It’s not safe at church.fake_mos_052114122031

I’m a pastor, a churchman, a committed ally of the body of Christ on earth we call the church. I spend my days tending to the church, the bride of Christ. I cry with her and laugh with her. I nurture her and grow her. I marry her and bury her. I pray with her and for her and over her and around her. She is my calling. She is my passion. She is my life. But I have learned something quite tragic about her.

It’s not safe at church.

The sad truth is that it is safer at an AA meeting than it is at church. It is safer to be yourself at an AA meeting. It is safer to make mistakes at an AA meeting.  It is safer to be flawed at an AA meeting. The entire premise of AA is that everyone there is messed up, so nobody bothers trying to pretend they aren’t. Those who do are called on the carpet immediately. A lot of junk is tolerated at an AA meeting, but not faking it. At AA it is safe to be completely transparent in all of one’s dysfunctional glory because that’s kind of what AA is all about. It is safe at AA.

It’s not safe at church.

Church has expectations. We have boundaries. We have standards. We value holiness and righteousness and godliness and perfection. We reject the ways of this world and strive for the ways of the divine. We want people to mature and develop and become spiritual thinkers. We have in our minds an image of the ideal American Christian and those who become part of us must conform to the mold. And that is why…

It’s not safe at church.

And we all know it. That’s why we tell everyone we’re “fine” when they ask how we are. That’s why we smile and shake hands and talk about things that don’t matter. That’s why the preacher won’t tell you what he’s really struggling with. That’s why we aren’t specific about our sin. That’s why we avoid accountability and anything that resembles a deep, meaningful relationship. That’s why we don’t talk too much in small group. That’s why we keep it all about the learning (head) and avoid the sharing (heart). That’s why we hide behind clichés and catch-phrases. Indeed we all know that…

It’s not safe at church.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. We can decide to be different at church. We can accept people despite their flaws. We can value the journey toward holiness more than the destination. We can encourage people toward Christ and let God worry about their maturity challenges. We can break the mold that defines our assumptions about how people “ought” to be. We can confess our flaws and reject the notion that any of us has it all together. And we can love, really love, without conditions.

We can make it safe at church.

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