Having spent my fair share of time the past three years around
those in the medical community, I have a new appreciation for the balance
required between the care and cure of the patient. I have experienced both the
skilled hands of various surgeons to fix what is broken but also the loving
compassion of the medical community at work to create an environment where
healing and wholeness can be achieved.
Congregations in transition can find themselves in a similar
situation and require the skilled hands of a surgeon to fix what’s broken and
loving leadership to help facilitate the journey back to renewed health. This
month I want to share a few words of Henri Nouwen from his devotional Bread for the Journey. These thoughts
are very appropriate for the ministry of change and transition we find
ourselves involved with.
something other than cure. Cure means “change.” A doctor, a lawyer, a minister,
a social worker -- they all want to use their professional skills to bring
about changes in people's lives. They get paid for whatever kind of cure
they can bring about. But cure, desirable as it may be, can easily become
violent, manipulative, and even destructive if it does not grow out of care.
Care is being with, crying out with, suffering with, feeling with. Care is
compassion. It is claiming the truth that the other person is my brother
or sister, human, mortal, vulnerable, like I am.
“When care is our
first concern, cure can be received as a gift. Often we are not able to cure,
but we are always able to care. To care is to be human.”
Supporting the Interplay of Care and Cure
To care is not the
same as bringing a cure
Sometimes we are tempted to believe – if we just love them enough,
they will change. Don’t get me wrong, love is essential in any change effort,
but it isn’t usually enough. Change requires adjustments that are accompanied
by pain, new levels of thinking and new behaviour that takes times to develop.
When my bone was broken, I needed a surgeon to put the broken
pieces back in place before healing could start. To simply care for me wasn’t
enough. I needed to get on the hard cold table and have the cure applied before
healing could begin. Congregations in transition often need love and change if
healing and health is to be realized.
Certain skills are
required to cure brokenness
A unique skill set is required to help facilitate a cure in the
area of church health and transformational change during times of transition.
Care alone won’t bring a cure. You often need an objective outsider speaking to
a situation and bringing the necessary tools and facilitated conversations to
Henry Cloud speaks about the value of the objective outsider who
has the energy, tools and applies the necessary force to change the system: “Disorder
and decline are not inevitable and can, in fact, be reversed if the system
opens itself up to two things: a new source of energy and a template (a
template is anything that serves as a guide, pattern, or model). You need force
and you need the intelligence to inform action. If you have these two things,
higher order functioning can take place.”
Cure without care
can be harsh and leave us alone and hurting
Deep change must be wrapped in compassion and loving care. When
people are being asked to let go of their past, change the way they do things,
work out their differences, accept a new path, they need care to help them
facilitate that difficult journey.
The surgeon uses his skill to remove, repair, realign, rebuild as
necessary so healing is possible. He
also works in team with others to ensure the necessary care backs up the cure.
The transitional pastor and coach, works in team with others to provide the
cure and the care required to see people through to greater health and
I believe that every transitional leader and coach can develop
both the skill set (within the range of their gifts and calling) to facilitate
a cure wrapped in the love and compassion of Christ. As we grow in character
and competency, our ability to cure and care will grow with us.
Questions to Ponder
What are some tangible ways you demonstrate care for those you
What gets in the way of compassion when working with congregations
What skills are required to facilitate some of the common health
concerns found in congregations in transition?
What is your greatest strength as one who facilitates
congregational cures? Where do you know you need to grow?