“A church is a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints.”
I have heard this quote with more frequency in the last few years. I like it, but is it really true.
Here are a few vignettes and then my thoughts.
1980’s-Televangelist Jim Bakker accused of misappropriating money given to his ministry and to his Christian amusement park. He is denounced by those that were formally his friends and colleagues. Jerry Falwell steps into “help” and then assumes control of his ministry and rejects Rev. Bakker.
Around the same time Jimmy Swaggart, another televangelist is caught with his pants down (literally), in a hotel room with a sex worker. Through tearful sobbing on television and backroom strong arm tactics remains in ministry, but rejected by many other evangelicals as an embarrassment.
1990’s (?)- Mel White, a ghost writer for many leaders in the evangelical movement comes out as gay and is rejected by those that were is friends and clients.
Wildly popular Christian songstress Sandi Patti reveals that she had an affair, she becomes wildly unpopular overnight.
2000’s- Ted Haggard, a rising star in the Evangelical movement and a staunch anti-gay advocate is outed as gay by a male masseuse. He enters reparative therapy and is healed from his “gayness”, yet loses the church he founded and many of the friendships he had within Evangelical circles.
Ray Boltz, well known for his musical ballads that inspired and encouraged many believers, comes out of the closet and his music is “raptured” (disappeared) from Christian stores, and Christian radio stations.
Jennifer Knapp another Christian singer reveals that she is a lesbian, her music suffers the similar fate as Mr. Boltz.
Jonathan Merritt, Christian star of the new 20 something trendy, relevant evangelicalism is outed by another young man, who himself used to be involved in Christian television. Azariah Southworth, struggled for almost a year in whether or not to reveal this secret. But because Jonathan was outspoken in his stand against the LGBT community, Azariah told his story. Jonathan has now gone on record to say that he doesn’t embrace the gay label, and “struggles”. His ministry will undoubtedly suffer.
Some of these people, because of their “sin” have either been forced out of the church, or have seen their influence greatly diminished among evangelicals. Some have walked away from the church because they knew that they would NEVER be accepted, even if their ministries, in the past, had great impact on many lives. Some have had to lie and cover up who they really are in order remain within Evangelicalism.
So, is the church a hospital for “sinners?” With an aching heart I would have to say only for little sinners.
I have had seen people who have drug or alcohol addictions rejected if they didn’t “get healed” in a reasonable amount of time. I have seen a pastor rejected and dismissed in a most unloving way because of an affair. I have experienced the wrath of a body of believers because I did not agree with their narrow views on some social issues.
We say that we are deeply concerned about people, we say that we love others unconditionally, we say the love “covers” a multitude of sins, we say that grace and mercy and forgiveness and restoration are things we truly embrace. But as you can see from the above list, our words are hollow. There is little action behind the platitudes.
There are so many people sitting in the pews of Churches across this country that are dying inwardly. They struggle with addictions, weaknesses, and failures. But they hid behind masks of spirituality and speak the language of the church. They fear exposure and live lives of fear and self loathing.
Suppose we surrounded the drug addicted individual with love and committed to stand with him regardless of whether or not he relapsed. Suppose when a pastor or other church leader had an affair, or embezzled money, or had a porn addiction, we ask them step down for a time while we got them the help that they needed to work through the issues in their lives and then restored them to their leadership positions. Suppose, when someone comes out as gay or lesbian, we didn’t burn their books, CD’s, tell them to pray the gay away and pretend that they did not have a positive influence in our lives. And what if we told them that they are deeply loved by God and us and we want them to stay involved in ministry just as they are.
I believe that all of this would have a huge impact on the Body of Christ. People would be more willing to admit and seek help for the things that they struggle with. There would be honesty in and out of the pulpit. No one would look down on another because there is now freedom to drop the masks, and pretense and just be real. God’s love and grace would be so tangible from person to person that it would draw others who are sinners from the outside into the fold and they too would find healing, and restoration, and acceptance , and Jesus.
Suppose we are being called to this. It is time for the church to truly become a reflection of the Savior we claim to follow.
14 thoughts on “Walking The Talk Or Just Babbling”
Reblogged this on realgospeltalk and commented:
Very well written, well thought out…thought provoking
Mark, Thank-you for your words!
I think that if more people stopped judging others and helped them more the world would be a better place.
From my own experience at work, I know only to well how some people “look down” on those who are addicted, homeless or just “different”
Instead of looking beyond the addiction to the person underneath, they only see what they want to see and sadly, they find it hard to love or understand that person.
I hate it when people judge, so often they do not know the circumstances why that person has become addicted, nor the hell they face living through each day.
Keep writing, Mark Lee!
thank you. in my work with people living with HIV/AIDS I encounter the same thing from the “churched” people. Many were unwilling to help or get involved because I think they really believed that they deserved the disease. A sad commentary on the church.
Mark, I think your article substatiates that oft heard quote, “The church is a hospital for sinners…”
I am encouraged by your words. Excellent insight. I look forward to reading more of your blog. (from another not-so-good Christian!)
thank you so much, Looking forward to hearing more from you as well. Peace to you.
It is supposed to be both a hospital for sinners and a family and fellowship for saints. We are never a museum, however since all who love Jesus are saints. I think about my own church, MCCBR. We have some very functional people, including some high grade professionals, and some who are, well, dysfunctional, occasionally to the point that they need a worship buddy to sit next to them and help them behave appropriately. Quite a number of our members started going as a result of their attendance at the Alcoholics Anonymous meetings that occur in our building several times a week.
I agree with you. It sounds as if your church is on the right track. Thanks for sharing and reading too. Peace to you.
You miss the point. Those who are repentant need to be restored in a spirit of grace. Those who will not repentand and justify their sins, are not to be fellowshipped with. That is loving discipline. Read your Bible, not your opinions.
You are correct restored a spirit of grace and humility. And restored 70 times 7 times, and allowing love to cover a multitude of sins, and in never thinking that you are better than the other, lest you fall.
Not to even mention that there is a series of steps one must go through BEFORE you cut off fellowship.
And finally, Christians justify their sins of judgmental arrogance every day, and their sin of gossip, and gluttony, and a multitude of other churchy sins. When was the last time you confronted a morbidly obese Pastor with his sin of lack of self control?
My guess, never.
You see I do read my Bible.
Repentance is part of receiving salvation. However, God does not necessarily reveal to us everything that needs to change in our lives immediately. That would be overwhelming and most new Christians are not mature enough to handle everything at once. God only asks that we thank God for forgiving our sins, It is much like an alcoholic who continues to smoke cigarettes after he quits drinking, one step at a time.
The Bible is not about “discipline”. That is old testament—rules, regulations, sacrifices, judgement. It is about love, grace, and listening. It is about becoming all God wants you to be. It is also about trusting that God does not make mistakes and the first thing we need to do after accepting Jesus is accept ourselves and others just as they are and encourage them to be all they can be.
I have a real good example here. I have a fellow church member who is very racist. He is an older gay man, around 60. His father was an assistant grand dragon in the KuKluxKlan. (Yep!) Jesus cannot live in a heart with hate so that had to go. He came into the church complaining about how people were always trying to get him to date outside of his race. Over about the last two years I have noticed changes. One of his best friends is another gay man who is black and a military veteran of the Vietnam era. They met at church. It looked for a while like they might become a couple! They still ride to church together regularly because he occasionally has seizures. The black guy picks him up. We all found this amazing given the first man’s background. But God has changed him. Even though he is still annoyingly politically conservative, he has made some concessions and does not vote a straight Republican ticket any more. He does not say the bad word, at least not at church, and he has really lightened up. He is also less judgemental. This is part of his Christian growth and is making him much easier to be around. And he is trying to get his boyfriend to come to church also. The boyfriend is much older and will cook great food for church luncheons, but is, as they put it “in the wall” and is afraid to come out. This is what God can do. God can even fix extremist conservatives who get saved. But it takes time and God does not fix what is not broken.
It is real easy to judge and disfellowship. That makes a person feel powerful because they can control others. I is much harder to love them with their faults and accept them as worthy children of a living God. If you judge you are putting yourself up as better than your brothers and sisters, like the Pharisees did. I have seen budding Christians lead down a wrong path because they were disfellowshipped. One was a church pianist who got pregnant out of marriage. She never took her kids to church or went herself again. She ran after men the rest of her life (at least until she became blind and deaf) and seriously abused the two of her 4 children who grew up with her. (The others were taken by the grandparents.) Another, kicked out for being gay, turned to paganism. Hinder and blaspheme the Holy Spirit and you will pay for it and you will be held responsible for the souls that are lost because you abuse them. The Religious Right has done a great deal of damage over the years. They are going to be shocked at how many of them go to hell and the ones who make it to heaven are going to be shocked by who is standing next to them.
My dad outed me as agender to the preacher at his church and I’m really disappointed in both of them.
I’m disappointed in my dad for doing this without permission and not even bothering to use the correct pronouns, and I’m disappointed in the preacher for invalidating me by cementing dad’s idea that it’s a phase and not trying to listen to me when I explained it’s not.
Thanks to that exchange I know dad will never see me for who I really am and it’s been getting me down lately.
Hi. Thank you for commenting here. I just wanted to talk for for a few minutes with you.
First, I am sorry that this has happened to you. It can be especially painful when outing is done by a parent, so I understand that hurt.
Secondly, I would not invalidate the message of the Gospel due to the ignorance of others. Many people do not understand this issue and do not want to understand because it makes them uncomfortable or messes with their theological assumptions about God.
Thirdly. you have been created by God to become all that you have been created to become, including being agender. i want to encourage you in that I am happy that you embrace who you are, hopefully without shame or guilt. There is no need for either. There are many people in the LGBT community who “struggle” with who they are because they have been told it is a sin, or that it is just a phase. I wish that were not so, but it is a sad truth.
Perhaps in time your father will come around. But until that time it is important for you to realize that God says to you every night before you go to bed and every morning when you wake up that “You are my beloved child, just the way you are and I am proud of you.”
Let that thought be with you every day.
Peace to you,