If you’ve ever had an illness or injury that was of any significance or seriousness, you probably know how annoying but necessary the constant check-ups are to maintaining your wellness. Going through rigorous physical therapy, periodic check-ups, or other appointments that seem to be forced upon you can grow to be a nuisance. Even though these often seem to be overkill, the doctors are simply trying to maintain our wellness. What if they “fixed” our original problem and then never checked back up on the status of our wellness? Some reading this now are thinking that would be a pretty sweet deal, but after the initial reaction and having time to think about it I am positive this would not be a good thing for patients.
Maintaining wellness is just as essential to doctors as addressing the initial problem, illness, or injury. Keeping the patient well avoids re-aggravating the injury, reoccurrence of the illness, or other issues arising. Lately, I have been thinking about this in regard to the members of the Lord’s Body. Though there are many who are saved, what are we doing to ensure that the saved stay saved? Are we simply satisfied when we “get them in the water,” or are we charged with doing more to maintain their spiritual wellness? There is a blatant purpose Christ has given us to seek and to save the lost, but what does the Church do to ensure the saved stay that way? I am afraid there are too many who worry about the initial illness, and when that is taken care of, move on. The Church should be the place where new converts can truly grow into maturity in the faith, but many times we settle for gaining them as new converts.
I believe everyone knows this is not an attitude Christ is pleased with, but yet time and time again, congregations can be guilty of having this mindset. The same way you would expect more out of your doctor, God expects more out of us. Jesus states clearly in the Great Commission, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you…” Matthew 28:19-20. There are four commands that Christ gives in this commission: to go, to make disciples, to baptize, and to teach. So many times, we are willing to go, we are willing to make disciples, we are willing to baptize, but we are not willing to maintain their new-found spiritual wellness by teaching them all things Christ has commanded. It is not enough to accomplish three of the four.
The Apostle Peter writes so much about the process AFTER becoming a Christian in his epistles. He gave the “Christian Graces” in 2 Peter 1:5-7, showing us there is far more to be attained AFTER baptism. In 1 Peter 2:2, he talks about growing from the milk of the word AFTER baptism. He gives the Church a purpose AFTER baptism to proclaim the praises of Christ in 1 Peter 2:9. He concludes his second epistle by saying, “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” 2 Peter 3:18. What if Peter had simply been pleased with the fact that they had been saved? What if he had said there was no need to add to your faith anything, there is no need to grow from the milk of the word, there is no need to proclaim the praises of Christ, and there is no need to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord?
It seems ridiculous to pose such a question, but it is the very attitude that many have in regard to soul winning. Even though the responsibility remains on each person individually to “make their calling and election sure” (2 Peter 1:10), it is the responsibility of the Church to hold them accountable to do so. Doctors schedule numerous check-ups, appointments, and times for therapy because they want to maintain their patient’s physical wellness. We, as the Church, need to schedule times for worship, Bible study, prayer, fellowship, and service to maintain our brothers’ and sisters’ spiritual wellness.
If we simply look at a new convert and say, “good luck,” we are just begging them to return to the old sin, the old lifestyle, and the old decisions they made before their conversion. Instead, helping our new brother or sister to add the Christian Graces, to drink the milk and eat the meat of the Word, to proclaim the praises, and to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord is what we must do to help them from falling away. Maintaining the spiritual wellness of a new convert is just as important to God as gaining the new convert in the first place. Teaching them to observe all things Christ commanded is just as important as going, making disciples, and baptizing. God has given His Church a tremendous responsibility, and it is up to us to be His hands and His feet not only to the lost but to the saved also.
There is another side to this coin though because even though a doctor may ask you to come for an appointment or a check-up… there are many who neglect to do so. Whether by choice or by “forgetting,” many choose never to follow up with their doctor. This is true in the Church as well. There are those who become a new Christian and are baptized for the remission of their sins, but through only their fault, decide not to attend faithfully. There are many who find themselves drowning in sins they cannot defeat, sorrow they cannot overcome, and distress that never rests. If only they came for their appointments at the Church each week. They find themselves having a reoccurrence in their spiritual illnesses or re-aggravating their spiritual injuries, but they do not know how to become well again. If only their seat were not empty on Sunday nights and Wednesday nights. If only they would decide to become active in the programs, activities, and events the Church takes part in. If only they would reach out to the shepherds that oversee their souls and ask for help.
Saving the saved is a real thing, and unless the Church begins to do so, congregations are going to dry up and die. The Church has a responsibility to seek and to save that which is lost, but it also has a responsibility to maintain the spiritual well-being of those who are being saved. Without the latter, what good does it do the Church to simply convert the lost and lose them a few months or years later? If you are one of the converts who have been brought to Christ but have not been faithful to Him, what good does it do if you do not come to your check-ups with the Church? You see, we are all patients who come together to allow the Great Physician to heal our souls. Whether a new convert or mature Christian, we all come together to be healed by the One who promises us the peace that surpasses understanding.
Ben Hogan, Buford Church of Christ