“The Hospital for Sinners–Part 2”
By Pastor Ron Buxton
When most folks think about my role as a pastor of a local church, they usually think of the three major life events that people go to church for: “matching”, “hatching”, and “dispatching”. That’s my humorous way of describing what most people refer to as: weddings, baby dedications, and funerals! But there’s so many more reasons why people should physically attend church services.
In the previous essay (part 1), I wrote about the need for the local church to provide the soul-care for somebody who becomes “born again”. And I wrote that the physical (and not just “virtual”) church is a “spiritual hospital” , and should have a trained staff to facilitate that whole birthing process. However, that new birth experience is just the very beginning.
In the past, I have worked with actual children in orphanages that had no parental contact/interaction following their physical birth. It broke my heart. Why? Because they were crying all the time? No. In fact, they were like zombies–devoid of most of the emotions that little children normally have. It was a very strange, awkward, and pitiful experience to be around. And it broke my heart.
Isn’t that also–spiritually applied—the reason that many so-called Christians lack the very zeal and love that the Bible talks about? They seem like zombies. However, a church–as a hospital for sinners—can provide the spiritual “pediatrics” necessary to develop the zeal and love that followers of Christ should demonstrate. And we call that spiritual pediatrics other terms like Sunday School, Bible Club, and VBS–but what those programs accomplish is the spiritual equivalent. And without that, too many new-born believers will stay (spiritually-speaking) in diapers! How embarrassing–but metaphorically true!
Moreover, what about those new parents trying to raise their children amid a challenging time and culture? Well, there should be a special support group for them, also, in that spiritual hospital that we call the local church. Of course, the demographics of the community will dictate what groups, or focuses, each church must adapt to. However, the point is that there is no other place that can provide that need. And that’s why I challenged the readers in the previous essay to rethink the actual value of the local church. It truly is an “essential business” amid the pandemic that we are all struggling through.
In closing, with a heavy heart, I mention the following statistic. My home state has recently had 259 deaths from overdoses to drugs. That is more than double the amount of deaths due to COVID-19 in that same time period. Now, I’m not saying that the state-mandated closure of local churches is responsible for all those deaths. But Jesus did call out to “the weak and heavy-burdened” (Matthew 11:28). Folks, the local church should remain open to those who otherwise might not get the soul-care that they desperately need. Please don’t confuse the church as some kind of a religious museum!