I saw one of the scariest things on a news site the other day; a man in South Carolina, where a lot of flooding has occurred recently, noticed what he thought were patches of mud floating on the water only to realize they were bands of fire ants–thousands of them, holding on to each other to make a raft so the colony would survive and the queen and larvae would be protected.
Officials have warned people not to go near them and to be careful entering flooded buildings in case you come across these because, if you accidentally touch one, they will likely disband and cover you. And they bite and it hurts.
Hashtag things nightmares are made of.
This article reminded me of that verse in the Bible that talks about ants. You know the one:
“Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise: Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest.” -Proverbs 6:6-8
King Solomon teaches us a pretty important concept in these three verses. Ants have it together. They’re hard workers, they don’t procrastinate, they know what it’s going to take to survive and they get it done. They don’t have to worry about whether or not they’ll be taken care of–well, unless someone or something ruins their colony. Even then, they’ve apparently got a plan.
So what does this have to do with church?
Several years ago, back at my home church, we went through a devastating split. It wasn’t because of any immorality or wrong doing on the ministry’s part; people just started listening to others who were downing our church in an attempt to build their own in the next town over (they tried it on me, too) and people’s egos and desires for titles and positions got the best of them. They didn’t leave peacefully either; offenses came, and they let everybody know about it–not publicly, but one-on-one, trying to take as many people as possible to the church across town. (If you belong to a church that bases its growth on encouraging saints from other churches to switch to your own instead of winning unsaved people to God–do yourself a favor and find a church that is pursuing the Great Commission–but that’s another post for another day).
We went from a thriving church that needed two Sunday morning services just to fit everyone in to a smaller church that, while going through a process of healing, continued to thrive and still thrives to this day.
How did we make it? We did what those thousands of fire ants did.
When the floods hit, the thousands of ants in those colonies linked their legs and mouths together to hold on to one another to create a raft. By linking together they are able to stay connected and floating in the storm. Furthermore, they are able to protect their leader–the queen–and the larvae–their babies and future generations.
Now, our church didn’t link up the same way the ants did (wouldn’t that be an awkward picture) but we definitely had to bind together in the days leading up to the split, the days during it, and in the aftermath. Just like those ants knew that their survival depended on their unity and teamwork, so did our church’s. Those of us fighting for the church knew we had two big jobs on our hands: one, we wanted to protect and support our pastor and his wife (just like the ants protected their queen–the leader of their group that would ensure the colony would be re-established after the storm passes) and two, we wanted to protect our spiritual babies–the people who couldn’t understand what was happening and who were at higher risk of leaving in the confusion that was sowed (just like the ant larvae).
And you know what? The people who stuck together made it. The church survived and began to grow again. But it doesn’t end there.
The USA Today article said that not only do the ant colonies do this in times of flooding, but also if the colony wants to “migrate long distances”. If they want to move into new territory they once again have to bind together.
What about your church? Are you guys looking to move forward and go into places you’ve never been before to reach the lost? You’ve got to bind together.
My church does outreach every month at two different retirement homes and at a community feed. People have come to church through these outreaches, people have been baptized, some have received the Holy Ghost. But truthfully, it’s not always easy to get people to come. They’re outreaches that require you to get out of your comfort zone. You might have people swear at you, you’ll be serving people who may not smell the best because they have no place to call home or money for hygiene products, you might be asked to do something you never though you could do (I learned this the hard way when no-talent-at-singing me got requested to lead songs at the retirement home last month–boy did I ever feel awkward!).
But you know what, it’s worth it every time we see a senior citizen at one of the homes lift their hands in worship, when they share prayer requests with us that show the deepest parts of their lives, when you see tears streaming down their faces. It’s worth it when we see those homeless people walk through the doors of our church and join us for service.Yes, it’s hard. Yes, it’s messy. But when the people of God bind together and migrate into these areas where people are desperate for God, great things happen.
What about your church? Does it have people who are ready to play the part of a fire ant? People who will bind together in unity for the protection of the church and for its growth? What about you? Go to the ant…consider its ways…and be wise.
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