What would you say to a man like this?
He is overweight. Never exercises. Eats very unhealthily. Burgers. Steak. Deep fried food. Hardly any green or fruit in his diet.
Then, he has a heart attack. The doctors had to perform surgery, but he survives the heart attack. The doctor gives the man warnings and things he needs to change in his life.
The man goes home. And. He still never exercises. Still eats very unhealthily. Burgers. Steak. Deep fried food. Hardly any green or fruit in his diet.
He suffers another heart attack. This time, fatal.
What would you say? Would you be surprised? Would you shake your head a bit and say something like, “Well, he really should’ve changed his lifestyle”?
Do you think that man really wanted to get well?
Now, what would you say about this:
A church was healthy in the 70’s and 80’s. They grew and enjoyed being a thriving and growing church. It’s been 30 years now. The people of the church grew older together. They have had more church members dying in recent years than new people coming to church. But they LOVE the way they do church. They love the organ music. They love their traditions of the church. They love the way they do things and the way they’ve done things for years and years. But, they’re running low on funds. They’re running low on living members. They need to do something. So they asked their District Superintendent and the Cabinet to give them a young pastor. A pastor with energy. A pastor with new ideas. A pastor that can reach the young people of our community. So the cabinet sends a young pastor to them.
The pastor sees that even though the year is 2010, once you step onto the church, you travel back in time to 1980.
The pastor tries to change the music. “You can’t do that” “We love our music!” “People love the organ!” “We have a great music program and it’ll bring more people in. Our music is the draw!”
The pastor tries to change the worship service a bit to make it a bit more relevant for 2010. “How dare you mess with our worship?” “We’ve been doing worship like this longer than you’ve been alive!”
The pastor tries to implement a new members class. “You can’t do that!” “People don’t want requirements to join a church!” “How dare you set prerequisites to joining a church!”
So the congregation begs the District Superintendent to send this young pastor away.
The Cabinet sends the pastor else where. And in the near future, the Conference closes the church.
What would you say to that church?
Did they really want change? Did they really want to get well?
Jesus, in John 5, walks up to a man, in Bethesda who had been ill for 38 years. Jesus went up to him, and asked, “Do you want to get well?” It’s sort of an odd question to ask, don’t you think? The man was in that area in Bethesda because people believed that the pools had healing power. Of course the man wanted to get well!
I heard a pastor preach, it’s kind of a offensive question. Could you imagine going to a doctor with an illness and the doctor asking you, “Do you want to get well?”
The words “No crap, Sherlock” come to mind. Or “DUH.”
But by Jesus telling the man to get up and walk, and then telling him to not sin anymore, I feel that Jesus was telling the man, now that you are well, don’t go living the life of a sick man, fighting his way into the stirred pool. You’ve been made well! You are free! Live that way! Live a way that reflects your new life!
Could you imagine what it would look like if, after Jesus healed the man, the man came back to the pools in Bethesda and repeats his life of 38 years or so?
Those churches who are declining, the real question we should ask is “Do you want to get well?” I mean, “Do you really, really, really want to get well?”
Because, getting well will require sacrifice.
Getting well means that you don’t come back to the life you were living waiting for the pools to be stirred in Bethesda.
Churches, getting well means that you can’t use the “we’ve always done it this way!” excuse.
If the doctors told you that you had high cholesterol, you wouldn’t say, “Well I’ve always ate this way!” if you wanted to live.
Getting well requires sacrifice. A change in life. A new attitude. A new way of thinking.
If the declining churches want to get well, but don’t want to change their ways, and eventually have their doors close, whose to blame in the end?