pray second.  The rest of you follow as you feel led to speak.”

Frank leaned over and laid his hands on Dan’s shoulders.  “It’ll be all right, friend.  We’re with you.”  Paul came over, patted him and laid his hands on Dan’s head.  The entire group of men drew close, knelt, and as many as could laid hands on Dan’s shoulders and head as Jeff led in prayer.

The prayers were sweet and sincere.  The ladies joined in and prayed.  Even the children knelt and participated.

We stayed with Dan late into the evening. Men talked with him and counseled him.  Dan was surrounded by love.  Our ministry extended also to his wife and kids that very night.  We did everything we could.

And Jesus worked.  Dan’s wife reconciled and embraced him back into a good relationship.  They had a ways to go, but she was willing.

At the end of the week Dan invited me to breakfast, waving me to a booth and insisting that he pay.  “It’s the least I could do, preacher.”

I nodded.  “Well, I’m mighty thankful.  But I’m most thankful that your family is back together.  Will we see you all tomorrow at church?”

He shook his head.  “Well, no, that’s one of the reasons I wanted to meet with you.  We would love to come and be a part of the church, but this town holds …. well, it holds too many memories of what happened, you know, before I became a Christian.  We’re going to move to Greensboro.  I have a new job and we’re going to start our life over.  I’m sorry that we can’t be with the church folk, I really am.”

I grinned.  “Don’t be sorry at all, man.  You’ve a new life in Christ.  You’re on your way to a change and a solid family home.  There’s a great future ahead of you!”

Dan nodded.  “And that’s the second reason I wanted to meet with you.  I need you to know how important it was that you and your church people reached out to me that night.”  He blinked.  “I was at my end, preacher.  My wife had already packed bags and was even packing the kids’ stuff.  I had stumbled out of the house and stumbled into your church.”

He leaned forward.  “Preacher, my conclusion was that…”  He paused and gulped.  “If your church could not help me, I was going to end it all.  I had a gun.  I was going to take my life.”  He relaxed his shoulders and nodded.  “Jesus and your people saved my life.” He reached out and shook my hand.  “I’ll never forget it.  I just wanted you to know that.”

I left that cafe with a thankful heart for the opportunity for me – for all of our people – to serve Jesus in an emergency situation.

Since that day I have constantly reminded myself of the words in Titus…

Be ready to do whatever is good. 

 

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