Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

October 22, 2006


Is it the business of the church to help people get flu shots?


          Some people have never shied away from giving me advice about what should be the business of the church. They presume to have a direct line to heaven and think God has called them to make sure the preacher does not stray too far to the right or the left.

          One man chastised me for not having preached the gospel. He said with stern conviction, “If you do not speak about ‘the blood of Christ’ you have not preached the gospel.” I think his favorite song was “There is Power in the Blood.” And it is a favorite of mine also though I felt his definition of the gospel was a bit too narrow.

          Most preachers have great liberty to preach their convictions as long as they do not address the “sacred cows” of the congregation. They can get in hot water if they push the wrong buttons.

          One fine man refused to come to church whenever he knew I would be preaching about stewardship. He knew I would encourage “storehouse tithing” to which he strenuously objected. I have always believed that the tithe, or ten per cent of one’s income, should be given to God, through the church, with no strings attached. He insisted that he could divide his tithe between the church and all other charitable giving. He was greatly disappointed that I would not cave in and agree with him.

          Frequently during election years I have stressed in preaching the Christian’s responsibility to vote not for a certain political party but for the candidate that seemed most willing to honor God with integrity.  It never fails that someone responds with the remark, “I think the church should stay out of politics and preachers should stick to preaching the gospel.”

          Such a comment seems quite spiritual. Its intent is to make the preacher squirm for having muffed the ball as he stood behind the sacred desk. The truth is, most preachers will admit that sometimes we do miss the mark in preaching. More than once I have realized too late that my sermon subject was irrelevant and hardly worth my listeners’ time.

          On the other hand, authentic preaching surely includes more subjects that heaven and hell. For too long the church focused too much on the soul and too little on the body. Thankfully most preachers have realized the need for a holistic approach to life.  God is interested in every human need, not just helping people get a ticket to heaven.

          The prevailing wisdom these days is that the church’s business is anything that may improve, or hinder, the quality of life for all people. Social ills that deprive people should be addressed, and deplored, in preaching. Community ministries that benefit people should have the support of churches and their pastors.

          This week I spent several hours assisting people to get flu shots and pneumonia shots in our church. Our volunteers helped people fill out the necessary forms and secure the shots in a comfortable, welcoming environment. It cost our church nothing to provide a convenient place for this community service.

          Is it the business of the church to help people obtain flu shots? Of course it is. Influenza can lead to severe illness like pneumonia. We helped several people reduce their risk of serious illness this winter. Call it an effort to improve the quality of life for those people.

          It is the mission of the church to help people get to know God so they can go to heaven when this life is over. In the meantime we can demonstrate the love of God by meeting some of the physical needs of people during their journey to heaven.  We can help them understand that God cares about the body as well as the soul.

Such caring may cause someone to become interested in knowing the God whom we serve and whose gospel we preach. It might even pique someone’s interest in the blood of Christ. + + +