It has long been my contention that the church in America has too often positioned itself as a kind of local pool of Bethesda (John 5:2-4) to which people are invited to come and receive healing (or at least therapy), rather than a kind of hill in Galilee where we are invited to sit and hear the master teach us about the Way (Matt 5:1).
There is not an absolute divergence between these two attitudes, of course. I'm certainly not dismissing healing ministry out of hand. I'm only suggesting that, as we look at the pool of Bethesda story in John 5, for example, we ought to be encouraged to read it not as folks who need healing like the people gathered at the pool, but as followers of Jesus, his disciples, watching and learning as Jesus demonstrates Kingdom realities.
I think that much preaching is in this mistaken mode: appeals to the broken and hurting in which (or, because) everyone is defined primarily as broken and hurting. Thus, Bible texts are chosen for their ability to comfort the broken and hurting. These turn out to be the most successful sermons (that is, they elicit the most emotional response) and so the preacher learns to return to the theme frequently.
In all this it is not disciples who are being addressed, but simply folks with problems.
But hey, isn't everyone broken and hurting? Even disciples? Yes, yes, but what I have noticed is that this sort of preaching winds up having the effect not so much of healing them than of encouraging people to continue to self-define as victims. Just what the wider culture does! It's as if this self-definition (hurting and broken victims) were inescapable, and church then becomes primarily a place of momentary solace or an interlude of hope rather than a place of equipping.
See, I think there is a whole lucrative industry out there (both in the Christian branch of capitalistic enterprise and the non-Christian) which rests on the recognition that if you can keep people self-defining as needy, you can sell them the latest solution (which is usually nothing more than snake oil). The thing is, I-once-was-lost-but-now-am-found must mean something! Foundness is a glorious difference-maker. It is a self-definition closer by far to the NT view of the believer than that of needy one. Though I remain seriously bent (for the Kingdom has not yet come) this is no longer my primary way of thinking about myself. My primary way of thinking about myself now is healed (for the Kingdom has come).
There is a great need for healing in the world. As Jesus walked the roads of Palestine, he healed many, but it should be noted that the disciples were not the ones clamoring for healing. They were the ones who, defining themselves primarily as Jesus-followers, desired to learn his ways and then go practice them. When Jesus gathered his disciples to himself, it was not to simply offer them solace and commiseration, perhaps even a miricle healing or two, but to teach them Kingdom truths. For example, take a look at the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew and the Upper Room Discourse in John.
I'm still searching for a church. I mentioned here that advice-dominated preaching is one thing I'll be trying to avoid. This is another: preaching that treats me as the helpless victim rather than Jesus-follower.