October 4, 2011

Disturbance or Opportunity

Today I heard about 2 different instances of disturbances that happened during church. In a 'normal world', church services go very smoothly. It begins with some worship. At least 3 songs, but no more than 5. Worship is concluded by the worship leader offering a prayer. Then there are the greetings. Then the announcements. Then the offering plate is passed around while an additional song is sung. Then the pastor gives his sermon for 45 minutes. He concludes with prayer and the congregation is dismissed. From my observations of 150+ American churches, this is how it goes. Yes, I've been watching you :) It kind of makes you wonder, what if something way out of the ordinary happened in the middle of service. What if it was something to which 'dignified' people had no idea how to respond? Well, that something did happen. Here's two instances of that kind of disturbance.

Case Study # 1: Near Pisa, Italy, during a mass, a man near the back of the church stood up and ripped out his eyeballs. With a supernatural strength, he reached into his eye sockets and yanked until his eyes were out of his head forever. There was blood everywhere.  As you can imagine, most people had no idea how to respond. When they saw the frightful sight, they got out as quickly as possible. The priest did what a responsible person would do and called for medical help. Unfortunately for the man, his eyes could not be saved and he will live without sight for the rest of his life. When asked why he did such a thing to himself, he said the voices in his head told him to do it. It could be a mental problem, but given the description and the location of the act, I think he was being tormented by demons.

Case Study #2: In a village in India, a couple of national missionaries from Gospel for Asia were showing a film about the life of Jesus. During the film, a few men stood up and began grunting and shrieking. At first, the missionaries thought the men were upset with them for showing a Christian film in their Hindu village. But they quickly realized the men were being tormented by demons and Satan was trying to disrupt things. How would a typical pastor handle such an instance? Perhaps he would call security and call for medical help as did the priest in Pisa. Perhaps he would have the ushers usher the men into a separate room of the church to diagnose the situation further. Instead of doing the 'dignified' thing, these missionaries actually realized God was giving them an opportunity to show His power to the non-Christians. They seized the moment and began to pray for the men. The demons were quieted and the film proceeded. Dozens of people gave their lives to Jesus that night.

I guess the moral of the story is that sometimes something perceived at first to be a disturbance, can in the end, turn out to be an opportunity. Something that is seen as bothersome can actually bring God glory if you just trust in Him. This seems to happen all the time on the mission field. Maybe if the Priest in Italy was more aware of the spiritual world around him, he would have been able to pray and stop the man from what he was doing.  How will you respond when you're in such a situation?  Will you see it as a disturbance or an opportunity?  Thank God for courageous leaders that can be a good example for the rest of us.

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