Six Lessons Team Rehab Taught Me About Church

As soon as I walk in the door, I am welcomed with a smile by Michelle. “Hi, Laurie! How was your weekend? It’s good to see you today!” One after another they greet me: Lance, Katie, Mike and Gaylord. They all know my name and treat me as if I am the most important person in the world.

No, it’s not Cheers. Nor is it the church. It’s Team Rehabilitation Physical Therapy- Beverly Hills Clinic. From a single clinic in 2001, Team Rehab has grown into a network of forty therapist-owned outpatient PT clinics in Metro Detroit and Illinois. Mike Gilbert is the clinic director, Michelle is the receptionist, Lance is my physical therapist and Katie, Mike and Gaylord are the PT techs.

For the past ten weeks Team Rehab professionals have worked on my right shoulder, which has a combination of tendinitis, impingement and slight arthritis. Nothing serious, just pesky because it affects the sports activities I enjoy.

I start with ten minutes on the arm bike, then progress to arm bands, light weights, pulleys and a Bodyblade. I even have to “scrub the floor” with a special pad to strengthen certain muscles. Lance does manual manipulation, and the sessions end with Ultrasound.

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I finished my physical therapy last Friday and will continue the exercises I was taught at home. However, I learned far more than how to improve the mobility of my shoulder. From Team Rehab’s example, I am learning how to do church more effectively.

Lesson #1 – It’s all About Relationships

Team Rehab knows that physical therapy is all about creating a welcoming atmosphere, getting to know patients as people and caring about their lives. Team Rehab’s website says, “Our mission is simply to be the best source of outpatient PT. By the best, we mean the clinics with the highest levels of patient satisfaction and the best objectively measurable outcomes. As far as possible we want our patients to enjoy therapy as well as getting clear improvements in their health.”

I always looked forward to rehab because the staff is friendly, courteous and fun! Plus, I think they were a bit intrigued to have a pastor as a patient. Katie went to school for advertising for six years but discovered it wasn’t for her. She likes being a PT tech because she wants to help others. We occasionally talk about church, and Katie keeps reminding me to take care of myself because I work too many hours.

Gaylord asks me to pray for his mother, who has been in intensive care for months with a serious illness. He tries to see her as much as possible, putting his own life on hold. Mike is a personal trainer in addition to working at Team Rehab. He patiently gave me a lesson in deer hunting techniques a few days ago.

Lance studied for many years to become a physical therapist, which now requires a doctoral degree. I am amazed at Lance’s knowledge and skill and am proud that he has been selected to start another clinic in the Detroit metro area. I feel as if I know all of these fine young people well and would be proud to be their mother.

  • The church is all about relationships as well. Creating a welcoming atmosphere and sharing radical hospitality is the front door of the church. Who wants to return to a church where people ignore them or are even mean at times? Guests experience the love of Jesus when we model that love.

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Lesson #2 – It’s All About Service

Lance emphasizes that Team Rehab is not about profit, it’s about service. If they meet the needs of their patients and do their job well, people will keep coming and will also tell others. Team Rehab’s CEO reminds clinic directors at monthly meetings that their only goal is to keep patients happy and do all they can to facilitate their healing.

To provide quality service, Team Rehab hires quality people, pays them well and provides for continuing education. Appointments are available between at 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. to provide easy accessibility for patients who work. The clinic arranges free transportation when medically necessary. They also provide clear and regular communication with patients on their progress.

  • The church is also all about service. The church needs to be present to all people at all times, especially during significant life transitions such as birth, baptism, confirmation, marriage, major illness, unemployment, homelessness, family trauma and death.

Lesson #3 – It’s All About Empowerment

Team Rehab’s goal is to challenge patients to participate in their own healing by working hard at PT. They also empower patients to take care of themselves after completing therapy by continuing to do exercises at home.

In addition, Team Rehab empowers employees by giving autonomy to each individual clinic. As Lance prepares to open his own clinic, he attends seminars on how to manage staff and oversee operations. He is given freedom and funds to remodel the space and purchase exercise equipment. At the same time, Team Rehab provides business support in marketing, administration and finance so that the clinic owners, who are all therapists, can focus on quality and service.

  • Vital churches are permission-giving congregations where church members and staff are encouraged and empowered to dream and vision. Then they are blessed and set free to create new programs and ministries that align with the congregation’s core values and mission.

Lesson #4 – It’s All About Effectiveness

Team Rehab’s website affirms my own experience, “We work with our patients and their physicians to achieve superior results… We are committed to practicing evidence-based therapy. That means that we measure outcomes and change our treatment protocols to get the best results for our patients.” Clear improvements in health: that’s the bottom line for Team Rehab.

  • Would that all of our churches made holistic health and relevance their mission as well. Are we committed to discovering the needs of our communities and then finding creative, effective and life-giving ways to address those needs? Are we setting goals and seeking measurable outcomes?


Lesson #5 – It’s All About Continuous Improvement

Team Rehab’s website says, “We do not believe that we have achieved our mission yet, but we think our strategy, based on excellent quality and patient satisfaction, is gaining momentum.” Yesterday’s Detroit Free Press announced the thirteen companies that make up their 2015 Michigan Top Workplace Circle of Excellence. Team Rehabilitation is one of those companies and has been in the top five, four of four years. “Their high level of commitment to their patients defines the success of Team Rehabilitation.”

  • The kingdom of God is here, yet it has also not yet come. Is your church always seeking new and bold ways to share the gospel and reach more people with the love of Jesus?

Lesson #6 – It’s All About Invitation

Lance says that PT’s who are selected to start a new clinic need to prove effectiveness in providing customer satisfaction and getting referrals from physicians. Without referrals there is no growth, and without patients, there is no income. And without satisfied patients, there will be no one to invite others to try Team Rehab.

  • Are you equipping your congregation to invite others to church? Is your worship so compelling and your ministries so inspiring that church members can’t help but share their enthusiasm with friends, neighbors, family and colleagues?

To celebrate both Thanksgiving and the completion of my PT, I decided to say thank you last week by providing funds for the entire Team Rehab staff to enjoy a nice lunch together. I’m also ready to tell anyone I know that if they ever need physical therapy, Team Rehab is the best. Thank you, Team Rehab, for having my back!


Do Something Different: Black Friday and Giving Tuesday

It is either a countercultural stroke of genius or a foolhardy act of retail suicide. On October 26 I received an email from REI, announcing that they were closing their retail stores on Black Friday, November 27. Yes, that’s right.

“This Black Friday the co-op is doing something different. We’re closing all 143 of our stores. Instead of reporting to work, we’re paying our (12,000) employees to do what we love most – be outside. We want you, our members, to be the first to hear – not just what we’re doing, but why.

20151116-1“We’re passionate about bringing you great gear, but we’re even more passionate about the experiences it unlocks for all of us. Perhaps John Muir said it best back in 1901, ‘Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home.’ We think Black Friday is the perfect day to remind people of this essential truth.” With the hashtag #OptOutside, REI is asking people to share on social media what they’re doing on Black Friday.

Meanwhile, the opening of the holiday season has been fast this year. Shoppers are not waiting until Black Friday. Large retailers, including Walmart, Best Buy and Amazon, rolled out “door-buster” deals in early November. In case you are counting, there are six less shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year. Plus, shoppers wary of the stock market may be limiting their holiday budget, so whoever gets the dollars first wins.

In addition, for the first time, many retailers plan to open their stores this year on Thanksgiving Day itself. Macy’s, JC Penney, Sears, and Toys“R”Us are among those who have announced that they will open on Thanksgiving evening. Kmart will open even earlier: 6 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day, when you can buy an exclusive Beauty Bag for only $9.99.

The National Retail Federation’s latest survey finds that holiday shoppers plan to spend an average of $463 on family members, up from $458 last year and the highest in survey history. Average spending per person is expected to reach $805, with more than half of shoppers also planning to purchase non-gift items for themselves.

You won’t see me at Toys“R”Us on Black Friday because I hate to shop. And you won’t see me trying on apparel in department stores because whenever I get home from work, I change into clothes that most people would find dowdy. I’d wear the same thing every day if I could get away with it. Where you will be able to find me on Friday is outside, along with thousands of other tired, nerve-shaken and over-civilized people in this world.

I hope to be walking in the woods (no snow, please!) and paying attention to everything around me. But I confess ahead of time that I will also be plotting what organizations I will be donating to on what has come to be called Giving Tuesday, December 1. Giving Tuesday, which is now in its fourth year, was founded as an alternative giving response to the shopping frenzy of Black Friday and Cyber Monday and serves to kick off end-of-year charitable giving. Created by the 92nd Street Y in New York City, Giving Tuesday connects diverse individuals and organizations around the world to celebrate philanthropy and giving with events throughout the year.

I am going to channel my Giving Tuesday donations through The Advance, which is the designated giving channel of The United Methodist Church. Last year United, Methodists from 25 countries donated over $2.5 million online on Giving Tuesday to support mission and ministry around the world. More than 775 projects and missionaries received more than 8,700 gifts, with our General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM) matching the first $1 million in gifts.

Board of Global Ministries representatives were among the partners invited to the White House by the Office of Social Innovation and Civic Partnership on October 6, 2014, to promote and support UMC #GivingTuesday. And an article in USA Today highlighted The United Methodist Church among the significant participants, reporting, “Big names – Microsoft to United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries and PayPal – got involved this year with promises to match donations.”


Through the site, Gary and I plan to participate in UMC Giving Tuesday this year by donating to Papa’s Ministries in Jamaica, which provides training opportunities for clergy and laity, with an emphasis on evangelism. We’re also giving to HAPI, Haitian Artisans for Peace International, which provides for community economic development in economics, gender equality, health, creativity and spirituality. Both mission projects were founded by laity and clergy colleagues from Michigan and are engaged in long term, transformative ministries that will enlarge the capacity of others to be self-supporting. GBGM will again match up to $1 million in gifts. A maximum of $2,500 per individual gift to a project will be dispersed as matching funds. A project may receive a maximum of $25,000 in matching funds.

What might happen if all those who are tired, nerve-shaken and over-civilized made a commitment to celebrate the beginning of Advent by spending part of Black Friday outside in God’s good creation, preparing our hearts and reviving our spirits? As REI CEO Jerry Stritzke said, “For 76 years, our co-op has been dedicated to one thing and one thing only: a life outdoors. We believe that being outside makes our lives better. And Black Friday is the perfect time to remind ourselves of this essential truth. We’re a different kind of company – and while the rest of the world is fighting it out in the aisles, we’ll be spending our day a little differently. We’re choosing to opt outside and want you to come with us.”

What might happen four days later, when a different kind of tired, nerve-shaken and over-civilized church spends part of Giving Tuesday, December 1, at our computers, uniting together to share God’s love and our resources to change the world in the name of Jesus? And what might happen, if, like REI, we tell our friends, neighbors and colleagues not only what we are doing, but why. We’re not only passionate about helping those in need, but we are even more passionate about telling the world that in the midst of so much fear and terror, the true light of Jesus Christ shines in the darkness, and the darkness will never overcome it.

Wherever you are on Black Friday or Giving Tuesday, do something different.


Changing Our Face

The face of our faith is changing. The shape of Christianity, including United Methodism, is very different today than it was a century ago or even ten years ago. Christians today come in all varieties, with amazing backgrounds, unique faces, distinct theologies and a passion to serve and make disciples. Why do people continue to claim The United Methodist Church as their spiritual home? I’d like to think it’s because they seek grace and a place where they are encouraged to grow in their unique faith and spiritual practices.

A diverse group of people

Monica became a United Methodist because the communion table is open to all. She was raised as a Catholic and married an alcoholic who was also abusive. When Monica finally gathered up the courage to leave her husband, her priest forbade her from taking communion. After drifting for a few years, she finally found a United Methodist church where she claimed God’s grace, was set free from guilt and returned to spiritual health and wholeness.

Amy grew up in Africa of Indian heritage. Arriving in the U.S. as a young adult, Amy learned about Christianity from her husband. Her children love The United Methodist Church and sing in the choir. Amy believes in the teachings of Jesus at the same time as some of the practices of her childhood religion also enrich her faith.

Ted and Darlene are discouraged with the prohibitions against gay marriage because they have a gay son. They want their son to be able to have a life partner and hope he can stay in The United Methodist Church. Josh and Sally have a different perspective. They are comfortable with our current denominational stance on human sexuality but treasure the richness of the diversity of The United Methodist Church.

Joseph was born in the Philippines, his parents having been converted to Christianity by American missionaries. He holds to the orthodox teachings that were taught to him as a child, yet he also loves to engage others in theological dialogue and desires to preserve the unity of the church.

Emma and Ben are in their twenties and grew up in Germany, studying, working and playing with people of various ethnicities, cultures and religions. They are amused when their denomination seems to draw lines in the sand, yet they stay in The United Methodist Church because Jesus has captured their hearts, and they want to change the world.

Each of these examples exemplifies how societal context shapes who we are as Christ-followers. What we are witnessing today in The United Methodist Church is an amazing diversity in theology and practice, which highlights the changing face of Christianity in our world, including United Methodism. Over the past hundred years, growth in Christianity has shifted from North to South and from West to East, with the churches in the southern hemisphere tending to be more theologically conservative. Consider these statistics from a 2010 Pew Research Center report on Global Christianity.

  • In 1910, 35% of the world’s population was Christian. In 2010 it was 32%.
  • In 1910, 66% of the world’s Christians lived in Europe. In 2010 it was 26%.
  • In 1910, 1% of the world’s Christians lived in sub-Saharan Africa. In 2010 it was 24%.
  • In 1910, 4.5% of all Christians lived in the Asia Pacific area. In 2010 it was 13%, especially in China.
  • In 2010, Christians comprised 32% of world population, followed by Muslims 23%;
    Unaffiliated 16%; Hindu 15%; Buddhist 7%; Folk religionists 6%; Other 1%.

At every General Conference of The United Methodist Church, the percentage of delegates from outside the United States increases. 30% of the delegates in 2016 are from Africa, 4.6% are from Europe, 5.8% are from the Philippines, 58.3% are from the United States and the remainder are from the Concordat churches.

It is commonly acknowledged that our United Methodist Book of Discipline has not kept pace with the changing face of the church and needs a facelift. A committee has been working on the formation of a “General” Book of Discipline for 2020, which would name the essentials that bind all United Methodists and also allow greater flexibility of expression in an increasingly diverse world. At the same time, a process is in place to rewrite our United Methodist Social Principles to make them more globally relevant.


How is God calling us to change our face as the face of Christianity changes? In an increasingly pluralistic world and global church, how can we claim our own beliefs as followers of Jesus while also embracing the Christian spiritual practices of others? How can we build bridges by seeking the common ground of grace, forgiveness, tolerance and understanding? And how can we restructure our denomination in a way that preserves unity while honoring differences? As a colleague said recently, “If we engage in holy conversation, we can move forward on anything and solve any problem.”

Dr. Gregory Sterling, Dean of Yale Divinity School, recently published a thought-provoking article titled, “Rethinking Christianity in the 21st Century.” Sterling rejects the commonly accepted model of thinking about the early church: that it started as a single tradition beginning with Jesus, was spread by the apostles and came to fruition in the bishops of the church. Those traditions that were non-conforming were exposed as heresy.

By contrast, Sterling writes that 20th century scholars determined that the early church developed contextually according to location. Christianity looked different in Jerusalem, Corinth, Antioch, Rome, Ephesus and Philippi, and mandated uniformity did not come until the rise of bishops and the adoption of Christianity as the state religion of the Roman Empire in the fourth century.

Sterling contends, “Initially there was no such thing as orthodoxy in the sense of a uniform and well-defined movement… In other words, rather than thinking of enforced uniformity, we need to think of diversity within a larger unity. If this is unnerving, we should remember that it was the diversity of the early centuries that helped to give Christianity its vibrancy and allowed it to take root in multiple circumstances throughout the world.”

How does the rise of global United Methodism harken back to the rapid growth of early Christianity? Does the synergy of unique contextual ministry aligning with the broader mission of making disciples in those first centuries provide the impetus for the vibrancy and variety of Christian expression around the world today? According to Sterling, “If we believe experience is a vehicle of theology, we will need to learn to respect the different experiences that shape theologies across the world.”

The history of Methodism in America illustrates the impact of a movement that began in England but changed its face in order to flourish in the American context. The Wesleyan movement grew like wildfire because the Methodist circuit riders did not remain comfortable in the cities. Rather, they moved west with the settlers with a preaching style that not only converted tens of thousands but provided a system of spiritual growth and accountability.

What can we learn from our young adults today, who yearn to express their faith through service and leadership and insist on embracing diversity while making a difference in the world? How do we respond to their impatience with our judgmentalism, lack of grace and inability to engage the world as it is today?

As a denomination that has historically gone to where the people are, bringing the good news of Jesus Christ, do we stunt growth when we demand uniformity? Do we dilute the Holy Spirit’s power when we do not welcome the experiences that shape the theologies of United Methodists in different parts of the world? How do we understand John Wesley’s words, “But as to all opinions which do not strike at the root of Christianity, we think and let think.” How might God be calling us to change our face?

The United Methodist Church is positioned to make an enormous difference in the religious landscape of our world. We can once again become a passionate movement of the Holy Spirit by acknowledging the diverse roots that gave Christianity its vibrancy and allowed it to take root in multiple circumstances throughout the world.

Monica, Amy, Ted and Darlene, Joseph and Emma and Ben, may God be with you and all of us as we continually seek to understand one another and change our own faces so that we can change the world.