By Jim Sparks
I was driving on I-25, between Pueblo, Colorado and Santa Fe, New Mexico, taking full advantage of the 75-mph speed limit, changing lanes and passing cars, enjoying the warm day and anxious to reach my destination. It was wild and lonely country, with 50 or more miles between exits, and if your car broke down your primary problem would be staying alive, not car repair.
That’s when I heard the sound: ding-ding-ding-ding-ding-ding-ding. On and on it went. I tapped the brakes to disconnect the cruise control, but the ding-ding-ding went on. I turned off the air-conditioning. Ding-ding-ding. I ejected the CD and turned off the radio. Ding-ding-ding. By this time I was on the shoulder of the road and coming to a stop. I looked at the gauges. Ding-ding-ding. Gas gauge. OK. Ding-ding-ding. Temperature. OK. Ding-ding-ding. Ding-ding-ding. Oil gauge. OK. Ding-ding-ding. Alternator. OK. Ding-ding-ding. Then I saw it. My left turn signal was on. Ding-ding-ding. I turned it off. Silence.
I breathed a long sigh of relief and pulled back out onto the interstate. Wait a minute! When did I have my left turning signal on? Why, that was several miles back. I turned on the signal to change into the passing lane, but obviously never signaled to turn back into the right lane, or even turned it off. I began to think of those cars that had passed me. What were they thinking? “Just another old man too senile to be trusted behind the wheel.” “With a Michigan license plate, what do you expect?”
I had turned on my turning signal for a good reason, with the best of intentions, and it was entirely appropriate behavior at the time, but that turning signal was no longer useful in the place where I was. All too often the problems we face today are caused by something we ourselves did long ago.
In the life of a congregation, we engage in a certain behavior – greeting during worship, fellowship dinners, no liquids in the sanctuary, any number of things – for an excellent reason and with the best of intentions, but we never change or modify our behavior, even as other situations present themselves. Then, when our growth stops, or young people leave, or nearby churches grow, we ignore the ding-ding-ding warning us of a problem.
Traveling down I-25 I was fortunate. The ding-ding-ding could have been an empty gas tank, or an over-heated engine, or any number of more serious problems. Traveling down the road of life, we are often not as fortunate. Our past behavior may lead us into a position of isolation where we are in serious jeopardy. This life is like a long stretch of lonely road with a complicated machine, and we had better watch out for Ding-ding-ding.
Pastor James L Sparks (Jim) is the Southwest Regional Pastor of the Church of God in Michigan. Jim served North Avenue Church of God in Battle Creek, Michigan as Senior Pastor since September 1996 and retired from this ministry in May 2013. Prior to that time, he served congregations in Munster, Indiana, Muskegon and Cassopolis, Michigan. Born and raised in southern Indiana, he earned his BA in Religion from Anderson (IN) University, and his master’s degree in Counseling from Olivet Nazarene University in Kankakee, IL. He is a certified Teacher/Trainer with the Bethel Bible Series, Evangelism Explosion II, and Serendipity Small Group Dynamics. He is a member of the National Association of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors and a founding partner in Awakenings LLC, a private counseling ministry in northwest Indiana. He has been married to Susan since August 23, 1969. He loves working with horses and hacking at golf.