Not every church family copes well with tragedy, often through no fault of its own. Consider when Christ’s Bride made her grand entrance in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost. The Jerusalem church, where disciples fellowshipped, broke bread, prayed and learned from the apostles, is still our model of a place where disciples are made (Acts 2:42). Yet, the believers there were plagued with poverty. Relentless persecution by the enemies of the cross slowly robbed people of their ability to provide a living for their families. Before long there was nothing left to share, and the church became financially poor. Things were so bad the apostle Paul organized a collection from other congregations to help.
Certainly God walks with His people through every situation. However, a congregation’s ability to discern His will in difficult circumstances is impacted by the experience of its leaders and the maturity of its members. It is hard to overemphasize the role these factors play when a church is in the process of recovery. In a crisis people want to help. They are filled with passion and are willing to be used in extraordinary ways. But some lose focus, and others come with strong opinions or limited perspectives. Without guidance, well-intentioned people can do more harm than good, and those with selfish ambitions can exploit the confusion of those around them for personal gain.
In addition, material resources, or the lack thereof can open or close doors to the future. When the church I serve had a major fire a few years ago we relied heavily on an insurance payout for the tools we needed to continue our ministry and to establish a fund for our future facility. Without this settlement, our recovery would have been severely hampered. Although we knew God was with us, I would not have wanted to face our circumstances without a bank account to draw on.
I hope I haven’t discouraged you. But when it comes to church tragedies, I have learned the demons that work to undermine the work of the Lord are relentless. Satan isn’t ashamed to use our suffering as a foothold for sin, and our hard work in the midst of a trial only serves to make him try harder. The church at Jerusalem reminds us even great leaders and dedicated believers don’t protect us from this evil.
Tragic stuff happens. The Bride of Christ can stay pure in the midst of it, but her circumstances can get messy. Life isn’t fair, and it often doesn’t favor God’s own. I can’t explain why. I only know it to be true.