I Am Afraid Of Church…

In Christian RealTalk by Antwuan Malone17 Comments

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.
15 comments
sheepdog
sheepdog

I guess I am getting a little bit scared for God's people. You have to remember, the WORD does not "change." Times change. People change. Trends change. God does not change on us. We can depend on Him. But this trend. Please be aware that there is a trend going on in worship that could be damaging because it removes the focus off the one Triune God, Jehovah.

sheepdog
sheepdog

I attended my first small group; it's like a rock and roll band church. spiritual lyrics, true, but it was scary. "Lord this, Lord that?" Hey! Which Lord? Say His name!!!! Jesus Christ!!!! The people are in ecstasy over the music throb and the lyrics. Where's the way of salvation through the purchase price paid by Jesus Christ by way of the Cross? Where is Jesus? There is no cross any where in the church, no altars.It is a theater and a stage. Just a bunch of people on a stage dressed any where from contemporary every day dress to "goth?" grooving on the stage. Every day clothes, no prob. It's nice not to have to flash clothing labels and focus on the Word. But the Word was not present! The pastor's message, short and sweet and "feel goody." He borrowed words from a book that is being read church-wide in their "small groups" that meet. The pastor's sermon lacked any mention of the Word of God, how to apply it to every day life. How can we live better, be better people? It was not mentioned. Everyone was friendly, but the lack of God and His Son in the worship service reminded me of other churches that leave Jesus out of their sermons.


And the "small group" bible study. Oh boy. A video, reading a book. A good book, true, that pointed out relevant proofs concerning Christ's authority and connection to His Father in heaven. That was good. But no bible study. None. Nada. Reading a Bible verse, yes. We were told to "bring your bibles" on one specific night, and we wouldn't be doing the video and the book study. I looked forward to that. I was surprised and disappointed when there was no bible study whatsoever and we played a card game?


God focus. Jesus Christ focus. Where's the focus? Is this the new trend, to leave God and His son out of small group quite a bit and out of church worship? But keep God and Christ and the Word in the church mission statement, it'll get people through the doors and they'll get used to our worship style in no time. This is frightening.  

My false church and false prophet alarm was going off inside me. Everyone else was oblivious.

antwuanm
antwuanm moderator

@sheepdog I hear you. Unfortunately, too many people experience a Godless church experience. 

Latest blog post: jesus-follow-me

EstherBautista
EstherBautista

I'm struggling with this myself. I think for me it's me and my view that I can not be accepted as I am. This keeps me from even going to church. I think the are trying to be friendly but I'm afraid of being rejected. And at the same time I don't see my need to be in community. I have always felt like the outsider all my life without a sense I belong anywhere.

antwuanm
antwuanm moderator

@EstherBautista Hey Esther. I'm sorry I'm just now getting to see your response. Despite what some folks believe about me, I'm kind of a lone wolf myself. I totally get the " don't need community" sentiment you are laying down. What helps me is to broaden my view of community. Most of the time, people are talking about the fun, relational aspects of community. But I tend to be more objective. Meaning, I can appreciate more the need to be held accountable to someone, and to use whatever gifts I have to help someone. It's often true that, once we switch the reason from joining a community from being "something we need" to "some way we can help," lights turn on. 


I'd offer that you, Esther, probably have something special to offer someone else in community. God doesn't just want you to benefit from a community, he wants to use the gifts he's placed in your to benefit community as well. You know?

Latest blog post: jesus-follow-me

meganwillome
meganwillome

As a lifelong Texan, I think it's particularly bad here. But supportive Christian communities do exist.

MarkBBAguirre
MarkBBAguirre

Thanks for writing this AM. I think the churches (assemblies) of God should be the most loving place in the world. Every gathering of God's people should be focused on "how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another (Hebrews 10:24, 25 NASB). I think you highlighted one of the huge problems with today's church which is a judgmental attitude. In my own experience, I think this is a result of people being to individualistic or too involved in their click/group. Like you said, in our culture we want don't want to feel vulnerable. We don't want to feel like others are looking down at us. However, I think the way to get rid of this judgmental tendencies is to encourage each other to love and to do good deeds. Without this then we're just gathering for self-righteous reasons. We need to brake out of our cultural mode of doing things, biblical church is unpopular but it is the foundation laid for believers today. Ultimately, we need to think of ways to stir up each other in love for His name sake and for His glory. If we don't then we are going to continue to fight and divide over little insignificant things like church building projects. Thanks for letting me share. Peace and grace.

James
James

On the Jewish religious calendar, today at sundown starts the fast of Tisha b'Av or the 9th day of the month of Av. As you may know, this is a day of fasting and mourning for the loss of the First and Second Temples as well as many other tragic events in Jewish history. It is said in the Talmud, that the cause of the destruction of the Second Temple and the exile of the Jewish people from Israel was a "wanton hatred" of one another. Jews all over the world use this opportunity to turn from their sins, grieve the harm they may have caused others, and to repent in prayer and fasting. Perhaps if the church were able to, as a body, see ourselves and our shortcomings, we would be less likely to judge each other and more likely to hold ourselves personally accountable. Being willing to be vulnerable requires a safe environment, but to provide safety for others, we have to open ourselves up. Modern Christianity emphasizes freedom and salvation while minimizing personal responsibility (though we're quite willing to point a finger at the other guy). More's the pity.

tcsoko
tcsoko

Maybe we should get back to James 5:16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. - only if everyone is open & vulnerable can we have deep healing community - but that is scary!

markus Lloyd
markus Lloyd

The people in Church are afraid because they see fear modeled by their leaders. Leaders who are afraid to tell the truth to their people because it may cause some of them to leave and take theiir tithe to another church

Lisa Edwards
Lisa Edwards

Yes, church should be the safest place. Yet those who are ready to condemn fill the seats. Jesus said in John 8, let those without sin throw the first stone, at the woman who was caught in adultery. Many of us know that story in John. Many of us have quoted that verse to others, then are the first to start hurling rocks. No one in church is without sin. None of us are perfect. So let’s face up to that and start being real with each other. Only then can true community really happen.

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