Frequently I hear people refer to the church as a hospital. I know what they mean. The church is a place where the broken and hurting receive healing. I agree that spiritual healing is available in the body of Jesus Christ. But overall I think the metaphor is incomplete and in fact it’s a bit misleading.
Growing up one of my favorite shows was MASH. MASH stood for Mobile Army Surgical Hospital. Today the term MASH is no longer used in military circles. Instead they call it a Combat Support Hospital. That’s what a church is, a Combat Support Hospital. We are living in a hostile land (Ephesians 6:12) and our mission is to bring the gospel to every nook and cranny of society. No doubt injuries will occur as we lay down our life for this Christ glorifying endeavor. Fortunately as the church gathers we are strengthened, refreshed and equipped so that we can go back and live as ambassadors of Jesus Christ.
When we say the church is a hospital it leaves us with the impression that receiving healing for our personal wounds is the end game. That’s just the beginning! We are healed so that we can bring healing to others.
And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. -Matthew 16:18
The difference between a manager and a leader is the internal urge to alter the status quo to create a different world. In that sense leaders are prophets. They see the present as incomplete and inadequate and are willing to risk the comfort of the present for the promise of a better tomorrow. A manager, on the other hand, is content to keep the organization running as smoothly and efficiently as it can function. A manager serves to keep the plane in the air, whereas a leader wants to put a new engine on the plane midair.
A manager wants to approach the inevitable chaos with the tried and true methods that have worked in the past. In contrast, a leader knows that as difficult as it is to bring about change, not to do so will destroy the community. There can be no freedom from the bondage of the daily rut without the chaos that comes from leading people out of the status quo.
A leader who desires nothing more than the status quo becomes an ostrich with its head in the sand. A leader must be troubled and discontent, and he must ask the question, How can tomorrow be better than today? He must be a visionary, living in the tension between how to honor what is good and true today and yet be discontent with today in light of what could transpire tomorrow. He is torn between what is and what could be, yet he speaks the future into the present due due to his compelling desire for change. P. 58
“Your system is perfectly designed to get the results you’re getting.”
There are a few primary ways that discipleship happens in the context of church:
Sunday Morning Worship
One On One
In these different discipleship venues we use the Bible, pray and genuinely desire to help grow our people spiritually. I don’t doubt that for a moment. But we have to face up to the truth that the church is increasingly becoming irrelevant to those on the outside. What’s up? Where is the hole in our discipleship?
Is is possible that in our desire to love and disciple people that we are actually causing them to look more like a consumer than a follower of Jesus Christ?
Here is how it might happen. Let’s say I am the leader of a Small Group. Each week we get together and apply God’s Word in such a way to heal the broken areas of our lives. Sounds pretty good, right? It is good! It’s just incomplete. If we don’t lead our people into mission then our discipleship method is actually reinforcing the half-truth that the gospel is to make their own life better.
The same thing is true in any discipleship context. Sunday morning or in one on one relationships. If I am in a one on one discipling relationship and the gospel is only used to overcome a sinful habit or to help me through a trial then why would we ever expect them to view the gospel as a call to come and die for the good of others?
Let me restate my previous question like this; is it possible that we are discipling and reproducing people who look more like ourselves than they do Jesus?