Monday, July 9, 2012

Is the Church Supposed to be an Army or a Hospital?

I have considered this question many times while pondering the nature of the church and its ministries. This is of particular importance as I think about developing a counseling ministry in my church and as I continue to think about what shape that ministry will take.

The church is an army in the sense that we have been given a mission, which is to make disciples, and that we have been given sufficient resources in order to pursue that mission. For example, we have been given the Scriptures, which are absolutely essential to any mission that involves making true disciples of Christ.  Paul tells us in Romans that, “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.”  The Lord gives us the powerful resource of the Word.  I could not imagine doing ministry without the Scriptures; doing so would be like entering a battlefield without weapons or resources.  I would be wasting my time. However, God has not called us to waste our time.  He calls us to a mission, and not just that, He calls us to glorify Him throughout the process of our undertakings.  I find it most troubling when we as a church fail to glorify God in our pursuit of the mission.  As a result, I am committed to help the church remember that God’s sovereignty and rule are not limited to simply ministry results or successes, but also extend to the means that we employ in obtaining such results.  When I reflect upon ways that I have spoken to others in the context of ministry, I remember the easy tendency to dim my gaze toward the process and instead focus tightly on the goal.  Though God has called us to a goal, He has also called us to a process. We must not sacrifice one for the other.

From a different perspective, the church is also a hospital.  In this light, I remember Matthew 9, which states, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.”  What do sick people need?  They need a doctor.  There will be times when the Chief Physician will call upon you to be the instrument of His care, mercy, and truth by responding to the needs of others in the church.  There will also be times when you may need to receive the care and mercy of others that God has placed in your midst.  Some will experience more difficulty giving help, and others will experience difficulty in receiving help.  Regardless, care and mercy flow both ways, and you may be called to both the giving and the receiving in your life.

Because the church functions as both an army and a hospital, she should look to provide care to those who are in pain as well as to train others to be effective instruments of God’s mercy, grace, and truth.  This dual function provides the rationale towards the continued development of a Christian psychology that can serve the church in her ministries, while at the same time striving to present the gospel within the context of psychology, thereby demonstrating the power of the gospel as a meta-theory through which all of our other theories can make sense and become fully operationalized.

Rev. Jeffrey White
Pastor of Counseling
Park Cities Presbyterian Church
Dallas, Texas

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