11.03.2023 – I’m feeling fine, thank you.

The Saturday Evening Post, March 15, 1958

I had my annual wellness exam this week and all is well. Everything in the blood tests is where it is supposed to be, and my blood pressure is good. The nurse practitioner listened to my heart and had me take some deep breaths in and push some deep breaths out. She tested my reflexes and they reflexed just fine.I was also asked if I had fallen recently, felt down or depressed, and if I can use a telephone by myself. Apparently I answered the questions correctly. I seem to be healthy. My current plans are to go return to the doctor’s office in a year.

With no symptoms to show or test results to raise concerns, the NP asked, “How are you feeling?” several times. “I’m feeling fine,” I assured her. What I didn’t say because I’ve worn the line out, is “Yes, but I was feeling fine, not a symptom in the world, when I was diagnosed with some serious cancer 21 years ago.”

I guess health, in a way, is in the eye of the beholder – or in the “feeling fine” of the patient. I’m glad to be healthy, to be feeling fine (and I really do). Even so, though I’ve quit using my tired line, there’s always that “Yes, but” hiding in the corner.

Just because I’m old, doesn’t mean I get to bore you with my health issues, however. My exam has me thinking about the church and its health and those are the observations I wish to share.

I am the chair of our presbytery’s Church Health Committee. Our committee was formed a couple of years ago but a concern for church health has been around under the guise of renewal, revitalization, growth – the turn-around church – for as long as I remember.

Our denomination has developed and gathered a set of tools that are sort of like the blood test panels I get once a year. They are designed to measure the wellness of a congregation. I think they are useful. But just as having good numbers in regard to my creatinine, bilirubin, and albumin levels, doesn’t necessarily make me healthy, all our congregational analyses do not necessarily show whether a church is healthy or not.

In fact, sometimes it seems as if the denomination is so focused on creatinine that it forgets about albumin, so focused on evangelism that it forgets about preaching, worship, prayer, and caring for the sojourner in our midst and for the widows and orphans all around us. They’ve given us a slick evangelism tool to use, but it can be as if we’re hawking some miracle-cure dietary supplement (call 1-800-GET-WELL now for your 30-day supply).

“How are you feeling?” the nurse practitioner asked me earlier this week. “I’m feeling fine, thank you,” I answered. I’m feeling fine because, to use the Apostle Paul’s words, each part of my body is working properly (Ephesians 4:16). I eat well, exercise regularly, share life with Becky, experience the grace of God daily, and use my abilities for good things – including serving as chair of the Church Health Committee. Who knows about tomorrow?

In the same verse from Ephesians, Paul says the healthy church “builds itself up in love.” John Calvin says, “Wherever we see the Word of God purely preached and heard, and the sacraments administered according to Christ’s institution, there, it is not to be doubted, a church of God exists.” (Institutes 4.1.9). The denomination hasn’t provided us with an assessment tool for measuring “built up in love” or the purity of preaching and the fidelity of the administration of the sacraments. My guess is those are the symptoms that mark a healthy church.

By the way, I googled “albumin” and it turns out having just the right amount of it is a good thing. I feel fine, thank you.