(Editor's Note: Due to space limitations in the Sept. 12, 2023, Rock County Star Herald, Pastor Hayden's column was shortened. This on-line version is the column at the original length.)
The Church is a hospital! How so?
It is a saying that many people know and even proclaim: the Church is a hospital! It is a place for broken, hurt and lost people to come. It is not a museum for those who want to stay safe and complacent. And I want you to know that I fully agree with both of those statements as a pastor.
The church should be a place for people to feel safe to come in as they are and not feel like they have to put a mask on and pretend to be someone else. But the thing about a church being a hospital is that we need to step back and think, “What is a hospital?”
In a hospital there are people who are hurt, sick and broken. But there are also doctors, medicine, and things to help the people leave feeling better, healed, restored, or in some kind of direction for change. It is not that the hospital building has some kind of magical source that heals people. It has the people and the resources to help people who are sick or hurting.
So what does that mean for the church? The church is not just for the sick to come and stay sick. It is not a place where people can come and stay broken. It should be a place for transformation, healing, restoration and salvation, just like Jesus did. Let’s pull off the masks and facades that we put up to impress other people and be real, be broken, be hurt, and be honest.
But you should know that if you are going into a healthy church, they will let you be there but never stay there. Why?
Because the church (should) have doctors, nurses, medication, and things to help those who are broken. Should this be on the pastor? Not all of it, but there should be people who are willing to walk with others who have hurt and see them set free. I know this is not rocket science, but the danger of not having both the sick and the doctor in the church is it can lean into two unhealthy forms of church.
One form of an unhealthy church is that if there are just sick, hurt and frustrated people in one place it will turn into a wound-licking service rather than a place for people to be healed and restored. It will turn into a place where anything is acceptable, sin is no longer sin so people can do whatever they want. This is dangerous because, while it might feel like freedom, it is far from it. Christ came to take away the sins of the world, not let us sit in them. He came to set captives free, not let them stay in their captivity.
A healthy church should see people being saved, healed, delivered, and transformed by the Spirit of God.
Another form of an unhealthy church is if there are no “sick” people and just doctors, meaning everyone is perfect and has all their theology in order. What can happen is a lot of talk and no action. Theology is discussed, Bible studies are happening, ideas are applauded, the preacher is preaching to the choir, and everything is clean-cut.
But the theology that is talked about has no faith attached to it because there is no action with it. They may talk about a God who can save but no one is witnessing. They may talk about a God that is big and under control, but fear and anxiety take hold with every news story that comes across their screen. They are doctors that are unwilling to practice the very thing that they have been trained to do.
These are both dangerous places to be, and I think if you find yourself in one of these churches, the thing to do is not to leave but ask yourself, are you contributing? Are you being a doctor who just discusses things and never engages with the hurt and the broken. Or are you sick and injured with no plan to find healing and freedom? Either way, the best thing to do is confess and ask for Jesus to help you be who he created you to be.
I know that the church that I pastor is not here yet, we still have a lot to grow, but it is something we are pursuing. To have a safe place for the lost, hurting, sick and injured. But also people with the Spirit of God working through them to set people free, find healing, deliverance, and see Jesus as Lord of their life. Lord, let it be!