Do We Want An Honest Church? (Part 2)

scale.jpgI am still thinking about the idea of experiencing a church that practices more honesty.  Thanks for your comments yesterday.  What you said was helpful and caused me to give more thought to this. 

 

As I think about the question "Do We Want An Honest Church," I wonder what the implications are for individual believers?  Here are a few examples of situations that are not all that unusual:

 

  • A couple is a part of a church for over five years.  They are very involved in the life of that church.  One week they vanish only to never return to that church.  No explanation given.  Just gone.
  • A very tender hearted man has such a passion to help and serve the poor, yet in the late evenings he is glued to his computer watching the pornography that he has downloaded.
  • A family has been very vocal about their displeasure over a new building project the church has taken on.  While expressing their opinion very strongly, they have baffled a number of families in the church.  They are baffled because this family has borrowed money from them (from a number of different families) and now refuses to repay this debt.  To these families, this seems very inconsistent.
  • A woman lives with memories of physical and sexual abuse brought on by a relative who is still a very "involved" member of his church.  The abuse has never been revealed.
  • A family who has been a part of a church for many years never talks about their son.  He has a long drug history.  In their words, "The people at our church would not understand such a thing."  In other words, they can’t be honest.
  • A church leader is vocal within the church about the need for the church to be loving.  Yet, he is widely known at the plant where he works as being lazy to the point of causing a hardship on his co-workers.

All of these situations could probably use a very healthy (better yet, "godly") dose of honesty.  But let me move ahead with this a bit.  

 

What does a healthy church look like?  What is a church like that lives and breathes honesty?  I really want to lean in a practical direction here.  What do you see or experience in such a community?  I really value your ideas and suggestions on this one.  As I think about this, it seems to me that an honest church is a place…


  • Where men and women attempt to see themselves as God sees them rather than live with false notions about themselves.  That is, they tell themselves the truth.
  • Where men and women tell the truth to one another as they describe the realities of God, the Bible, life, and the life of the church.
  • Where men and women confess sin regularly and often. Where confession is not reserved for the scandalous behaviors but is a regular part of prayer and life in the body of Christ.  They tell God the truth.
  • Where men and women simply deal with life as it is instead of trying to manipulate others and putting a positive spin on the mess we are in.
  • Where authenticity is not measured by whether or not one gets an A or B in their "Christian performance" for the week.  Rather, authenticity comes from the heart of a person who wants to become like Jesus.
  • Where men and women can find a friend who will love them, listen to them, and tell them the truth even if it isn’t what we want to hear.

What would you add to this list?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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11 thoughts on “Do We Want An Honest Church? (Part 2)

  1. An honest church is:- a place where the pastor is bivocational because there are so few members.- a place where it is easy to find a parking place even when you’re running late.- almost an oxymoron these days.- one that invites and anticipates persecution.- a church that stands to lose its tax-free status. –  one I yearn for and fear at the same time.

  2. I think an open, honest church is one that does not have members who use prayer requests as fodder for gossip. Too many times, what is spoken in an open, vulnerable moment ends up spread like wildfire instead of dealt with in a respectful, loving way. I think that is one reason people are are afraid to be too honest in a setting that should be open.
    And then there are those that are sure that everyone else at their church has it all "figured out". These are the ones afraid to admit anything is wrong for fear of being the only ones with such problems.
    Is there anyone that fails, is there anyone that falls? Am I the only one in church today feelin’ so small? ‘Cause when I take a look around everybody seems so strong. I know they’ll soon discover that I don’t belong.      Stained Glass Masquerade by Casting Crowns

  3. Jim – just had to amen your thoughts yesterday and today on an honest and authentic church.  I have witnessed the "dishonesty" that occurs in so many churches, and despaired – not that it occurred, but that it was accepted and taken for granted as "just the way things are." 
    Thanks for the great thoughts.

  4. An honest church is a church that makes the sermon on the mount a lifestyle. A church were vulnerability and acceptance are held in the right and left hand.

    A place of grace and truth. A place were we live daily dying to self and resting our faith in the risen Christ.

    A place we were embrace the idea of being “sinners and saints.”

    in one peace

  5. Jim,
    I’ll take my abstract hat off for a moment and offer up a few practical thoughts. 
    It seems to me that honesty is dependent upon small communities.  That is, the sort of intimacy necessary to honest relationship is probably not possible in a huge group.  Appreciating the need for honesty, healthy chuches nurture small groups/house churches/simple churches as a way for people to be together.  And then great care must be taken to make sure that the groups work toward unmasking.  It can’t happen without the Spirit, and in my experience it will only happen in those churches where there’s much patience.  I can’t pull the other persons mask off, but by grace and a bit of spiritual sensitivity, God will use His people to cultivate an atmosphere where one slowly peels unreality away, so that the true face shines.  If our worship is God-centered we’ll create a craving for honesty that will finally be satisfied in appropriate settings. 
    As a practice, I’d recommend centering prayer so that everyone learns to experience what it feels like to be known by God with extreme intensity.  It’s sort of like standing before the burning bush, but without words.
    And, I’d recommend that groups learn to say intimate and honest things about each other.  I’ve been in groups where we’ve spent an entire evening going around the room, allowing each person to say something lovely about each other.  Our love language is so thin due to a lack of use that we need to practice.  There’s something dynamic about those experiences (which are always tearful), and they typically lead to people feeling safe enough to begin to crack the shell.  We thrive off of grace, and giving it in carefully crafted words has a godly effect and cultivates richer community.  At least that’s been my experience. 
    The intimate details of a persons life are like a bobcat–scared of people and rarely seen.  The best way to spend time with a bobcat would be to become a bobcat.  We have to model the behavior that we hope to encounter in others.  We have to take the risk of being known.
    Ben

  6. Hi Jim, In my own Christian experience, I have found I can only live openly, honestly, and with a loving vulnerability…all spiritual gifts…when I am "crucified with Christ". Then, as Paul said, "it is not longer I who live, but Christ in me". This is the life of faith that sees itself abiding at the cross with Christ. In beholding him we see the perfect balance of judgement against the pride that resist God and the love God has for his proud enemies. When my heart is broken with a sense of his love and mercy for me, I am free to be his servant, with these qualities of his spirit. Of course, the opposite is true. If I resist taking up my cross daily in the crucifixion of self in him, then my sinful nature dominates and whatever yesterday was, I find I quickly slip back into deceptive, artificial ways of living with God and others. The cross is the key to all spiritual life and growth. There is no greater light in understanding these spiritual mysteries of God.

  7. Jim, Glad you continued this thought. And great comments by everyone else, for sure. I want to raise a question for consideration: Does the role or identity (purpose?) of a church as a whole play a part in the discussion of honesty?If a church is not reaching the poor, the unsaved, the downtrodden in their community and the world, can their congregation truly foster openness and honesty? If a church is not nurturing and equipping its members, can it know or even recognize honesty? If a church is not salt and light in their community and world, is honesty something that is even valued?I don’t know the answer. Maybe the Spirit still works within such situations to bring members together. Sadly, I could name four or five churches in my city that fit this bill. I wonder if there is honest within their walls? 

  8. I’ve been wrestling with this topic since yesterday’s post.  On one hand, I believe wholeheartedly in  authenticity (the concept).  On the other, I know a few persons in the community of faith I am a part of who both, gossip in the form of prayer requests, and remember the struggles of others in mean-spirited ways.  I wouldn’t encourage folks to be terribly vulnerable in that setting.  But, as Ben suggested, in a small group of trusted, loving friends… that’s different.  

  9. Thanks to all you who made comments on this particular post.  I read each one of your comments carefully.  You have helped me greatly in thinking through this.  I have a passion for seeing the body of Christ become more authentic.  It is sad when we fail to live out the presence of Jesus in the life of the Church.  This should make such a difference in our relationships, etc.I am grappling with what that looks like in a practical way–in our lives together.I really want to commend some of the practical suggestions Ben made in his comment.  I read through the comments which everyone made and then read through Ben’s comment again.  There is much in what he said that can help us all.  Again, thanks so much for what each one of you said. 

  10. Julie,Your words are helpful.  I think some of us struggle with this because we have witnessed gossip, unloving remarks made about others, etc.  Consequently, even the idea of "honesty" in such an environment seems unsafe and unwise.At the same time, I want to hold on to a vision of honesty and authenticity in the life of the church.  As Ben suggested, that probably best begins with a few–small—homes, etc.Again, thanks for expressing this.