Last week, my friend Amy Brown stepped in as a guest blogger.
Next in the lineup of guests, is my lovely wife Andrea. You’re in for a treat, since she’s the real writer in the family. Andrea is currently writing her second novel, and seeking a publisher for the first one, “Gracing David”.
I saw Christian comedienne Chonda Pierce speaking on TV last week about her stay in a mental institution for depression. She had my attention as soon as she started speaking because I admired her guts in sharing her personal struggles. But, then she said something that completely floored me.
Chonda said that she spent 47 years in the church, but never experienced authentic Christian community until she entered the institution. What? She explained that a beautiful thing happened three times a day when the patients gathered for “group” time. They would go around the circle and tell why they were there and how they were progressing in their treatment. A 19-year-old told the group he was there after trying to kill himself by swallowing 150 pills. He had come out as a homosexual to his church family. He received nothing but condemnation and disgust. Another man shared how he had tried to hang himself because he was in a deep depression and felt burdened by too many responsibilities. Turns out he was a pastor and hung himself in his church.
In the group, they found acceptance they didn’t find in their home churches. How sad!But, I’ve seen too many churches act like theirs. It’s no wonder so many churches are dying. They don’t want people with problems. But, every unchurched person has them. And, so does every churched member! We have to start acting more like a hospital – even a mental hospital – or the church will continue to decline.
We have to be a safe place to fall. If someone has a struggle, church should be the first place they turn to. I feel like one of the first things we have to do to provide such a setting is to share our own struggles. Our church does a great job sharing people’s stories on Sunday mornings. The pastors often introduce us to someone who experienced something difficult. We hear how God made a difference in their lives. These stories always inspire me.
But, I’ve never seen someone get up there and say “I’m Steve. I drank four beers before coming to church this morning. I’ve been drinking way too much. I’m not sure whether I’m ready to get help yet, but I’d like you to pray for me.” Why not?
I’m guessing we couldn’t find anyone willing to get up and say anything like that. And, the stage probably isn’t the right place for that statement. But, I would argue we should have all kinds of one-on-one conversations happening where people are sharing authentically. Small groups should be hearing those kinds of things.
In order for that to happen, we all have to be more willing to share our current struggles. We need to say to our friends, pastors and small group members, “I can’t stop smoking. I feel suicidal. I am having an affair. I gossiped way too much this week.” Hopefully we won’t need to say all of those this week, but we need to share whatever is happening.
I know I’ve had many difficulties that I didn’t share with anyone at church immediately. I was embarrassed. I was afraid they would judge me. I didn’t want to be a prayer hog. But, I’m learning that we need to share our struggles and do all we can to help others struggling. It may be messy. We will have to deal with controversy and hurt. But, I believe it’s God’s will, and I’m going to start acting like I’m in a mental institution.
Will you, too?