Does Your Church Have Spiritual ALS?

If you’ve been anywhere within shouting distance of just about any social media outlet over the last few weeks, you’ve seen your friends and favorite celebrities (and maybe a few ill informed strangers on horseback or boat docks) dumping buckets of ice water over themselves. (Seriously, why would anyone thinks it’s a good idea to dump ice water on yourself while sitting on a horse?!) It all began recently in an effort to raise awareness of ALS and raise money for researching a cure. It’s definitely raised a lot of money – almost $90 million as of yesterday according to ALSA (more money has been given to ALS research in the last couple weeks than was given all of last year).

As for the awareness… well, maybe not. A lot of people seem to be jumping on the trend without a whole lot of thought. Oh they’re aware that there’s this thing called ALS (or LAS or something like that), they just have no idea what it actually is. My wife was recently explaining a little bit about ALS to someone and their reply was “No, that’s Lou Gehrig’s, not ALS.” If that doesn’t sound a little off to you, you should definitely not have donated money to something so unfamiliar. Do some research. Or at least google it or something.

Some people are shunning the effort without a lot of thought, too. Research into treating ALS has included stem cell research. The mention of stem cell research causes red flags to go up for a lot of people due to the moral implications of harvesting embryonic stem cells. Most stem cells used in research are actually skin cells, harvested from adults and induced into functioning as stem cells. (Science friends, please excuse the overly simplified explanation of iPS cells, I’m too wordy as it is.) If you’re concerned about funding a practice to which you’re morally opposed, there are still ways to help fund ALS research if you want to, like donating to researchers that use only adult stem cells. ALSA has also released this statement on stem cell research that you should read.

But this post isn’t really about ALS or abortion or what you do with your money or ice water. Learning a little more about ALS has caused me to wonder if the church has a sort of spiritual ALS sometimes. A person with ALS loses muscular control when the motor neurons in their nervous system fail to communicate properly with the muscles throughout the body. The impulse of the mind just doesn’t make it to the body (again, I know this is overly simplified, please forgive me).

Here’s where I’m going with this: The church is called the Body of Christ. If that Body somehow loses connection to the mind of Christ, it won’t function the way it’s intended to. Jesus claimed as much himself in John 15.

“As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”

We cannot be the church He calls us to be without a deep and abiding connection to Jesus, our head. We can adopt all the best leadership tactics and organizational strategies, but the Body just doesn’t function right when it’s not directed by the impulse of the mind of Christ. The church’s spiritual muscle becomes misguided, underused, and atrophied. You probably don’t want that for your church, so try this:

  • Spend your own time with Jesus. Alone. Connecting with Jesus isn’t just about showing up in a church service on Sunday or joining a small group. Those are great and you should do that, but how much time are you personally spending with Christ? The answer to that question has huge implications for how connected your church is to its head.
  • Pray for your leaders… with your leaders. Help them strengthen their connection with Christ with the encouragement you give them by praying for them. Pray that God would continue to draw them close to His heart and that His mission would be crystal clear as they serve in His Body.
  • Go make disciples. Jesus’ direction to make disciples of all nations is too vast to leave it to a few “professionals”. If you are spending time with Jesus and living by the Spirit He places within us, you have what it takes to be a disciple maker. Getting engaged in His mission is crucial to ‘remaining in Him’. It bears mentioning that in the same passage, Jesus says the branch that doesn’t bear fruit will be cut off. What are you teaching and showing to the people around you about who Jesus is and how to follow Him? Who are you discipling? Step up to this responsibility and you’ll find not only a new desire to stay connected with Jesus, but also a whole new crop of fruit that only He can produce in your life and church.