One possible preliminary indicator of a fire about to break out is smoke.
Smoke clouds people’s ability to “see” and clogs breathing.
In congregations, this fire warning smoke is most visible in negative or dark attitudes, in clouded dispositions, in scowling, unhappy facial expressions. It is sniffed in negative talk, and that talk is most acridly about the church and pastor. The talk happens mainly hidden away in semi-secret, though never secret enough to escape the nose. There’s a smell to it, a feel but the source may be hard to track. Visitors might notice its pungency and remark “Everyone seemed so tense” or “there was no sense of enthusiasm or playfulness” or “there were a lot of people huddled in small circles with their shoulders defensively hunched.” These could be smoke signals.
Good Smoke vs Not so Good
Smoke is not always a bad thing. In fact there are kinds of smoke-attitudes that are good. In the Bible, some even represent Gods presence. An atmosphere of excitement about what God is doing is good smoke. Incense is a kind of smoke — a positive fragrance. Positive smoke rises to God as a thank offering, an expression of gratitude…
(Ex 30:8[and similar]; Lev 16:13; Rev 8:4; Luke 1:9-11; Rev 5:8 etc)
This smoke that indicates a fire is becoming likely is a symptom of unhappy attitudes. Of hearts that are hardening, or misguided about what church is about.