- Time for REAL: From a culture of secrecy to a culture of authenticity
From a culture of secrecy to a culture of authenticity.
According to a study, in Hispanic churches, 68% of the church members have been abused. That is a lot of pain sitting in the pews. Yet, abuse is one of those topics that is seldom talked about. Just pretending it does not exist, does not make it better. I have found that many are reluctant deal openly with those types of issues. Sensitive issues are hard to deal with, but it’s necessary. It’s important to be real, not just speak about the ideal. As a solution for this problem I am suggesting the following:
a. Become vulnerable. At the risk of being misunderstood, make it a point of sharing your personal journey. Present the real as well as the ideal. We all have issues, and when we share how God is dealing with us in the midst of our issues, it helps people identify with us. Even though we are all different, there are common experiences that we can all relate to. Pain, loss, sin, health, and family are some of those experiences. It is interesting to realize how similar we all are.
b. Begin small groups. I am a big fan of small groups, preferring evangelistic small groups. That being said, there is nothing more evangelistic that for a pre-Adventist to see authenticity in action. I believe that happens best at the small group. Small groups help us to know and be known in a small enough venue where we can be vulnerable, yet large enough that there less pressure to share.
c. Bring people along slowly. Since authenticity is a foreign concept for a significant portion of people, take your time as you go through this process. Realizing you are in a safe place, with a non-judgmental people surrounding you takes time. Rushing into it, will actually bring the opposite of the desired results. Let new people adjust to this new reality before asking them to share extensively about themselves.
d. Brag on God through personal testimonies. Since the process might be new for many, it is important to keep before the congregation the work God is doing in the lives of people. Don’t underestimate the power of a personal story. I am amazed about why we don’t use it more often. Advertising experts know that product placement works best when it is accompanied by real life people that are using, benefiting, and sharing the benefits of the product with others. It pleases God when we brag on Him, in a positive way. With antagonism towards the church at an all time high, personal testimonies of God’s work are very effective in breaking down barriers. It is much easier to argue about theology than to refute the real story of a real person, changing in a real way.
e. Build community support. Invite organizations that have purposes akin to yours. We need to be cautious about who we bring in, and what their agenda is, but we have to realize that we did not invent the wheel. There are community and religious organizations that have been doing at least some of what you are doing, usually for a longer period of time. In an event at the Hillsboro church, we invited several organizations to participate, including a local Christian college counseling department as well as representatives from the local hospital and police department. Just their exposure to our church ministries, opened many doors. We got five hundred teddy bears, a grant for food, free cholesterol screening, more than forty computers for a lab, all free of charge.
A story that I read a long time ago, talks about a thief that goes in a store in the middle of the night and changes the price tags. If this happened, it probably did before scanners and metal detectors. What that thief did, benefited some, while harming others. Some got a once in a lifetime deal, while others grossly overpaid. Satan is a thief. He has changed the value system in our world, so that Godly values are ignored while worldly values are cherished. Christ’s church is here to be the store manager. We must correct the value system, while at the same time explaining that the most expensive life insurance, Jesus got for us for free.