Spiritual Hardening of the Arteries

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“Where your treasure is so will your heart be also,” Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:21. We live in a country and culture where heart disease is prevalent. We are all aware of the tremendous toll it takes on the physical wellbeing of individuals, often leading to death. Spiritual heart disease is just as common. And as Jesus suggested, the most noticeable symptoms are a lack of generosity and concern for others.

Putting aside the poor spiritual diet of consumerism and materialism, taking up spiritual practices of study and prayer, and connecting with those in need in your area can immediately build up spiritual heart health.

Many congregations and individuals suffer from a debilitating spiritual illness akin to atherosclerosis, commonly known as hardening of the arteries. I refer to this condition as spiritual hardening of the arteries. As with the physical disease, the symptoms often go undetected. Unhealthy or declining congregations languish with traits of low or stagnant professions of faith, fewer generous givers, infrequent worshippers, and non-committal volunteers, all of which are signs of declining churches. These symptoms may not be immediately life threatening; but, if left untreated, they can lead to serious deterioration.

Atherosclerosis often causes poor circulation and acute numbness. Similarly, churches, individuals, and institutions with spiritual hardening of the arteries exhibit these same symptoms. When there is little or limited circulation through ministry involvement in their respective communities, individuals and congregations become numb to their surroundings and constituents.

Sadly, if this condition goes untreated, it can become life threatening for a congregation. Congregations that fail to minister beyond their walls eventually lose their connection to the community and struggle to remain a viable ministry. Community involvement and generosity dramatically increase a congregation’s circulation, thus enhancing health and vitality.

As with physical heart disease, the causes of spiritual heart problems are often more internal than external. Improving our spiritual heart health begins with easily accessible, non-invasive treatments. Putting aside the poor spiritual diet of consumerism and materialism, taking up spiritual practices of study and prayer, and connecting with those in need in your area can immediately build up spiritual heart health. Getting the circulation going again may take some extra effort at first, but it can quickly become a life-giving practice for you, your congregation, and your community.

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About Author

Melvin Amerson is Senior Area Representative and Resource Specialist with the Texas Methodist Foundation (TMF)and author of Stewardship in African American Churches and co-author of Fruit for Celebrating the Offering (both from Discipleship Resources). He is also a board member of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center.


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