“Well, Ms. Churches, I have your test results here, and the good news is we do know the reason why you have such a terrible earache,” said the doctor, shutting the door behind him. He pushed his glasses up with his forefinger and shifted his stare from his clipboard to the middle of her face.

“Oh, that’s a relief!” she breathed impatiently. “Can you write me a prescription for that so I can get going? I’m in the middle of some very important work! So if you could just….”

“Ms. Churches, I need your full attention here for a minute. The bad news I have for you is that the earache is not the real problem here. The tests results confirmed what I suspected the moment you walked in here. Your earache is, of course, related to that enormous tumor- right there in the middle of your face. I have to ask, are you currently in treatment for that?”

“Oh THIS? I’m sure this really isn’t THAT serious. And I do not consider myself a negative person. I do not allow negativity in my life. And I do not appreciate your complaining and negativity either.”

“Ms. Churches, I am not being negative. Negative comments about the tumor would be- ‘That’s ugly, It’s horrible, Who’s fault is the tumor? Who can we blame? I hate the person who has the tumor! It’s hopeless! Let’s give up! etc’ Ms. Churches, I am not saying any of those things. But you DO have a very large facial tumor. And it IS serious. What I AM saying is, ‘Let’s realize how serious this is and come up with a plan to get rid of this tumor before it hurts you any more.'”

“Doctor, I just don’t have time for this right now. I am helping a lot of people with my work! Haven’t you seen the signs all over town? ‘Churches helping more then ever’? What would happen if people found out I had a face tumor? It might detract from all the good I’m trying to do. And I’m planning a wedding! I can’t have a facial surgery right now- I’d have scars. You just haven’t seen me with all my makeup on. I’m really good at hiding all this with my makeup.”

“Don’t you understand that you cannot go on hiding something rotten and cancerous forever? The One you Love will want you to be healthy, scars and all. That thing is killing you, and parts of you are getting hurt that shouldn’t have to get hurt. Every day you let this go, your body is not operating like it should. Eventually the tumor will spread everywhere and take over and all the good you are trying to do for everyone will come to an end. If you do not address and kill the cancer, it will kill you and everyone will find out about it anyway. Better to go through the pain and recovery now- FACE THIS.”

“You doctors just don’t understand at all. It’s not my place to go meddling with nature like that. If God wants to step in and fix it eventually He will. I’ll just wait on Him-”

“I’m just gonna cut you off right there. God gave us brains for a reason. He entrusted us with these bodies, and we are the ones who are supposed to work to keep them healthy for Him. When something isn’t healthy, we must work to make it right again. Be a better steward of what He gave you Ms. Churches.”

“I’m just afraid. I’m afraid of what will happen when we see how bad the damage is. How deep it goes. And how much is going to have to be cut away to get back on the road to healthy again…Afraid of admitting all this and doing the hard work..”

“So many many die every year because they were too afraid to face reality, and fight the cancer when it was still small enough to throw out. The real fear should be waiting too long, the fear of good healthy things being destroyed. I know you are afraid. But will you take my hand and talk with me about options to destroy this tumor for good? No more denying it, hiding it, talking nice about it, excusing it or covering it up? You can still get healthy before your wedding. Are you willing to fight for that?”

A few final thoughts:

  1. If lead pastors, staff, or key leaders have been leaving a church in large numbers in a short amount of time it is red flag (high turnover). The leadership of the church needs to get to the bottom of why it is happening and work a positive plan to get the church on a track toward health.
  2. Long term members of the church, staff, volunteers, staff, pastors being deeply wounded in church conflict is never just “ok” and “business as usual”.  God is never ok with people being broken and spit out. Growing, healthy churches learn to address conflict and even learn to handle disagreements Biblically. No church is perfect, but the fastest growing churches have this in common: they are always trying to improve- and they do not use people as “disposable commodities”.
  3. Growing healthy churches do not gossip and complain about their leaders. But they do address problems and consistently address and problem solve in an ever-changing environment. Don’t ever get in a situation where you are covering up flaws, refusing to discuss the issues, sweeping the injured people under the rug- that WILL come back to bite you. The church does have to use some business practices to manage money well etc- but it is still a church. God commissioned us to minister to people not money or buildings. People over programs every time. Integrity first!
  4. Many pastors have said that looking back, they have wished that they had asked someone to leave the church. By that, I mean, someone who, after many many attempts at discipline, correction, is still unwilling to listen or change. This person is actually your “tumor”. They are hurting people- hurting your whole church. Perhaps you may need to speak the truth in love, address this painful issue before it hurts anything else and ask this person to go.

So, I know this has been a HEAVY article for me, but it has been WEIGHING on me for a couple weeks now. What do you think? Does this parable apply to the church today? What would you add to it? love Trisha