Lessons for the Church: Airplanes & Hospitals
A pilot commented shortly after the tragic crash that killed John F. Kennedy, Jr., his wife and her sister: “I doubt there is any one cause. It’s more likely a series of little things that set off a fatal chain of events.” Also recently, an Eastern Airlines jumbo jet bound for Miami from New York experienced trouble with their landing gear warning light. While trying to check a light bulb, a plane full of holiday passengers tragically crashed in the Everglades. An experienced crew focused on little things and ignored a basic rule of airspace: “Don’t forget to fly the plane!”
Two lessons: 1) It’s often a series of little things that set off a fatal chain of events. 2) Don’t forget to fly the plane. The same lessons apply with the church. It is so easy and tempting to focus on little things that can potentially set off a fatal chain of events. In other words we get so caught up in busy work that we forget to “fly the plane” and lose sight of why the church of God really exists.
Every July our church takes a Sabbath month where we basically rest and prepare for the coming year. There are no meetings, classes are cancelled and Sunday school teachers, musicians and even the preacher are temporarily replaced. We use the month to think and pray for our church and what we are supposed to do. What is our main purpose as the church of God?
Some people would say that we come to church to “get fed” with good teaching and preaching. Maybe, but is that all there is: getting fed? The church after all is called “the body of Christ.” A “body” is like a family. Would you call your family good because you eat together? “Our family is great because we eat steak:” Of course not. A family shows itself by how they…
…respond to those who hurt.
…listen when others talk.
…support those who can’t keep up.
…cry together during hard times and laugh together during good times.
How does a church family show itself? Jesus was standing in a crowd near Jericho. Yet, he ignored his admirers and deliberately chose to have lunch with the most notorious crook in town: Zacchaeus. Why? Listen to how he responded to Jesus’ kindness: “I will give half my wealth to the poor, Lord and if I have overcharged people on their taxes. I will give them back four times as much.” (Luke 19:8) I would have at least expected Jesus to give Zacchaeus a stern warning but instead Christ chose to show love and grace to one who deserved it least and needed it most.
How does a church family show itself? By how we treat a Zacchaeus within our midst. The late Rev. Sam Shoemaker was addressing a group of recovering alcoholics and said something very important about the church: “The church has always been a scratch company of sinners. It is not the best people in the community gathered together for self-congratulation; it is the people who know they have a great need, gathered to find its answer in worship toward God and fellowship with one another. The church is not a museum; it is a hospital!” What a powerful statement.
You visit a museum to look… but please don’t touch! A Zacchaeus may be allowed to come inside and look at the exhibits but everyone knows that he is just not the museum type. You visit a hospital to seek help… touching and probing are critical parts of the healing process. A Zacchaeus would be rushed to treatment. Afterwards he might be invited to become a volunteer.
So, what is our main purpose as the church of God?
† Beware of over pursuing the little things and don’t forget to fly the plane.
† The church is a family that responds, listens and offers support to each other.
† Jesus deliberately acknowledged the biggest crook in town to bestow love and grace.
† The church should be a hospital where people like Zacchaeus are welcomed and treated.
“Wow! That’s a tough job!” It’s more than tough… it’s impossible without God. Which is why we must never forget the most critical part of becoming God’s church: prayer!