From the first time I walked into Countryside Christian Center, consistently through this morning, my family and I have always been treated with friendship, love, and comforting support by hundreds of people whom God has put in our path.
When we left our previous church, an Episcopal church near our home, we made up a short list of nondenominational churches within reasonable driving distance of our home. The idea that an “umbrella group” from outside our church dictating policy and ways of worship had finally gotten in the way of what we considered to be true worship in The Spirit.
Countryside was first on our list of 5 or 6 churches, only because I had driven by it nearly every day for over two years and always (no exaggeration) saw lots of cars every day of the week in the parking lot there, suggesting to me that something must really be going on there. By comparison, our old church was lucky to have a half-filled, small parking lot on any given Sunday and then for only a couple of hours at most. We were so pleased with our truly wonderful reception that we never went to another place on the list and have never regretted the decision. I choose to think that God guided my family to Countryside and guides our footsteps in a beautiful, active way to this day.
What does this have to do with attitude? Everything!
When we decided to leave the Episcopal church, faith had long before been supplanted with tolerance, farm worker’s rights, building projects, stewardship and many other earthly concerns that had nothing to do with power in The Holy Spirit, salvation, and surrendering to God.
At one point, the minister of the church had used an altar call for salvation as a threat if we didn’t get more people in the doors and paying. The biblical principle of tithing never entered the conversation. It was always “stewardship”-a far less onerous burden for those looking for an easy way out of a contract with a loving God. And forget the “E” word-evangelism! We reached out to no one for any reason. Membership increased by birth, mostly and since our departure has decreased by the deaths of elderly attendees and general disinterest.
When the umbrella church changed policies and worship practices, even the things we prayed for, congregants voted approval or disapproval with their purses and wallets. Now that’s attitude!!
Sure, it is rebellious on the face of it but it was their right as “freedom loving Americans” to put their bucks wherever they wished. Start the downfall of our local church and many like it for the same reason. The last I checked, it seemed like the property was getting ready to be sold. Too few attendees to support it very well on an ongoing basis. Score one for Satan. He loses in the end, we know, but he will not go down without dragging as many “freedom loving Americans” with him as he can. It all started with an attitude.
What? You think I’m exaggerating here? No way! I think we in America often believe we do things in our own carnal wisdom, independent of spiritual influences. This, too, is an attitude that leads to problems which separate us from God’s love.
Reaping what we sow always starts with an idea, an attitude, a predisposition to certain thoughts that lead to good or bad behaviors:
Sow a thought, reap a deed.
Sow a deed, reap a habit.
Sow a habit, reap a lifestyle.
Sow a lifestyle, reap an eternity.
One can encounter good and bad behaviors even in churches. When I see poor behaviors, cutting remarks, ugly attitudes and the like, and thank goodness it isn’t often, I try to remind myself that we are the church and we are in a process guided by an attitude. An attitude of surrender to a God that sent His own Son to heal us of sins of thoughts and deeds that don’t give glory to Him and are harmful to us.
This morning my wife and I ran across a couple of people who really had what I would call a chip on their shoulder, even after we tried to gently guide them to their correct place to attend the appropriate Sunday School class or to explain that the absence of their name from our roster for a second week was not a deliberate offensive act against them personally. One stormed off in anger over our “effrontery”. I pray he returns with greater receptiveness next time.
Well, enough said about attitude. Christian character has well-defined features and starts with the work the Holy Spirit does in us when we are saved by His grace. Our efforts produce nothing in this arena. Anything I have ever done to produce spiritual good in myself has been a fantasy! I always come back to what Paul said the fruit of The Spirit is:
But the fruit of the Spirit
Is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness,
Goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Gal 5:22-23
The life in the Spirit’s control that we exchanged for the life enslaved by sin that we used to lead should have these characteristics as its hallmark. This is what got me to stay in my house of worship and to carry it to others on the outside. They, in turn, have carried it to others, also and explains why our church is such a wonderful and lively place to charge the batteries of our faith.
Like I said: Attitude is everything.