Does Your Church Want to Get Well?

“Do you want your church to get well?”
 
Look at 2012 on the chart above. Do you see it?
 
 
Obviously whatever Evangelical American churches are doing to reach people isn’t working. Not only are we not reaching Non-Christians, we are now actively losing people.
 
This raises some questions:
 
“Are you as a member or leader in an Evangelical church willing to do whatever you have to do (within the boundaries of Scripture) to reach people?”
 
“Even if no one else does it with you?”
 
“Even if it makes you look weird and strange to other believers?”
 
“Or, are going you just going to keep on doing the same old thing expecting a different outcome?”
 
In John chapter 5, Jesus asked a man who had been an invalid for 38 years what seemed to be a stupid question:
 
“Do you want to get well?” (John 5:6)
 
In case you didn’t realize it, being an invalid in the first century was about as bad as it could get. There were no modern medical conveniences with which to help take care of him.
 
So of course, he would want to get well, wouldn’t he?
 
The man’s problem was the solution to which he was looking in order to get well.
 
He was trying to get into a magical pool which would magically heal him. They didn’t use the term ‘magical’ but in reality, it was no different than believing in magic; they just spiritualized it by attributing it to an angel.
 
Moreover, it would take nothing less than magic to even get him into the pool. So, there he lay, waiting for something magical to happen. And as far as he knew, it was the only hope he had.
 
So then when Jesus asked the man if he wanted to get well; what He was really asking the man is if he would be willing to do something different than what he was expecting to do in order to get well.
 
But the man couldn’t imagine that there was any other way.
 
Then Jesus told the man to do the last thing that he would have ever expected anyone to tell him to do. Jesus told him to:
 
“Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” (John 5:8).
 
Notice that Jesus didn’t magically levitate the man into the pool, or even up on his feet. Jesus told the man to stand up on his own two feet and do what Jesus commanded him to do.
 
Of course, Jesus had to supernaturally empower the man to be able to stand up, he couldn’t do it under his own power; but he still had to do what Jesus commanded and supernaturally empowered him to do.
 
Imagine if the man had said, “That’s not going to work Jesus! If you really want to help me Jesus, help me get in the pool before everyone else. That’s the only thing that can help me. That’s the way we have to do it!”
 
Imagine if the man was dead set that there was only one way that he could be healed; but it was the wrong way.
 
John 5 also gives another important detail about the pool at Bethesda:
 
“Herein a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed” (John 5:3).
 
A lot of people were sitting around waiting for the same magical cure that this man was. But we only have it recorded that this one man was healed that day. Perhaps no one else would have listen to and believed Jesus; they would have demanded that He help them get into the pool to be healed.
 
As you probably know, I often write about what I believe is wrong with the Evangelical church in America. One of the most interesting things wrong with the Evangelical churches in America is that they don’t want to admit that anything is wrong.
 
And what I mean is that they will admit that something is wrong with churches in general; but not that there is something specifically wrong with THEIR church. And if they do admit that something is wrong; it’s really not THAT bad. Not bad enough to do something radically different to fix it anyways.
 
Instead, they are sitting around complacently waiting for Jesus to magically fix their church by means that are completely foreign to the contemporary culture and context.
 
Even churches that consider themselves ‘contemporary’ are usually stuck in the 90’s. Look at the chart at the top of the article. Again, notice what happened in 2012. If you haven’t changed how you do church since 2012, you are trying to reach a culture and context that most likely no longer exists.  
 
(And if you are wondering if I admit that there are things wrong with my church; I actively look for what is wrong with my church; so that we can fix it.)
 
But the really interesting part is why Evangelicals don’t think there is anything that they need to be doing differently. The reason that Evangelicals don’t think that there is something that they need to be doing differently is because of their standard of comparison.
 
American Evangelicals compare their church to other churches. When instead, Evangelicals should be comparing their church to Scripture.
 
Now, if you are a Bible-believing Evangelical, you probably just became offended and huffed that you compare YOUR church to Scripture alone.
 
But I would like to challenge that assertion.
 
I would argue that what you are really doing is comparing your church to Scripture in comparison to other churches.
 
In other words, you say, “Our church is more faithful to the Bible than other American churches.”
 
The problem is that American churches are a pretty low standard of comparison. It doesn’t really take very much effort to be more faithful to the Bible than most American churches.
 
My question is, “If you compared your church to Scripture without considering what the other churches around you are or aren’t doing; how close are you?”
 
Again, you probably just dismissed that by saying something like, “No church is perfect!”
 
But that is a straw-man logical fallacy. It is no different than doing a poor job at anything else in life; and then attempting to excuse your poor performance by claiming that no one is perfect. That doesn’t excuse your poor performance.
 
More importantly, we wouldn’t have the standard of Scripture to compare our churches to if we weren’t supposed to strive to reach the standard they set forth.
 
Almost a decade ago, I began to do what I am challenging you to do. I began to compare what I was doing in church against Scripture alone with no regards toward what other churches were doing.
 
And what I was doing fell woefully short.
 
That was the beginning of a journey through which I discovered where we specifically fall short in our churches; we fall short in imitating and obeying Jesus as His disciple.
 
If we compare what Scripture teaches about imitating and obeying Jesus as His disciple with what the American Evangelical church teaches about believing in and following Jesus, it looks like two different religions.
 
Let me attempt to prove my point.
 
1 John 2:3-6 is one of the bluntest passages about whether someone really knows Jesus or not:
 
“We know that we have come to know [Jesus] if we keep his commands. Whoever says, ‘I know him,’ but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.”
 
That sure seems like a passage we should be teaching in Evangelical church doesn’t it?
 
That passage vividly describes what it means to believe in Jesus as His disciple; that we should obey and imitate Him as His disciple.
 
But interestingly, I cannot recall hearing that passage taught in a church in my first 40 years of attending church.
 
In fact, I would argue that what I was taught in the Evangelical church contradicted that passage. I was taught that all I had to do was confess that I was a sinner and believe that Jesus died on the cross for my sins.
 
There was occasionally something in there about repenting, but it seemed like that term only referred to turning away from really big sins like cussing, drinking, having sex, doing drugs, and listening to rap and rock music.
 
There was nothing taught about radically abandoning my fallen self in order that I might be conformed to the image of Jesus through imitating and obeying Him as His disciple.
 
Even more so, I never had it explained to me why it was so important that I be conformed to the image of Jesus through imitating and obeying Him as His disciple.
 
And in case you’re wondering, here’s the answers to that question (with the proof texts footnoted so that you can check them against Scripture):
 
  1. The Image of God as the Basis of Discipleship. The ultimate goal of the Gospel of Jesus is that men bring glory to God by being re-conformed to the image of God that they were originally created to be.[1]

 

  1. The Purpose of Imitating Jesus as His Disciple. The goal of men being re-conformed to the image of God is accomplished by men imitating Jesus (who is the perfect image of God) as His disciple; through the empowerment and enlightenment of the Holy Spirit.[2]

 

  1. The First Century, Biblical Understanding of Discipleship. Imitating Jesus as His disciple begins (but does not end) with specifically learning and then keeping the words, teachings, commands, and example that He gave during His earthly ministry. It is simply impossible to imitate someone without knowing what they said and did.[3]

 

  1. Biblical Discipleship in a Relational Environment (Relational Discipleship). Being conformed to the image of Jesus by imitating Him as His disciple is not a passive process, but an active/interactive process that occurs within a relational environment; which was established and demonstrated by Jesus during His earthly ministry.[4]

 

“So, if you measure your church against the standard of 1 John 2:3-6 and the rest of Scripture (without comparing yourselves to other churches), how do you measure up?”
 
Now, if you answered that your church is doing well, please reach out to us at hwhwf1@outlook.com because I would love to come out and check out your church.
 
But, if you answered “Not so well,” then back to the original question:
 
“Do you want your church to get well?”
 
Because, there are a lot of churches sitting around saying that they want to get well and reach people; but like the disabled people sitting around the pool at Bethesda, they are sitting around waiting on a mythical, magical cure.
 
A mythical, magical cure that is never going to happen.
 
Now of course, you don’t call it a “mythical, magical cure;” because you spiritualize it in the same way that the people at the pool in Bethesda spiritualized their mythical, magical cure by attributing it to an angel.
 
But just because you somehow spiritualize the cure that your church is sitting around waiting for doesn’t make it the real cure.
 
Instead, the real cure is to obey and imitate Jesus as His disciple; and to teach others to do the same. Which would mean that you would have to teach everything that Scripture teaches and hold yourself and your church to the standards that Scripture sets forth; including the standard of 1 John 2:3-6 and the other scriptural passages that we noted in support of the Four Principles of Discipleship.
 
Even if no one else does it with you.
 
Even if it makes you look weird and strange to other believers.
 
“Or, are going you going to keep on doing the same old thing expecting a different outcome?”
 
Because look at that chart again; that’s the outcome of continuing to do the same old things you’ve always done.
 
 
For more information on why it is so important that we as churches teach that we must be re-conformed to the image of God through imitating and obeying Jesus as His disciple, start here and follow the links at the end of each article:
 
 
 
 
 

[1] Genesis 1:27, 1 Corinthians 11:7, Matthew 5:48, 2 Corinthians 3:18, Ephesians 4:22-24, 5:1, Colossians 3:9-10, 2 Peter 1:4.

 

[2] Romans 8:29, 1 Corinthians 11:1, 15:49, 2 Corinthians 4:4, Galatians 2:20, Philippians 2:1-5, 3:7-11, Colossians 1:15, 1:28-29, 2:2-3, 2:9-10, 1 Thessalonians 1:6, 2 Timothy 3:12, Titus 3:4-6, Hebrews 1:3, 6:1, 12:1-3, James 1:2-4, 1 Peter 1:1-4, 2-21, 2 Peter 3:18, 1 John 2:6, 3:3, 4:17.

 

[3] Matthew 7:24-29, 10:24-25, 11:25-30, 12:41-42, 13:16-17, 13:34-35, 17:5, 24:35; Mark 4:24-25, 4:33-34, 6:34, 8:38, 9:7, 13:31; Luke 6:46-49, 9:35, 10:24, 10:38-42, 11:31-32, 17:10, 19:47-48,  John 3:31-36, 4:25-26, 4:40-42, 5:24, 5:38-39, 5:46-47, 6:28-29, 6:63, 6:66-69, 8:31-32, 8:51, 9:26, 10:27, 12:48, 13:34-35, 14:12, 14:15, 14:23-26, 15:7-17, 15:20-24, 16:6-8. 

 

[4] Acts 2:42-47, 1 Corinthians 14:40, 2 Timothy 2:2.