5 Things the Church Is

“The church is a hospital for sinners, and not a museum for saints.”

– Vance Havner

The Church as an Emergency Room

The church is not a social club or a place that can teach us how to have a happier life. It is an ER for those who are in critical condition and have been infected with the sin virus, and the only cure is a relationship with Jesus Christ. Those who are in the most critical condition don’t even know they are sin-sick. I hear a lot of criticism about the church, and they are usually talking about Christians, but if they find a perfect church, I recommend they don’t join it because they’ll ruin it. You’re never going to find a perfect church because none of us are perfect. We’ve only been forgiven by a perfect God, and the double-quick cure is the blood of the Lamb of God (2 Cor. 5:17).

The Church as a Hospital

Many people are carrying cancer in their bodies, while others have an autoimmune system disease, but they don’t even know it. In the same way, people don’t recognize that they are wicked sinners, and without Christ, they are enemies of God (Rom. 5:8, 10). There are none that are good enough to go to heaven on their own (Rom. 3:10-12, 23). If they would only get a checkup by the Great Physician, they’d see they need a heart transplant, a new heart that’s not made of stone but one made of flesh (Ezek. 11:19; 36:26).

The Church as a House of Prayer

The church should be a house of prayer. That’s why Jesus was full of righteous indignation when He cleansed the temple, saying, “Is it not written: ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a ‘den of robbers’” (Mark 11:17). Notice two things here: It’s a house of prayer, but it’s also Jesus’ house, as He called it “My house,” because it is Jesus’ church, not ours. I am a pastor, but I’m simply an under-shepherd to the Great Shepherd.

The Church as the Family of God

We are the children of God, as Paul wrote, “In Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith” (Gal. 3:26).  “For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God” (Rom. 8:14). For those who refuse to listen to Jesus’ teachings, He says, “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires” (John 8:44), and, “It is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience” (Col. 3:6), “in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience” (Eph. 2:2).

The Church as the Bride of Christ

Someday Christ will “present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:27). Someday we will “rejoice and exult and give him the glory for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure” (Rev. 19:7-8), and that righteous linen is the righteousness of Christ (2 Cor. 5:21).


I so agree with Mr. Havner that the church is a hospital for sinners and not a museum for saints. Many years ago I had to check myself into this hospital and needed a blood transfusion, the blood of the Lamb of God, which allowed me to pass from death to eternal life (John 3:16). How about you?