Is the Church Sick?
by Catherine Braswell

"There is a remedy and cure for the church, and it is found in Jesus, the Word of God."

In this lively, extended analogy, author Braswell poses questions regarding the various sorts of dysfunctions that may be afflicting the Christian church and its congregants. First, she imagines the church with a virus and suggests some candidates for the virus' symptoms: pride would be a major suspect, and weakness or laziness are other possibilities since once the church reaches a “certain depth of maturity, fatigue sets in.” Such sickness can begin in the church leadership and spread to the congregants. What about coronary heart disease? The church may have blocked arteries, loss of appetite for the “food” of the spirit that has been watered down over time. If such a disease is causing a blockage in the church, God is needed to perform major surgery.

Perhaps, Braswell suggests, the church has amnesia. Members may act like Christians while in a church environment but forget about the word of God in other settings, becoming victims of spiritual memory loss—backbiting, quarreling, and, in general, losing track of what it means to live a Christ-centered life. Another possibility for what ails the church is abnormal laboratory values, in which it’s clear that something is wrong, but it’s difficult to pinpoint. The church may be heading toward a coma, its speech blurred and confused. Refocusing is required. Maybe hypertension is the cause: so many preachers are not truly inspired, not giving a good example, which puts subtle pressure on the churchgoers. Obesity is another ailment the church may be suffering from; it may be serving, Braswell opines, sugar-coated junk food. Church leaders may be carrying the weight of their own problems and unable to assist others. Getting to the core of the church’s diagnosis, it seems clear that its heart is endangered. The author calls on Christians to cleanse their hearts, re-energize their spiritual life, obey God’s teachings, and, if needed, get a new “mind” also—one that is unselfish and willing to do the will of God. Yes, there is hope for the church. It lies in self-examination, uncluttering, and getting right with God.

Pastor and counselor Braswell has cleverly constructed this elaborate, readable and credible comparison: the Christian church of our times is like an ailing human body. She explores ways that the institution, its leaders, and members can be healed of its various deficiencies. This manner of looking at what seem to be some common “aches and pains” in the modern church makes the problems easier to pinpoint while suggesting corrective medicines or treatments for each one. It’s a neatly organized, even entertaining fantasy, and one with almost cinematic energy. Her small book comprises several chapters opening with a standard definition of the disease or condition she has postulated, following by an analysis of the ways that the church and its members might feel and act if so infected. She then offers strategies for dealing with the illness, both on the part of church members and its leadership. Her criticism, though muted through the use of this parable format, is clear, citing both individuals and the institution as a whole for their gradual turning away, or “amnesia,” regarding the church’s original foundation and purpose. It can be envisioned that Braswell’s thesis, underpinned with personal examples and scriptural references, could provide a focus for Christian workshops and individual study that is both engaging and pragmatic.

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