Doldrums or Tantrums

Doldrums are those low down feelings of listlessness. Tantrums are just the opposite. Doldrums comes from a word that describes a certain area in oceans near the equator. This region is known for dead calms that often last for days. Back when ships depended on the wind for propulsion, the doldrums represented delays and boredom. Waiting for a favorable wind could be very dull.

It is not difficult to imagine how doldrums grated on sailor’s nerves. With a precious cargo either to deliver or pick up and no wind, about all ancient sailors could do was loaf, do minor meaningless chores, and wait. That was prob­ably very depressing.

A tantrum, on the other hand is “a willful outburst of annoyance.” I doubt that many par­ents ever stopped to look up the definition to that word when their children threw one, but that’s what it means.

Some local churches hit the doldrums and get that listless feeling. They don’t appear to have much get up and go. They occupy them­selves with minor and often meaningless duties. What causes it? Well, they hit calm waters. Everything is calm and undisturbed and they are simply listing in the water. Precious cargo is tightly held in the hold and all forward mo­tion stops.

A listless church in spiritual doldrums is exactly what the Devil is looking for. The Jews asked Jesus for a sign (Matt. 12:38). Read his response. To Jesus they were an adulterous and evil generation. He promised them a sign, the sign of Jonah, but concluded by saying, “When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none,” he will return. Finding the place empty and available, the evil spirit brings seven very wicked spirits with him. Jesus concluded, “and the last state of that man is worse than the first. Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation” (vss. 44-45).

When a congregation becomes idle and in­different about the work God gives it the Devil sees it as a fertile field -- a place for him to play. Idleness and indifference is like hanging out a vacancy sign. It is an open invitation to the evil spirits of idleness and laziness.

We have seen tremendous activity and growth in churches of Christ that have become liberal in their approach to scriptural authority. “Don’t they ever have problems?” I’ve been asked that several times. The obvious answer to that question is that liberal churches have more problems than they can count. Liberal churches have a pretty good formula for fixing their problems, though. They quell internal problems with a generous portion of getting people involved in something — anything — but involved nonetheless.

But a church in the doldrums is at peace. They don’t need to worry about personal in­volvement of every member. They don’t sup­port Sponsoring churches, Institutional Or­phanages, or anything that smacks of the “Social Gospel.” But they are at peace, and some wiseacre once quipped, “That’s also true of a cemetery.”

So, is it worse to be involved in institutionalism or remain dead in the water? I re­member it well, a liberal preacher in Oklahoma City once said, “I would rather go to Hell for doing something wrong, than for not doing anything!” To each his own, I guess. I would rather just not go there. Both failure to do God’s bidding and doing it wrong reach the same destination. Taking different routes to Hell is not much of choice.

Those who allow the church to drift into unauthorized activity and those who allow it to drift into idleness are heading in the same di­rection. Those who allow the church to become a strife–ridden sect, who fractures it with fac­tionalism are following right along. None of these alternatives are acceptable.

The remedy? A good old fashion tantrum. “a willful outburst of annoyance.” I urge faithful churches to become annoyed with indolence and indifference. It is high time to express that an­noyance with a willful outburst of standing up and being counted for what is right and acceptable to God. If we have the spiritual “blues” there is only one cure for it. Get busy serving the Lord. Show your interest in the activities of the local church where your worship by faithful attendance, liberal giving, and zealous volun­teer work. Teach a class, have a home Bible study in your house. Visit the shut–ins, send cards to the sick, invite your neighbors, co–workers to study with you and worship with you.

Which will it be — doldrums or tantrums? Each individual member of the church has to make a personal survey of his or her situation and make whatever changes are required. When there are no favorable winds for propulsion, it’s time to paddle. So grab one, put it in the water and heave ho. The cause of Christ needs you. -- DRS

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