September 12, 2013

The Church: Hospital for Sinners?

It is often said that the church is not a home for the saints but a hospital for sinners. But the church is also called to be the heart and engine for mission in the world. While being a good hospital and effective engine for mission may not be roles that have to conflict, sometimes we just have to ask, how many badly broken people can the church care for inside its own community and still have adequate resources to reach out beyond its walls?

True, working together in mission can heal a lot of brokenness inside of church folk and bring relief to suffering in the world. And while we all agree that God does the healing and enables the church to reach out, in my experience any community of faith can only have so many badly broken people. Yes, we are all broken to some extent. We all sin and fall short of the glory of God. But we also have to recognize that there are different types of brokenness. While there are many types of brokenness, here are a few that I'll highlight.

First, there are those who hide their brokenness. And this may be most of us.

Second, there are those who have been so beat up and tired out by their experiences, that they just want to rest. And that is another large group of us. But if a church has too many of this type of broken person, it's difficult for the church to put energy into mission.

Third, there are those who are proud of their scars so much so that they wear them "in your face." These are the folks who flaunt their brokenness. Actually, these folks may be helpful in doing mission if they also don't demand that the church just take care of them or constantly stir up conflict.

Fourth, there are those who are so broken that they need the love and care of church people to hold them together for long periods of time. While we may all suffer tragedy and are dependent of the church in times of crisis, I'm talking about the folks who are dependent on the church as part of their lifestyle. These are the people who eat up inordinate amounts of the pastor's time and energy. If there are too many of this type of person in the church, mission can't happen, at least the way it could.

So it's a complicated thing. We know that we are all broken, but it can be annoying that those other broken people just go somewhere else so the church can get on with its mission. But somehow that doesn't sound right either. The church has to balance both roles. It has to be a hospital for sinners and an engine for mission. (You can probably have too many engineers as well.) But any hospital takes staff who are not broken or at least not broken so much that it precludes their ministry. 


No comments:

Post a Comment