Faith— 08/06/2020

“The Hospital for Sinners–Part One”

By Pastor Ron Buxton

There are many analogies for the local church. The two most common ones come from the Bible itself: The Body of Christ, and the Bride of Christ. That speaks of the mystical (and “vertical”) reality between God and a gathering of redeemed people. However, today, I want to draw an analogy from the physical (and “horizontal”) reality that is known as the local church.

First, I need to clarify a huge misunderstanding concerning that politically-charged phrase: “essential business”. I would argue that a church is not a “museum for saints”, but rather, a “hospital for sinners”! Certainly, we all agree why museums must be closed during pandemics, and hospitals must remain open. Thus, my intent with this essay is to convince non-church members about the unique and “essential” service of a local church gathering.

Take, for example, the religious experience called being “born again”. Can a person experience a new birth in Christ outside of a church building? Yes–for the same reason that a baby can be physically born outside of a hospital. The “birth” does not require geography. Both instances just require an internal work prior to the birthing process itself. Understandable.

Now, here’s the point. Why do most women choose child birth within a hospital, or at least with trusted medical staff? That new life is so precious that she wants help to ensure a delivery without unforeseen complications. Understandable. Such is also the case in the spiritual realm. The local church helps a person experience a new birth within a context of a trusted staff to ensure the best possible outcome. And that’s why Bible colleges and Seminaries exist. Professionals are trained to help develop spiritual life and well-being in service to their congregations— from the cradle to the grave.

Now, arguably, some churches do not provide good (nor beneficial) services to those who seek them out. But the same could also be said of some medical facilities. I know. I’ve been to bad churches as well as bad clinics over the years. However, let me tell you. Soul-damage is far worse than medical malpractice! One can take you–in the worst case scenario–to the grave. The other might actually lead somebody to hell. Serious business.

Unfortunately, for far too many people, the local church seems like a relic from an ancient past. Thus, it is perceived as a “museum” for the religious folks of a bygone era. And some of that misunderstanding is the fault of the local church itself. You see, too many churches have closed their “labor & delivery wards”, and focused only on adult-care and geriatrics. And so, what is not understandable are churches that make no attempt to bring “rebirth” experiences to its non-members! Christ never intended that. He calls people to be “born again” (John 3:3,7). Folks, there is no business as serious–nor more “essential”–than that! Please understand that analogy. The Church should not be a “museum for the saints”, but rather, a “hospital for sinners”!


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