I Am Afraid Of Church…

In Christian RealTalk by Antwuan Malone

Have you ever worn a flak jacket to church? Probably not. Here in America, a flak jacket is, well, unnecessary. And yet…

What if I told people wear flak jackets to church all the time? What if I told you, I wore a flak jacket last week in service, right in the heart of Texas?  And that, you probably did too. I’d be speaking metaphorically, of course, but emotional flak jackets are in vogue among churchgoers, and have been for quite some time now.

Scared of Church

We can agree church should be the safest place for our emotions. Pastors preach about the safety of relationship and Christian community every Sunday morning to congregations across the nation, and it all sounds so wonderful. Indeed, God desires a community who first loves Him, then loves each other. But creating a community that imitates God’s unconditional love can’t be done without the serious of vulnerability – the risk of shame, fear, judgment, disrespect, or a bad name.

Vulnerability breeds quality relationships. Quality relationships breed quality families and communities — safe havens that offer love and respect, and the Church should be the de facto standard of quality communities. The church should be the safest place in the world.

But it isn’t.  In fact, for a lot people, church is the most unsafe place to reveal your flaws, imperfections, and troubles.

To this some will say it’s conviction of sin that terrifies “sinners” and that the Church can’t compromise it’s biblical principles just to coddle someone’s fear of feeling bad. I can see that point. After all, I am far more afraid to walk into my boss’ office after showing up 15 minutes late than when I am when I’m on time. Conviction has everything to do with that.

But I should be ashamed of being late. And we all should be ashamed of our sin. Sin is embarrassing, and embarrassment is definitely scary. But doesn’t that make God’s grace all the more impactful? Doesn’t that help us appreciate the freedom found in God’s forgiveness? Not a freedom to sin, mind you. Not even a freedom from conviction. But freedom to be fearless.  Freedom to be open and without pretense. Freedom to love and be loved in the most natural way possible. No artificial flavoring. No preservatives.

Too many people allow their fears to rob them of God’s love, of even receiving the love of God’s people. They walk into church with emotional flak jackets on with arms firmly folded across their bodies. Protected. They think from shame, I say from love. We’ve got to do something about that.

Fear-Free Community

The church has it’s part in all this as well. Churches seem quick to crucify flawed Christians, which creates resistance to the Church’s progress. We’ve all seen it. You may even have been a victim of it. It is always troubling to hear a well-known minister caught in some sex or financial scandal. It is most often even more troubling watching the Christian community’s response. No wonder outsiders are scared to be themselves in our midst. Look how we treat our own.

Contrast this with the way groups like Alcoholics Anonymous work. The first thing everyone has to do is introduce themselves and their affliction. “I’m Billy Joe, and I’m an alcoholic.” So simple. So potent. Only after they make this statement can they receive the help the group is prepared to give them. That statement, the proverbial taking off of the flak jacket and the unfolding of the arms, is the first step to recovery. Until then, they fight their affliction alone.

What if the church was something like that.  I’m not saying worship services should be big roll calls of confession, but what if that did happen once in a while? What would it change? How far would that go toward eliminating the talk of hypocrisy? How might it change the way the world views us?

I know it’s not that simple.  There are several factors to consider, and we can’t touch on them all in this writing. But perhaps this blog will start some discussion. The church should be the safest place in the world. So let’s figure out how to make it so.

 Why do you think people are so afraid to be themselves at church? What can we do to change it?

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Antwuan Malone is a Ministry Director at ELEVATE Young Adult Ministry (elevateministry.net) where empowers young adults toward Christian leadership. He is passionate about seeing young adults take their place in church history by drawing near enough to God to hear his call on their life, and courageously living in obedience to that call.