5 December, 2022

Health: Give Careful Attention!

by | 1 July, 2022 | 2 comments

By Michael C. Mack

Why are we committing an entire issue to health? Because health begets growth, good fruit, and reproduction for God’s people, our families, our churches, and the future of our movement. (Of course, unhealthy things can also grow, bear fruit, and multiply, but we don’t want them to!)

We all desire health in the various arenas of our lives, but we may not be very mindful of it . . . until something happens and our health is jeopardized.

I know what I’m talking about. In October 2021, I was mountain biking with a friend in Brown County, Indiana, and we were enjoying the 25 miles of trails—rolling up and down hills, sweeping over rollers and through berms, and catching air on jumps. It was the best day of mountain biking I had ever experienced . . . until it wasn’t. My friend and I were less than a mile from the end of the trail when I fell, breaking my left patella.

A week later I underwent surgery to repair the kneecap, and several weeks after that I started physical therapy. But something was wrong. I was in excruciating, chronic pain, with swelling in the leg and high fevers. I was diagnosed with CRPS (Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome). My body began to atrophy, and I lost 30 pounds of mostly muscle. My physical therapist was frustrated with my lack of progress, and so was I. Weeks turned into months and none of my many doctors—specialists in orthopedics, pain management, infectious disease, wound care—could diagnose the problem. Finally, X-rays revealed major bone decay in the knee, caused by acute infection, and a surgeon quickly operated.

After the surgery, I began to receive antibiotics through a PICC line three times a day at home. Multiple ER visits and hospital stays ensued, as the first two lines in my arms didn’t work properly. A line was then implanted in my chest. As I write this in May, I’m making good progress, and a third surgery, a total knee replacement, is scheduled for July 5.

Before my fall, I was rolling steadily along, regularly beating my personal bests, and when I compared myself to most other guys my age, I felt a sense of satisfaction and, dare I say, pride.

This is a red flag, as many wise leaders know. Solomon nailed it: “Pride precedes a disaster, and an arrogant attitude precedes a fall” (Proverbs 16:18, God’s Word Translation).

We can’t assume good health when things seem to be going smoothly, but we can be proactive. To remain healthy in every realm of our lives requires at least two consistent practices: measurement and action.

Our writers in this issue provide expert help for how to measure what matters and develop appropriate, healthy action steps.

While we can’t always avoid trials of many kinds (like a pandemic, a war on the other side of the world that affects our budgets, etc.), we can, with absolute faith, seek God’s wisdom for how to persevere through them (cf. James 1:2-7).

Years ago, when I was a new small groups minister, a group would occasionally fail. I would meet with the leader to debrief, and often they would say they had no indications of problems beforehand. It was a complete surprise. This bothered me, but at that time I didn’t have a solution.

Later in my ministry, at Northeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky, when we had a fast-growing number of groups, then-senior pastor Bob Cherry asked me, “Mike, are our small groups healthy?” That was a wise question, one every church leader should be asking. Proverbs 27:23 says, “Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds.”

My response, of course, was yes! I tried to tell him stories of healthy, fruit-producing groups, but he wanted facts, not just anecdotes. But how could I measure the health of a very qualitative ministry? How could I objectively evaluate health in discipleship, community, group members’ spiritual growth, and leadership development within groups?

I developed a survey based on what I determined were the vital signs of group health. We surveyed all group leaders and used the results to determine the health of all our groups collectively, individual groups, and even among group types. Our coaches used the results to help leaders improve in weaker areas. We developed workshops in areas where our groups were generally unhealthy. The experience provided the content for my book Small Group Vital Signs: Seven Indicators of Health that Make Groups Flourish.

One of the many things I learned is that these vital signs—Christ-centeredness, a healthy leader, shared leadership, proactive leadership, authentic community, ministry to others, and a disciple-making environment—are relevant for much more than just small groups. They can be used to evaluate the health of a church, parachurch organization, or even our movement.

Do you know the condition of your flocks? Are you paying attention to your herds? Whether your “flocks” and “herds” represent your nuclear family, church family, or extended church family (our fellowship of churches), be sure to measure what matters and take God-initiated, God-honoring action toward health.

Michael C. Mack

Michael C. Mack is editor of Christian Standard. He has served in churches in Ohio, Indiana, Idaho, and Kentucky. He has written more than 25 books and discussion guides as well as hundreds of magazine, newspaper, and web-based articles.

2 Comments

  1. Ellen L Landreth

    Sorry to hear about your crash Mike. I went and ordered your book to check the health of our small group. I will share it with our “Groups” minister here in Meridian Idaho at Ten Mile Christian Church.

  2. EL

    Blessings as your recovery continues.

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