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Churches more interested in being right than honest

Let me begin by saying thank you to many of you who, having read yesterday’s blog, prayed for Leah’s healing. I’ll let you know how God answers your prayers.    Sharing that kind of tender issue used to be harder for me, but it’s gotten easier as I’ve found that the church (that’s …
By Seth Barnes
Let me begin by saying thank you to many of you who, having read
yesterday’s blog, prayed for Leah’s healing. I’ll let you know how God answers your prayers. 
 
Sharing that kind of tender issue
used to be harder for me, but it’s gotten easier as I’ve found that the church (that’s you) so often lifts me up in response. In fact, I find that’s when I most love the church; it’s when I’m most filled with hope about the fact that love does indeed win out in the end.
 
Sadly, it’s not the experience most people have with the institutional church. Too many grow disenchanted and leave. For example, this guy Matt Russell, having graduated from seminary, spent nine months interviewing people who had left the church. He would call them and say: “My intention is not to invite you back to church; I want to hear what happened, how you felt, and what you wish
was different. Will you just come and tell me your story?”
 
The responses were fascinating and led Russell to start a ministry for people in recovery.  He wrote an article about it for leadership journal. I’ve excerpted it below :

Through these interviews, I came to see a distinct
pattern. Most people left church not because they had a deep
theological problem with something like the virgin birth or the
resurrection of Christ. They left because people in church have the
tendency to be small and mean and couldn’t deal honestly with their own
sin or the sin of others. As one man put it, “People in the church were
more invested in the process of being right than in the process of
being honest.”

One of the main populations I interviewed was people
who were in all types of recovery: from drugs, alcohol, sex addiction,
eating disorders, gambling. Their interviews were full of stories of
chronic behaviors that persisted despite confession, church attendance,
small group participation, and Bible study. Many felt that their
ministry leaders expected their behaviors to change as a result of
prayer and participating in church activities. But that just wasn’t the
case.

As one person told me, “Just because you shellac a bunch of Jesus over your life doesn’t make it right.”

After nine months, I had conducted more than 70
interviews. I invited 30 of those people to a dinner to share with them
what I had heard and learned.

During dinner I asked, “What if we became the answer to
these problems? What if we formed a community that’s honest, that
welcomes those who feel disconnected and spiritually homeless?” These
people responded that they wanted to be part of creating a church that
would welcome those in recovery, where they could be vulnerable with
each other as a way of growing spiritually.

In the past, these individuals had to step away from
honest vulnerability in order to fit acceptability standards in the
church. Some did it for a while, until they could no longer keep the
masks in place and their addictive processes at bay. These people had
been in the church for a long time but felt like they could never get
honest when they talked with their pastor or small group leader.
So here’s my takeaway: a) Churches need to ask “Are we more interested in being right than in being honest?” and repent if the answer is “Yes.” b) Churches need to look a lot more like recovery groups.

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