How’s the Patient?

In my previous ministry, one of our members had to go to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. They had many symptoms, but no diagnosis. They were sick, but the local doctors couldn’t figure out the cause, so they went to Mayo. Within a couple of days, they had been seen by 5 different specialists. Each of those specialists either eliminated their specialty from the diagnosis, or they came up with a diagnosis in their specialty. I was there when the general practitioner came to deliver the diagnosis. He carefully went over each of the specialists reports and then made an informed decision as to which treatment to attempt first. In other words, he prioritized the proposed treatments. We would try one and if things didn’t improve, we would try the next one. He also explained that each of those specialists were the top in their field, but they could only see the human body through their specialty. That general practitioner was the one who brought the overall view together. He was focused on the whole body being healed, not just one specialized part of it.

Imagine if the surgeon decided to perform a surgery when the cardiologist (heart doctor) determined the patient wouldn’t survive the procedure. Or what if the cardiologist determined the heart was fine and discharged the patient when the oncologist (cancer doctor) wanted to begin treatment. Each of the specialties have their own focus, but they cannot exclude the health of the whole body.

In 1 Corinthians 12:12-27, Paul draws a picture of the church as a body. There are many members, but one body. Just like that Mayo Clinic team, we have “specialist teams” at Heartland. They are Outreach, Missions, Discipleship, Fellowship, Worship, Service, and Prayer. And I have noticed that we sometimes put off ministry because it belongs to a certain team. You might hear someone say, “That’s the Worship Team’s job.” Or, “That’s the Service Team’s job.” And the implication is that since it is somebody else’s responsibility, we don’t need to worry about it. But there is an old story that has a warning about this kind of thinking.

This is a story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody. There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about that, because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have.

By passing the buck, nothing got done. Our “specialty teams” are passionate about their part to play in the life of the church, but they tend to see everything through their own specialized lens. In truth, many of the things our ministry teams oversee could be assigned to a different team. Our Service Team is responsible for transportation, but it could easily be the Discipleship Team responsibility since most of our transportation is to our Wednesday night programs. But it could also be the Outreach Team’s responsibility since it reaches into our neighborhoods and brings in new people. What are we to do?

In the church, we have a “general practitioner.” We call him pastor. He sees the overall health of the church. He sees how each “specialty” interacts to bring about the health of the whole body. He chooses which is the best thing to focus on at any given time. And when things aren’t going well, he is the one who will direct our attention to the most critical need. The difference is the need can change in the blink of an eye.

I would not say we, as a body, are in a terminal condition. But before we start assigning duties to a given team, let’s ask ourselves how we can contribute to the solution without passing the buck. And when our pastor tells us to focus on a particular area, let’s all pray and seek God’s leading to help in that area. There is one coming up quickly that we all need to commit to working on: Champion’s Challenge. Will you be part of the health of the body? Or will you pass the buck? Or will you just do your own thing and ignore the rest of the body? God has called us to work together to make disciples. Let’s go team Heartland!