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5 Uncomfortable Issues The Church Needs to Start Talking About
By Zach Perkins
It has been said that the Church is not a museum of saints, but a hospital for  sinners. Yet, most of us would much rather pretend to be a saint on display than  call for an ambulance. Week after week, many of us walk into a church, sit by people we have known for  years and yet would never dream of sharing our innermost struggles with. While  a large part of this is our pride, another factor is a Church that seems unwilling to  talk about certain uncomfortable issues, choosing rather to ignore them, try to  cover them up or simply reject people who bring them up. There are many issues the Church as a whole needs to address, such as  creationism, activism, environmental stewardship and many others. But there are  many more issues that individuals in the Church are dealing with—issues that the  Church Body should be talking about. In Galatians 6:2, Paul urged the Church to  "Bear each other's burdens," so maybe with more grace and love we can turn on  the light in the darkened rooms of each other’s hearts and let our churches  become safe havens for the uncomfortable things we have to deal with. Many of these issues need to be dealt with professionally first. But that should not be the end of it. Research shows just listening to someone and showing them  you genuinely care for their situation can be a huge part of that person's healing  process. This is far from a comprehensive list—these are a few of the issues many people  in churches around the world are dealing with, whether they admit it or not. And  as people increasingly leave the Church, often over issues such as these, it is  becoming more urgent that the Church talk about how to care for every one of its  members.  Addiction At AA meetings and therapy sessions, talking about addiction makes sense, but  for some reason, it's not a topic most church people want to hear about. Certain  addictions are definitely more socially acceptable to talk about than others. For  example, it's OK to bug Frank about his smoking, but John's alcoholism is more  hush-hush. And yes, in many churches, a person's addictions can become fodder for gossip.  However, if the Church were to first approach one another as family, then addicts  in the Church might feel safer to be vulnerable about their struggles. Often, they  just need to be loved and feel safe enough to know they can expose this part of  themselves in a community where the addiction isn't crushing them every second.  Sexuality Sex and sexuality tends to be a loaded topic in the Church. Certain corners of the Church have been very vocal in their broad condemnation of premarital sex, but  that's where the conversation (for lack of a better word) tends to stop. We rarely  engage the topic of sex on a personal, individual level. There's a generally  accepted idea floating around that, once two people are married, they enter into a carefree, blissful lifetime of sexual fulfillment that needs never be discussed in  any meaningful way. There are strong believers struggling with their sexual identity, brokenness and frustration in churches across the world, and among their Christian friends and families, they don't dare say a word about it. I know of a few people in my life who love Christ and want to abstain from sin, but  they are struggling with sexual sin or sinful desires. There are married couples for whom waiting to have sex turned out to be the easy part, as both parties brought  into their marriage a series of expectations that turned out to be flawed. There  are very few people they can share this with, but that also means they carry this  burden alone. If many churches stopped treating sexual issues as a personal  choice, where it could be turned on or off like a light-switch, then maybe we could  start to create more safe places where people can share their burdens with each  other and find out they're not alone. Sincere Doubt In many churches today, there are Christians, even pastors, who are struggling  with doubt. They have absorbed all the recommended apologetics. They  havecried out in prayer. They are struggling to believe that God is good or that  He’s there at all, yet they continue with the motions. They put on the smile while  setting up the coffee table. They mouth along to the words in the worship songs,  but it all feels hollow to them. I know this because I’ve been one of these people.  One of the most vital ways the Church can handle doubt is to stop acting like  everything about faith is obvious. The Church can recognize that we all have  doubts from time to time, but we cling to a hope that's beyond rational  explanation. Churches can also stop trying to hide the hard parts of the Bible  under the rug or downplay the significance these ethically questionable parts play in a person's doubt. Mental Illness Those in our midst who deal with mental illness, either personally or second-  hand, are typically silent about the struggles they experience. In our society, there still exist a lot of stereotypes about mental illness, and because people either  don't want to deal with it or they've been hurt, they will choose to avoid opening  up about it. The problem is, if these issues go untalked about, then they often will  go unresolved. In some churches, people who do reveal their illness will go without professional  help in lieu of prayer. When prayer doesn't work, the person dealing with mental  illness feels like a failure or like they don’t have enough faith. The Church needs  to create an encouraging environment where people can be directed to right help  and then receive spiritual healing alongside their physical healing. Loneliness There are droves of lonely people in the church, and that includes senior pastors  and priests. The isolation comes from a lack of identification and identification  comes through open communication. When we can be vulnerable and honest  with one another, we understand each other in a profound way. A lonely person may walk in to a church alone and leave alone each Sunday.  Although they appreciate the free coffee and donuts the fellowship hall offers,  what they really want is fellowship. Taking time to get to know the people around  you and then reaching out to them outside of the church will allow for a greater,  more stable community. Of course, every church is different and while one church may be stronger in one area,  it may be weaker in others. These are just a few issues that we as the Church Body  need to be willing to address. And as we talk about them, we must remember to  address them with humility, understanding and grace, keeping in mind our role as fellow  hospital patients, not museum curators.