Sunday School Answers Are Killing the Church!

In Christian RealTalk, Tough Questions by Antwuan Malone

Fakers! Hypocrites!

That’s what they call us. They, being church bashers. They say we aren’t who we say we are, that we don’t say what really think. And because of we don’t, they say we grow more irrelevant with each passing day.  Because, who listens to fakers and hypocrites?

I agree with them.

I think the number one problem for the modern day church is the decrescendo of its voice in society. We don’t matter as much as we used to. We are losing relevance. Our light is dimming.  And while there are several reasons for the increasingly hoarse voice of the church, one of the biggest is our lack of authenticity. Christians don’t come across as real.  Especially while in a church.

The America church culture seems to emphasize “Good Christian” answers. There’s a Christian political correctness in the air in our churches that shoves our faces behind masks. We hide our true thoughts and feelings most of the time, and we shouldn’t have to. Hiding keeps us from responding in  authentic ways. Without authenticity, how can we expect to enjoy meaningful community?

The pressure to give good-sounding, Sunday School answers to Bible study questions and, even to real life questions asked in church settings, should not exist. We don’t need to dig into our little black bags of church answers for the real life questions are asked in church? Hello? Religious questions are not pop quizzes we need to ace. Don’t get me wrong. Church answers are great, as long as they reflect what we truly feel. The issue us that most “Sunday school answers” rarely reflect the person’s true thoughts… and people can tell.

So why don’t we say what we feel?

Maybe it’s because we’ve never allowed the questions of life to really challenge us. We haven’t taken them personally enough. We never release ourselves to wrestle with our doubts and questions. And as a result, we don’t own our answers. Instead, we whimsically pass along rented answers handed to us by our parents or a respected spiritual leader. In that sense, the world is right to see the local church as a farm of hypocrites, a factory for production-line Christians trained to respond to life in the same, monotonous, impersonal, inauthentic ways.

We’ve been trained to hide our fears, doubts, and questions in hopes of being seen as Good Christians. And in so doing, we’ve formed form a collective hand over The Church’s mouth, muffling and contaminating the integrity of  her voice. Our lack of honesty continually sows seeds of Pharisaic piety, of pretense, and of hypocrisy.  This is what the world sees and responds to.

What’s sad is, we don’t put up much of a fight. We kind of go along with it, because Sunday School answers are safe. They’re perfectly fine for our church questions and conversations, in church and to church people.  We’ll save what we really think for those people and places outside the church.

But isn’t that backwards?

The church should be the place we can express our truest feelings, especially when they are the opposite of what a “Good Christian” should say. We are not in the world. We shouldn’t need to protect ourselves in church.

The  common analogies for The Church seem to be saying it’s a place more full of people who don’t have it all together than who do. When it is described as a hospital, it implies there are more sick people around than there are well people.  When described as a support group — more who need support than who don’t. One of the points in those analogies is the understanding that we are safe in Church — that we don’t have to pretend. We can let our guards down.

The sooner we accept that there are more people in the room doubting and challenging than there are people who have all the answers, the quicker we usher in an authentic environment we can all grow in. We shouldn’t succumb to the worldly pressures of saving face. We shouldn’t spend so much time pretending to be well, pretending we are not in need of support. In church, we don’t have to be on the spiritual honor roll of disingenuous, religious, A-students. We see how that worked out for the Pharisees. The elephant in the collective world room is that we are all in need of support and healing.  And deep down, we all know it. None of us have it all together. We all have doubts. There are times when our faith weakens, when we don’t even believe the Sunday School answers.

I say that’s an okay thing to admit.

I say the more honest we are, the more credible our answers. The more vulnerable we are, the more accessible we become.  The truer our speech, the louder our voice.

We don’t have to be fakers.  We don’t have to be hypocrites. We can change that perception. But it will need to be from the inside out, both for Christians individually and for churches collectively. Because if we continue down this path of dishonesty, our voice will disappear in the wind.

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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.