I apparently stopped being notified by email of comments on this blog. I had a couple that sat for a few days before being approved. Sorry.
This is an email I wrote to someone. This is now in the “thinking out loud” stage. I’ve been through the “thinking quietly and talking only to close friends” stage for over a year. So this is the best stage to jump all over me if you’re offended by this, even though I’ve thought about it a while. At the moment, I’m still holding it before God, but I’m confident enough to say this out where anyone can hear it.
This is directed at professed Christians:
Leukemia in the Body of Christ
I had leukemia last year. Chemo, radiation, and a stem cell transplant have put it into remission, hopefully permanently. Leukemia, however, painted a really clear picture for me of a problem in the body of Christ.
Leukemia is a cancer. All it takes is for one cell to go bad, then survive. That one blood cell does not finish its development. It gets stuck along the way as an “adolescent,” not grown into it’s proper role. It then reproduces and reproduces.
It reproduces and reproduces, always clones of itself, and it and its clones do not know how to die. All our other cells are programmed to die when they are not functioning correctly or when they are overcrowded. Not cancer cells. They just keep multiplying until they crowd out all the other cells.
In other words, these cloned cells stop all the blood cells from doing their job, and they don’t fulfill their own role, either.
The church is like that today, and the leukemia cells are pastors.
Yeah, I really said that.
They have multiplied out of control, and they don’t know how to stop. They don’t quit, even if they are not doing the job God made them for, and even if their work is actually damaging to the church.
Leukemia cells crowd out other cells by sheer number. Pastors crowd out other gifts by the role they play rather than by numbers. Rather than training the saints so that the saints do the work of ministry (Eph. 4:11-12), they try to do it all themselves. The body of Christ is reduced to one big mouth with no other parts functioning.
That’s an exaggeration, but the picture is correct.
Worse, the pastors are not fulfilling their Scriptural function, but a new, false (cancerous) function. Some are evangelists, evangelizing the supposed church, preaching salvation messages to the same crowd every week.
Some are trying to do the work of shepherding, but most know little to nothing about real church life and the need for and power of unity. In fact, most vastly underestimate the importance of obedience to Christ understanding neither salvation nor grace nor the judgment.
Since they are qualified in the wrong way—by theological training at a seminary, college, or Bible school rather than by established character lived out before the church throughout their lives—it is no surprise that they function in the wrong way, teaching Christians to pursue the wrong goals.
Not everywhere is like that. There are exceptions. House churches are multiplying. Unique expressions of modern church arise more quickly than ever.
Nonetheless, the primary model of Christianity being displayed in the western world—and in the third world, for that matter, where we’ve transported our cancer—is a pastor-centered model that cannot be found in the Scriptures. In it the church is a building, and the center of church life is not the unity and love of the saints, but a couple meetings held at the church (meaning the building) every week, where a song leader, a group of money collectors, and a pastor are the only members functioning.
Leukemia. The body of Christ has leukemia, and the leukemic cells are pastors.
The cancer has not completely taken over, but it is very, very advanced. Kudos to the many who are fighting against it, but I hope you are going to step back and let God create the new blood system rather than building a new cancer into the work you are doing.
What the hospital did for me when I had leukemia was destroy my entire blood system so that it could be built over again from scratch.
I had acute leukemia, though. Acute leukemia advances so aggressively that the patient usually has only weeks to live once it is diagnosed. My leukemia was found about six weeks before I would have died.
Chronic leukemia moves slower. Doctors don’t treat chronic leukemia like acute leukemia. Destroying a blood system and starting over kills a lot of patients.
If you have Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML), about 75% of patients either can’t get or don’t survive the treatment.
Since patients can survive chronic leukemia for a long time, it’s better to give those patients safer treatment. Most chronic leukemia sufferers stay on a single pill dose of chemotherapy all their lives, and they’re never quite completely healthy and sometimes very, very sick.
I’m not going to explain that illustration. I’m just going back to thinking about it. I just wanted to let you chew on it with me.