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Understanding Factors
Understanding Factors

Why So Many Church Members Are Ornery

Printed with permission. Taken from the E-News of the MICHIGAN DISTRICT CHURCH OF THE NAZARENE, July 18, 2020.

Dear Michigan District,

Thom Rainer has come up with ten reasons why people are so ornery during this pandemic. I thought you might like to see “why so many of our church members are ornery.” 

"The answer may seem obvious; We are experiencing a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic. After all, who would not be concerned, frustrated, and uncertain? But as we dug deeper talking with pastors and other church leaders, we began to understand there is no simple response to the latter question.

Indeed, we are finding the “ornery factor” to be more complex than it initially seemed. Here are ten of the factors putting your church members in a concerned and bad mood:" 

  1. “They are weary. The cumulative toll of the pandemic is telling. Some are weary because loved ones and friends have COVID. Some are just tired because of the pandemic in general.”
  1. “They are confused. It’s difficult to get a consistent story about COVID. Even the organizations of expertise don’t seem to be on the same page.”
  1. “They are fearful. It’s easy to tell a believer he or she should not fear. It’s a challenge to fight fear with the barrage of bad news we get every day.” 
  1. “They feel like they have lost their church. In some ways, they have lost their church. It will not likely return to the way it was pre-pandemic.” 
  1. “They are weary of the cultural fights. In one day, I counted fourteen different cultural issues in the news where one or more groups were fighting others.” 
  1. “They are stressed because it’s presidential election season. The four-year cycle is here. It is always a stressful time even without a pandemic.”
  1. “They see so much negativity on social media. Indeed, Facebook and other social media can be harmful to your mental and emotional health. Social media is a magnifying glass to negativity. It gives a voice to those who were rightly ignored in the past.”
  1. “They miss gathering with their friends at church. I know. The church is the people, not the building. I get that reminder daily. But the church is supposed to gather, and digital gatherings just have not sufficiently replaced in-person worship.”
  1. “They have lost their outward focus. One of the reasons for the orneriness is self-focus. When we are focusing on what is wrong in our lives, we are not focusing on reaching and ministering to others. A self-focused church is an ornery church.”
  1. “They lament that their regular patterns have been disrupted. Even the most change-oriented of us need some type of routine in our lives. So many of our routines have been totally disrupted by the pandemic.”

So, from your district office, I simply want to urge you to be safe and legal.  Seek to be in compliance with your local health authority's regulations. Wear the mask, as your governor and president have requested. Wash your hands and don’t be ornery.
I haven't been able to hug my mother since March. She is 91 and lives in an assisted care facility.  She can barely see and hear. Needs help putting on her clothes and combing her hair. This week, I stood outside her window with my head pressed against the screen. I could see her sitting in her overstuffed chair. I called her phone. As I stood there, we looked at each other. I saw her smile and wave, her withered hands cupping her flip phone. Through the phone, I easily heard her laughter and sweet voice.  She was remarkably upbeat.

I asked, “How you doing Mom?” She smiled back saying, "When I wake up each morning, I have two choices. I can be happy or unhappy.  Then with a twinkle in her eye, she said, "I'm not stupid!"

My widowed mother of seven children, reduced to an assisted living care room, restricted from touching and being touched by her children, only talking to her family through a wall of windows over the phone, chooses to be happy. I said, “I’m going to quote you, Mom.”  And she just smiled and laughed.

“You have two choices…”

You are loved,

Dr. Woodie Stevens
Interim District Superintendent Michigan

Filed Under: Communicator Published: 08/10/2020

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