Post Author: Brenda Lovick
It is no secret that congregations are in competition for our members’ time and commitments. So many facets of life pull individuals in many different directions. Family, work, partners’ work, school, extra-curricular activities, and volunteer projects all take time. In the midst of this, we need to care for ourselves too.
My denomination, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, uses a tool called a wellness wheel to illustrate the areas that comprise a person’s well-being. These different aspects of well-being include intellectual, social/interpersonal, emotional, physical, vocational, and financial. Spiritual well-being both surrounds and integrates each of these six areas. To cultivate wholeness, all of these essentials need attention, and spiritual well-being encompasses all of them. This means that if individuals fail to care for themselves in any respective area, their spiritual well-being suffers the most impact.
The church is in the “business” of spiritual health. Because this area of well-being is such an important part of wellness, my hope is that our members will see participation in church communities as critical to promoting and maintaining health in their lives. When the church gives people opportunities for spiritual wellness, it nurtures life for people who participate in the congregation, and at the same time it becomes the crossroads of wholeness for the entire community.
I believe a congregation suffers when its members forget that the church is the center for holistic life. A church’s mission should be deeper, extending far beyond a particular people in a particular place. I find this profoundly humbling. How, though, can a church function in this way? The following list includes some key ideals of the congregation that should make the church stand out above all others as a necessity in wellness.
- Prayer: We hold one another in prayer as the community of faith. In prayer, all people are regarded as equal and are lifted up as children of God. This helps us to overcome our divisions and brings us together as a people empowered by the Holy Spirit and active in sharing God’s love with everyone – people in the church and people outside of the church. Because prayer reminds us that we are all walking this journey together, judgment and competition become less important.
- Worship: The central, most important focal point of a congregation is worship, where all of our selves – intellect, emotions, material possessions – are offered to God. We come together to honor God, recognizing together that we are not God and never will be. The baptismal waters wash over us, we consume the communion bread and wine, and we trust that God is working in us in ways we can observe and also in ways we cannot see. From the worship service we are sent out to become what we hear and eat: the Living Word and the Body of Christ.
- Stewardship: The Church believes that God has given us all that we possess, and that God entrusts these gifts to us for our lifespan, calling us to care for these resources and to use them for the betterment of the world. The things we have do not belong to us; they are God’s, shared with us for a brief period of time. Within the context of a 2,000 year-old faith (building on a faith that is 5,000 years old), we see that ours is only a moment in time compared to the bigger timeline of God’s people, and God gives us the opportunity to act wisely, faithfully, and courageously with the time and resources that we have.
- Following: We follow Jesus, the man who died on a cross and rose three days later. We believe he was a game changer for the world, and especially for God and God’s people. The pastor follows Jesus just as much as the congregation follows. Jesus’ life, ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension make God alive for us. His Spirit gives us the gifts to do what he did during his ministry on earth.
Life within a community of faith – the “house of wholeness” – changes us and calls us to participate in Christ’s own life, to be part of something outside of ourselves. The church helps us integrate all of the aspects of our well-being into our spiritual selves so that God may use us to change the world.
Brenda Lovick is the pastor of the faithful people of historic East Koshkonong Lutheran Church in rural Cambridge, WI. They have taught her ways that church really should be church.
Image by: clare2012
Used with permission