I'm not a fan, just saying. I'm not crazy about going to the doctor...and I'm even less crazy about going to the dentist. Our family doctor retired a couple years ago and I haven't found another one yet. I've been to the clinic here a couple times since, but a family doctor, we don't have. Growing up, my dentist hadn't heard of novacaine, or at least if he had heard of it, he wasn't letting on that he knew. I think I was 16 or 17 when I was deadened for the first time in a dentist's chair. When I walk into either a doctor's office or a dentist's office, my blood pressure skyrockets and my pulse races. I just don't like going...but...I know that if I'm sick, that's where I need to be.
Funny how that works, isn't it? We wait until we just can't go anymore before we go somewhere to be made better. I remember my first official sinus infection. I didn't know what it was, but had been sick with it for weeks and weeks. Cold pills weren't working. Allergy pills just made me sleepy. Finally, one Sunday after church, Steph told me that I was going to the walk-in clinic that afternoon. The doctor checked me out, said, "Hmm, somebody has one heck of a sinus infection," told me to drop my britches, loaded me up with a shot full of antibiotics, and in a couple days I was as good as new. If I hadn't been sick, though, I wouldn't have gone.
The first time I went to the dentist after we married was to see her dentist. I wasn't going back to mine (mainly because he threw in a little extra pain if you were a UK fan.) As I sat in the chair, sweating, shaking, heart racing, and blood pressure pounding, the dentist came in and here's how the conversation went: (me)..."Doc, if you hurt me, I swear with God as my witness, I'm going to hit you in the nose as hard as I possibly can." (Doc)..."I promise I'm not going to hurt you. If I do, you'll never come back, and you'll tell your friends that I hurt you, and they'll quit coming, and I'll have to close my practice." He didn't hurt me. In fact, it was, at that point in my life, the easiest dental visit I had ever had. I still don't like going, but I know Dr. Covington's not going to hurt me, so I don't mind as much.
Jesus said something about the sick and the well, didn't he? He had been asked a question, and that question was this: "Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?" I love his answer: "It's not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentence."
I love that, and I have to say that is part of the reason why I am the way I am. That's why I buck the system and why I watch for traditions that get in the way of the sick getting to the doctor. That's part of why I got inked and pierced...my tattoos and earring have given me opportunities to start conversations with folks that I would have never had the opportunity to talk to in a suit and tie. Church isn't for the saved, church is for the seeker. We have forgotten that. Most of what we do, in most churches in the country, is not for the sick but for the healthy. Tell me if I'm lying.
We design worship for the healthy. We design programming for the healthy. We design dress for the healthy. Even outreach, in most places, is designed for the healthy. Now, there are certainly exceptions, and I could list some but I won't. But for the most part, what we do, we do not for the sick. If we were intentional about helping the sick get to the doctor, we would advertise that you don't have to have a suit or a dress to come in...we would be out talking to folks about what we could do to make them more comfortable...we would be intentional in creating an atmostphere that was non-threatening and laid back...we would make worship user friendly...and we would look for ways to start the conversations so that the sick can at least hear about our doctor. If you look around, the churches that are growing are the ones doing these things. There's got to be something to it.
Here's the big "so what"...if your church isn't growing there is probably a reason. It's not that you're not good people, but something about what you're doing is keeping folks away. Now is the time to stop and look around. It could be declining demographics, dying community, aging members. But even those things don't have to close a church. Right now, I drive nearly 50 miles to go to the dentist. There are several dentists who are much closer, but I'm comfortable going to my dentist, so it's worth the drive. The same is true with our churches.
I can't speak for him or her, but if I were a betting man, I would bet that your pastor would love to see your church grow. I would bet that you'd love to see your church grow. If I were a betting man, I would bet that your pastor is just itching for the opportunity to do something outside the walls. I would bet that your pastor would love to see a church full of sick folk finding their own doctor for the first time. I can't say for sure, but I'd almost bet that's the case. So, what are you waiting for? Let your pastor eat with sinners. It's really not about the healthy at all...and the results...lives will be changed, the sick will be made well, folks will find Christ, and it will be your fault.