By Leonard Lauriault: QCS Religion Columnist
Preventing spiritual slips and falls
The Winter 2006 issue of Risk Reporter, published by Church Mutual Insurance Company), included an article entitled, “Preventing slips and falls in your place of worship.” While reading the article, I thought, “That’s not only a problem for the place of worship; it’s an even more critical spiritual problem for the people who worship!”
The article presented two purposes for preventing slips and falls: Preventing injuries and protecting the congregation from liability. The possibility of falling from grace and losing one’s salvation is stressed throughout the Bible (2 Peter 1: 5-11; 2: 20-22; 3: 17, 18; Hebrews 6: 1-6). Not only individuals need fall protection. The congregation in general must be protected as well because if we don’t look out for one another to prevent falls, God will hold us liable (Philippians 2: 4; Hebrews 3: 12-14; Galatians 6: 1, 2; James 4: 17).
“Slip and fall prevention begins with good housekeeping practices,” the article states. This involves both regular maintenance and rapid response during emergencies, including the posting of warning signs. Accountability is necessary in both instances.
In the church, teachers are to be both able to teach and reliable (2 Timothy 2: 1, 2). Reliability implies preparation and promptness along with faithfulness to the truth (2 Timothy 4: 1, 2; 1 John 2: 24; Galatians 1: 6-9). Laxity in either of these instills a lackadaisical attitude in students, eventually leading to a slip and fall for both student and teacher (Matthew 15: 8-14).
Church leaders also mustn’t allow the flock to be scattered by unreliable teachers (Matthew 9: 36-38; 23: 1-39; Hebrews 13: 17). Leaders and teachers alike are to post warning signs from the Bible to protect others. All of us are responsible to heed those warnings and to encourage others to as well.
Regular maintenance to prevent slips and falls includes removing obstacles like clutter left in walkways that can cause others to stumble. In the church, mature members must be cautious about exercising Christian freedoms that can cause others to stumble and fall (1 Corinthians 8: 9-13; Romans 14: 1-15: 4).
Stumbles frequently occur on steps. The article advises that steps should be well lit, uniformly spaced and not too steep. We shouldn’t expect rapid growth from new Christians. They should be allowed to grow at their own pace or they might become burned out, fall away, and lose their salvation (1 Timothy 3: 6, 7). New members should be given the light they need to progress (Matthew 5: 14-16; Philippians 2: 12-14).
The article states that most of those injured in slips and falls are more mature (those over 65). While its often new Christians that fall away from the church, if we think we’ve reached a spiritual maturity from which we can’t fall, we’ve already slipped (Proverbs 16: 18; 1 Corinthians 10: 12). Paul warned the Ephesian elders to watch over themselves as well as the whole congregation (Acts 20: 28; 2 Corinthians 13: 5).
Easy access is appropriate. Handicap ramps with rails reduce the likelihood of falls as well as providing accessibility for wheelchairs. The more level the walkways, the less likely a fall will occur. Our road to eternity is narrow, but if we’ll stay on that course and lead others in it, God makes it smooth and level (Matthew 7: 13, 14; Isaiah 40: 1-5, 29-31; 26: 4-8; Psalm 143: 10).
We also need to keep things like roots from pushing up sidewalks, making them uneven or gophers from undermining sidewalks, causing them to cave-in. Every student should verify that what is taught is from God (Acts 17: 11; 1 Thessalonians 5: 19-22). Otherwise, without the firm foundation of Jesus’ teaching, the whole building (congregation) will fall (1 Corinthians 3: 9; Matthew 7: 24-29; Revelation 2: 5).
The article says that seasonal changes cause seasonal problems. During inclement weather, floors can become slippery from water, mud, and ice. Some members don’t travel anywhere, even to church during bad weather. Others might be unable to leave home at all. Still others travel at every opportunity for business or pleasure. Each one should be missed. They also should miss participating in church activities. They’ll more likely experience this, keeping them from slipping and falling away altogether, if the congregation reaches out to them as often as possible.
Before one can fall, they have to climb out of the pit of sin through faith, having their sins forgiven by participating in the death, burial and resurrection of Christ (Acts 2: 38-41; Romans 6: 3-5). Once forgiven, we mustn’t forget the height we’ve attained and fall from our secure position. Spiritual slips and falls are prevented by actively maintaining connection with a Biblically strong congregation. See ya in church!
Leonard Lauriault is a member of the church of Christ