The Church Has Cerebral Palsy

One afternoon 20-plus years ago, our Minister of Music came into my office followed by a man in a motorized wheelchair. “This is Mike and he wants to talk with you.” So my journey with Mike Collis began.

Mike has cerebral palsy, a condition I’m familiar with because my brother Lee was born with it. Mike is not able to walk and he speaks slowly with what appears to be great effort. But he also holds B.A. and M.Div. degrees. He’s a smart guy who’s body is disabled. Mike was part of the Northminster community for many years, and he now lives in Ashville, NC.

I’m thinking about Mike today because a friend forwarded the audio of a recent sermon Mike preached. Mike uses the same software and computer set-up that Stephen Hawking introduced to the world. It’s an excellent sermon and well worth a listen. (You can find it here.)

In his message Mike tells about a Northminster Bible study that became an aha moment for many of us. I was teaching from 1 Corinthians 12, Paul’s famous passage about the church as the body of Christ. In the middle of the lesson Mike raised his hand and proceeded to tell the fifty or so of us gathered that evening that

The church is like me. There is nothing wrong with my head. The problem is that the instructions from my brain become garbled on their way to my body.

That’s a pretty clear description of cerebral palsy by one who lives with the constant frustration of a brain that is not able to control the various parts of his body.

Mike didn’t stop there. He went on to interpret the text this way:

Christ is the Head of the Church. There is nothing wrong with the Head. The problem is that his instructions become garbled before reaching the parts of the body. The church is like me. The church has cerebral palsy.

Mike elaborates on the image in his recent sermon, but you get his point. Jesus sends us the clear command to love one another, but somehow the message gets confused and we—the Church, the Body of Christ—lurch around spastically.

There is no cure for Mike’s condition. The church’s version, however, is different. We can get better! Healing happens when we focus on the One scripture calls the Head of the Church. As we’re learning at Northminster this fall, a church that Dreams Big and Prays Hard will find itself Loving Generously—a rare sign of health that our world desperately needs.

“God is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or dream—infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, or hopes.” Ephesians 3:20 (LB)

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