About 25 years ago, the pastor of a relatively poor congregation had an accident and racked up a huge medical bill in the hospital. Without health insurance, he lay in bed praying about how his family would survive the mounting debt. Meanwhile, his church got together, negotiated the bill with the hospital, and pooled money from its members to pay off the bill.
The pastor was so overjoyed with relief that he said, "If you can do this for me, we ought to be able to do this for anyone of us who isn't insured." So that church started a little health care co-op. They didn't have a whole lot of money, but they wanted to be faithful to one another and use what they had to make sure no one was crushed by medical bills.
When my family joined this same co-op a few years ago, there were more than 25,000 members. Every month we get a newsletter that tells us how millions of dollars are being shared around the country to meet the needs of brothers and sisters who are sick with cancer or having babies or recovering from a car wreck. Of course, there's no way we could know all those people. But our common conviction that we should bear one another's burdens as members of the body of Christ has made economic friendship possible through this health care co-op. Because tens of thousands of people have tried to be faithful in little ways, a real alternative to health insurance is available for a family like mine.
But this real alternative was not the result of a grand strategy to reform our nation's broken health-care system. It was the fruit of a tactical imagination that started with a pastor praying in his hospital bed and some regular church folks talking about how they could share their money. This is the good news of God's economy that can begin to slip in wherever we are. It's the good news that the church has offered the world for 2,000 years, transforming the imagination of those around us. How can we inject kingdom imagination into our world today? Here's a short video to fuel the conversation:
May we keep praying and acting. May we be the church we dream of.
Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove is the author of God's Economy: Redefining the Health and Wealth Gospel, a speaker, and new monastic who's put down roots in the Walltown neighborhood of Durham, NC. For a series of short films designed to spark conversation around God's Economy, visit http://vimeo.com/channels/jonathanwilsonhartgrove.