5 Uncomfortable Issues The Church Needs to Talk About

Tearing down a few taboos in the Body of Christ

It has been said that the Church is not a museum of saints, but a hospital for sinners. Yet, most of us would much rather pretend to be a saint on display than call for an ambulance.

Week after week, many of us walk into a church, sit by people we have known for years and yet would never dream of sharing our innermost struggles with. While a large part of this is our pride, another factor is a Church that seems unwilling to talk about certain uncomfortable issues, choosing rather to ignore them, try to cover them up or simply reject people who bring them up.

There are many issues the Church as a whole needs to address, such as creationism, activism, environmental stewardship and many others. But there are many more issues that individuals in the Church are dealing with—issues that the Church Body should be talking about. In Galatians 6:2, Paul urged the Church to "Bear each other's burdens," so maybe with more grace and love we can turn on the light in the darkened rooms of each other’s hearts and let our churches become safe havens for the uncomfortable things we have to deal with.

Many of these issues need to be dealt with professionally first. But that should not be the end of it. Research shows just listening to someone and showing them you genuinely care for their situation can be a huge part of that person's healing process.

This is far from a comprehensive list—these are a few of the issues many people in churches around the world are dealing with, whether they admit it or not. And as people increasingly leave the Church, often over issues such as these, it is becoming more urgent that the Church talk about how to care for every one of its members.

Addiction

At AA meetings and therapy sessions, talking about addiction makes sense, but for some reason, it's not a topic most church people want to hear about. Certain addictions are definitely more socially acceptable to talk about than others. For example, it's OK to bug Frank about his smoking, but John's alcoholism is more hush-hush.

And yes, in many churches, a person's addictions can become fodder for gossip. However, if the Church were to first approach one another as family, then addicts in the Church might feel safer to be vulnerable about their struggles. Often, they just need to be loved and feel safe enough to know they can expose this part of themselves in a community where the addiction isn't crushing them every second.

Sexuality

Sex and sexuality tends to be a loaded topic in the Church. Certain corners of the Church have been very vocal in their broad condemnation of premarital sex, but that's where the conversation (for lack of a better word) tends to stop. We rarely engage the topic of sex on a personal, individual level. There's a generally accepted idea floating around that, once two people are married, they enter into a carefree, blissful lifetime of sexual fulfillment that needs never be discussed in any meaningful way.

There are strong believers struggling with their sexual identity, brokenness and frustration in churches across the world, and among their Christian friends and families, they don't dare say a word about it.

I know of a few people in my life who love Christ and want to abstain from sin, but they are struggling with sexual sin or sinful desires. There are married couples for whom waiting to have sex turned out to be the easy part, as both parties brought into their marriage a series of expectations that turned out to be flawed. There are very few people they can share this with, but that also means they carry this burden alone. If many churches stopped treating sexual issues as a personal choice, where it could be turned on or off like a light-switch, then maybe we could start to create more safe places where people can share their burdens with each other and find out they're not alone.

Sincere Doubt

In many churches today, there are Christians, even pastors, who are struggling with doubt. They have absorbed all the recommended apologetics. They have cried out in prayer. They are struggling to believe that God is good or that He’s there at all, yet they continue with the motions. They put on the smile while setting up the coffee table. They mouth along to the words in the worship songs, but it all feels hollow to them. I know this because I’ve been one of these people.

One of the most vital ways the Church can handle doubt is to stop acting like everything about faith is obvious. The Church can recognize that we all have doubts from time to time, but we cling to a hope that's beyond rational explanation. Churches can also stop trying to hide the hard parts of the Bible under the rug or downplay the significance these ethically questionable parts play in a person's doubt.

Mental Illness

Those in our midst who deal with mental illness, either personally or second-hand, are typically silent about the struggles they experience. In our society, there still exist a lot of stereotypes about mental illness, and because people either don't want to deal with it or they've been hurt, they will choose to avoid opening up about it. The problem is, if these issues go untalked about, then they often will go unresolved.

In some churches, people who do reveal their illness will go without professional help in lieu of prayer. When prayer doesn't work, the person dealing with mental illness feels like a failure or like they don’t have enough faith. The Church needs to create an encouraging environment where people can be directed to right help and then receive spiritual healing alongside their physical healing.

Loneliness

There are droves of lonely people in the church, and that includes senior pastors and priests. The isolation comes from a lack of identification and identification comes through open communication. When we can be vulnerable and honest with one another, we understand each other in a profound way.

A lonely person may walk in to a church alone and leave alone each Sunday. Although they appreciate the free coffee and donuts the fellowship hall offers, what they really want is fellowship. Taking time to get to know the people around you and then reaching out to them outside of the church will allow for a greater, more stable community.

Of course, every church is different and while one church may be stronger in one area, it may be weaker in others. These are just a few issues that we as the Church Body need to be willing to address. And as we talk about them, we must remember to address them with humility, understanding and grace, keeping in mind our role as fellow hospital patients, not museum curators.

Top Comments

Tiffany Freeman

2

Tiffany Freeman commented…

The majority of my peers at the church I'd gone to through high school got married, and started having babies, quicker than usual as far as stats go. I and 2 other single ladies didn't feel like we really fit anymore after a couple years. Our pastors encouraged us in finding a better fit. Lots of college groups around - lots of colleges around. But then it's like we're supposed to get married next, and it's more difficult to find a group of young singles. That's what drew me to the rather large church I'm now a member of. With so many people going it's much easier to find people - peers - who are at the same point in our lives. Most Sundays we split into smaller groups for discussion and prayer, but fairly often we don't do much but the prayer part, sharing with each other.

50 Comments

Sherry Myers

1

Sherry Myers commented…

For people who feel lonely/isolated even in church: it's important that you reach out to others, join a small group Bible study, attend a morning prayer breakfast, join a men's fellowship, attend a mom's group, join the choir, help at a church workday, invite someone to lunch after church, etc. The people sitting around you on Sunday morning that you think do not reach out to you might themselves be new attendees, introverted, new believers, etc. and might be sitting there wondering why YOU don't make the first move. It's like the old saying, "To have a friend, you must BE a friend." Reach out, become part of the church community, make yourself known to the pastor(s) and office staff, add your name & address to the registry, be photographed in the next church directory, etc. There are a hundred ways to get connected, but if you wait for someone else to stumble upon you in the darkened back row, it might never happen. What sometimes happens in churches larger than several hundred people is that people don't know who is a newbie and who is a long-term member. Sometimes people are embarassed to reach out and say, "Are you new here?" When the embarrasing response might be, "No, I've been a member for 10 years." Also complicating things is when a church has multiple morning worship services, and people seem to pass like ships in the night. It's paramount to become connected.

Anna June Simpson

1

Anna June Simpson commented…

I suppose these issues don't come up in church because we all feel that if we are Christians then we must not have problems in life coz we have God. But it's so wrong, it's just we can deal with the situations differently.

Bev Koopman

1

Bev Koopman commented…

It's easy to say, "reach out," but it quickly becomes complicated because this level of intimacy comes with great responsibility. It's so easy to say, "I care," "God loves you," and so on. It's a little harder to begin to listen to someone else's concerns, which is good IF done without judgement shrouded as advice or expertise. But what we all crave is others to empathize because they are honest with themselves about their own frailty. To do this requires listening until we, too, feel the pain. That's empathy, and it is hard. Are we even capable of this in the setting of a large church? I'd love to be able to say yes to this, but I am not certain. Or is the purpose of the church to give us a forum to learn in ways that empowers us to find our way, with love and grace? Maybe others have found the answers to these questions, or are struggling, also.

Tiffany Freeman

2

Tiffany Freeman commented…

The majority of my peers at the church I'd gone to through high school got married, and started having babies, quicker than usual as far as stats go. I and 2 other single ladies didn't feel like we really fit anymore after a couple years. Our pastors encouraged us in finding a better fit. Lots of college groups around - lots of colleges around. But then it's like we're supposed to get married next, and it's more difficult to find a group of young singles. That's what drew me to the rather large church I'm now a member of. With so many people going it's much easier to find people - peers - who are at the same point in our lives. Most Sundays we split into smaller groups for discussion and prayer, but fairly often we don't do much but the prayer part, sharing with each other.

Jessica Murphy

1

Jessica Murphy commented…

I agree these issues DO need to be addressed in the church. Absolutely we are the body of Christ but we are completely ignoring issues in our body. If something is wrong with us physically we automatically have other body parts aide in easing the hurting part. Why don't we respond the same as Christ's body?
We are instructed to confess our sins one to another so we may be healed & free. !!! It is no wonder why the church is so sick & in bondage we aren't following the instructions for freedom we were given.
The thing that bothers me most is we are the church. It is our God given assignment to be a light and helping hand in this world. We are suppose to be the ones feeding the hungry, meeting the needs of the poor, healing the sick & providing the answer of God's love to everyone we meet. However far too often we are not only turning the lost away but we as the church are farming our hurting body parts off to the government or science, medicine, & psychology for answers. We have the power of God at our finger tips & EVERY answer ever needed written out for us in the Bible. It is time we stop being afraid & skirting around these issues in our lives so we can start helping those outside our walls now & into the millennium.
This is happening through www.iamchanged.com I am very excited about the change I see through them & this article. Brings hope for us as a body & the world.

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