Clean Out the Sludge

A theology of turnaround.

Many years ago I foolishly drove a car at least 25,000 miles without changing the oil. I guess I figured I'd wait until the red light on the dashboard lit up, and then I'd know I needed fresh oil.

When the car became a non-starter on cold New England mornings, I got mad and took it to the mechanic. Removing the valve cover, he motioned me over and pointed out why it should be the car that was mad. Inside was something that can only be called sludge: a black, putty-like substance that made it virtually impossible for anything to work, especially in cold temperatures. The mechanic spent the better part of a day cleaning the stuff out, and the results were amazing! So was the bill.

This little incident is why my wife, Gail, keeps personal watch on our vehicles and schedules pastoral calls at Jiffy Lube every 3,000 miles.

Sludge buildup seems to describe many churches in need of a turnaround of some kind. It may be spiritual sludge, or organizational or structural sludge. Or program sludge. Maybe ...

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