“Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” -Matt. 11: 28
“And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”
–Philippians 4: 19
When Jesus came in person and introduced Himself to the disciples, he often caught them unaware by asking, on the basis of His personhood alone, that they go with Him. Yet the ones who pursued Him for help were always in need. As He said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick” (Luke 5: 31).
Today around the world the principal needs of people are physical in nature. The American church, however, often appeals to other appetites.
A typical middle-class young family in the United States church culture may have two parents employed, often in people-friendly, team-oriented, politically correct corporate/government/service work-environments. The children are consumed with school, activities, and sports while Mom and Dad busily try to keep up with it all. “Down” time consists of a smorgasbord of media and recreational choices—fitness clubs, movies, video games, television, UTube, computer games, football, phone apps, and the list goes on. Material prosperity to fund these choices and develop every interest for the children is the middle-class norm to which nearly all aspire.
“Church planters” struggle to carve their piece in the entertainment pie, and carefully craft their “seeker-friendly services” with the intent of appealing to the discriminating appetites of the sophisticated American consumer. Leaders are convinced that in the competitive marketplace modern church meetings must be innovative, aimed both for excellence in production and clever content.
However, the friendly “club atmosphere” striven for in many churches today is sadly sometimes perceived as a subtle solicitation for “help” by attendees. Rather than finding “spiritual” fun and relaxation with safe, “like-minded” people, they feel pressured to “get plugged in” to a programmed ministry that perpetually lacks personnel. From the members’ standpoint, the need for leisure contacts is often not that great anyway; work and school are geared to meet most social needs for peer relationships. As a result, church activities can cut in on precious home time and are often perceived as a burden.
There is an alternative: helping people meet Jesus at the point of their deepest present need, as He met those who came to Him when He was physically here on Earth. Americans yearn to connect and communicate at the place of raw pain in their lives–whether emotional, relational, or spiritual.
Popular 12-step and other “support groups” provide a place where finally one can begin to strip off the public image and share the trauma and hurt in a safe, non-judgmental setting. If these groups meet outside a specifically Christian context, emphases on situational ethics and a culturally relative “God within” allow members to create their own theologies. This is currently the prevalent mode for “recovery”.
If not to a support group, aching wounds are brought to one of the myriad of traditional or alternative clinics in our society. Indeed, there are more spin-off practitioners in the health care business than neighborhood denominational and non-denominational churches. Corporation-style churches of all varieties trying to draw crowds have a hard job designing a program to attract more interest than these “healing professionals”.
Yet in the Gospels we find those who broke through to Jesus for help were in great pain, or came on behalf of someone they loved who was suffering. And we see that this got Jesus’ attention, whether at a home or in the synagogue.
In America today the biggest problem for many is not material poverty but emotional brokenness. Profound healing of deep heart wounds can be found in the immediate presence of Jesus, just as it was in Gospel days. This is our mission in heart-healing prayer, and we see it as one context for Body life, as we call “church”. Because of what we have experienced in these inner healing groups, our vision for Christian gatherings has greatly expanded; we believe heart-healing prayer sessions themselves are in every way small church meetings.
Our approach is confessional rather than doctrinal. We want, as the apostle John stated, “to proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete.”
(1 John 1: 2-4).