In the mid-1800s underprivileged pregnant women in Vienna often gave birth in the street rather than using the services of the First Clinic at Vienna General Hospital. If they had to go to the hospital they requested the Second Clinic that was staffed by midwives rather than doctors.
Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis wondered why pregnant women would give birth in the street if they couldn’t get Dr. Ignaz Semmelweisinto the Second Clinic when the First Clinic had space for them. He provided scientifically what the women know through word of mouth: the mortality rate among the doctors was one in ten, while the midwives held a much more successful ratio in one in fifty, despite the disparity in training.
Semmelweis changed the process for doctors and medical students in the hospital because the doctors were actually the cause of the mortality. Their medical education could not overcome the fact that they were bearers of what later became known as deadly germs (germ theory of disease had not yet been accepted) that led to the increase in mortality. They went from the Cadaver Lab where they had been participating in dissection to the maternity ward where they examined new mothers. What they took with them caused childbed fever, resulting in high mortality rates in patients in the First Clinic. At least half of those who developed the fever died. Rather than bringing healing those doctors were the bearers of death.
Simply washing their hands produced a decrease in the mortality rate from one in ten to one in one hundred.
Could the same be true of the good news? Those of us trying to bring it, come with a ‘heavy’ gospel. A gospel that focuses on knowing a certain set of facts about a moment in history (Cross), rather than the message that Jesus brought which was to obey everything I’ve commanded.
We have the educated, buildings, curriculum, books, speakers, ordination, rituals, none of which are found, commanded or even suggested by the Bible. Yet we live and die by our traditions rather than the simple truths of the Bible.
Our methods of conversion are so far from Jesus’ method of disciple making. Could we actually be the problem and not the solution?
A simple move to an obedience focused disciple making has shown amazing results in other places. Could it be that simply teaching people to read, obey and share the Bible trumps all the bells and whistles we’ve added to the good news?
David and Paul Watson tackle this subject in Contagious Disciple Making. If this irritates, antagonizes or agitates you then you must read this book. Of course you could pick up Spent Matches as well!