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Veneered Christianity

If we want to connect with the world on our doorstep the Church must allow our collective experience of sadness to be our point of contact

The plastic, cheaply fabricated, celebrity-driven style of Christianity that has come to characterize a variety of churches in the West will never be able to effectively offer a healing response to the pain we carry within us and see around us.

When we travel through the normalcy of everyday life;
When we consciously integrate our lives with the person next door;
When we allow ourselves the space to feel the depth of our own pain and loss, combined with the uncertainties we all experience;

Then and only then will we be in a position to effectively engage our world with an authentic, down-to-earth, real-life ministry of healing and restoration.

Then and only then will we begin to understand that in order to offer healing to the brokenness we all live with, we must deconstruct our plastic, veneered church personas we've been so careful to construct, personas that, rather than further our ministry efforts, have only showcased our failed attempts to connect with a culture enamored with deep sadness and loss.

The Church must allow our collective experience of sadness to connect us with the world. Click To Tweet

If we truly desire to connect with the world on our doorstep, we must allow our collective experience of sadness to be our point of contact. Sadness, loss and pain is our universal point of connection with one another and it will be this connection that will enable the Church to embrace its own painful realities, while enabling it to offer grace and healing to our neighbors.

Honest identification with, rather than a plastic, inauthentic spirituality that cannot relate to pain, will help the Church to offer healing to those on the inside, while extending a hand to those on the outside.

Learning to embrace our pain

The Western church is largely unapproachable.

Perhaps without even realizing it, we've attempted to isolate ourselves from the difficult realities of life by acting like they don't really exist. And, as a result, have ended up presenting the public with a seemingly painless version of Christianity that no can relate to.

The Church hasn't been honest with itself.

Our reluctance to embrace our own pain has rendered us incapable of effectively ministering to those on the inside, as well as those on the outside.

Let's face it - we all carry around varying degrees of sadness and pain. And, until we can give ourselves the space to feel that pain, we will never be capable of identifying with the pain around us. Lacking the ability to sympathize, we will never be able to offer the healing so many of us are looking for.

Veneered Christianity

Our veneered approach to Christian ministry has created the false impression that we have it all together. Pastors, like standoffish celebrities, who have come to prefer the lights of the stage rather than the darkness of the gutters, perpetuate this attitude.

Our veneered approach to ministry has created the false impression that we have it all together. Click To Tweet

We talk a lot about attending to sickness and pain, but as Eugene Cho argues in his book, Overrated, I wonder if we are more in love with the idea of attending to sickness and pain, than actually attending to it? I wonder if we are more in love with the idea of justice, than actually engaging in justice work?

I'm becoming increasingly convinced that a celebrity mindset, combined with a love of the stage and performance, has not only disabled us from actually being able to minister to people, but has also made people feel like they can't approach us because of the appearance of perfection we have so often communicated.

We've created a plastic, veneered approach to ministry that has disabled our ability to offer real help to a sick world.

If we want to offer healing, we must first open ourselves up to be healed. And, in order to be healed, we must openly admit the depth of our own pain. A pain that many of us have been conditioned to either ignore or suppress by a Church that has for far too long presented itself as having it all together.

We may talk about pain, but such talk often ends up being a sanitized conversation that sounds and looks good on the outside, but lacks the honesty and transparency necessary to effectively offer healing to a world crying out for help.

I’m tired

I'm tired of being forced to smile on the outside in an attempt to look the part, instead of giving myself the space to be vulnerable enough to express how I truly feel on the inside.

I'm tired of a plastic Christianity that tells us to wear a cookie-cutter, permanent smile, with veneers showing, to give the appearance that ‘all is well,’ when in reality we’re all tired, wishing we could just talk to someone about our pain.

I’m tired of Ken and Barbie pastors who love the stage and the bright lights, who love to talk about healing and restoration, but who lack the authenticity and depth to actually do anything about it; who minister ‘from a distance,’ rather than become intimately involved in the mess of the common.

I’m just tired. And, I think you are too.

What do I want?

I want the Church to grow into a genuinely caring community who aren't afraid to be real and honest about their faults, failures, pain, questions and doubts.

I want the veneered Christianity we’ve become so comfortable with to quickly dissolve and to finally be honest with ourselves about how far removed we are from real-life, down-to-earth, biblical Christianity.

I want the Church to become forever dissatisfied with plastic Christianity and intentionally seek to replace it with a Jesus-centered, Jesus-shaped Gospel that allows love, humility and grace to inform and shape its identity and expression so that we can reach out to a world in pain with a message of hope, healing and restoration - and mean it.

I want Jesus to take center stage so that the spotlight will shine upon Him. Click To Tweet

And, I want Jesus to take center stage so that the spotlight will shine upon Him, and through Him, to the Church that bears His name, unto a world waiting for us to finally begin to show our true colors.

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About the author

ChristianWeek Columnist

Jeff is a columnist with ChristianWeek, a public speaker, blogger, and award-winning published writer of articles and book reviews in a variety of faith-based publications. He also blogs at