We all have questions and doubts. But what if our questions are not safe for Church? Are there alternatives for dealing with our struggles?
So this idea came to me randomly the other day. I was thinking about wordplay and different ideas for some topics for the show. “Not Safe For Church” randomly came to me and I immediately jotted it down in my notes.
I don’t know where this idea came from but it’s interesting that there are topics that aren’t safe for Church. When you have signs that say “Welcome Home” or “You Belong Here”, you would think that includes open communication and a safe place to talk about your questions and struggles. But it doesn’t always mean that.
Now, that’s not to say that there aren’t churches or small groups out there who are accepting of others, because there are. There are indeed conversations about anything everything involving Faith, Religion, Politics, God, Faith, Church, Science, Community, etc. and from pretty neat perspectives as well. But it doesn’t always look like it should.
People Don’t Like to Admit When They’re Wrong
I mean, if churches are to be accepting of others and loving people where they’re at, we sure do pick apart people and cast them out when they don’t conform. Newsflash: if people are already struggling with what they believe in, they won’t take kindly to people belittling them and forcing them into their religious structures. And that goes for any idea, not just Christianity.
The truth is, we do a lot of talking about people behind their backs (and often to their faces) for people who believe in the person who invented grace and mercy. We shout from the rooftops that we are to love our neighbor but why do so many people find Christians hypocritical? Of course, people are messy and broken. Yes, even the holier than though Christians struggle with real-world issues too, just most of them won’t admit it. People don’t like to admit when they’re wrong.
I dream of a Church where no topic is unturned and thrown general, out of context scripture because they don’t actually know how to answer. I would much rather have someone look me in the eye and tell me they don’t know why bad things happen to good people than try to lie to me and say it’s within God’s will and throw me 50 scriptures of why God wants us to fail and struggle. Also newsflash: that’s not part of God’s will. He doesn’t want you to suffer so if someone is telling you that God wanted you to suffer so that you would trust Him, that’s not God.
What Topics Are Not Safe For Church?
As I was writing this blog post, I was thinking about the different ideas and topics that aren’t safe for church. Generally speaking, most churches aren’t fully equipped to handle both the spiritual side and the emotional side of things. Yes, spirituality is real and can cause a major shift on either side. However, there are other areas of expertise to understand as well.
Sure, pastors and those in leadership are capable of sharing their idea of what solid living looks like and how to pray for specific areas of life. However, most pastors and churches are able to handle members of the congregation who struggle with things like, mental illness, abuse and trauma, homosexuality, etc. And that’s not a fault on pastoral staff.
They went to school for theology and bible knowledge and (hopefully) a better understanding of who God is. But they weren’t medically trained to handle people with personality disorders or people who are victims of abusive relationships. And that’s okay. There is nothing that says pastoral staff should have to undergo that kind of education. However, churches get it wrong when they assume that praying hard and reading the Bible everyday is an automatic cure.
Does Church Have Its Place?
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pray for healing and restoration. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t seek spiritual advice and trust people in leadership. I am a firm believer in community and understanding who God is. If that looks like a Church building on a Sunday morning, then by all means, continue to do that. But there are other aspects of what embody you as a person than just spiritual. There is power in spirituality and divine authority, but there are other, viable resources to pursue.
There may be topics that are not safe for church because we are not fully equipped to handle such topics. But, that doesn’t mean Church doesn’t have its place. There is something divinely special and unique about fellow believers coming together. There is beauty in deepening your relationship with God and loving your neighbor.
Church Can Be A Safe Place, But Its Not The Only Safe Place
The truth is, there is a myriad of topics that are not “safe” for church. People wrestle with ideas they aren’t able to fully comprehend. Going to Church isn’t going to fix all your problems. If you have a mental illness, it’s great to know you’re not alone. But there are more highly skilled and equipped people to help you through that trauma. If you struggle with abuse and trauma, it’s great to come together. It’s powerful to have people pray over you and the situation. But there are also other places and programs to adequately help give you the full attention and understanding that you need.
So, yes. There may be topics that are not safe for Church but that doesn’t mean Church can’t be a safe place. Sometimes our struggles are a whole lot bigger than if we prayed or not. In fact, it’s absolutely, 100% okay if you opt to seek alternatives to Church. Our toughest struggles in life aren’t always the spiritual ones.
Stay if you can, leave if you must.David Hayward, Naked Pastor
This week, Cody and I are sitting with Seth Price, host of Can I Say This At Church? to talk about these different issues and to have better conversations. One of my favorite parts about this conversation is the authenticity that Seth embodies. We talk about how to truly listen to other people. We’re shouldn’t listen to argue our perspectives but to better understand each other. You can find this week’s episode here.