Atop of Indiana University Health Methodist Hospital, Indiana’s largest medical facility, you will find this beautiful faux lighthouse with a rotating fixture that has the images of both a blue and a white cross. The lighthouse, which was built thanks to a generous donation by a local philanthropist and dedicated to “servants of religion, medicine, and philanthropy,” has been a symbol of hope in Indianapolis since 1933. It is said to be several stories high and is reportedly a replica of a lighthouse in London.
By definition, a hospital is an institution that provides medical and surgical treatment and nursing care for sick and injured people. Like many hospitals around the world, the IU Health Methodist Hospital is well known for delivering effective care and advanced specialized treatments to the critically ill.
To me, the church is in many ways like a lighthouse [Read The Church is a Lighthouse]. But I ‘ve heard some say that the church is also like a hospital; a place where the broken go to get healed. While there is some truth to this simile/analogy, I think it limits the overall responsibility/purpose of the church.
The church is a group of people (believers) who come together to worship God, grow spiritually, and fellowship. Its mission is to preach the Good News of Jesus Christ and make disciples, but it cannot fulfill this without first genuinely “loving on” each other. This love calls for the church-hospital to give friendly check-ups, like “God bless you. How are you?” or “We missed you last week. Is everything OK?” It should provide immediate emergency assistance, like intercessory prayer or practical spiritual advice. And while it is expected to offer specialized treatments, like discipleship and counseling, it should also participate in outparishoner care, like small (growth) groups, accountability partnerships, and follow-ups. But even so, the church is more than a hospital in that it is also a church-family. Unlike a medical institution, which people don’t look forward to visiting regularly, a church should be a place that people seek out intentionally because in it they feel safe, loved, and appreciated. In other words, they feel at home.
Potluck dinners, fun-filled group outings, and the freedom to cry, laugh, and agree to disagree (respectfully) are part of what a church should experience as a family, but so is repenting, forgiving, and admonishing and correcting each other in love. However, it is honesty, trust, faithfulness, and genuineness that authenticates and solidifies the family bond. These are the things that make a church more than just a “hospital for sinners.” It’s what helps it create an atmosphere where people come together not just to get closer to God but to each other.
“Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” – John 13:35
Commitment to unadulterated biblical preaching and teaching must exist in any church body if it wants the spiritually ill to accept their need for a Heavenly Physician. However, true caring, compassion, hospitality, and selfless servanthood must also be practiced if it wants them to be healed and experience the love of God and his children. If a church lacks any of these, it borders on spiritual malpractice.
Prayer: Father God, as your child and part of the body of Christ, please fill me with a greater genuine love for my spiritual brothers and sisters. May that love radiate in such a way that it draws the spiritually ill to you so that they may find healing and salvation for their souls and join your loving family. In Jesus name, I pray, Amen.