The church is not just four walls that religious people enter to worship. It's composed of all God's imperfect people who generally call themselves "Christians." It's not a place; it's a beautiful puddle of broken people searching for hope, redemption, and grace. This is how I will be defining "church" throughout this article.
Sometimes Christians forget where their sin left them and fall into pride. When this happens, people outside the church look in and see a religious sect full of religious people who are only taking applications for religious, put-together individuals to join.
This is the church's greatest downfall.
It, and myself, need to remember that we didn't redeem ourselves from our sin. By the saving grace of Jesus Christ, our sin and its penalty was nailed to a cross where it will stay defeated. We must transform into humbly broken people that open up their hearts to vulnerability so that when people look at the church they say, "Oh, we aren't so different."
In order to make this happen, we, as a church, have to start talking about the imperfect areas of our lives and leave our religion and pride at the altar. Jesus never told us to "Go, and be perfect." So why do we try so hard to be that?
My greatest desire is that the church can open it's heart to its own imperfections and that we can start talking about:
1. Mental illnesses
You might be surprised by the number of people affected by mental illnesses. Approximately every 1 in 25 people suffer from a mental illness. So in an average congregation size of 150, 6 people suffer from mental illness and probably more with anxiety and/or depression.
It's easy to think that time and a lot of prayer will "heal" them, but mental illnesses are tricky. They are persistent. Many people make the mistake too of equating them with faith. I made this mistake with a friend of mine who was struggling with severe anxiety. The person may be drowning in his/her own thoughts but this in no way means that they have stopped hearing God.
When I asked a friend about his own personal struggle with depression, he agreed that if people within the church were wiling to talk about the issue instead of putting a "band aid" on it, others might have revealed their own struggle with depression and been able to help him through his.
2. Sex and sexuality
Let me define sexuality here as involvement in sexual activity that is not sex. This could be alone or with someone else. Either way, it's not a comfortable topic that is passed around in the church. Here's why it needs to be, though: We all have this desire. It's something that was instilled in every one of us at creation, but was distorted by the curse. We need to know how to handle it and told that it doesn't define us or our walk with Christ.
Also, sex. I get that the church wants to scare teenagers and make them think sex is a terrible thing so they won't do it. But can we talk about how beautiful it is between two people who are madly in love and bound together by the commitment they made to God at the altar?
We tip toe around it, but we can't avoid it. Prejudice is still prevalent in our culture. The church tells us that all God's people are created equal, which is true, but the conversation about prejudice needs to be deeper than that.
We should be asking questions like: How can the church create diversification in the congregation? What are ways that we can build relationships with every people group in the community? How can we show people that we are all broken and in need of a Savior?
4. Faults within the church's beliefs that don't correlate with the Bible
Each denomination has its own set of beliefs that sets it apart from the others. When the church was dividing and forming different denominations, their interpretation of the Bible determined their beliefs. Unfortunately, we will never be able to look at the Bible with clear intentions and read it without inflicting our own agenda. Therefore, no one denomination will ever be correct.
What we should do instead of trying to prove why our belief system is "the right one", is have open conversations and challenge what the church is doing or where it is headed. We should pray for clear eyes and open hearts that allow us to see our imperfections.
5. Grey areas
Grey areas are parts of our lives like financing, nutrition, intimacy (all the things that aren't sex) before marriage, and social media, that aren't discussed in the Bible. Therefore, we are left with the struggle of applying Christian principles that are discussed in the Bible to these areas.
The even bigger problem is, though, that we don't sit down and openly talk about them because once we do, we have to release them to God. I'm sure many of us could also call our grey areas "freebies" since we don't feel directly pressured by Biblical instruction to make a change.
6. Broken families
With a 50% divorce rate, I have to ask myself why this isn't discussed more by the church. Every single person has been affected by divorce in some way. Divorce isn't the only criteria for a broken family, though. Many children are raised without fathers. Some families are intact but are physically or emotionally abusive.
It doesn't matter if the person is middle class, lower class, or upper class. Broken families happen to white people and black people. They affect people with a steady job and those struggling to survive. As with prejudice, it's prevalence necessitates our discussion. When people start talking, others speak up and they realize they aren't alone. We can help each other through tough times if we just say something.
DISCLAIMER: The purpose of this article was to prompt discussion. I in no way claim to know how to fix these issues. I do know that as we open ourselves up, God's light will shine into our discussion and our lives. My prayer is that the church becomes a safe place for broken people of all races and social economic statuses.