I’m just going to come right out and say it. No fanfare, no build up. I want you to see this, an actual clinical diagnosis:
the fear of the church
No matter what your stance is on the church, denominations, conservative vs liberal, liturgical or charismatic, there is an actual term for the physiological response of anxiety for some individuals who think about the church.
I can envision a soapbox some might get on that says “yes! see?! Down with the church!” But I hope that’s not your response. I hope this devastates you.
I can get up and rehearse my “the church hurt me” story along with the best of them, but I am proud to say that I haven’t given up on the church. I have a proverb I like to live by: “don’t complain about anything you’re not willing to help change.”
Pay attention, though. Look at these other related phobias:
fear of hell
How often do we play on this fear to get people to pray a Sinner’s Prayer?
fear of love
People coming into our communities are starting off at a deficit. Even if we could convince them that we’re more sincere than just being willing to shake their hand at the door or (God forbid) “high-five” them during our 23 second “greeting time” they are already having emotional responses to intimacy. If we can’t convince them they have genuine value to us as believers, how are we supposed to convince them of a God who desires that intimacy with them?
fear of being looked at
It’s a good thing we don’t create environments where people who look different stand our or feel out of place… (sense the sarcasm people).
This isn’t just about our own fear, this is about how we help one another be courageous enough to overcome theirs. We don’t always have to walk through the valleys alone. We don’t even necessarily need to make bold moves of courage alone!
What we’re really addressing is… are people afraid of you? Do you care?
As you ponder, consider this as your vocabulary word of the day: