Tag Archives: firestorm

“Only YOU Can Prevent [church] Fires”

Tuesday Remix – This is a popular post from last year, updated and re-run for your consideration and comments.

Church fights…forest fires.  Perhaps it is Ron Susek’s book Firestorm that brings the illustration to mind (one of the really good books out there about church conflict), or maybe it is the “scorched earth” I find when I first look across the landscape of a troubled congregation.

Whatever the reminder, a raging forest fire is a great metaphor for a church fight. Once it gets to the “out of control” stage, the devastation is unimaginable and the utter helplessness catches you completely by surprise. Many of you know this from personal experience.

I am no expert on fighting forest fires, but I know this about fire: it needs oxygen to survive. Find a way to cut off the oxygen, and the fire will dissipate quickly. Water, dirt, foam, wet blankets can all serve the purpose.

Firestorms in churches also have a fuel: gossip. Without it, they cannot survive. But with enough of it, the small initial flames of conflict can grow bigger and faster than our minds can fathom. It is a universal underlying factor in every single church conflict with which I am even vaguely familiar. Gossip always makes the conflict worse, not better.

Here is how I define gossip (hide your toes, there’s a crushin’ a comin’): anytime you find yourself in a conversation about a brother or sister who is not here and he/she is not being edified in that conversation, it is gossip. I take this definition from several places in scripture, such as Ephesians 4:29: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

Weddings and Forest Fires

Tuesday Remix – This is a popular post from last year, updated and re-posted for your consideration and comments.

Last Summer, my family vacationed in San Francisco. The real cause for the trip was a family wedding that took place in the Redwood Forest (Kent and Amanda, my niece and her husband). Finding such a breathtaking place to start their married lives together is a testimony in itself about the spirits of these two much-loved family members. The ceremony was beautiful and amazing and images from it will remain burned in our memories forever. It was enough to help us all forget the hundreds of forest fires raging around us in the Northern California area, at least until we got back to our hotel rooms and watched the local news.

The irony is thick, isn’t it? A home filled with creative expressions of love is birthed in the midst of fire and destruction. What kind of divine entity masterminds that? What is the character of a God Who brings us such joy while permitting such devastation?

I could not help but think about the church and its dizzying tendency to provide us with some of our most beautiful and some of our most painful memories, all within days of one another. Even in the midst of real firestorms, God continues to move and to work in the hearts of His people. The God of the universe can do that. This is no God conceived in the small mind of a human being. Who could have ever written such a story?

This same God has left his fingerprints all over the church. His people carry with them the same incredible ability to provide a place of powerfully positive emotions and enormously damaging circumstances. The church is very much like that: …