I absolutely despise going to the doctor, just ask my wife. I will put it off until I absolutely can't go anymore or until Steph makes me go, and then I pout about it. I don't know why I'm like this, but unless I'm deathly ill, I just see it as a waste. I know that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so I try to take decent care of myself. And overall, I'm healthy as a horse, for which I give God thanks.
But still, there are those times when I just have to break down and go. My personal physician retired a couple years ago, and that killed me. Now, when I have to go, I go to the clinic here in town and see Allie. She can usually get me straightened out. Still, I only go when I absolutely have to, and I think I've been once in the two years I've been down here.
This morning, I ran across the scripture that has become my mantra for ministry, a guiding force for the leadership decisions I make, and a call to return to what we were created to be. It's in Matthew 9, and the words are in red in my book: "On hearing this, Jesus said, 'It is not the healthy that need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.'"
That's right. I know it's going to be hard to hear, but church isn't just for Christians. It's for those who aren't yet. Over the years, we have totally forgotten that...worship is about what we want...programs are designed around our needs...scheduling...music...dress...outreach...all of these things are designed or planned primarily with our needs in mind. But that's not what Jesus said.
The sick are the ones that need the doctor. So my question then becomes, what are we going to do to help them get there? Folks who realize they are sick will find a doctor. The question is, will they find the Great Physician at your place of worship or will they have to go down the road? You see, sick folk are kind of finicky about the clinic they go too, I know I am. If I don't feel comfortable, I'm going to leave, and if I leave, I'm not going to get well.
So here's the challenge...if you attend a church somewhere, it doesn't matter what kind of sign is out front, look around the next time you're together as a body. What things are you doing as a church that would make someone who has never been to church feel comfortable and welcome? How is everyone dressed? "I don't have the right clothes" is the most common reason I get for people not coming to church. What kind of music are you singing? Is it upbeat and easy to get into, or is it slow and kind of like a lullaby? Where are the bathrooms? Do you have signs pointing to the facilities? What about a nursery? Is it clean and well staffed? And the biggest one, do the folks who have been there for a while actually speak to someone who comes in for the first time?
It's uncomfortable to take a hard, honest look at what we do as a clinic for the sick, but I think that's exactly what Jesus would want us to do. I had a couple in a church that I used to pastor who had been coming for a while. One day, one of my little ladies asked me who they were. I told her, "You mean, they have been coming all this time and you have not gone up and introduced yourself? I'm not telling you who they are, go make them feel welcome here." She was furious with me, but at the moment I really didn't care. It takes a lot of guts to walk into a church for the first time, and if we can't do all we can to make those folks comfortable when they do give us a try, God will not bless our work.
Yep, sick folk are definitely finicky about the clinic they choose, and I don't blame them.