“Pain is good. This is good, Eric.”
I remember a friend of mine, who is a chiropractor, telling me that when I was sitting on his table in intense pain. I really wanted him to adjust me as quickly as possible to relieve the pain, but he wanted to talk to me about my health while I was acutely attentive. He explained that pain was the body’s way of demanding attention. And without pain, I would grow more and more unhealthy. The pain was beneficial because the pain helped focus my attention.
In the same way, a church will focus attention on what is paining the body. If the church finds it painful that people are far from God in the community, then that pain will cause the church to be deeply concerned about her neighbors. The pain of unreached people will focus the church on the important task of evangelism.
Sadly, if the greatest pain in a church is something insignificant, then the church will waste incredible amounts of time focusing on things that don’t matter.
If the pain of lost people going to hell is not great, then something like the pain of the walls being painted “the wrong color” is what will grab energy and attention. If the burden to disciple and develop leaders is less than the burden for “my favorite style of singing,” then the concerns are about music and not multiplication.
A body of believers, just like our physical bodies, focuses energy and attention on pain. So as leaders, we must consistently declare the real burdens so the insignificant ones don’t become primary. We must continually bring people back to what really matters. And this means preaching the essential things over and over again. On repetition, the early church father John Chrysostom stated:
If our preaching had been a matter of display and ambition, it would have been right to jump from one subject to another and change about continually, taking no thought for you, but only for your applauses. But since we have not devoted our zeal to this, but our labors are for your profit, we shall not cease discoursing to you on the same subjects, till you succeed in learning them. We shall not cease to say the same things, whether you be persuaded or not.
Pain in a church body is good IF the pain focuses the people on what really matters. What breaks God’s heart must be what also breaks ours. If the pain and the resulting attention are around something insignificant, then teaching on the essentials must be ramped up.