Hospital or Training Center?

What is the identity (or mission) of the local church community?


Ask that question and you’ll get lots of answers. It’s like the parable of the blind men who touched an elephant and tried to describe what it is like. Each one touched a different part, but only one part, such as the side, the ear, or the tusk. Then they compared notes and learned they were in complete disagreement.

We all come with our own needs, desires and preconceived notions, not to mention the wide variety of descriptions given in the Bible.

But the beauty of the local church IS its diversity. The Bible likens the church community to a human body, with every part having a different function, all under the leadership of Jesus (the Head).

Ephesians 4:11-12 says all these gifts (apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, teacher) have been given in order to “EQUIP the saints for the WORK of the ministry.” (caps mine)

“Equip” carries 2 primary meanings, to set a broken bone (healing), and to mend a net that is torn (so you can keep fishing). My tendency in early pastoral ministry was to focus on mending what was broken. It was wonderful seeing God heal people and reveal His love. He’s never stopped doing that.

But when we started Smoky Hill Vineyard we were challenged to NOT build the church on those gifts of healing. Jesus was going to keep healing people, but we were called to train others to bring healing, and He was giving us the net to throw out (reach out and train). Kind of uncomfortable (to put it mildly) when God puts you in a place where everything feels unnatural.

When the church functions solely like a hospital, everyone looks to the doctors and nurses (staff). There may be a few “residents” around, but by and large the only people in the game are the wounded and the healers. And people learn that the only way to get attention from “the staff” is to be sick. Once someone is healed, where do they go?

But if the church is a training center, all the people are invited into the game. The purpose of training isn’t to sit in the locker room and go over the playbook. The purpose of training is to study the playbook, hit the field and to score = bring God’s kingdom rule into our own lives and to the places we live.

His love transforms us and becomes the Good News to others. Families become healthy, fractures are healed, communities experience life, and injustice is eradicated. That is the “work” we are all called to.

Jesus is calling all of us (including you) into the game. It’s time to embrace both aspects of “equip” – healing and training. Jesus is coming to set captives free and bind up the brokenhearted. AND, as the Message Version translates Ephesians 2:10He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.


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