I remember the first “hospital visit” I ever went on (Note: It is weird starting a blog post like this, because I am not “in the ministry” right now, and I still do not normally make “hospital visits”). It was the very first week of my internship in Jacksonville, FL. A former pastor of the church I was interning at was having some chest pains, and for precautionary measures he was taken to the hospital. I remember being terrified to walk in the door to his room.
Walking down the hallway was bad enough. The myriad of smells permeated my nose. If only it was a myriad of fatty food or decadent delicacies like that on a busy urban street way. It was a cluster of scents my nose could not accustom to. It was a myriad of smells I can only now characterize. It was like a scented diaper met a scented trash bag, and the two decided to procreate. And I had to walk down the long hallways where every turn labyrinthed into the next. I was caught in a maze and there were no signs of escape.
As one of the pastors and I walked into the hospital room, suddenly everything changed. The former pastor we were visiting was as jolly as could be! I have never before or since seen a person so happy to sit in a hospital bed and eat their terrible excuse for food. But this man was a true man of God and knew where to find his joy. He knew that he would soon be leaving that hospital bed and go back home to his own bed. I was still a novice and was still figuring out where to find my faith. Good thing I put my lack of faith to rest that day.
I hear many people today explain that Christianity and the Church are not museums for the saintly and holy but hospitals for the sick and hurt. Some profess through spoken word on the internet. Others firmly state it from the pulpit – to their congregations, youth groups, and leaders. These same churches have different slogans and methods on how to reach people for the lost. Some structure their sermons with a “prayer for salvation” at the end. Some structure their church so that newcomer’s are challenged to make a commitment at a small group. I know others that do street evangelism and worry about all of the other stuff later.
They forget that though the Church may seem as though it is a “hospital,” the truth is, that they aren’t – not completely at least.
Hospitals aren’t meant to be homes.
You might expect me to forcefully and Pentecostally start preaching about heaven and how going to church today is “making us better” until we are taken “home” to the Pearly White Gates of a grander tomorrow. Though we are being made more like Christ every day, I think we are using this “hospital” excuse as a way to stay the way we are. I mean, if the Church is a hospital, then it is okay if one still sins even after becoming Christian?
Well, no. It isn’t okay for anyone to sin.
And this is a place where the hospital analogy makes sense. Being a fallen human is a condition that happens to all of us, and it seems to be genetic with symptoms starting at birth. The Church is good in that it sees people hurting, and that it is their responsibility to bring all sinning mankind in as sick. But what does one do after they bring a sick person in if the Church is only seen as a hospital? Does everyone remain sick until they reach the golden shores of eternity?
For starters, Christians are reconciled to God at the point of conversion. The sickness of a person should be flipped the second they make a decision to follow Jesus. Any person might have the option to come to church as they are, but they can’t stay and be a member without changing the core of who they are – stripping off the old and putting on the new. And though there might be forms of rehabilitation until they reach the end of their days, once a person truly accepts and embraces Christ as their Savior they are free to walk out the hospital doors (in this analogy)…
So let’s take this analogy a step further.
The Church should be discipling people so that believers become doctors to the broken coming through the doors – working with the authority and knowledge given by the Great Physician. Today there seems to be too many patients in church and not enough doctors. As Jesus said in terms more suited for his day, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.”
Pastors aren’t embracing the true Mission of the church.
The Church is missing the true Mission of God – the mission that the whole world needs to be RECONCILED to God through Jesus Christ. And there are the Christians that are saying that Christianity is about a relationship and not a religion. But a one-on-one relationship can only go so far when you are commissioned to be a part of a worldwide organism to reconcile the world. Just because the word, “religion” has a bad taste with some people does not mean that we throw out the word and embrace a “Your-Own-Personal-Jesus” Christianity. Christianity is embraced by individuals who are united by a cause – the Kingdom of God. It is embraced by people who are bringing healing and restoration to the rest of the world. If that does not sound like a religion, I don’t know what does (If you hate the word so much then call it, “a movement”).
You can be an individual and still function in a group. That is why the church is called “the body.” Just don’t lose sight of the Head – Christ. Our lives should be that of progress – in our personal walks and in our communities. That is what the Church is. Not a hospital. Hospitals aren’t meant to be homes. Church is the home for God’s promise of reconciliation. Church is the home of the statement that, “all nations will be blessed…” Church is the home, and those in it are waiting for the master of the house to come back.
Hospitals aren’t meant to be homes.