The Vulnerable Church (Honest Thoughts About Sin and the Church)

“The church culture is one of the most fake cultures you will find. We haven’t learned to open ourselves up to each other and say here I am, this is what I’ve done, this is the mess I’m stuck in, will you help me and will you still love me now that you know?” -Jason Vallatton “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” (James 5:16)

This is a verse that often gets attention for its ending, but we quietly disregard the beginning. In its entirety isn’t that a verse we HATE? No one wants to actually admit that perhaps, just maybe, we have issues. The sad part is, the verse is such a beautiful promise. God is literally saying, if you will actually humble yourself and be willing to admit your sin, then you will be healed.

God is giving a picture of honesty and transparency in relationship. When we come to Him and open up about all of who we are, strengths and weaknesses, then God is able to say “I see it ALL, and I love you still, we’ll work on you TOGETHER”. People long to be loved in their truest form. They long to be loved for exactly who they are, exactly where they are. When Jesus says, “Come.” He says, “Come just the way you are.” He doesn’t leave us that way, but He is eager to show us that He loves us regardless of our mistakes.

When we come to our friends and family in the church and we’re able to say this is me, I’ve made mistakes, I still struggle sometimes, will you still love me?!? We should find a loving family looking back at us with eyes of compassion and open arms saying, “We still love you!”. Let’s walk this journey of freedom together.

“All meaningful relationships flow from vulnerability” -Bill Johnson

For too long the church has been a place of punishment and this eventually created masks where people are afraid to truly be themselves . (read culture of honor by Danny Silk for some more thoughts on this). Many times in the past the church did not know how to handle people’s sin, in fact they were afraid of it. We can look at different stages in church history when they were terrified of witchcraft, AIDS, homosexuality, etc. and in their fear of how to deal with sin they ostracized people because of it.

We have come to a place that people are so afraid of their sin being in the open that we hide our sin and pain under a mask of religion with a smile. Unfortunately that robs us of the promise of the verse, “so that you will be healed”.

Sin is often just a result of a deeper identity issue. I don’t think I’ve ever met a Christian that said, “I WANT TO SIN!”. Rather I find that often when I meet with someone who is struggling with a sin issue (or dealing with one myself) whether it’s a teenager or a seasoned adult, that the sin is coming from partnering with a lie of the enemy. When they come to the body of Christ and are able to confess their sin struggles, we are able to pray, identify the lie, and allow God to heal!

God isn’t afraid of our sin and we shouldn’t be afraid of it or the sin of others. By creating a “safe place” (a core value at Bethel) for people to confess their sin, their struggles, their pain, WITHOUT JUDGEMENT, we create an atmosphere where God can come in and do the part we can’t… the healing. He wants to see people FREE and sin keeps us in bondage.

Jason said today from the pulpit, “At nine years old I had oral sex with a boy, I’m able to share this without any condemnation or any pain because I had a family and church where vulnerability was encouraged and because I have a God who can completely heal wounds, mistakes, and pain when we bring it to Him”.

Transparency and vulnerability are encouraged daily here and I’m amazed by the fact that they don’t just mean it, they live it. We will never feel fully loved until we come as we are. People can’t love the real you if they don’t see the real you. We can’t be the family of God without having a safe place for the family to love the family right where we are.

The greatest revivals began with times of deep and open repentance. If the church isn’t a safe place for people’s dirt then we won’t be able to handle the prostitutes, drug addicts, raped, abused, adulterers, poor, rejected, greedy, bitter, hurting, homosexual, pornography addict, alcoholic, liars, when they start rushing to us looking for the mercy, grace, and love of God. We will model a culture of masks rather than a culture of transparency.

Jesus hung out with the sinners and rarely left them that way. Sin was brought to light, healing took place, and they walked away CHANGED.

Hidden sin is a breeding ground for shame and condemnation. Hidden pain is a breeding ground for unforgiveness and bitterness. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5)

As we begin to create a safe place for people to confess openly the condition of their heart, we create a safe place for Holy Spirit to come, heal, and transform.

As you read the gospels pay attention to the freedom that the disciples clearly felt to be themselves openly and honestly with Jesus, even thought HE WAS THE HOLY SON OF GOD! Kingdom culture is a culture of openness and freedom. The disciples were clearly not afraid to put their sin out in the open in front of Jesus. They had seen Jesus react in unconditional love, compassion, and then correction. When we choose to be open with God and others, He takes us to new levels of freedom!

The spirit of fear has left people, leaders, and churches terrified of sin. If perfect love casts out fear then we must realize that fear casts out love! People who are bound by fear struggle to feel loved!

Often times people stay in repetitive cycles of sin because their sin has become the medication for their pain. Pornography is simply a way for someone to get intimacy without a risk of rejection. To break cycles of sin often all that is needed is vulnerability, confession, and unconditional love.

As we operate in this new way of thinking then people will find true Perfect Love. They will find a love through us that is truly unconditional. A love that believes the best, is patient, is kind, endures all things, bears up under all things, and launches people into their God given destiny.

Be Blessed,

J. Tate

I think most of the people who read this blog know that I have a massive desire for holiness to sweep the Church. I truly believe that we have a responsibility to live a life of integrity and character. I do believe that “sin” is not the nature of a Christ follower, nor do I believe that we “have to sin” because we’re just “sinners”. I believe that we are NEW creations, however I also know that, like others, even with my deep desire to love God and please God, mistaken identity and wrong mindsets have caused me to sin, despite my passion for Him. I believe it’s time that we make the Church a safe place for our weaknesses, just as Jesus created a culture of freedom for His disciples.