Let’s Get Real: Transforming the Culture of Silence in the Church
MARCH 12, 2020
The recent LifeWay Research report on divorce sends a loud and profound statement that there is a damaging culture of silence prevalent in far too many churches.
This silence, as the research indicates, is having a negative impact on marriages, but also on the overall health of the church as a whole. So now that this problem has been identified, how do ministry leaders go about transforming the culture so that the healing promised in James 5:16 becomes the norm and not the exception?
Saved by Faith, Sanctified by Sweat
The culture of silence in today’s church is a result of believing some form of the lie that “God loves us when we do good and He is disappointed when we do bad.”
No matter what an individual says they believe, the practical theology of the majority in the pew is that we are saved by faith and God’s unmerited favor, but then our sanctification and ongoing Christian life is one of good choices and godly behavior in order to demonstrate to God how thankful we are for the gift of salvation.
In this environment, the measuring stick of how well we are performing is a constant comparison of ourselves to other believers.
As a result, we cover up weakness and imperfection with a mask of strength and competence and show up in our Sunday best for worship striving to convince everyone around us that we have it all together.
Deep down, however, we know it is a charade. We look around at others on an average Sunday morning and compare our worst with everyone else’s highlight reel and the enemy — the accuser — asks mockingly, “Why can’t you be like them? You’re a fraud.”
And we go home and simply try harder to make next week different.
Strength to be Weak
The hope and help that many find in various recovery communities starts with the fact that everyone in attendance has admitted their problem and, as a result, can connect authentically with others around that particular issue. Unfortunately in many churches the opposite is often true.
Rather than the church being a place where broken sinners authentically connect with and effectively minister to one another, most of our time and energy is spent covering up or otherwise denying that we have any problems at all.
If we are going to transform the culture of silence within the church, we must intentionally work to create a culture where it is OK to not be OK.
Consider the apostle Paul’s attitude toward his own weaknesses in his second letter to the Church at Corinth:
“If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness” (2 Cor. 11:30).
“On behalf of this man I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses” (2 Cor. 12:5).
“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Cor. 12:9).
Do our churches encourage boasting in weakness or impressing with strength?
The Law sets a high standard — perfection — and it’s purpose is to help us and those within our congregation see and fully understand our desperate need for Christ and His amazing grace.
But if our churches are simply touting the standards of the Law without pointing individuals to the finished work of Christ, we are often guilty of turning prodigals into rule-following elder brothers who are proud of their self-effort and willpower.
In this culture, healing community is impossible because we become so busy striving and comparing our strengths instead of being honest and vulnerable about what is really going on.
Some Questions to Ask:
How does my church address present-tense sin in a believer’s life? Do we only address sin in the past tense as if it was only real before we became a Christian?
Is my church a safe place for individuals to talk about weaknesses?
As a minister, do I lead from a place of weakness or give the impression that I never struggle?