3 Ways of Doing Church: Hospice, Hospital, or Mobile Clinic

Could it be that there are 3 primary ways to do church? If so, the first way — maybe the default way — is to run it like a hospice unit; a place to take care of people who are dying.

Sound extreme? Maybe. But as Jon Foreman reminds us in a powerful and pointed song, we’re all dying. So, in a very real sense, we all need some version of hospice; we need to prepare to die. Some churches do this pretty well. They take care of their members (aged or otherwise), providing support, encouragement, and regular service times.

My dad served in ministry his entire working life; his final work was in this category, as he served for nearly 20 years as a nursing home chaplain. He faithfully loved the people, and was there for them in their final years of life — all while making sure to have services every Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday night. I love my dad, and I’m proud of how well he served the folks at the Christian Old People’s Home (seriously, that’s what it was called). Especially in a place with that kind of name, there’s a place for church-as-hospice-care.

But outside of caring for aging persons and aging churches, clearly the New Testament church is called to be more — which leads us to the 2nd way to do church: as a hospital. In this model, a church isn’t just concerned about caring for its own; it strives to care for others, too. It wants to reach hurting and broken people. It seeks to be a place where the sin-sick can find healing. It welcomes any who are ready to find wholeness in Jesus and in his church. This church sees how important it is to be a hospital.

So, it innovates and creates in ways to make outsiders feel welcome. It tries new things; it thinks about outsiders in how it plans the service; it finds new ways to do church. Now, we may not always agree on methods and means, but we can all agree that a healthy church is going to consider those outside of faith, and ways their church might reach them. It might be on Sunday mornings, but it also might be support groups, student ministry, marriage support, counseling ministry, and a variety of other ways to say, and show: we are here for the hurting.

Again, this is a vital part of what it means to be the Church. But I think there’s one more step a healthy, biblical church needs to make. And it’s to be a mobile clinic. This is where the church isn’t content to care for its own, though it does that. And it’s not okay with simply having hurting people find their way to the hospital on Sundays or special days. It seeks out folks where they are; it goes to them. It takes the love and mercy and compassion and this-is-for-everyone heart of Jesus out to where the people are. It goes to the prisons and the clinics, the streets and parks and coffee shops; and yes, to the nursing homes and the hospitals. It empowers people not simply to come to church, but to go and take the church to their homes and neighborhoods, their workplaces and schools. Church-as-mobile-clinic sees its calling as one that cannot — must not — be contained by a building or by a day of the week. This kind of church can’t be contained.

So, what kind of church is your church? Better yet: what kind of church are you?


Feelings & Fearings

I cringe just about every time I hear someone begin a sentence with the phrase: I feel like. Most of the time, people say “I feel like…” when they really mean, I believe or I think or I speculate. When people say “I feel like,” they are often not talking about their feelings at all; they are referring to their thoughts, their beliefs, their inclinations.

Now, this may not seem like it matters much — if at all. Who cares if people say “I feel like” when they really mean “I think”? — as in this headline, which describes a quarterback who “did not feel like he was tipping plays.” But it wasn’t that he didn’t feel like he was tipping plays; it was that he didn’t believe he was doing something that led the other time to pick up what plays he was running. If he thought he was tipping plays, he would have changed his actions.

And that’s my point. We often can’t change our feelings; but our actions, we can. Feelings are often unpredictable; actions don’t have to be.

My problem with the phrase “I feel like” isn’t a problem with feelings; it’s a problem we have in our culture of distinguishing the difference. In today’s world, feelings are paramount. Feelings sit in the king’s chair, with beliefs and actions dependent on those feelings. Saying “I feel like” has become a verbal demonstration of what we have come to believe in our culture: feelings are king.

When what we feel is key to determining who we are, than our most intense feelings most intensely shape who we are. Ecstasy becomes the treasure we seek, and fear is the kryptonite we avoid. When feelings are the most important thing about us, then we live life based on our deepest feelings. So, feeling good moves to the center of our lives, and we’ll pursue whatever we can to get that feeling. Likewise, feeling bad is the worse thing that can happen, so we’ll do everything we can to avoid it.

In short, when feelings reign, we become our worst and best feelings — always seeking to run from the former, and always seeking to hold on to the latter, as elusive as it may be.

But you are not what you feel — and so you are not what you fear.

When we have a better understanding of feelings, then we have a healthier view of ourselves. When we get a clear perspective on our feelings, then we have a better perspective from which to think, to act, to believe, to choose.

Not long ago, I was telling a couple of people about an important chapter in my life. I described how, just after finishing grad school work, my wife and I went on a five-week mission trip to explore the possibility of serving overseas. It’s a story I have told a number of times to a number of people in the 24 years since it happened.

But something was different this time. As I told of the challenges and uncertainties and questions the trip raised, my friend asked, How did that make you feel?

Well, I said, I felt like I wasn’t very effective.

No, she said, tell me how you felt. Not felt like. How did you feel?

Her question, and her insistence, got me to label and name feelings I had (and still have) when I think of that trip and that time. And that insistence, and that drilling down to core feelings, was a gift. And it was a gift precisely because, once I am able to honestly and clearly label my feelings, I can own them. I can face them squarely; I can see them for what they are. And I can then remember who I am. I am not first my feelings, or my fears. I am first: a child of God. Despite my failings, my fears, and the uncertainty of what I feel, each day I have the opportunity to choose to remember what I believe to be true: I am not my feelings or my fears; I am His.

As it turns out, those of us who find our identities in Jesus don’t ignore or suppress our feelings; we don’t pretend our fears don’t exist. We simply choose not to let them own us. Through the transforming of our minds, we see more clearly who we are — and where our feelings fit into who we are. As Christians, we don’t run from our feelings — but we don’t let them rule the roost, either. Instead, we are reminded who we are in Christ, and we see ourselves — our feelings, our fears, and our failures — in light of who we are.

And I feel like that’s a vital truth. Or, rather, that’s a truth I choose to believe; an identity I am confident is the very core of who I am, and who I am called to be.

What Time Is It?

In the Bible, there are two main words for time. The first is chronos – something we see appear in English words like “chronology.” Chronos is clock time; it’s minutes and hours and days. Chronos happens like clockwork (literally), for it is the regular passing of seasons and times. We see this in Acts 1.6, where the disciples ask Jesus, Is now the chronos for your kingdom to come?

But the other word in scripture for time is kairos. Unlike chronos, kairos isn’t that interested in the clock; it’s focused on the content. Kairos doesn’t so much measure time, as it makes use of time. Kairos is finding meaning in the minutes; it’s seeing (and making) purpose in this time, this moment, this now. We see this in Acts 1.7, where Jesus answers the disciples, You don’t know the kairos the Father has planned.

Everyday, you make use of chronos AND kairos. You get up, you get ready for your day, and you do the next thing. You get the kids ready for school. Or you get your spouse breakfast. Or you go for a morning walk. You head to work. You run that errand. Your day is full of chronos; it is one chronos moment after another. And those chronos moments are important. Decide one day simply not to show up for work, and not tell your boss, and you’ll likely find out pretty quickly how important it is to honor the chronos moments in your life.

But it’s also possible to do chronos and completely miss kairos. For kairos is not simply showing up for work, or doing the next thing on your calendar — it’s being present in them, with eyes and heart ready for the Spirit to show up in the midst of what you thought would just be another normal day. Kairos is expecting to see God at work in the expected, the everyday, the normal. It’s about being where you are and doing what you do, yes; but, even more, it’s about being fully present and ready for God’s love to be real through your words, your listening, your faithfulness, your presence. Living in kairos moments involves not just going through your day, but going ready – ready to see how God will use you, this time.

So, the next time you look at your watch or your phone, wondering “What time is it?” — don’t simply notice the chronos. Remember to live in the kairos.