In recent days, I have had the touching and challenging task of visiting most of the churches in Alabama with buildings damaged or destroyed by fires seemingly set by arsonists. The scenes at each site can remind us how vulnerable our church facilities are in terms of such evil activity.
At several of the churches, I felt I was viewing a “miniature 9-11” spectacle. Smoke was still smoldering from the charred debris – once a place of worship for Baptist people in the local communities.
Admittedly when I first heard of the news I was angry, thinking “Who would do such a thing?” and “Will the perpetrators be apprehended and brought to justice?”
This initial response lasted only a few minutes. Then I began to think about how the congregations might be assisted with temporary meeting places and volunteer work teams to help in the rebuilding process.
At each church site, I encountered a resilient spirit which transcended the immediate challenges facing the people. When I made my comment that I believe “good can come out of evil,” there were echoes of amens from the congregation gathered to see the results of the fires. One lady said, “I have been attending church 70 years, and I know things are going to be all right if we stay faithful to the task.”
In one of the services held last Sunday afternoon, a young couple planning to be married wanted to join the church. Standing in front of the ashes and debris of what is left of the church building, they essentially said, “This is the kind of church we want as our church home.” They were impressed with the faithfulness and dedication of the people and so was I.
Churches like families can go through trying times such as what was experienced in the wave of hurricanes that battered the Gulf Coast last fall. Yet there is a resilience of faith which characterizes the congregations. They personify the kind of courage and compassion I believe the Lord blesses.
Therefore, I really do believe good can come from evil. In the Old Testament, Joseph discovered that truth when his brothers foolishly sold him into slavery. Later Joseph ascended to the place of power and prominence in the Egyptian government.
When the brothers of Joseph visited Egypt to request assistance from the government seeking drought relief, they found their brother in charge of the food and other resources. They believed they were in trouble, but the outcome was more positive.
The summary of this biblical account echoes the earlier affirmation I mentioned, “You meant this for evil, but God meant it for good.” This was the response of Joseph who had been wronged by his brothers. He knew to take the high road and chose not to view things as purely negative.
To those individuals who decided to perpetrate these heinous acts, I want to assure you that there are nine strongly committed congregations seeking to be certain that good comes out of evil. That is a testimony of undefeatable determination and dedication. I admire their attitude.
To them the church is the people, the facilities are what they use to worship and serve the Lord. For these churches I believe the best is yet to be because they know that “God can bring good out of evil.”
This article by Rick Lance was written as an op-ed piece for newspapers and other publications. It may also be used to quote Dr. Lance in news stories.