A View from the Pew: Don’t Blame the Weather

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One of my favorite old weather-related church jokes goes something like this: “It was raining today, so of course many of the Baptists stayed home. If there’s one thing Baptists can’t stand, it’s a sprinkling.”

This time of year we usually confront several bouts of severe weather as the season changes from winter to spring, and if we’re not careful, our church attendance can be affected. But of all the flimsy excuses we use to avoid attending church, the weather has to be among the weakest.

In a time when our church buildings were less climate controlled and our transportation and roadways were less reliable, the weather could seriously impair your ability to get to church. But those days are largely over.

Still, there are legitimate reasons why the weather might cause you to miss church. After the 2014 Snowpocalypse, we in Atlanta can attest that even a dusting of snow can render a region immobile. Many of you have experienced the threat or reality of tornadoes, particularly this time of year. If there is a tornado watch you might risk going to church, but you would definitely stay home in the event of a tornado warning.

Back in 2004, my parents’ church in central Florida dealt with three hurricanes: Charley, Frances, and Jeanne. This unprecedented outburst of strong tropical storms caused them to rearrange their church schedule several times and prompted roof repairs and other renovations.

When severe weather impacts us, church staff members tend to react quickly. When services are cancelled, you have no decision to make. Earlier this winter, we had an instance in which the weather affected the members of our church differently according to which suburban Atlanta community they lived in. Church staff urged members to “exercise caution and good judgment” in deciding whether or not they could come to church.

The weather is also a very real concern for older members of our congregations. If their vision or reaction time behind the wheel is impacted by conditions, or if they have weakened immune systems or susceptibility to health effects from weather extremes, staying home is for the better.

For the rest of us, however, the weather can be that minor inconvenience that causes us to surrender to Newton’s First Law of Motion: An object at rest stays at rest.

The fact is, we undertake a great many activities in inclement weather: commuting to work, attending sporting events, going on vacation, etc. When we don’t feel like going to church, we often resort to the weather excuse and deprive ourselves of opportunity to be blessed and to bless others.

The next time weather enters into your equation to decide if you are going to church, do yourself a favor and answer this simple, three-question diagnostic to help you determine if the weather is the real reason you’re skipping church:

1. Is this weather threatening to my life or health? If the answer is “Yes,” then your motive is pure and your decision obvious.
2. Would this weather prevent me from doing something else? This requires being honest with yourself, but it’s the most reliable indicator of your true reason for laying out of church.
3. What would I miss if I didn’t attend church today? Answering this last question helps you not only decide on your attendance for the day, it helps clarify your priorities and motives.

If you can answer these questions honestly, then you’ll know when your absence from church is excusable. If the weather is just that—an excuse—then not even a note from your mother will clear your conscience.

Church attendance is definitely one of those “must be present to win” propositions. You miss out on more than you realize when you’re not there. If the weather is bad and you can’t trust your vehicle not to slide backwards, you’re probably justified. But if you’re just using the weather as an excuse, it’s not your vehicle that’s backsliding.

Lance Wallace_for_webLance Wallace is a Baptist layperson and member of Parkway Baptist Church in Johns Creek, GA, does media relations and issues management at his day job, and blogs at newsouthessays.com.

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