Churches and pastors have a weird way of avoiding issues that people deal with for fear of the uncomfortableness that comes with them. Many churches have become a place where people doll themselves up with nice clothes and act like everything is alright on a Sunday morning when their lives are actually falling apart. We’ve become afraid to talk about issues that effect most people and instead talk about things that most people don’t have questions about. Nobody is asking whether you are pre-trib or post-trib, reformed or not, or whether you teach exegetically through the Bible. While these are fine topics for a small-group Bible study, they are not questions that people are asking in their everyday lives.
Instead, the Church needs to answer the questions that real people are asking. The following four things are uncomfortable, yes, but they affect everyone and everyone has questions about them. It’s time to embrace the awkward.
Ah yes, everyone just loves when a church talks about money. “Those swindling pastors,” people say. “All they’re after is my money!” This thinking has been furthered by the guys on TV who tell us that if we “sow a seed of faithfulness” into their network, God will in turn bless us beyond belief (probably with a new Mercedes in the driveway when we get home). Yet, the Bible has more to say about money than prayer and faith combined, and it’s mentioned directly more than 800 times. It has to be important, right?
And it is. According to Dave Ramsey, 37% of marital problems stem from financial situations. 70% of all consumers live paycheck to paycheck (meaning they run out of money before the end of the month). In 2013, the average American household held $15, 270 in credit card debt. This is a serious issue and it needs to be talked about!
Jesus said that the top competitor for our heart is money (Matthew 6:24). Jesus is the ultimate giver, and we can’t out-give him (Acts 20:35). Jesus said in Colossians 1:17 that in Him all things hold together. So if Jesus isn’t first in your finances and your finances are falling apart, ask yourself where your priorities are. But perhaps the strongest argument for giving is this: when wars and famines spread, civilization collapses, and the Earth fades away, the Church will still be here, and that’s the strongest return on investment I can think of.
Depression / Mental Illness
The people around us who struggle with mental illnesses or depression are usually quiet about what is affecting them out of fear of embarrassment. There’s still a strong stigma in society surrounding mental illnesses, but when they go untalked about and ignored, the problem is not resolved and sometimes gets worse. Professional help is a valuable thing, and churches need to create an environment where people are comfortable talking about their depression or mental illness and receive help finding help.
Why is it that it is fine to talk about addictions at an AA meeting but not at church? And this isn’t just limited to alcohol; smoking, food, porn, gambling, shopping, and illegal drugs are others, among many more. Sadly, in many churches, someone’s addiction becomes prime real estate for gossip. It’s far more socially acceptable to talk about David’s smoking addiction but Sam’s porn addiction is off limits. This contributes to an environment where discussing these issues as a church family is discouraged and people keep their problems to themselves. What the Church should be doing is the exact opposite; creating a place where people are encouraged to talk about and seek help for their struggles, because we all have them.
You knew this one was coming. There is perhaps not a more loaded topic in the Church today, but the Bible is full of sex. In fact, there is a whole book about it. In the right context, it is a gift from God. But the Church has become known for yelling about premarital sex and just leaving it there. What matters is the why behind all of the rules. Why is it better to wait until you are married? Why is it reserved for one man and one woman, an no other combination? On a lot of issues, the Church has become better known for the things it is against rather than the things it is for. Sex is one of them, and it is something that we need to fix.