Three months ago, atrophy began. I tripped while walking the dog. I was unable to brace myself and landed directly on my right arm, dislocating the shoulder. After dislocating it again five days later, I was sent to a surgeon who determined that I had also broken a piece of the socket. Surgery was scheduled for two weeks later and expected to last an hour. That meant wearing a sling for three weeks.
During the procedure, the surgeon found greater damage than expected. The socket piece was broken into several smaller pieces. The cartilage and the labrum were torn. As a result, surgery required three hours. In order to allow the socket pieces to fuse, I would have to wear another sling for four more weeks. After the block wore off, pain was expected and pain medications were prescribed.
At the end of those seven weeks in the slings, my shoulder and arm had experienced major atrophy. What we don’t use, we lose. My muscle mass and strength were gone. Because of muscle weakness, my right hand hung two inches lower than my left hand.
Physical therapy was prescribed and begun. Therapy was painful but helpful. I began to recover arm and shoulder strength and movement. Daily pain reduced but continued.
Church Atrophy Evidence
Why do I share my recovery journey? I see so much evidence of atrophy in the church. Consider this small sample of evidence:
- Apathy from forgetting what Jesus did for us
- Failing to pass along what Jesus did for us (failure to share with and disciple others)
- Not exercising our faith, often due to doubt
- Not being proactive with teens who end up dropping out
- Boomers dropping out/retiring from church
- Not pursuing dropouts
- Not making best efforts to reconcile damaged relationships.
Now why do I refer to the items on this list as atrophy? Consider this: what might be possible in a church where none of these evidences are present? Imagine the excitement, energy, and relationships that might be possible. Imagine the number of people who would be sharing Jesus and discipling others.
One of the biggest reasons that the average church does not grow is that more people drop out than join. Many churches need to do a better job of keeping disciples connected, growing, and investing in the mission our Lord Jesus Christ has given us (Matthew 28:19-20). Until then, too many churches will continue to decline.
While recovering from atrophy is time-consuming and painful, it is worth doing. Not to do the work necessary would mean very limited use of my shoulder and arm. That is where many churches are. They have less use of the body of Christ. Ignoring atrophy results in permanent loss.
Gather a team for prayer and identification of the impact of atrophy. Develop a plan for taking steps to address the causes of the atrophy evidence you identify. Make disciples!