3 Ways to Curb The Church’s New Addiction
In recent years Christians have spoken openly about addictions in the church. Members as well as pastors have confessed the reality of a double life, hidden, and enslaved. Porn, pills, pot, and food are just some of the ways Christians are coping with life in destructive ways. Recently, I’ve observed what I believe is the newest addiction on the rise in the church. The new addiction that I speak of could be at an all time high among believers. It’s the new elephant in the pew that we aren’t talking about. Our silence may be due to the fact that this particular addiction, though easily detectable, is quite easily disguised. What I mean by that is that it has become such the norm, and so readily accepted that we’ve lost any sense of discomfort with it.
The addiction I’m speaking of is NEGATIVITY. I’m guilty of indulging too so that’s why it’s easy for me to write about it. You may be a user of negativity and just not realize it. Take a few moments and think about the last time you got together with friends after church for a meal. Inevitably the conversation comes around to the worship experience, the sermon, or some random observation about church. Then the urge hits and just like snorting coke off a mirror you’re whisked off into a negativity high. It may start off innocently enough, besides none of us really want to act out, but we can’t really help ourselves. I’m ashamed to say that it happened to me recently. More disappointing for me is that I was around new and younger leaders. I know better than that but I couldn’t resist the urge.
We disguise it behind rather superficial phrases like, “Well I hate to be negative but…”, or “I’m sorry but…” or it may sound more like the typical user, “Why doesn’t the pastor do…”, “Isn’t the church going to…”, “If something doesn’t change…!”. Sound familiar? And on the surface at least, it would appear that those comments are fairly innocuous. Sure, it’s hard to know the context, and it’s tough to judge when someone is tripping out, or high on negativity. Their eyes likely aren’t blood shot, and there’s no odor to give the illicit usage away. But the reality is we all know when the conversation gets filled with the smoky air of negativity. It actually leaves us feeling pretty high, and pretty good about ourselves. After all we’ve managed to effectively articulate our utter dissatisfaction with Christ’s bride and those that lead it.
That isn’t to say that we shouldn’t voice our honest thoughts on the church and where she’s headed. It is to say that perhaps the church and her leaders are better served when we make things less about us and our well-informed opinions and more about seeing ourselves as part of this imperfect bride we call the church. If those of us with strong opinions about the church spent half as much time engaging in real activity to bring about change we might very well have the church we’ve always wanted. Our (mine and yours) negativity could just be the thing that’s keeping us from getting there. I’m not naive and I’m not advocating for pushover believers that just go along with everything with little thought. There is a time and a place to offer direct, and important feedback. I just happen to think it isn’t around the dinner table, at the coffee shop, or in the car on the way home from church.
I’m calling for an end to the illicit, and abusive use of negativity. I’m praying that we take the first step and admit that we have a problem being downers. Here are a few ways I believe we can kick the addiction:
- Annihilate your SOAPBOX: Reject the urge to get high and mighty with your opinions especially in small settings around people you know and who likely agree with you. Essentially I’m saying keep your pride in check! This is especially true for leaders. We just can’t give in to the lure of negativity even when frustrations run high, and we just need to blow off some steam. Give honest, appropriate feedback, but only in the right setting, never among new leaders, young leaders, new members, or new believers.
- Tame your TONGUE: James taught us that the tongue is a powerful thing. Sometimes emotions run high and it’s easy to spout off about the church. A good friend of mine always says, “loose lips sink ships!” If that’s the case the church is on it’s way down quickly. We can stop the negative descent, inject some positivity, and watch the church come back to be all that God intends. The tongue can be particularly destructive when we begin to speak of church leaders negatively. I get it, our leaders are easy targets so it’s natural to want to throw them under the bus in front of others. But we do great harm and it only reveals the immaturity of our own walk. As a Christ-follower make it a point to push back against those who are constantly putting down church leaders through unhealthy, destructive, and negative talk.
- Join the MEDIOCRITY: So if we have a beef with the church, whether legit or not we’ve got two choices: stay or go. What I despise is those who stay only to be antagonists, berating the bride every chance they get. They’re like the obnoxious parent at a little league game questioning every call by the umpire. My advice to those of us guilty of using negativity…join the mediocrity. No one is saying the church is perfect and we’re certainly not saying it’s leaders are infallible. We perform in a mediocre way quite a bit. To come across as one having a superior idea or vision of what the church can and should be, but then to separate oneself from that which you deem mediocre, and then claim to be united with it is the height of hypocrisy. Join the mediocrity, have the courage to stand with the imperfect church. Own the good and the bad and not just when it’s convenient. It’s ok to apologize for us as you stand with us but don’t you dare speak of the church as “them” and call yourself a member of the body of Christ.
Romans 12:3, “I’m speaking to you out of deep gratitude for all that God has given me, and especially as I have responsibilities in relation to you. Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it’s important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him.”