Monday, June 19, 2006

The Two Hundred Pound Tumor and the Danger to Community

For some odd reason, I have a fascination with watching surgery on television. I have watched eye surgeries, plastic surgeries, heart surgeries, emergency surgeries on various body parts, and just about any other sort of surgery you can think of. A couple of months ago, I saw a surgery that topped them all. I saw doctors remove a tumor that weighed over a hundred pounds off of a woman who was barely bigger than the growth itself. I'm serious. It was unbelievable. It was not a "cancerous" tumor, just some sort of weird tumorous growth. I can't remember for certain, but I think that she was from the Ukraine.

The surgery was very dangerous, and it was uncertain if the woman would survive the procedure. The tumor was so large and had so many large blood vessels feeding it that it was likely that she would bleed to death. If that didn't kill her, then it was very probable that the shock to her body from removing it might do her in. Fortunately, she survived. They got a shot of the mass that they removed from her after the surgery. It was hideous, and by far it was the most disgusting thing I'd seen on a surgery show. It was even harder than watching a face lift.

That lump of useless, life-threatening flesh has caused me to think hard about the condition of the local church today. Because our church discipline is nearly non-existent, we have unregenerate people attached to us like a tumorous growth. Without the scalpel of discipline, we are helpless to check the rampage of sin in the body of Christ. Now, I fear that the lump has grown so large that it will likely kill the patient to try and remove it.

The danger to the Church body in leaving this mass of death attached without remedy is multi-faceted. First, it is nearly impossible to have a worship service with so much dead flesh attached. Just as that tumor was drawing away blood needed for the useful parts of the body, so dead church members suck away life from the living. Nothing throws a wet blanket on joyful, exuberant worship like sitting next to a dour-faced tumor.

Secondly, trying to move with that lump attached is nearly impossible. How can you hope to move forward as a church when you have such a useless growth weighing you down? It is depressing to have a "business meeting" for a church and only one-tenth of the 'resident' membership even show up. This is not just my experience here, this is fairly well across the board I'd imagine. If you have to scrounge about to get a quorum of 20% to vote in the man you want to pastor the students, that's a fairly discouraging thing.

Thirdly, tumors contribute only negatively to the body. In the church, dead members leech the system. They do not contribute any money towards the church itself, yet they often complain about what goes on in the church itself. They are conspicuously absent from important meetings, absent from any committee, demonstrate no leadership in any area, and maybe, maybe put a five spot in the plate, yet they will slander, grumble, and complain about the least inconvenience. These malcontents steal the joy from an otherwise healthy congregation, and they cause division with their grumblings.

Fourthly, and most horribly, they obscure the glory of Jesus Christ. In order to join a Baptist church, one must make a credible profession of faith. The world then believes that these abnormalities are actually Christians. Therefore, when a 'real' sinner comes into the midst of the congregation and sees the dour life-suckers, they cannot feel the contagious joy of real believers. Further, they know what these people live like outside of church. In church, they look like their dog got hit by a car, at the Casino's happy hour, they look like they've been paying full price for cocktails for quite some time. No dour looks here. No way. This conceals the greatness of Jesus Christ because the lost find joy outside of Christ and not through Him. It makes a worship service look like drudgery and sham. If the world wanted drudgery, they'd go and have their teeth cleaned.

These are but a few reasons why I am utterly dismayed that the Integrity on Church Membership Resolution was not presented. Southern Baptists have a cancerous tumor that is as big as the convention itself. Our church is no exception. We report over 400 "members" to the convention. We average 120 on Sunday morning.

The real heartbreak to me is not the bloat on the rolls. It is that we have lost what it means to be a Christian community. Accountability in friendship is, or should be, the hallmark of Christianity. Instead, we seem to believe that discipleship equals hearing expository sermons on Sunday and that's it. What about going to a brother's house and discussing marriage, children, sex, books, philosophy, and news from a Biblical perspective? How about getting personal and saying, "Brother, you are overbearing to your children. You are the meanest person at the ballfield, and you embarrass me." Beloved, that's fellowship beyond fried chicken and sweet tea. Faithful are the wounds of a friend.

So yes, we have a problem that a mere purging of rolls will not fix. The challenge is to produce the type of bond of fellowship that can promote accountability and a type of humility that can handle it when it comes. The cancer that sits in our pews is only symptomatic of a shallow, individualistic fellowship.


Jeff Richard Young said...

Dear Brad,

That image of our non-attending "members" as a body-sized tumor is very unpleasant, but very accurate. I don't think I'm going to be able to forget it.

You've really been on it with your posts lately. Keep up the great stuff!

Love in Christ,


Matt Brown said...

Wow. Who knew that a pastor that talks to frogs and listens to fish could write such good stuff.

BugBlaster said...

Right on Brad.

But this statement: I have a fascination with watching surgery

is just plain weird. :o)

Matt Brown said...

Buggy: He talks to frogs. Anything he might say after that doesn't sound as weird.

Anonymous said...

Sounds as if you might need to start a church somewhere to get things the way they should be, unencumbered by tradition and pragmatism :).....KA

Jeff Richard Young said...

Dear Anonymous,

Yes, he could start a church, and in just a few years, if the church is made up of human beings, that one could be encumbered by tradition and pragmatism! :)

Love in Christ,


Even So... said...

*voice of AHHHnold from Kindergarten Cop*

"It's not a tuumaahh"