Recently, I attended a local church. As I read the bulletin, I noticed a mission statement of sorts on the back that started out stating, “The church is a hospital.” Immediately, I wondered if the mission statement was inspired by the late Mike Yaconelli who wrote in Messy Spirituality, “The church is a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints.” The church is a hospital…hmm…. Sadly, often times I think of it as a morgue.
I am asking God to help transform my mind from this dour way of thinking. I mean, we all know the Church has her problems, right? Obviously! Because she is composed of flawed people made perfect by a righteous Bride Groom. Still, that does not mean the Church can get away with shirking her responsibility either. “Sorry, I’m sinful” just doesn’t cut it.
Now I don’t recommend this, but wouldn’t it be interesting if we could rate the care programs at churches the way we rate hospitals? For example, Lehigh Valley Hospital rates high in heart and cancer care, while St. Luke’s is known for its ever-changing technologies. So, I imagine I would choose LVH if I needed a heart transplant and St Luke’s if I needed, uh, something cutting edge. Should we choose churches the same way?
It seems to me that all churches have their strengths and weaknesses, but they should all be about the business of heart care because it seems that Jesus was always about the business of heart care. Why, then, do so many churches seem to sacrifice the heart in sake of the law? For example, why ignore the needs of unwed pregnant teens when Jesus’ own mother was an unwed pregnant teen? (Shout out to TastyFaith.com!) Or why do women continue to live in abusive situations because verbal, spiritual, physical, financial, and sexual abuse are not “biblical” grounds for divorce? (Don’t worry, I have a ton to say on these issues in coming weeks.)
Yes, teens shouldn’t get pregnant and marriages shouldn’t end in divorce, but guess what? That’s life here on planet Earth. I think if the Church can get off with imperfection, her people should be doubly excused. And anyway, isn’t it our sins that drive our souls to the E.R’s of the church-hospital? Isn’t it when we are at the very end of ourselves that we often come crawling to God and out of desperation we go back to church? I think so.
Someone I love dearly was recently treated poorly by a member of the triage team at a local church-hospital. I kept thinking to myself, “The church is a hospital. They have to help my friend. She will not make it without them.” Unfortunately, the church as a institution came up short…again. But the church as a people (especially in the form of other women) have been tremendously supportive. I hope one day the institution will catch up with her people because that’s where disillusionment begins and ends.
The church is a hospital for everyone, not just sinners, because sometimes the saved take it in the heart. And sometimes the Church shoots her wounded.
[This was also posted on Atypical Musings.]