Snow, Wheat, Chaff


Sunday, we got our first heavy snow this winter. Usually, we have one under our belt by the start of December, but this year it took until two-thirds through January. I blame Al Gore.

As one of the worship musicians at our church, I'm compelled to make the Sunday worship. I called the worship leader and was told we were on. No time for sandbagging the pickup bed. Slip on the parka and go. Since I go in early for practice and the rest of the family comes later, I knew I'd be the only Edelen there. My wife's next car will be AWD to match my 4×4. Every car should be AWD, if you ask me.

I now live in one of those areas that mystified me as a kid tuned to school closings on the radio. "Man, those Western Brown School District kids are ALWAYS getting off, even when it's like a half-inch of snow!" was the familiar lament. I had no idea where Western Brown, Felicity Franklin or Betel Tate schools were located, but I envied the heck out of them for getting off school if a mere handful of flakes conglomerated. Now I live in one of those areas and I better understand. Twisty country roads infrequented by salt trucks and snowplows tell you all you need to know.

Five minutes from church, the snow turned to sleet. I wanted nothing more than to turn around and go back home. I can handle about two feet of snow in my 4×4 pickup, but ice remains the great equalizer. It makes everyone look stupid. Wheat

So the worship team all showed. We wondered as we looked out the church windows if it would only be us. The pastor walked in, his shoulders slumped, and he wore a sanguine, confused look. To call off the meeting or not. The ice came down. The clock hands spun.


All told, maybe sixty out of our three hundred regular attenders showed. Twenty percent. The normal buzz that stirs right as the service started wasn't there. You could hear the echoes in the sanctuary. We were here, but it all seemed perfunctory.

From my vantage point behind the drums center stage, I couldn't help but ask if I was seeing a vision of the American Church circa 2025, when the glory days of Evangelicalism surrendered to tough times for Christians. I noted the faces in the pews and did a mental check of the 20/80 rule. Yep, the 20 percent of the church that did 80 percent of the work took up their regular positions in the pews. The faithful.

Who's left when the tough times come, when it's life-threatening to label oneself a Christian? What will your typical American megachurch look like when the penalties come down and meeting isn't as easy as it once was? Will that enormous building feel like an empty warehouse? Had it been an empty warehouse for a decade already?

Maybe we'd all flee to house churches by then, leaving behind the vast complexes that held the Starbucks and Lifeway shops, mute testament against presumption. Perhaps we checked out of Christianity altogether. It simply got too hard. We'd have to give up so much. Everything we worked for years for. Renounce and keep.

Or stay true to Christ and kiss the earthly goodbye. Make the choice. Now.

But this morning, snow explained the thinning. Stole some of the vibrancy, too, I think. If persecution, and not weather, faced us, I wondered if we'd be excited. The underground Chinese Church gets cited for its powerful testimony amid persecution. Could that be us, too, in the same circumstance, our faces beaming? If the sword replaced snow?

You've got to wonder who would fall away, who would betray the remnant, and who would instead die by the sword, the name of Jesus on their lips. The martyrs. Wheat.

It's so easy to be chaff.

17 thoughts on “Snow, Wheat, Chaff

  1. “She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet” (Proverbs 31:21 KJV).

    When I read David Limbaugh’s book, Persecution: How Liberals Are Waging War Against Christianity, I was disappointed, if I could say that about the subject matter, that no stories were told of American Christians being physically persecuted because of the faith. There were plenty of legal wranglings in the book, but no bloodshed, no martyrdom. So I gave the book away. The Church in America has it good…for now.

    • The idea that the Church in America is being persecuted for it’s beliefs is rather laughable when taken in context with the shape persecution takes around the world today (imprisonment, execution, rape, torture, etc.) What is happening is a simple test, kind of like those emergency bulletins on the radio (“if this had been an actual emergency…”) Annoying sounds, but nothing more. How Christians are reacting to the annoying noises is rather telling, however. One need not wonder what will happen when the real deal comes (Matthew 24:10), but just weep at the result. To keep from being like the disciples of Jesus who fell away after some of His “hard sayings” we need to constantly remind ourselves that eternal life with Christ really is worth dying for. But considering that most are unwilling to give up the Superbowl for Christ…well, that says a lot.

        • I’ve always hated those things…growing up in California, the only thing we heard were the tests. Now that I’m in Tennessee, there are actually bulletins and warnings, and sometimes they actually pass along needed information. And I listen when I hear them.

          I like to think our spiritual ears will perk up when a Christian is imprisoned in America for a Bible-based belief, but the pragmatic side of me says that we won’t notice because we’re too focused on Liberty University outing a homosexual teacher and being sued. Like Martha, we are focused on the wrong thing.

    • Michael,

      I read that book, too, and came to the same conclusion. That everything boiled down to a lawsuit is silly. And as much as I’m not happy with what has happened to our public schools, I felt for almost every school administrator caught between warring factions. If I were in that same position, having to please every side, how would I govern? Not well, I can tell you. All these special interests yelling, “Do it MY way!” No, thank you. To make those school supervisors the enemy is shortsighted.

  2. Ok… so, I agree with what you posted here. But, I have a question. How do you know that the other 80% didn’t meet? Perhaps they didn’t come together for the official meeting. But did they meet at other times, at other places? Perhaps God is wondering why the 20% risked their lives for an official meeting, when, perhaps, there was a neighbor next door who needed help.

    Again, I agree with you… just wondering why that one meeting is so important that we can measure “wheat and chaff” based on attendance?


    • Alan,

      Not busting people who didn’t show because of the snow. Just wondering what it will be like should the days turn evil and our witness for Christ warrants a target on our backs.

  3. James Burns

    In the twenty five years my pastor has led our church the services have never been canceled due to weather. He has been known to ride a horse or walk the mile from his house in order to be there, without regard for how many would attend.

    I don’t really think it comes down to people risking their lives to attend a service in bad weather, it comes down to being willing to gather ourselves together as brothers and sisters in Christ no matter what the circumstances are.

    The church is full in the good times and half empty in the bad times. we need to get beyond this.

    • James,

      My pastor was saying they did it once in the 2+ decades he’s been there. Honestly, where we live the roads get pretty bad and most people aren’t equipped to drive curvy, hilly, ice-plagued roads. Still, despite the peak of the storm hitting right as we assembled, folks were there. I fully anticipated less than twenty, so the sixty was actually a surprise.

      • James Burns

        Hey Dan,

        No disrespect intended toward your church or Pastor. My real thought is that most of us, myself included are inclined to find excuses not to go to church. Weather can be a very convenient excuse but by far not the only one.

        I do think however that churches as a whole are so quick to cancel services for a variety of reasons. I love the thought of the sanctuary always being open, unfortunately that is not a reality in todays world.

        My second thought is that we tend to avoid church and gathering together when we need God and each other the most. Our unfaithfulness must really grieve a very faithful God.

  4. John from Colorado

    Many churches have 300 “regular attenders” – but only 150 show up on any given Sunday. The large number of “partial attenders” is hidden by the fact that many of the 25% attenders, the 50% attenders, and the 75% attenders are gone on different Sundays.

    Events like the snowstorms cause a Sunday where most of the “partial attenders” are all gone at once. It is on those Sundays that you see the true “regular attenders” of the church.

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