There's a story told in the Bible about a man who had leprosy. He traveled many miles to see a prophet of God and ask him to pray for him to be healed. The prophet obliged him, but on one condition. His instructions to him were to go and bathe in a nearby river.
Sounds easy, right? Who wouldn't jump at the chance to be healed by simply taking a dip in the river? There was just one problem - non-locals considered this river undesirable, even dirty. There were lots of nice rivers back home. Maybe he could simply take a swim in one of them? 'No' came the answer. So the man prepared to go home unhealed. No one was going to tell him what to do!
Finally, the prophet's helper pulled the man aside and asked him a question. Do you really want to miss out on what God has for you because of your prejudice? So he finally relented, took the plunge and went home healed.
I was reminded of this tendency that we humans have recently in discussing the current condition of our churches. In decades passed, many thought the larger churches were distasteful, catering to 'entertainment', 'dumbing down the gospel', rather than 'real' discipleship and holiness (and music, of course). I rarely heard people spit out the words 'mega church' with anything other than disdain. As a result of this wide-held prejudice and the resulting system it produced, we have few larger churches in our area of Ohio.
Fast forward to 2016, a decade (or three) later. Many of the larger churches in our country are the drivers of new church starts in smaller cities, multi-sites, evangelism, children's programming, leadership development, and discipleship. No more are people waiting for publishing houses, institutions, or denominational headquarters to respond to our rapidly changing world, as they can't innovate fast enough to be effective.
On the other hand, those larger churches are mobilizing hundreds and thousands of volunteers to build houses, feed the hungry, and bring justice to a hurting world. Unfortunately, we have few of those drivers in our conference. Could it be that what God wanted to use to heal us, we despised, and therefore we remain unwell, or at least less-well than desired?
We bathe in our comfortable, pristine rivers wondering why God hasn't healed us yet. When maybe all it would have taken was a shift in our prejudices to see the benefits for years to come.
I'm not saying that every church should be large. I am saying that every church has a part to play in the body of Christ. We are feeling the effects of our own prejudice in marked fashion these days.
I am saying that I hope we will learn from our mistakes and make room for styles, methods, and even groups that we don't prefer. They may very well be the rivers that help your children find their healing in years to come.
We are so quick to assume some other way is a 'wrong' way. Maybe it's simply a different way. And we've missed out on healing because we forgot that. We pray to God that our children and grandchildren aren't the ones to lose out.
What prejudices are standing in the way of God's work in your life?