One of the many things I love about Awaken may sound odd when I first tell you, but I’ll explain.
I love that Awaken is a place that when I ask people how they’re doing, sometimes someone will look at me straight in the eyes and say, “I’m not doing very well at all. In fact, things are really bad right now.” It’s happened more than once, and I’m glad it has.
Let me explain why that’s a good thing.
If we’ve created a church environment where people feel like they have to slap a fake smile on their face and pretend like everything is ok in their lives, we’re not doing what we’re called to do. The Church is designed to be a place where we share one another’s burdens (see Galatians 6). How can we allow others to help us through our pain if we don’t feel the liberty to let people know we’re in pain?
Awaken is a place of honesty. We’re far from perfect, but we’re working on it. Here are a couple things I’ve learned about creating a culture of honesty in a church…
For people to be honest, they have to have people they trust and places they can have honest conversations. Counseling meetings are fine, but community is better. Creating outlets (like small groups) where people learn to trust each other, be open about their problems, and help each other out is of vital importance. Train your leaders to be real, and in turn the people in their groups and on their teams will learn to be real.
You can’t expect anyone else to be honest if the leader of the church isn’t willing to be. It’s tough to be honest from the pulpit though. “Will they listen to anything I say if I confess that sin?” “Will they lose respect for me if I admit that weakness?” What I’ve found is that people will actual lean in to listen more intently and will respect you even more when they realize you’re a human with problems just like them! Don’t be scared to admit that. You may think you have people fooled, but believe me: they know you’re a sinner! Don’t be scared to admit that!
Many churches lack honesty because they’re too scared to talk about honest subjects. Pornography. Adultery. Abortion. Homosexuality. Laziness. Consumerism. There are many problems like these that are polluting our culture – inside and outside of the church. So why are we not talking about them? After all, if we believe that God’s Word is what it says it is, and is able to perfect us and equip us for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17), let’s preach like that’s true! Don’t fall for the lie that people just want hugs and high fives at church. Some people won’t like the truth, but most people are hungry for it.
1 Peter 3:7 says that husbands and wives are both “heirs of the grace of life.” Married or not, we all need grace. Every one of us: worship leaders, pastors, kids ministry teachers, greeters, parking lot personnel, cameramen… You get the point. As the pastor/ministry leader/worship leader, don’t act like you’re untouchable. Take heed lest you fall too (1 Cor 10:12). Confess your need for grace. It will level the playing field. After all, isn’t that what the cross does?
Want people to feel comfortable approaching you with questions or for prayer? Help them understand that you’re a person with weaknesses and struggles just like they are. It’s hard to approach someone who is disconnected and seems to never struggle or have problems. Honesty breeds approachability. Everyone within a church should be approachable because confessing sins to each other is the Bible’s prescribed method of healing (James 5:16).
We beat sin and overcome temptation by confessing our sin to God for forgiveness (1 John 1:9) and to each other for healing (James 5:16). He who conceals his sin will never prosper. Honesty is always the stepping stone to accountability. We don’t want people just talking about their sin, but we want people to battle sin alongside each other. The only way this accountability will ever take place is if we can be real with each other.