Mission Atrophy

I played football at Long Beach State University. A walk on, I fought my way up from the bottom rungs of the depth-chart to second string status; that is until I blew out a knee in the final Spring game. Ouch! It wasn’t the worst kind (medial collateral ligament tear), but it did require the knife, and a long rehabbing process.

To speed recovery, the team’s physical therapists cut a rectangular window atop my cast in order to electroshock my now dormant quad muscles. Everyday I got hooked up for atrophy-countering therapy. Feeling the muscle tinge at my thigh, I supposed it was working. But on the day of cast removal, I sat looking at a muscle-less limb. With no hyperbole my leg had reduced to skin and bone. I learned a valuable lesson that day: You can’t fake exercise.

Electro-stimulation, like trying to drop pounds by wearing a vibrating belt around your stomach—is a gut-lie gimmick, claiming something that is never true: Passivity can produce results. You don’t have to work your muscles, just sit back—we’ll do it for you. But when they acted and I did nothing, atrophy was unalterable.

Can you see the church parody? Let me dial it. All our electroshock weekend messages cannot create the kind of muscle-skill development that only develops from use! In today’s high-attraction church, we are accustomed to sit-and-soak, listen and spectate. But that activity (if you can call it that) does not equate with exercising. When it comes to mission there is a dire result. We fail to form the mission manners exemplified by our Lord and Master.

Thus, Christians can routinely miss his most urgent call. Without actual practice, the noble evangelistic-disciplemaking vision becomes all the more illusive. This compounds when influence occurs in relationships. The vital engagement aspects: getting out there, coming alongside, circling back, developing compassion, showing gracious love, creating safety, drawing spiritual interest, working a conversational process, leading people to believe and follow—all under the Father’s lead, gets little work. It leaves disciples malformed.

Please don’t hear me wrong. Coming to worship is good. And there’s nothing wrong with a great sermon. But like electroshock therapy, it’s not as effective as we might think. It can’t produce mission muscles. Nope. Sorry. You don’t get those from a sermon. They come from doing.

PS: I love to work with churches to develop training and engagement which build muscles!


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