A few months ago I woke up on a Sunday morning and went to church. While I was parking my car and walking into the building, I saw a couple having what seemed to me like a somewhat heated argument. However, not even one minute later when I saw that same couple walk into church they were fine and were as joyous as anyone else.
For the past few months, something about that hasn’t really set well with me. I find it hard to believe that they settled their argument that quickly. Even if they did, I would still be surprised that they would be so happy and joyous so quickly afterwards. This piece is not a critique of what that couple did. Rather, this is a call to the Church to be more accepting of the brokenness that walks through its doors every Sunday morning.
The Church should be a place where the broken feel they can walk in, take their masks of “being okay” off and say “here is my problem will you help me?”. Instead, the Church has become a place where we feel we must look our best and pretend like everything is fine. Of course, this does not apply to everyone or all churches, but from my experiences and from experiences I’ve heard from others, this is an epidemic that has been spreading throughout the Church for years.
Galatians 6:2 says “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Paul got it when instructing the early Church. “Carry each other’s burdens.” It’s a simple command to understand but harder to practice. The Church should be a place where we can walk in and get help or be encouraged to keep fighting the good fight. It shouldn’t be a place where we feel we have to be all dressed up and put on masks of “being okay.”
I even remember times in my own life where I was going through hard times and yet I didn’t feel like church was a place where I could be real and be vulnerable. At times when I was at an all time low and going through the worst of my depression and anxiety, I didn’t feel like I could get any relief at church. In fact, I felt like I had to be ashamed and hide my problems. I fully admit part of that is on me and not be willing to be open, but part of that also lies on how we have been behaving in the Church for years now. It wasn’t any one person’s fault, but rather the culture of having to be “okay” or be better than somebody else that has been permeating for years now that caused this problem. I eventually did open up and the church was actually where I got a lot of the help I needed and the relief I sought so desperately, but I should have been able to walk right in and get that help instead of feeling like I had to jump through a hundred social hoops before I could.
It would be easy to make this statement about how the Church needs to be better at being for the broken people and then leave it at that but that doesn’t solve the problem. So, here are a few things I think the Church can do better.
First, let’s create cultures of trust and openness. If somebody needs help to get through something, they need to know that they can confide in people in 100% confidence. They need to know that what they tell them won’t be spread outside of the church. People need to know they can be vulnerable without being gossiped about five minutes later. It also means that we cannot judge others for things they are going through or things they have done. This change will not happen overnight. It will take time.
That actually brings us to the second thing we must do: be willing to invest in others. If this is going to work and if the Church is truly going to become a place for the broken, it is going to require time from people. Not just from those on the church staff but also those in the congregation. 2 Corinthians 9: 6-7 says, “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” We have to sow generously into others but we shouldn’t do this because we feel like we have to. We need to work on reorienting our hearts so that we want to be there for others. If we’re able to do this, we will be able to build a community of people who want to be there for the broken. One of the best ways we can do this is by creating and actively and consistently participating in small groups. Not only does this help stimulate the culture of belonging in the Church but it also creates specific, dedicated time to be open with others and to engage with one another in healthy ways.
It also means though that thirdly we must be genuine. If we are feeling great and life is going well, then let’s be honest about that and celebrate together. If we are feeling down and life isn’t going so well, then let’s be honest and support one another together. The only way this is going to work is if we take off our masks and say, “here I am.” This will only work if we are fully open with one another and the only way that will happen is if we create cultures of trust and are willing to invest our time.
I fully and freely admit I am not the best at this. I fully admit my flaws and how I have fed into this culture of needing to be “okay” on Sunday mornings. However, this doesn’t me that I or anyone else who has been a part of this culture can’t change. Imagine how much better the Church could be at fulfilling its role as a house of worship and a place for believers to love one another if we were able to accomplish this.
The church should be there for the broken. So let us here and now start making progress towards that goal. Let us not only do it for ourselves but also for the millions of people out there who are broken and need our love.