The Problem with Programs


I was listening to local Christian radio on my way into church this morning. The topic was caring for hurting people on Mother’s Day. Mother’s Day can be a sad time for many believers. Some have had unloving or neglectful mothers. Others wish to be mothers, but are unable to. There are many mothers whose only children are in heaven. These women need to be cared for.

The hosts were receiving calls from listeners on the topic. I only heard one caller. He stated that we should not focus on the negative aspects of mothers on mother’s day—rather we should celebrate. He believes that the church should be actively caring for these hurting women and children every day of the year, but mother’s day should be reserved for celebrating mothers.

I actually agree with a lot of what he was saying. I disagree, however with his solution. The host asked him how the church should handle these hurting folks on a daily basis. He replied that churches should have programs for these people.

The pastor in me cringes at this suggestion. In sarcasm my heart replied, “Oh sure, just whip up a program, throw some hurting folks in it, and everyone will be happy.”

Is this really what the body of Christ is supposed to be—a conglomeration of support programs for every variety of hurt under the sun?

Did the early church have programs? When a need arose (either spiritual or physical), did they respond by installing an organized program to meet this need.

Programs do not meet these needs—an organism does. Hurting people are best helped in relationship to other believers within the Body. We help one another as we personally bear each other’s burdens, not as we cast our burden on the prayer sheet or refer a burden to a support group. The Body of Christ is not a program, it’s a person.

Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

Ephesians 4:15-16

The body of Christ grows in love as each part is “working properly.” The problem is that nasty 80/20 rule. It is estimated that in most American churches, 20% of the people are doing 80% of the ministry. This means that 80% of the people are not heavily involved. While there are reasons that some brothers are on the receiving end rather than the serving end, these statistics suggest that a vast majority of our congregations are not “working properly.”

Is this where programs come from? Are programs just a method of compensating for dormant body parts? What about the couple struggling with infertility? If they are not forging healthy relationships for discipleship and care, then the only solution is a program. And the adult who was neglected by their mother? If he is not known by other body parts, he cannot truly be cared for and discipled. The only solution left is installing a program.

Programs are not evil, but a mechanical solution will not solve an organic problem. Programs can help nurture relationships between members of the Body. Programs can be used to cultivate growth—but the growth comes as we are “joined and held together” in Christ. The insufficiencies of a local church do not reside in its limited programs, but in dormant body parts. Will you be a part of the solution? Will you actively engage your hurting brothers and sisters in your local church? It’s easier to sign up for a program, but it’s life-giving to engage a life.


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