There’s a lot of talk about the church these days. Sadly, most of it is pretty bad. Our culture is changing faster than ever, and many people are having major doubts about whether or not a 2,000 year old institution can keep up. According to the Barna Group, nearly one-third of Millennials that grew up in the church have walked away at some point, church attendance has been declining for a decade, and the mantra of young Christians is quickly becoming, “I love Jesus, but not the Church.”
I get it. I really do. I have struggled with some of these very thoughts. The Church is broken and wounded. In some areas, it is on full-blown life support. The church is seen as uncaring, unloving, judgmental, and hypocritical. Not the best report card.
Yet, in spite of all of this, I have hope for the Church!
“The local church is the hope of the world!” -Bill Hybels, founding pastor of Willowcreek Community Church
I still believe this. I believe there is hope for the local church because the local church carries Hope. And the #1 reason I still believe in the local church has a lot to do with this verse:
Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” -Luke 5:31-32
What is the Church?
If we had to compare the Church to any other institution, what would it be? Some may say it is a business. Others would say an NGO. Here’s my answer:
The Church is a Spiritual Hospital
When it really comes down to it, the Church is a hospital. It is meant to care for the spiritually sick and needy. Yes, there are other aspects of the church, but this is its most vital role. Let’s unpack this a little:
4 things that are true if the Church is a spiritual hospital:
- It would be filled with sick people that need a spiritual doctor. It wouldn’t be perfect, but messy (even dangerous!) in places. It would take a lot of hard work, love, and patience in order to help people, heal them, and keep things moving forward.
- A spiritual hospital would offer help and healing. It would have answers. It may not always have all of the answers, but the doctors and nurses would be willing to walk beside the patients as they were looking for a cure.
- No hospital is long term, not even a spiritual one. This isn’t to say that you should give up on church and “checkout.” I am saying that your church should not be your only place of spiritual healing. You can’t live there. You have a life to live. But receiving care just one day a week for an hour will never heal your soul!
- It would be a safe, judge-free zone. Doctors don’t judge their cancer patients. Yes, sometimes it is the consequences of smoking or an unhealthy lifestyle. But the doctors and nurses still treat the patient, and they walk beside them each step of the way.
If the local church would simply act like a spiritual hospital, I truly believe things would be much different. People are hurting. They have real issues and real problems and they are looking for real answers.
So, the #1 reason I still have hope for the church…
The Church is a spiritual hospital, and Jesus is the Lead Doctor!
We are meant to care for others. We are meant to love others. We are meant to offer healing to others. And we have Jesus as our guide! Jesus is known as the “Great Physician”- The Great Doctor! We are a hospital, and He is our Doctor. That means that Pastor Bill Hybels was right- We are the hope of the world!
The #1 Problem in the Church
Ok, I promised you I would give you my view on the #1 problem facing the church. Actually, it goes right along with what we have been talking about. Here it is…
The #1 problem in the Church today is when the patients forget they are the patients and start thinking they are the doctors!
That is the issue in the Church today! The world calls us hypocrites, not because we are flawed, but because we act as though we are perfect. The world sees us as judging, not because we think we have answers, but because we are unwilling to listen to others.
How crazy would it be for a patient in a hospital to put on a robe and begin to visit other rooms, giving treatment and writing prescriptions for other patients. And, yet, this is what a lot of churches look like every Sunday morning.
Let’s stop thinking we’re the doctors, and realize that we’re still the patients.
Let’s start treating our churches like they are spiritual hospitals, simply offering healing to those that need it.
Let’s give hope and not judge.
Let’s be honest in our own brokenness and walk beside those that are going through the same pain we have experienced.
After all this time, it still comes down to these three: Faith, Hope, and Love!