Person X walks into your church. It doesn't take long to discover that person X has a very messy life. They are involved in dysfunctional and toxic relationships, their lives are a financial mess with both bad spending habits and bad financial priorities in the mix, and they have a problem with substance abuse. Person X comes to the church for help because they are desperate and don't know what to do. Person X is needy. What does the church have to offer? Person X has a spirit which is in need of salvation, a body which could use some healthy habits, but they also have a soul. Their soul is the seat of their mind, emotions, thoughts, patterns of thought, intellect and habits. Likely the most desperate need in the life of Person X is soul-work. The Bible would be in full agreement with this since we are told to be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2).
I must ask, however: How many churches are really, truly ready to deal with Person X? Truth be told, most churches gladly welcome people who quickly conform to our ways, but resist the long and messy work of helping desperate people like Person X be transformed through the healing work of the soul - the mind - the intellect - the habits - the thoughts. Person X may even readily reach out to Jesus and confess their sin, accept His salvation, and receive the forgiveness for their sin, but then they go home and struggle... struggle deeply to undo the myriad of things tied to their soul.
We don't like to think of our church as an exclusive place, but if Person X is only welcome through a quick conformation to our ways instead of us buckling our seatbelts and settling in for the long haul of transformation, then we speak blatant exclusivity rather than inclusion. We wouldn't say that out loud, mind you, but our actions become our bylaws.
Person X has unhealthy SOUL TIES.
Person X has a lifetime of experiences that have bound them to unhealthy covenants with people, places and things that are etched in their memories. Person X will likely struggle for a long time trying to undo these nooses which are tightly bound around their neck. Churches will care for the spirit of person X by offering salvation. We may offer them tangible, material assistance when we see their need on the outside. But what about that messed up soul? Hmmm. Most churches offer altars of salvation and checks for groceries, but then what? How many of our ministries are truly equipped for soul transformation?
The truth is conformation church is always easier than transformation church. Person X is not without help, and not without a Helper. The power and presence of God is there to help them, but God calls people to help people. God wants your hands and voice to assist Person X to a new path... to breaking the soul ties that have enslaved them.
But wait! What if we in the church have our own soul ties that we're blind to? Aha! That might be true. What if we are so bound to our ways inside the church, that messy Person X from outside the church is only given the option of conforming to our ways? What if its the insiders that need freedom just as much as the outsider? What if we have come to Jesus too and confessed and received forgiveness for sin and salvation for our spirit, but what if our souls are just as bound to unhealthy things as Person X? Well now, that's a game-changer isn't it?
The Mind of Christ is the only logical place for all people to find unity in the body of Christ. Mutual conformation is never the path to unity. Mutual transformation will bind all people together in perfect love.
More to come on this topic. Be challenged!
Brett Heintzman is passionate about the spiritual formation of God's people. These writings are designed to draw us close to God and to help us live out of the riches of His presence. It's all about being in the world but not of the world.