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Awfulize.

That’s the word to which my therapist friend, Paula Batts, introduced me.

We were talking about how the economic crisis was rippling through the people of our congregation. We began to count the ways: economic stress for individuals and the church, family stress, marital stress, emotional distress, stress among friends and business partners.

She suggested that one of the most pervasive reactions to the crisis was the way people had begun to amplify and exaggerate any hint of bad news and jump to the most dire conclusions. Here are a few definitions:

Awfulize: To see the worst, most awful possibilities and assume they will be our future.

Awfulize: To do what the children of Israel did in the wilderness when things got tough. They began to long for the good old days of slavery back in Egypt.

Awfulize: To join the disciples in their chorus of doom and gloom on Friday night of Holy Week.

Awfulize: To see declining receipts or unhappy church members or unplanned detours as signs of failure in a local church, rather than an opportunity to discover God’s unfailing provisions in the midst of crisis.

Awfulize: To put stock in political pundits, economic experts or prevailing conventional wisdom and to give in to panicky reactivity and fear.

The next time you’re tempted to awfulize, think again. There is a better way.

It is the way of tenacious and courageous biblical faith, no matter the headwind. It is the way of the disciples and saints and martyrs, who remained resolute and faithful despite hardship, persecution and even death.

Awfulize: To betray who and what we are as disciples of Jesus Christ.

Awfulize: An unhealthy and unseemly attitude for the people of God.

Our culture desperately needs healthy and resilient churches and leaders who can rise above the circumstances of the day and offer a dynamic counter message.

Let’s reverse this faithless trend and instead reclaim our heritage as people guided by faith, hope and love. Then we will truly have offered something new and different to the world around us.

Bill Wilson is president of the Center for Congregational Health in Winston-Salem, N.C.

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