Thanksgiving church fire

My friend and colleague Michael had just helped his congregation finish the work on a brand new church building earlier this year after two years of sweat and love. They had been worshipping in a small  building that was not allowing them to grow the way they felt called to. It was a lengthy construction project that involved many weekends of labor by members of the congregation and friends from the community. Earlier this week a fire of mysterious origin gutted the entire inside of the sanctuary. Michael’s wife Steffani posted pictures of the burned sanctuary on Facebook Wednesday. It was gut-wrenching to look at the charred cross, the burned hymnals, the scattered and burned pieces of the nativity set and the warped computer and electronic equipment. 

Luckily no one was in the building at the time of the fire and so there were no injuries. But I can’t help but be deeply saddened for the damage to the hearts and minds of the congregation. Being a leader and worker in a church is hard enough when things are moving along smoothly. There are always too many things to do and not enough time or money to do them. The task of being the living presence of Christ’s love does not have hours or a season. Most of the time churches work on the 20/80 principle with 20 percent of the members doing 80 percent of the work. So when something extraordinary and devastating like this fire happens, I can just see the bottoms dropping out of the hearts of the faithful. 

What it does remind us of is the enduring truth of the well-known cliche that the church is what is left after the pastor skips town, the web site crashes, and building burns down. Of course, you hope that none of those things actually happens. 

At the moment I feel completely helpless. Professional clean-up crews are going to clean up the mess. Insurance will likely cover most of the cost of the damage. There is one thing that I can do and that everyone else can do, too. You can pray. Prayer is powerful and prayer changes hearts and minds. Prayer will be the energy that rebuilds the congregation’s saddened outlook and give them a future with hope.

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