I was just reading a great post by Sam Luce about the gospel and how it should influence our parenting. (click HERE for the full article). One of the points that Sam makes is that we should “Suffer Publicly”. This got me thinking, should there be more sad people in church?
At my church we call the space where our adult worship service is held the Worship Center. When I was a child this space was always called the Sanctuary. What we call it is just a matter of personal preference and tradition, but I think that there is a lot of truth in the name Sanctuary. For me, along with most people in ministry, my life is very busy and often times stressful. I still maintain a full time job outside of my ministry. In this job there are a lot of things that make me sad. Many of them are just the way our country is going in terms of how employees are valued and appreciated. None the less these things cause me a lot of stress. Add to this stresses over financial issues and the never ending list of repairs and such that come with home ownership. Bottom line I have stress.
With that in mind let’s consider what happens when I go to church. Will the people that know me be able to look at me and see the weight of these burdens bearing down on me? What about a stranger? The answer is probably, NO. Does this mean that I am trying to hide the pain I feel? Does it mean that I am pretending as if I have no pain, or stress? And I pretending that my life is perfect? No, none of these is true. For me it is simply a desire to have a break from the stresses in my life. As mentioned earlier, church is a SANCTUARY. For me it is the one place where I can leave my concerns behind for a little while and just enjoy being around the people I love and in the presence of my Lord.
There is a lot of talk about how church people are often fake and try to act as if we have no problems. In fact Casting Crowns even wrote a song about it, referring to the church as a “Stained Glass Masquerade”. I propose that perhaps this is not the case. Perhaps our churches are just filled with people who smile because THEY ARE HAPPY TO BE THERE. Do the stresses of life preclude us the privilege of smiling? This week I am teaching on Matthew 6:25+. In this passage Jesus tells us not to worry about stuff. With this maybe Jesus is telling us that we should smile no matter what. When Paul and Silas where thrown in prison they sang praises to God. Did this mean that they were HAPPY to be there. Where they trying to cover up their pain. Where they being FAKE as church people are so often accused of? Or, were Paul and Silas able to worship God even when things were bad? We Paul and Silas so filled with everlasting JOY that there current circumstances could not quiet their singing?
For me I smile when I am at church because I am truly happy to be there. My favorite people are there. I am in the presence of my Lord. I get to do my favorite thing in the world, minster to kids. With all these factors, why wouldn’t I smile. Does this mean that I am hiding my pain. No, it means that I am showing my eternal joy and even my current happiness for being at my favorite place, with my favorite people, doing my favorite thing.
So, are church people fake? Well, some may hide their true feelings. Some may pretend as if they never suffer. However, I don’t think that a smile at church is evidence of that. So, how can we show the unchurched that we really do suffer and that we are not hiding our pain? Come back tomorrow for that answer.
Matt N.Matt Norman
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