Tuesday, January 7, 2014

What a Chiropractor Taught Me about Ministry

When I was working in marketing and advertising to support my ministry habit (church-planting at that point), I met a chiropractor, Matt Kriewall, through a business networking group to which I belonged. He needed marketing services, but I was reluctant. I didn’t write for products I couldn’t endorse. And I couldn’t endorse a product I’d never tried. And, having lived in California during the years when some chiropractors had strongly resisted regulation of their industry, I had a strong distrust of all of them.
I did agree, however, to an initial examination, though not until experiencing a back injury during rehearsals for a musical in which I was performing. (I was The Giant, in the process of carrying Jack offstage, unaware that the director felt that Jack was going along too compliantly. Thrown over my shoulder, Jack began to flail. It immediately felt as though someone had grabbed my spine between the shoulder blades and given it about a quarter-twist.)
As he looked over the x-rays he’d ordered and took measurements and even temperatures along either side of my spine, Matt assessed that the pain from the injury could be alleviated entirely within a week or so, but that even one adjustment should provide significant relief. “But,” he added, “were you wanting something done about that spot in your lower back?” I hadn’t said anything to him about it. Most of the time I managed to keep it fairly mobile. But the doctors I talked to after an auto accident years before agreed that one day I might need surgery, but short of that there was nothing to be done.
I have seen a chiropractor hundreds of times now. Occasionally, I spend too long at the computer, or fail to square my knees and hips when lifting, or lean a little too far out the window of the crow’s nest when I’m spotting and running the play clock during football season. When it flares up, after it’s bothered me for a couple of weeks usually, I go back to the chiropractor again for awhile until it’s better.
Nice story, eh? But what does all that have to do about ministry?
Today, Dr. Paul Louis Metzger posted to his blog: “On the Damaging Dualism of Proclamation vs. Demonstration.” (You can find it here: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/uncommongodcommongood/2014/01/on-the-damaging-dualism-of-proclamation-vs-demonstration/) In short, he points out that we shouldn’t “cop-out” from actually “sharing the good news of Jesus with words.” But neither should we “force the word of God down people’s throats.” I agree. In fact, interestingly to me, I’m preaching this coming Sunday on Mark 1:29-39, in which Jesus quickly becomes inundated with those responding to His ability to heal and deliver, so much so that He needs to create some space in which to continue “what I came for.” That is, “that I may preach there.”
Jesus healed, delivered, consoled, and fed. And He preached. And He did what was necessary to maintain the ability to do both. At least that’s how I see it. But that’s probably because my ministry involves lots of preaching, and lots of needs-meeting. As you might have read earlier, I gravitate toward those at the brink of disaster, those at the end of their rope, and those who are bleeding and broken at the bottom of the cliff. Sometimes I struggle with the reality that many who find help for their physical and practical needs through my ministry don’t always ask the questions I need to hear in order to explain why I do what I do, and Who it was that did so much for me that I can barely help doing for others. (As for the reason they have to ask me questions: As a chaplain and guest-speaker in some of the venues, the ethics require that I not proactively share my faith, unless someone specifically asks. Even then, I ask them if they realize what they’re asking and of whom.)
But one of the most effective means to opening a door (Colossians 4:2-4 comes to mind often.) is to note that there are other needs evident, beyond the ones that prompted them to call for my help. In the words of Matt Kriewall, I’m essentially asking, “Sure, we can do something about this most recent injury. But were you wanting something done about this other problem as well?”
We can live out the gospel silently, which is certainly more attractive than speaking out the gospel with no accompanying demonstration of love for Christ and others. But there seems to be a third option. As we are in the process of meeting the clear and present needs of those God calls us to serve, I believe that there may be more open doors than we imagine.
Those who are sick and injured want to be healed, to be put back to normal…even if normal includes some long-standing damage that they’ve resigned themselves to enduring. Jesus asks the lame man at the pool of Bethsaida not “Do you want to walk?” but “Do you want to be well?” (John 5:1-8) I think most of us do want to be made whole—body, soul, and spirit. We just imagine that we have to settle for just a little healing here and there. It would do us good to hear more clearly and more often from those who remind us: Jesus wants us to be made whole.
Of course, it’s easier to hear that from someone who’s already listened to you explain your pain, and is helping to meet the needs of which you’re already too-clearly aware.

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