Remember the “telephone” game? One person whispers a phrase into someone’s ear and they in turn whisper it into the next person’s ear and that keeps going on until the phrase is “whispered” around a circle and back to beginning – where it almost always is a completely different version of the original.
It’s a fun kids’ game – but unfortunately we keep playing it as adults – we saw it in action last weekend.
Years ago Mountaintop began a ministry of sending a shuttle bus to a local shelter each Sunday morning to bring to worship anyone who wanted to attend. Last Sunday we had a minor incident between two of our shelter guests in our parking lot following the second service (ministry can be messy sometimes). Our security team responded quickly (as did the Vestavia Hills police) and the incident was ended without any serious injuries to anyone.
It was ironic to me that the incident took place on the Sunday that my message was focused on how to manage our anger…. perhaps our guests missed part of what I said….
Knowing that the “telephone game” is often a church favorite, on Sunday afternoon I sent a quick email to our elders letting them know about the incident. Yesterday one of them shared with me that he had received a question about the “stabbing at church.”
I imagine it didn’t take very long for this minor incident to become “a stabbing at the church” – that’s the way the “telephone game” works.
On Sunday we wrapped up a series looking at practical advice from the wisdom of Proverbs. Proverbs covers a vast array of real life topics and includes reminders about the power of our words and lots of advice on how to use (and how not to use) our words:
The tongue has the power of life and death
The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to a man’s inmost parts.
Proverbs 18: 8
Evil people relish malicious conversation; the ears of liars itch for dirty gossip.
Proverbs 17: 4
A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.
When words are many, sin is not absent, but the wise hold their tongue.
Two thoughts following the “stabbing at church:”
· I am so grateful for our volunteer serving teams. Hundreds of people volunteer at Mountaintop every Sunday morning. They rock babies and teach kids. They run sound and lights and cameras. They play musical instruments and lead us in worship. They serve coffee and Krispy Kreme doughnuts. They drive golf carts to make parking easier and they greet guests and answer questions. And they provide security. Our security team's excellent response to this incident prevent it from becoming something more serious. When you see someone serving tell them “thank you” – especially our security team!
· We have to be careful with our words. The words we use and the way we describe events makes a difference. Many of us have a tendency toward exaggeration – it makes a better story – and some of us seem to like stirring up a little drama. That’s how a minor incident becomes a “stabbing at church.” We simply need to be careful with our words and commit to never increasing the drama or passing along incomplete or inaccurate information.
One last thought – I probably need to relook at my message one how to manage anger. If the result was a fight in the parking lot I might have missed something important!