Thursday, September 25, 2014

Country Club or Hospital

When we were kids my sister and I would often spend time at my dad's church office.  They had this super powerful electronic stapler that we were clearly and strongly instructed to not get near or touch due to the potential of bodily harm that such a device posed for two little kids.  These instructions had a clear understanding that failure to follow the rules would carry with it dire consequences. 

Due to the fact that I was always super obedient and the perfect child(and the favorite one which is clearly demonstrated and confirmed by our mother....) I followed this rule.  My squirrely little sister on the other hand....well....lets just say she was not as perfect as I was(and am).  One day she happened to stick her thumb into the opening, causing the stapler to launch a staple right through her nail and thumb.  Realizing that she had broken a rule that carried consequences she kept it to herself and quietly whimpered in the corner holding(and hiding) her thumb. 

For a few hours that day she kept it a secret, avoiding our parents and clearly being sad.  Finally, upon going back home my mom held her and asked her what was wrong.  My sister tearfully said she didn't want to say because she didn't want to get in trouble.  After some convincing and promising that she could tell mom anything, she finally revealed the heinous injury.  In the blink of an eye she was rushed to the ER to have it removed. 

The worst part is that she didn't even get in trouble.  I though at least a few spankings were in order.....because I love my sister and wanted her grow up to be a responsible adult!!  But we did learn a valuable lesson; when you are hurt mom and dad are a safe place to share your hurt and you won't be "hurt" more for sharing what happened.  Even if your pain was due to your own choices!

When you are hurting where can you go to weep? 

Sadly, for too many people, Church is the last place you think of.  Even if you go there for help it is common to have help be given with a heaping dose of judgment.  You are already hurting enough, and the last thing you want is someone telling you that you are just getting what you deserve. 

Here is the worst part about churches and pastors presenting that sort of attitude to people;  The whole message of the Gospel, which the Church is called to proclaim and practice, is that in Christ we don't get what we deserve.  Instead of hearing "Come all you who are yoke is easy and my burden is light", people hear, "Come all who are screwed up and we will give you a bunch of burdens to pile on to your exhausted shoulders".....

Many churches today are glorified Country Clubs where you come to look good and show people that you are checking off all the right "behavior" boxes.  Struggles, pain, frustration, questions and hurts make people uncomfortable.  We are here to smile, shake hands and keep up appearances. 

Christ's church is not a country club, it is a hospital.  It is SUPPOSED to be a place where people who are broken can come to be loved and have their pains treated.  How would you feel if you walked into a hospital with a broken arm and the staff looked at you like you had the plague and said, " know this is your own fault....helping you is going to be a bit inconvenient for us today.." 

When you arrive at a hospital they ask you what brings you there that day, they listen to you, they address your concerns, they do everything in their power to put you back together.  They don't ridicule you and blame you. 

They listen, empathize, and, HELP.

Many churches talk at you, judge you, and never want to help. 

Let me challenge you if you lead in a church, or, are a part of a Church.  Are you trying to maintain a country club, or, are you serving a hospital.  If your church feels a lot more like a country club, you are doing something wrong. 

When people need help, but they don't feel safe asking for help, it gets worse.  In the book of Ruth we learn about how a family runs from Israel to Moab because of a famine.  In Moab everything goes horribly wrong.  Then we find out that back in Israel, the whole time, they had a family member who was wealthy.  Why didn't they ask for help before they ran away?  We don't know. 

But this story plays itself out every day in our communities.  People are too embarrassed and afraid to ask for help.  And sadly ,things get a lot worse as they hide their pain and heart aches. 

Is it your fault that people are too afraid to ask you for help?  If no one is asking you for help, it probably is.  What are you going to do about it?


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