I remember hearing when I was a little girl that church was a "hospital." It was a place for people who were sick and for those who needed healing. I believe this concept was adapted from Jesus' words recorded in the book of Luke: "Jesus answered them, 'Healthy people don't need a doctor–sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners and need to repent'" (Luke 5:31-32).
In this text Jesus was responding to questions concerning his affiliation with sinners. Jesus responded to the Pharisees by telling them that he came to save sinners and to lead them to repentance. Jesus compared sin to sickness, and he deemed himself the master physician. I believe the church should be a hospital, where Jesus is our master physician. It should be a place where those who are physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually wounded can come. It is a place where we should be able to check in and when we leave, we are healed or on the road to recovery.
The church should be a place where those who are lost can have a seat in the house of God. My concern is not that the doors of the hospital aren't open; instead, I question: Where are all the doctors, nurses, paramedics, and surgeons? Have they been replaced by those who are unlicensed to practice medicine, those who have no experience, those who lack the qualifications or credentials, and most important, those who have not been commissioned by the "board of medicine"?
I am not saying that every person involved in ministry must have a seminary or religious degree, but I am saying that they must have some qualifications, and the most important one is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Are we allowing those who are not saved to minister to the flock? Are we allowing those who are spiritually sick to treat others who are ill? Are we allowing con-artists to commit fraud and malpractice on the children of God? I am crying, "Yes!"
My heart and my soul weep for individuals hurt by the church. We are allowing unqualified individuals to administer medicine to the flock and no healing is taking place. In fact, they are harming the sheep. For example, I have seen women who have been placed in leadership roles who have massive chaos in their own lives. In my experience, these women are so unhappy that they become very critical of other women and often say and do things that are hurtful to the women under their care. I have also seen new male believers approach men in leadership to obtain advice on how to live a holy, godly lifestyle, only to find their leaders are living unfaithful and ungodly lives.
I believe that at all times we must seek to advance God's kingdom. However, we must recognize when we are not in a healthy position to minister. During those times, we need to sit and allow others to minister to us. We need others to lead us to a place of healing first, before we can adequately minister to others in need.
We need nurses to "nurse" the hurting back to health. We need certified "doctors" to diagnose illnesses and to administer the healing power of the Holy Word. We need "surgeons" who can reach deep down inside the soul to cut away the layers of bitterness, anger, depression, addiction, and loneliness. We need "paramedics" who rescue people off the street and rush them to the Lord, the one who can put them back together again. It is my prayer that the house of God will become a hospital: a place where someone can be loved back to life with the love of God. I pray that the church will be a place of healing and not a place of hurt.
How Do We Create a Healthy Place?
The local church can create this place by appointing leaders who are qualified to lead. These leaders should also be held accountable for the lifestyles they live. Leaders should step down if they are struggling with habitual sin in order to be delivered, healed, and restored. I envision a healthy local church where the hurting could receive acceptance and counseling. I long for a place where people can be mentored by godly leaders and loved by brothers and sisters in the faith. This can happen only if we are intentional in following the Bible when determining who is qualified to be a trusted and competent leader. This can happen only if some churches transition from being exclusive social clubs with injured leaders to premier, innovative hospitals with godly, noble, and blameless doctors, nurses, and paramedics.
How do we get there? I believe we must first acknowledge that we are either healing or hurting people. Jesus healed the entire person, and it is our duty to walk as Jesus did. The way we treat each other and those outside the church impacts our witness to the world, whether we realize it or not. For the sake of the church and our witness, we need to get busy healing–not hurting people.
We need leaders to uplift the body of Christ. We long for our leaders to empower individuals, not take away their power. We can look at Matthew 18 as a guide to resolving abusive behavior in the church. If you are a member of the congregation and you know that a leader is hurting the sheep, you should first speak with that leader one on one. You should approach that leader only if it is safe to do so. Never place yourself in danger. When you speak with the leader you should express your care for the individual. You should also express to the leader your care, concern, and commitment to the church and ministry. You should stick to the facts and avoid personal attacks. You should raise your concerns one by one and offer suggestions to help this individual. If the leader needs to go to counseling, a drug treatment program, or mental health counseling, say so. You should request that he or she receive the specific treatment needed in order to become healthy again.
If the leader does not listen to you, take one or two others along with you. If he or she still refuses to listen, take it to the church. Matthew 18 goes on to tell us that if the person doesn't listen to the church, then we must treat him or her as an unbeliever.
We must stop being silent in church and we must speak up! The sheep are hurting and we can't continue to stand by and allow this to happen. We need healers in the church, not offenders, and the only way to ensure that happens is to allow only qualified "physicians" to administer the proper medicine.
Carmille Akande is a licensed minister, attorney, speaker, writer and blogger based in Dayton, Ohio. She has a heart for outreach and discipleship ministries and blogs at carmilleakande.com.