Over the past several years, there’s been a popular quote floating around in our Christian culture —a quote has been on my heart a lot lately. If you’ve spent any amount of time on social media in the past 5 years or so, I’m sure you’ve seen and possibly even shared the quote that I’m referring to. I’m not sure who the original author of this quote is, but it goes like this:
“Church is a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints.”
When I first read this quote, it seemed to make a lot of sense. The church is, indeed, full of broken people who have needed the healing and saving touch of Jesus Christ. And if I could simplify it even further, I think what the original author was really trying to say is, “No one is perfect; therefore, everyone is welcome.”
There’s a lot of truth to this statement. None of us will ever be perfect and Jesus does, in fact, invite anyone and everyone into a saving relationship with Himself—regardless of who they are, where they’re from, or what they’ve done.
But the more I thought about this quote in light of the Church, the more bothered I became by the image it projects. I’ve come to the conclusion that the way it’s worded is actually quite flawed.
I’ll give the author the benefit of the doubt and say, again, I think what they meant by this quote is true. No one is perfect and everyone is welcome.
But to compare the Church of Jesus Christ to a hospital? Well, that’s where the quote kind of falls flat for me —and I’ll tell you why.
Basically, it all boils down to how we view the Church.
Before God matured me in my faith through the study of His Word, I used to view the Church as just a building people would go to in order to learn about and worship God.
The more I started reading the Bible, however, I came to understand that the Church is more than just a building. It’s a body of believers—believers in and followers of Jesus Christ, to be exact.
So how does one become a part of the Church, you may ask? Not by showing up to a building or attending a church service. We become a part of the Church when we place our faith in Jesus Christ and accept His free gift of salvation.
In a nutshell, one must come to the place in their life where they realize and acknowledge that they’re a sinner in need of a Savior. They must then believe on the name of Jesus Christ as said Savior, confess their sin, repent of their sin, and then, commit to walking in a new way of life—specifically, the way of life that was modeled for us by Jesus Christ, Himself.
Once someone commits to doing these things, Jesus steps in and changes them from the inside out. He raises them from the dead, spiritually-speaking (Ephesians 2:4-6), makes them a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17), frees them from the bondage of sin (Galatians 5:1), heals them (1 Peter 2:24), and fills them with the power of His Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9) so that they can live out the purposes He has created and redeemed them to accomplish (Ephesians 2:10).
After someone has been raised from the dead, saved, and freed from the bondage of sin, that’s when they become a part of Christ’s church.
Last time I checked, people who have already been healed are no longer in need of a physician. And those who are dead? Well, I’m not sure there’s much a physician can really do to help someone in that condition. Dead people who go to hospitals don’t get treated—they get sent to the morgue.
So, if those who belong to the Church have already been saved and healed, and those who don’t belong to Christ are still dead and will benefit in no way from showing up to a hospital, how, then, can we, as the Church, compare ourselves to a hospital?
When we describe the Church as a hospital, we’re basically saying that it’s a building full of people who are either receiving or administering treatment. And if that’s the case, we must then determine which role we, as Christians, play in said hospital —are we the doctors, the nurses, or the patients?
If we’re the doctors, then we have no need for Jesus. If we’re the nurses, then we’re basically saying that Jesus’ power is not enough to heal people fully and we have to somehow assist Him in this process. And if we’re the patients, then we’re saying that Jesus hasn’t healed us yet and we’re still in need of treatment. And again, dead people don’t get treated at hospitals, so if by “sinners,” the author of the original quote was referring to lost people, I’m not sure what good said hospital would be to a bunch of dead patients.
Friend, none of that sounds like the Church I’ve read about in the Word of God.
When we become a part of Christ’s Church, we are cleansed from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9) and God makes us a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17), giving us a new heart and a new spirit (Ezekiel 36:26). We are given everything we need in order to live a godly life (2 Peter 1:3) and we no longer walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit (Romans 8:1). We’re no longer a slave to sin, but a slave to righteousness (Romans 6:15-23). When we become a part of Christ’s Church, we become more than conquerors through Christ’s strength within us (Romans 8:37).
1 Peter 2:9-10 (NKJV) says this about those who belong to Christ’s Church:
“But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that we may proclaim the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.”
I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t sound like someone who needs medical attention—and it doesn’t sound like someone who is dead! It sounds like someone who has the power of God flowing in them and through them—someone who has tasted and seen the victory that comes from following Jesus Christ!
Does that mean that someone who follows Jesus will automatically become perfect and that they’ll never mess up or need help from Him after they become a part of His Church? No. But it does mean they don’t have to go to a building in order to get that help—they can go directly to Jesus, Himself.
The Church is not a hospital for sinners, my friend. A hospital is a place we go to for medical treatment. The Church is an imperfect group of people who have already been treated, healed, and saved by the Great Physician.
And as His Church, we can and should be walking in victory each and every day – because when Jesus heals us spiritually, it’s immediate and it’s eternal.
Jesus doesn’t just treat the symptoms, my friend—He cures the disease.
When we read of Jesus’ miracles in the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, all of the people He healed were healed immediately.
He didn’t put casts on the lame man’s legs, give him a set of crutches, and tell him, “In about 4-6 weeks, you can take these babies off and your legs will be good as new!” (John 5:5-9)
He didn’t tell the demon-possessed boy, “If you take this medication for 30 days and you follow these 8 simple steps over the next several months, that demon will leave you alone and you’ll finally be free.” (Mark 9:17-27)
When Jairus’ little girl died, He didn’t tell Jairus, “Just mix some of this essential oil in a cup of warm tea and try to have her drink it. If you do this every day for a week, you’ll see some improvement and it’ll be sure to put some life back into her.” (Luke 8:49-55)
No, my friend. One touch, one word, one thought from the Great Physician was and still is enough to heal the most broken of people and to bring anyone back from the dead —immediately and eternally.
As the Church, we should be celebrating and living out this truth every single day! And as the Church, we should be pointing others to this same Jesus, the only One who offers complete and eternal healing to all who will receive it. And not as a hospital for sinners, attempting to treat wounds that only Jesus can heal but as a crowd of former dead patients, who have the life of Jesus Christ now flowing within them.
The irony in all of this is that even though a hospital is not an accurate way to define the Church, it’s an accurate way to describe what we see happening in the midst of many church buildings all across America.
The Church was never intended to become a hospital for sinners or a safe haven for those who are lost, and yet, that’s exactly what it’s become—a place where the weary, wounded, and wandering stay weary and wounded because those of us who have been healed by the Great Physician have taken it upon ourselves to play the role of doctors and nurses in the house of God.
We’ve opened ourselves up as a place for people to come and to be accepted just as they are, without telling them of their need for Christ’s healing touch, a touch that yields true and lasting change in the hearts and lives of those it falls upon.
We tell people to come as they are, but we don’t tell them that when they choose to follow Christ and to become a part of His Church, they’re not supposed to leave the same way they were when they first came through the door, which happens to be dead.
We welcome people into the family of God without making sure they understand what it means to be a true child of God.
We’ve become content with overlooking the sins of those who claim they want to be a part of Christ’s Church because it’s easier to just slap a bandage on the issue and send people on their way, rather than telling people that the symptoms they’re experiencing are actually a sign of a greater disease —a disease so horrible that it kills everyone it infects. A disease that doesn’t just need to be treated; it needs to be cured.
We have become doctors and nurses who are putting bandages on rotting corpses, when what people really need is a miracle.
They need a Physician who can bring them back to life.
And the sad thing is, these people don’t even know they’re dead. We’re so busy telling them that “the Church is just a hospital for sinners.” We’ve believed the lie that if we can just get lost people to come to our church buildings and we love them enough, they’ll be just fine. After all, we’re all sinners and at least they’ll be in good company. Right?
Please don’t get me wrong, I’m all for showing people love. God commands us to love people all throughout His Word and we should love everyone, period.
But is it really love if we’re leaving out the truth?
It’s not the Church’s love that will bring people back from the dead.
It’s not the Church’s love that will free people from the bondage of sin.
It’s not the Church’s love that will heal and restore every broken and wounded place in the hearts of those who are desperately searching for a resurrection they don’t even know they need.
No, my friend. Only the Church’s Savior can do these things.
And until we start being honest with people about their need to go to Him rather than just coming to a church building and attending a church service with a bunch of other messed up sinners, we’re going to see a lot of dead people worshipping their way into hell with bandaged hearts and bandaged souls—all in the name of love, acceptance, and inclusion.
That’s not the way God has called His Church to operate.
The one, true God is not the God of the dead, but of the living (Mark 12:27).
The Church is not a hospital for sinners, nor is it a museum for saints.
The Church is every saint who has been raised from the dead and are now walking in victory with Jesus Christ.
And our job as His Church?
Not to attempt to nurse other sinners back to health, overlooking the fact that they’re not even breathing, but to love God by obeying His Word, to love each other as brothers and sisters in Christ, and to tell as many people as we can about how this same God desires to raise them from the dead, too.
Featured Image by Bret Kavanaugh