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Church as a Hospital

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  • Church as a Hospital

    The other day, I got a catalog from Christian Book Distributors. As I looked through it, I was struck that after Bibles, the most common genre of books were self-help devotionals. So many aimed at helping emotional hurts or just having a better attitude. Which got me thinking.

    Church has been described as a hospital for the wounded. Yet the treatments are always aimed at physical needs: illness, death, job loss, marriage issues, etc. As opposed to the past, there are now many organizations outside of the church that are there these physical needs. The church is no longer distinctive or ever better at ministering to these needs.

    I agree that there are times that ministry must be made to physical needs because in that person's life, the need is overwhelming everything else. As someone noted, its hard to get people to listen to the Gospel when they are hungry. And its good if a church is ready at these times.

    Yet a hospital is more than an ER center. So the church should be more than a spiritual ER center. The church must be ready to deal with spiritual illness and crisis even more than physical ones. Yet is the church ready?

    My experience is the if I walk into a church or have been a member for awhile with a spiritual need without an accompanying physical crisis, the church doesn't know what to do. You probably end up another person overwhelming the pastor's plate of activity. You might get referred to a para-church ministry. Yet I really have the sense you come to church with a life in reasonable physical good order but totally devastated on the inside spiritually, the church is going to be clueless on what to do.
    "For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings." Hosea 6:6

    "Theology can be an intellectual entertainment." Metropolitan Anthony Bloom

  • #2
    Originally posted by Thoughtful Monk View Post
    The other day, I got a catalog from Christian Book Distributors. As I looked through it, I was struck that after Bibles, the most common genre of books were self-help devotionals. So many aimed at helping emotional hurts or just having a better attitude. Which got me thinking.

    Church has been described as a hospital for the wounded. Yet the treatments are always aimed at physical needs: illness, death, job loss, marriage issues, etc. As opposed to the past, there are now many organizations outside of the church that are there these physical needs. The church is no longer distinctive or ever better at ministering to these needs.

    I agree that there are times that ministry must be made to physical needs because in that person's life, the need is overwhelming everything else. As someone noted, its hard to get people to listen to the Gospel when they are hungry. And its good if a church is ready at these times.

    Yet a hospital is more than an ER center. So the church should be more than a spiritual ER center. The church must be ready to deal with spiritual illness and crisis even more than physical ones. Yet is the church ready?

    My experience is the if I walk into a church or have been a member for awhile with a spiritual need without an accompanying physical crisis, the church doesn't know what to do. You probably end up another person overwhelming the pastor's plate of activity. You might get referred to a para-church ministry. Yet I really have the sense you come to church with a life in reasonable physical good order but totally devastated on the inside spiritually, the church is going to be clueless on what to do.
    That's the value of properly trained "small groups". The best way to get this started, in my opinion, is to have somebody who's really good at building small groups build a small group to train people how to do small groups.

    I think, too many times, "small groups" are started without any training or direction, and they just become a place for people to "pool ignorance".

    It's really hard for the Pastor or Church leadership to know who's hurting when the greetings are so "hey, how are you -- great, you?" in a short period of time.

    Properly utilized small groups give much more opportunity for people to get to know each other, and in the process of doing that, it's easier to "triage" needs.
    "Neighbor, how long has it been since you’ve had a big, thick, steaming bowl of Wolf Brand Chili?”

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    • #3
      Cow poke, don't let any one say you are stupid, because you sure come up with good ideas! And, I've never experienced it personally, but I've heard that SOME churches will be judgmental about spiritual/ emotional/ psychological problems. Does that happen?
      If it weren't for the Resurrection of Jesus, we'd all be in DEEP TROUBLE!

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Christianbookworm View Post
        Cow poke, don't let any one say you are stupid,
        What is Rogue saying NOW?

        because you sure come up with good ideas!
        Most of them are stolen from others.

        And, I've never experienced it personally, but I've heard that SOME churches will be judgmental about spiritual/ emotional/ psychological problems. Does that happen?
        It's often been said that the Christian Army is the only Army that shoots its wounded. Meaning, of course, we CAN be downright detrimental to those who need the help the most.

        I was in a Church many years ago where I was the Youth Minister, and one of our teens had become pregnant out of wedlock. MUCH more egregious back in that day than it is today. Anyway, many people in the Church "shunned" her, and her parents made her keep attending. I could tell she was miserable.

        One day, I saw her in the hall by the drinking fountain, across from the nursery. I just knew she was contemplating what it would be like to have a baby, and she looked afraid, so I just walked up to her, didn't say a word, and I hugged her. She hugged me so hard it hurt, and she started sobbing.

        From that day, it became incredibly clear to me -- the ones who really really NEED the love of the Church are often the ones the Church rejects or looks down on or criticizes.

        So, yeah, Churches can be pretty "cold" when its members have problems. I try my best to offset that, and be a better example.
        "Neighbor, how long has it been since you’ve had a big, thick, steaming bowl of Wolf Brand Chili?”

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        • #5
          I wonder how Jesus feels about that sort of behavior...
          If it weren't for the Resurrection of Jesus, we'd all be in DEEP TROUBLE!

          Comment


          • #6
            I understand the point of small groups. I agree with what you imply that small groups are formed without training and consequently are ineffective.

            I guess people can respond or learn how to respond in a physical crisis. Finding someone who really knows and can discern spiritual issues is hard. Its probably always been hard. Yet the church is first meant to heal people's relation to God and its usually the weakest area of the church's abilities - at least after a sinner's prayer is said.
            "For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings." Hosea 6:6

            "Theology can be an intellectual entertainment." Metropolitan Anthony Bloom

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Christianbookworm View Post
              I wonder how Jesus feels about that sort of behavior...
              He was clearly "kinder" to the 'down-and-outters', and much more harsh to the "religious leaders".
              "Neighbor, how long has it been since you’ve had a big, thick, steaming bowl of Wolf Brand Chili?”

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Cow Poke View Post
                He was clearly "kinder" to the 'down-and-outters', and much more harsh to the "religious leaders".
                Amen
                "For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings." Hosea 6:6

                "Theology can be an intellectual entertainment." Metropolitan Anthony Bloom

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Thoughtful Monk View Post
                  I understand the point of small groups. I agree with what you imply that small groups are formed without training and consequently are ineffective.

                  I guess people can respond or learn how to respond in a physical crisis. Finding someone who really knows and can discern spiritual issues is hard. Its probably always been hard. Yet the church is first meant to heal people's relation to God and its usually the weakest area of the church's abilities - at least after a sinner's prayer is said.
                  Hence, the challenge from Jesus (the "Great Commission") to "make disciples", and not so much emphasis on "converts".
                  "Neighbor, how long has it been since you’ve had a big, thick, steaming bowl of Wolf Brand Chili?”

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Sometimes you just need to be there for the person, right?
                    If it weren't for the Resurrection of Jesus, we'd all be in DEEP TROUBLE!

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Cow Poke View Post
                      It's often been said that the Christian Army is the only Army that shoots its wounded. Meaning, of course, we CAN be downright detrimental to those who need the help the most.

                      I was in a Church many years ago where I was the Youth Minister, and one of our teens had become pregnant out of wedlock. MUCH more egregious back in that day than it is today. Anyway, many people in the Church "shunned" her, and her parents made her keep attending. I could tell she was miserable.

                      One day, I saw her in the hall by the drinking fountain, across from the nursery. I just knew she was contemplating what it would be like to have a baby, and she looked afraid, so I just walked up to her, didn't say a word, and I hugged her. She hugged me so hard it hurt, and she started sobbing.

                      From that day, it became incredibly clear to me -- the ones who really really NEED the love of the Church are often the ones the Church rejects or looks down on or criticizes.

                      So, yeah, Churches can be pretty "cold" when its members have problems. I try my best to offset that, and be a better example.
                      Amen, sir. I have seen so many churches where those who have fallen and need help getting back up have faced coldness, shunning, judgment without aid, etc. and in turn that further scares me even when I have been "following the rules" to the absolute best of my abilities! I also agree with you wholeheartedly about small groups (and I am kind of proud to say that my church has fairly recently opened up its doors to the Depression Connection group, which looks to me like a step in the right direction for many like myself).

                      "Fire is catching. If we burn, you burn with us!"
                      "I'm not going anywhere. I'm going to stay here and cause all kinds of trouble."
                      Katniss Everdeen


                      Christ our Passover has been sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Christianbookworm View Post
                        Sometimes you just need to be there for the person, right?
                        Yup.... and there needs to be some mechanism where we interact without all "facing the pulpit". Sometimes, we need to be in situations where we actually face one another and get beyond the "yeah, I'm fine, and you?"
                        "Neighbor, how long has it been since you’ve had a big, thick, steaming bowl of Wolf Brand Chili?”

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Are you preaching to the choir???
                          If it weren't for the Resurrection of Jesus, we'd all be in DEEP TROUBLE!

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Cow Poke View Post
                            Yup.... and there needs to be some mechanism where we interact without all "facing the pulpit". Sometimes, we need to be in situations where we actually face one another and get beyond the "yeah, I'm fine, and you?"
                            And then step-up in ministry and mercy when the other person says, "I'm not fine."
                            "For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings." Hosea 6:6

                            "Theology can be an intellectual entertainment." Metropolitan Anthony Bloom

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Confession is often described in terms of a doctor treating a patient. The patient describes his symptoms to the doctor, and the doctor prescribes a cure (it my case, it's always been advice tailored to my failings, and not "say this prayer xx times"). It has proven invaluable to me spiritually.
                              Enter the Church and wash away your sins. For here there is a hospital and not a court of law. Do not be ashamed to enter the Church; be ashamed when you sin, but not when you repent. – St. John Chrysostom

                              Veritas vos Liberabit<>< Learn Greek <>< Look here for an Orthodox Church in America<><Ancient Faith Radio
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                              I recommend you do not try too hard and ...research as little as possible. Such weighty things give me a headache. - Shunyadragon, Baha'i apologist

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