In my first “The Church is a Hospital” post, I talked about how the church should function as a hospital, but often does not. I also introduced you to my friend, who was treated poorly by the church “triage” team. While the church as an institution got it wrong, the Church as a people surrounded my friend with the love of God. But sometimes the church gets it right.
My friend, while being initially mistreated by the triage team at a local church-hospital, found much support in senior staff members, who listened to her, prayed for her, and supported her as she continues through her difficult time. The time these pastors, these shepherds, took with my friend impressed me so much that I decided to give this church a visit. My heart, so broken and hardened in places, yearned for the closeness of God’s people and corporate worship. Still, I was afraid.
After abandoning church (but not my faith in God) altogether in 2004, I developed a major fear of the church. It was so bad that even walking in a church would cause major anxiety, usually developing into a panic attack. I remember attending a wedding at my old church a year later, and I was choking back tears as my mother’s friends were united in holy matrimony. Fortunately, one is allowed to cry at weddings, but I was trying to swallow my fear. It was bad.
The Church did a number on me, that’s for sure. However, I realize that I also did a number on the Church. The foolish pride of youth, arrogance, and a know-it-all attitude made me just as a deadly a viper as the many I despised. It took me years to realize that I was part of the problem. Of course God could not advance someone who was not humbled before Him. He had to bring me to my knees to show me how desperately I needed the Church.
So this past Sunday, I visited my old church, where I am still a member. I also attended this church on Christmas Eve and Easter Sunday with my mother. (When did I become a C & E churchgoer?) If you put two and two together, you will remember that this church is the one that proudly displayed “The Church is a Hospital” on the back of their church bulletin.
And let me tell you that this church is a hospital, and it is also the hospital that has been treating my emotionally bruised and battered friend. This church is a hospital. All along I hoped it would be the church I knew it once was, I hoped its people would come along side my friend, and secretly I hoped I could believe in the Church as a whole again. I was not disappointed.
What I didn’t realize was this—how the church-hospital’s actions would affect my own withered heart. The Cardiologist (God) reached down and massaged my hard heart back to life. I started crying as the pastor prayed for those in the congregation going through rough times. I knew the sermon was one I needed to hear. I knew the songs were ones I needed to sing. I knew the church I left so many years ago was home.
The church-hospital is effective when it functions properly. Even when one of its hospital staff falls short, the rest of the treatment team is there to cover his weakness with grace (and as a fellow Christian, should we not offer this person grace?) It’s a funny thing though. I sought help for my friend and found healing myself. I guess I don’t have to live my life in the morgue of the church-hospital anymore.
I also want to mention a new organization called Throw Mountains, which is a group of authors/speakers making a case for 20/30-somethings to give the church another chance. Sarah Cunningham, author of Picking Dandelions [read my review of her book] is one of the ladies heading up the effort. Check ‘em out at ThrowMountains.com.
Note: This was cross-published on AtypicalMusings.com.