An Intriguingly Simple Question


“Do you want to get well?” he asked. The onlookers must have been a bit perplexed by this question. Of course he wanted to get well! The man had been sitting by the pool for who knows how long, yearning to get in! Legend had it the waters had the power to heal. Even, presumably, someone who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. And Jesus has to audacity to ask if he wanted to get well? And yet, these words from John 5 are very telling.

Could it be that this man had lost any sense of hope that he really, truly could be made whole? Or perhaps he had become so used to his disability that he doesn’t even know how to live any other way. Or, as he suggests, he simply has no one to come alongside him to move him toward wholeness. As the story goes, we do know that at least the last one is true for him. But we also know that people who find themselves broken and beaten down in life often spiral into a sense of hopelessness (especially after thirty-eight years). And then Jesus comes along and says something like, “I see you here by the pool with all the others who are blind and lame and paralyzed, but let me ask you: Do you really want to be made well?”

And Jesus comes alongside us. We’ve been living in our sin for so long that it has just become our way of life and thinking. Part of us hates our sin and (if we’re honest) part of us likes our sin. An alcoholic can at the same time hate the alcohol that holds him captive and love the comfort he finds in it. The same is true for our sin. And Jesus asks us, “Do you want to get well? Do you really want to get well? Because there are things that you are going to want to cling to. And the only way to get well is to let go. If you only want to desire to get well, then we’re going to have some issues.”

The same is true in regards to Christian communities. Christian communities are inherently broken because they are always made up of broken, imperfect people. And so, as great as the church can be it is always going to be an imperfect community on a journey toward wholeness. Christian communities struggle with gossip and power dynamics and unintentional (and even intentional) hurts, just like individuals struggle with these things. In fact, many of these things can even become ingrained within the culture of a church without our realizing it. Like many other churches, Winthrop Covenant has accomplished some amazing things and has had some fantastic ministries. We have incredibly friendly and gifted people who use their spiritual gifts for God’s glory. But like many other churches, we struggle. We struggle at times to communicate in healthy ways; we struggle to have a heart dedicated to reaching lost and broken people; we struggle to forgive; we struggle to stretch out in faith. And like any broken person, we can struggle to have a vision of what it would really look like to be made whole. Like other broken people, we may become so used to living in broken ways that we don’t even know how to live any other way. Or perhaps we want to get well, but we just need someone to come along and ask – really ask – the hard question: Do you really want to get well?

The ECC has developed a pathway of Congregational Vitality precisely because they know that churches do not merely stumble upon health and vitality. And ultimately, the initial question of Congregational Vitality is “Do you want to get well?” And the question is really asking two things. Namely, do you think you need to be made well? and Do you want to put in the effort? The first question is one of perception (do we perceive a need) and the second is about intentionality (will we be intentional in our efforts to make changes).

As you may know, the Leadership Team spoke with Jon Kramka, Director of Congregational Vitality for the Northwest Conference, about moving forward on the Congregational Vitality Pathway. The LT has since decided to move forward on this Pathway. We believe there is a need, and we believe we have the effort and intentionality to move forward. Over the course of the next couple months you will continue to hear updates on this process and ways that the congregation will be invited into the process. In many ways we’re taking this a step at a time, following the leading of the Spirit. The Congregational Vitality Pathway is not a 3-step program to increase church attendance. It is a Spirit-led path that is born out of the heart of a congregation, and I believe it hinges on that question. Do you want to get well? And so I encourage us as a congregation to sit and reflect on that question as we move forward.

May the Spirit draw you deeper into God’s presence, sisters and brothers!