Pathology is the study of disease. Medical experts tell us that in order to remain in good health, one must have a proper diet and exercise regularly. They also recommend periodic physical examinations. The reason? A person can get infected with an acute disease and not know it.
Since it’s possible to unknowingly acquire a terminal illness, many researchers say that the best prevention against certain diseases is early detection. And early detection necessitates periodic physical exams.
The New Testament repeatedly envisions the church as the Body of Christ. Paul spins the body metaphor again and again to describe the ekklesia. For Paul, the church is like a physical body. As such, it’s a living, breathing, vital organism. It’s born. It experiences growth spurts and growth pains. And it passes through specific developmental stages.
To put a finer point on it, a church’s physical condition can range from healthy and vibrant to the spiritual IC unit (barely alive). Since the church is a living organism, it can even contract spiritual disease.
According to my experience, many organic churches seem to expire within two years. Some, however, keep on meeting even though they are living in the precincts of death. See Revelation 3:1. In both cases, the church dies from a fatal illness. Consequently, if a church doesn’t know how to build a healthy immune system, it sits wide open for serious sickness.
In this chapter, I would like to introduce you to four common diseases that afflict organic churches. As such, this chapter can rightly be titled, Church Pathology 101.
Please note that I’m not speaking as a theoretician. I’ve watched these diseases afflict non-traditional churches for almost two decades. The good news is that none of these diseases is hopelessly terminal. All have a cure. The bad news is that without preventative maintenance and early detection, the chances for a church’s survival is slim to none. And slim left town.
As we explore each disease, I’ll be spinning a lot of medical terminology, building upon Paul’s body metaphor. I’ll also be employing a few nonbiblical terms to make specific points. The four diseases are: Koinonitis, Spiritual Myopia, Spiritual Dwarfism, and Hyperpneumia.