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Friday, 24 January 2014

The church is a hospital...

'The church is a hospital...'

This is a common cliche phrase which I've heard used a lot recently in churches and congregations all over the place. 'The church is a hospital...for the broken', is usually how the phrase ends.
This is an unbelievably true statement... but I want to focus in on it a bit and debate it with myself (and perhaps with you), because I think that although there is a clear truth in it's theology and sentiment, it is also flawed in the way it is used at times.
Yes. Fundamentally I want to say "AMEN!" to this statement. The church is a hospital for the broken. TRUE! We are all (with no exception), flawed, broken, hurting... sinful. Therefore the church is a hospital for us ALL. It is where broken people like you and me, come together to worship our creator and to live the journey of life among the  caring and wonderful community of His people.
But here is my issue.
I want to very carefully suggest that perhaps recently this phrase has been flung about as a bit of an excuse for us to sit around and become comfortable in our discomfort.
When we talk about broken people in this context, I'm not sure we are really including everyone as we perhaps should - it's like we are saying healthy people don't need the church which is obviously untrue. I think that we are possibly (let me be careful here), using this analogy as an excuse to be more broken that perhaps we ought to be. We get stuff wrong, we act in an ungodly manner, we are selfish; dwelling on our own struggles while mostly ignoring others or at least the grace of God which offers us freedom, & and we fail to reflect Him as we should... so we flippantly cover our bases and say; 'But the church is a hospital for the broken of which I am one'.
Are we using this as an excuse to be more broken, or at least to remain broken? Or am I just over analyzing?
In my opinion (which might well be very wrong) perhaps some of the time we are doing just that. In reflection, I think I too am personally guilty of this.

Yes of course the church is and should be a place for those who are broken, captive, struggling, hurt, and wrestling with the big questions of this life, to come freely into, and to be honest,open and frank with others, finding people who will love, support, and walk alongside them. But this does not mean that the church should be made up only of people who find themselves in this difficult place in their lives.
The point of the body of Christ, is for broken people to come to find healing and restoration, with the help of those who are STRONG and RESTORED ministering to them and pointing them to Jesus.
I find the beginning of this analogy quite uncomfortable actually... it usually is coupled with 'The church is not a museum for good people'. The way this is phrased sounds like being good is a derogatory and negative thing. I get the sentiment and I know what it is trying to say. But shouldn't we all be aiming for this 'goodness'? Why can 'good' people not enter in and share their joy too??

In a hospital you do not only find broken, injured and sick people. You find nurses, doctors, cleaners... all sorts. Those who help mend and heal all those who enter in broken and wounded by life. How on earth do a group of people who are all broken and despairing... encourage and build up each other?
Most likely they don't.
They will more than likely, unknowingly and unintentionally, cause one another to stumble further, and facilitate their community remaining just as broken as when it first formed.

Of course I am not by any means saying that there needs to be people in your church community who are squeaky clean and with absolutely no problems in their lives. Because this is not the reality of life. It is in fact not possible. And that was my first point that actually the hospital for the broken at some level is perfectly true because we are all inherently broken as humans. Even in a hospital, many of the doctors and nurses will have their own ailments and sicknesses along the way... however they would still be well and strong enough to help their patients. We can be struggling, but still be strong.

I have played various roles in the churches hospital over the years.
I have most certainly been the patient, the sick one in need of someone stronger to help point me towards my healing and restoration... Jesus. I reflect often on the necessity of those people in such times, and I have a great deal of thankfulness in my heart towards God and those individuals who were able to help carry me and bring me through those times.
However, I think that now in this time as a Christian leader I am being called into the role of the nurse. I have been made stronger, in order that I might help those who are feeling weak. I am not perfect, I do not have life sorted, there is still a great deal in my life I struggle with, and I do still need a few choice individuals to lift me up every now and again... But I am at a point in my life whereby it does not consume me, and I have grasped the strength which comes from Christ, enabling me to lift others up, and be the one to encourage and carry them in their time of need.

Perhaps (and it is very likely), I will become the patient again in the future be it near or far... but I am struck by the challenge that I must not take this hospital analogy of church and apply it to myself to the point that I accept that the church is for the broken and therefore declare over myself that I am broken and will remain broken.
That is not the Christian message of the gospel I don't think.

The Christian message is of healing.
Come to know Jesus... and find your healing, strength, and restoration in Him.
Come to know Jesus... and you will be made strong in order to minister to the weak.
Come to know Jesus... and become the doctors and nurses in your church hospital.

So really, I do actually agree with this statement even though I just ranted and tore it to shreds. At the core and basics of this statement, I do totally agree that the church is like a hospital for the broken. I just think it is necessary to note that in a hospital there are many roles. And in a hospital people do get well. Let's be expectant that we will not stay entirely broken. But that our brokenness might become strength through Christ who offers us a renewal of body, mind and spirit.

What role is God calling you into now?? Do you need the help of stronger brothers and sisters in Christ?? Or can you provide the strength for someone else, and carry them in a time of trouble??

Listen to this talk by Arianna Walker from Mercy Ministries...

1 comment:

  1. Thank you very much for this other perspective... rounded it up very well and highlighted the need for doctors and nurses too... not just patients.
    thank you.