During my holiday travels in recent days I observed a number of signs in front of churches with slogans that publicized a characteristic which the church apparently wanted to make known about itself. Here are three that caught my eye: 1) “where Jesus heals the hurting,” 2) where we help people get back to God,” and 3) “got problems?” You may be wondering what these have in common and why I found them so interesting. Well, they all seem to have in common a focus on the therapeutic. They say to the passerby, “If you’ve got a problem, come here to get it fixed. We are the problem fixing people.” Now there may be nothing wrong with this. And I agree that the church is the place where God intends to redeem and transform people. However, I must ask, is therapy to be our central word of proclamation? Is the church to be identified by its therapeutic services? Is this what we should put on the sign out front? Personally, I would like to see a sign that reads, “First Church of This Town…Where Jesus Is Lord,” or “First Church of That Town…In the Sure and Certain Hope of the Resurrection of the Dead.” These seem to me to be more central to the church’s identity and its core proclamation. Are we the therapy people or the gospel people? I may be wrong, but I am concerned that these instances are indicative of a larger trend in evangelical churches.
It is not the church’s job to meet every little perceived problem that everyone thinks they have. It is the church’s job to tell people that they don’t actually know what their real problems are, namely sin and death. And it is the church’s job to faithfully proclaim the one who is able to deal with these problems. Problems are part of life and anyone who thinks that being a Christian will fix their problems is bound for a rude awakening. Just ask the Apostle Paul who was stoned and lived to tell about it. If anything, being a Christian invites problems. It was Jesus who said we would have trouble. The church’s job is not to fix felt needs and perceived problems. The church’s job is not primarily therapy (of course this doesn’t mean that faithful Christians cannot be therapists…certainly they can). The church’s job is faithful proclamation of the gospel about God’s Son and our Lord, Jesus Christ, who died for our sins according to the scriptures and was raised on the third day according to the scriptures.