April 21, 2014


The polar vortex not only caused havoc on the streets and businesses in our region of the United States during this past winter—it also led to a lot of coughing, sneezing, and the general sense of misery in the Klingbeil household.

In March we spent three weeks handing a cold from one member of our family to the next. Everybody partook in one way or another from this “blessing.” We used all types of home remedies—from vapor baths, via heating lamps and high doses of vitamin C to hot and cold treatments—all to no avail. The problem is that a house full of coughing and sneezing individuals means trouble. Somehow, when we are sick, we do not show the sunny side of our inner beings; we are irritable; we lose patience quicker; and we tend to have a gloomy outlook on life in general.

Fortunately we are blessed with affordable health care. No, I am not talking about the legislative crown jewels of the current administration occupying the White House on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue (even though I knew I would get your attention by using this phrase!).

Healthy churches are those that recognize their brokenness and rely completely on the celestial Healer.

Don’t get me wrong: I am grateful for access to doctors and medical care. But I am not really interested in writing about the best flu or cold medicine or the pros and cons of the Affordable Care Act from an Adventist perspective. Rather, I am interested in the health of my church. After all, an editorial in the Adventist Review is not the place to vent a private opinion or merely share an uplifting thought. We do opine and we aim to uplift, but ultimately it’s the place where we can think together about our church; where we can take the pulse and monitor the vital signs of this movement. In fact, if you would read early issues of this magazine, you would be surprised at the kind of topics discussed in its pages (from the mundane of a trusted home remedy to the inflammatory of political engagement).

What does the doctor’s chart tell you about your local congregation? Is your church a home for you, a safe place, a center for reaching a hurting world that is being entertained and distracted into oblivion? Or do you notice some “coughing” and “sneezing” that suggests serious infection leading to grim irritability and—ultimately—death?

Our immediate reaction could be: Yes, that’s exactly what sister X or brother Y is like! However, let’s not be quick to diagnose the “common cold” in a wayward brother or sister—let’s rather look at the church, the sum of all of us. (And granted, it is always much easier to diagnose a problem in our neighbor.)

Listen to Revelation 3:15-17 in the fresh words of The Message paraphrase: “I know you inside and out, and find little to my liking. You’re not cold, you’re not hot—far better to be either cold or hot! You’re stale. You’re stagnant. You make me want to vomit. You brag, ‘I’m rich, I’ve got it made, I need nothing from anyone,’ oblivious that in fact you’re a pitiful, blind beggar, threadbare and homeless.”*

That’s us—whether we like it or not. Oblivious to the seriousness of our afflictions; “doing” religion and ignoring God’s affordable health care; getting busy with religious activities (perhaps even pious ones) and forgetting the source of real health. “I am the Lord, who heals you” (Ex. 15:26) was not only God’s point made to Israel in the wilderness. True health, wholistic health, requires a constant connection to the Source of life and health. Healthy churches are those that recognize their brokenness and rely completely on the celestial Healer. Yes, they may catch a cold now and again; yes, life may be discouraging at times; but they know themselves safe and secure in Jesus’ hand.

The Doctor is in. He is ready to attend—right now (and no, you don’t need to buy a policy at an insurance marketplace!).

* Texts credited to Message are from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.