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Real Churches

Real Churches

There is a need in our culture—a spiritual need. The longing for a spiritual connection with others is often overlooked through programs and other kinds of challenges to become better people—better Christians, only to leave us still empty.

In Scripture, people are compared to sheep and the pastor as the shepherd. While some have disliked the comparison of themselves to sheep, I see the comparison as beautifully descriptive of our nature. All of us are needy. We require constant nurturing and guidance. That’s not a bad thing. There’s a part of me that hates that though. I don’t want to desperately long for a connection with someone only to be disappointed and shattered when they fail or reject me. I want to protect myself from that. And there are numerous ways we can protect ourselves and hide—even in the Church.

We can keep ourselves as a distance and not even be aware of it. Being active in the Church can actually provide a “safe” place to hide. I hid there for many years. Talking on a “church-talk” level is very different than talking to someone on a person-to-person level. Here’s an example of what I call “church-talk”:

“Oh, Lisa, isn’t God good?”

“Yes, Marcia, God is good all the time.”

“How, has your week been?”

“We’ve had a few bumps in the road, but we’re doing well.”

“I’m glad to hear that. God is so faithful.”

That conversation leaves me so empty. There has been absolutely no connection between the two women.

Here’s an example of a conversation with a person-to-person level:

“Hi Lisa!”

“Hi Marcia.”

“How has your week been?”

“We’ve had a few bumps in the road, but we’re doing well.”

“Lisa, if you ever need someone to just listen, I’m available.”

What an invitation! What a beginning of a connection that could minister into the deep longing of a weary and wounded soul.

The use of platitudes and clichés in church language, like in the first example, leaves me frustrated. There are times I don’t think God is very good—but can I dare admit that? Who can we trust those deep inner struggles with? I’m pretty sure it won’t be shared with the “church-talk” level communicator.

One Sunday morning during worship, in the midst of our most tumultuous parenting years, the worship leader started leading out in the song, “It Is Well With My Soul.” I stood there with tears streaming down my face, unable to sing those words. It was not well with my soul. I was a mess. There have been other times in my life where things have been difficult, and I could find a way to sing those words, but that morning it was not there. As I discussed that situation with someone later; they made the comment, “Wouldn’t it have been wonderful if the worship leader would have made a comment prior to the song, admitting that there are times in all of our lives when we just can’t sing those words, and that’s okay.” Isn’t that the most real thing we could offer one another? To offer hope and reality.

Church-talk level communication really offers a false hope, a fantasy. It’s not reality. Realty is feeling the pain and the disappointments. Person-to-person communication offers us the freedom to tell each other when the pain is real.

I think about Jesus in the garden. Praying and crying. His pain was real. He didn’t sing and shout, “Oh, God you are so good to me!” He was real, He said, “Wait a minute, is there another way we can do this? This is unbearable.” And then, if that weren’t enough, He finds His support system let Him down. They fall asleep when He needed their prayers the most—and He lets them know about it.

That is reality. That is something I have found so rare in churches. My husband’s career has led us to many states, which put us in many churches. We have sought for this reality in many different denominations and have found that this is not dependent on the denomination, but on the freedom within the individual church for people to live Christianity honestly.

It’s not another program, super-worship service or revival we need. What we need is a simple place where people are free to be real.

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