Question: What are the Secrets in Churches?

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I’ve got a question. What are the secrets in churches?

I believe that in churches everywhere, people have secrets. These are secrets that men and women have in their hearts. These secrets may involve feelings, questions, sins, past experiences, addictions, future intentions, etc.

Some of these secrets include:

1. The man who has always had some serious questions about the Bible. Is it really God’s word? How can I know this? How can I know there is a God and that he really loves me? What if I have doubts?

2. A woman continues to be impacted by a dark secret. She had an affair years ago while she and her husband were going through some difficulties. No one in her church knows this. She was never completely honest with her husband. The memory, guilt, and some nagging questions continue to haunt her.

3. A middle-aged man has always been brash and outwardly tough, yet no one can ever penetrate his emotional wall. His secret? Many years ago when he was an adolescent, he was molested by older teenagers. He reported this assault to a relative only to be told that he shouldn’t have been a wimp but should have been tougher.

4. A young minister is repeatedly told by church members how important it is to not offend people or do anything that might upset someone. Now some years later, he finds himself going along with whatever the influential people in his church want. He has lost any sense of who he really is. His secret? His true feelings, opinions, and desires are never expressed to the church. He continues to stuff his true thinking and feelings.

5. A woman grew up in a chaotic family. Her secret is her anger. She harbors such anger toward her mother and often feels great guilt for some of her thoughts. She tries to live a normal life but occasionally flies into a rage with her immediate family.

6. A husband and father is preoccupied much of the time with his next drink. He can’t imagine really having a good time where there is not some drinking. He looks for opportunities to drink and often drinks in secret. He thinks about drinking quite often. One would never know any of this by the image he projects at his church. This is his secret.

7. A longtime member of a church listens one Sunday morning as an elder in his church tells the congregation that anyone can come to these elders and talk and pray. Yet, he thinks to himself, “You say that now, but if you knew my secret, you would wish you had never said that.”

8. A middle-aged woman has some very real questions regarding a few of her church’s traditions and practices. She does not feel welcome to even raise the issue with the leaders of her congregation. She remains in the congregation because of lengthy friendship ties. She chooses to remain silent about the questions on her heart.   

None of the above people have names. I composed these scenarios after reflecting on the many, many conversations I have had with people through the years. For years, I have heard people talk about what was really on their hearts and the difficulties of such secrets.

Each one of these secrets is a part of someone’s story. So often the story and the secret are never told. People can be a part of a church for decades and never utter a word about their secret. Consequently, such an important part of their story is never told to anyone.

Think about what you have seen and heard through the years. Think about the late night conversations over a cup of coffee with friends. Think about what you have observed from simply being a part of a congregation.

***

Question

What are some of the secrets that exist in churches? (Remember these might be thoughts, feelings, sins, past experiences, addictions, future intentions, etc.)

  

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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34 thoughts on “Question: What are the Secrets in Churches?

  1. The man who is torn with guilt every week because of the somewhat less-than-modest women who he struggles not to look at sinfully.

    The twenty-something woman who fights off tears during the anti-abortion sermons because she was so scared a few years ago, she let her boyfriend drive her to the clinic.

    The childless couple who everyone jokes with about "when are you guys gonna have children?" The secret is that their marriage is such a train wreck that they haven't touched each other, except in public, in five years.

    • Nick–
      These are very good.

      The childless couple you mention. Reminded me that a marriage which can appear to be good when they are in public may actually in ashes.

      Yes, there are people who have secrets like past abortions, etc. I can think of several conversations that I've had where this secret was shared.

      Your first example is one that a number of people can relate to. To really struggle during the week with impure thoughts regarding a co-worker, a friend, or even someone who is a part of your church. There are many men and women who come to assemblies on Sundays feeling much guilt over the previous week. Thanks so much.

  2. A few more -
    A leader's secret: "I wouldn't be in the church if I couldn't be in control."
    Another leader's secret: "I've been spending some extra-curricular time with a fellow staff member."
    The secret of the superstar of the youth group: "I stick my finger down my throat after every meal and puke it up into the toilet."
    A member's secret: "Church is the loneliest place in my world."

    Larry Crabb's "The Safest Place On Earth" explores how to attempt to change a culture of lies and performance in a congregation – and inside each one of us – in order to begin to tell the truth to one another, and to hear the truth from our heavenly Father.

  3. The culture we have created in the church is not prepared to handle such deep issues. This is the reason counselors have become such a vital part of church staffs. Our sainthood has caused us to look down on people who have real problems. One of our members right now is dealing with fallout after she confessed openly a problem. The members reactions have hurt her so deep and the pain is real. We shouldn't be shooting the hurting should we.

    Allan Jenkins

    • Allan,
      Good to hear from you. I really like your opening line (in light of your statement). "The culture we have created in the church…"— You are so right! We created this. This certainly isn't what God desires. On the one hand, we often hide our secrets and never really experience the possible redemptive power of the body of Christ. Or, we reveal who we are and may then have to deal with the insecurities of others.

      Thanks Allan.

  4. It's true that we all have secrets. Things we don't want anyone to know. We don't even want God to know. But, He does. We need to confess to Him first and maybe thats all. We don't always have to tell others our secrets, our sins. Our first priority is with Him. We need to be very careful who we tell what to. I had a pastor one time who would tell everyone everything about everybody. He couldn't keep a secret no matter what. What's up with that? Who wants to confide in him? What a lovely thing to be able to trust someone and confess things to them and know they will still love you and not share it with anyone else. I pray that I can be that someone for others.

  5. Pegramsdell,

    So sad to heart the story about the pastor who would not keep your confidence. Men and women who mishandle the tender words of others do great damage in churches and to people.

    You are right–it is a lovely thing to be able to trust someone and confess to them knowing that they will honor your words with confidentiality.

  6. The teen who is just a little different and who is hurt by the ridicule and rejection of church friends. The teen grows into an angry adult, going to church some of the time, still seeking. The secret – the adult is afraid of the cruelty to be experienced at the hand of Christian brothers and sisters, and so never enters in fully, but remains quietly on the fringes. The other secret – the teen church friends who are also now adults never could understand why the teen who was just a little different didn't like to come to church.

    • Jane,
      Thank you. Both of these are interesting secrets. It makes a lot of sense though based on what this adult experienced at the hands of some church friends in earlier years. It also makes sense that some of those adults in later years might not understand why that particular teen never like to come to church.

  7. Some comments have already used similar words, but at my church, I'd say the Big Secret is that everybody has a secret. Never mind actually getting someone to admit their personal secret, we can't even admit that we have secrets in the first place. Allan's comment about the culture we have created rings so true. Since everybody knows that they are not individually or corporately able to handle these issues, we'd best just pretend they do not exist. The scary part is that after a generation or two in an established church, we start believing this very dangerous lie.

  8. I haven't read all the comments. Someone may have brought this up. But my bigger question is what can we do to help folks get their secrets out into the light within the congregation. I fully believe that we are only as sick as our secrets.

  9. The secret in my church is our leaderr has no empathy for anyone. He has intentionally divided the church by catering to the members that let him have his way, he admits it.. The secret in our church is no one wants to know the truth. Our youth are dying from a lack of teaching. He is paid a full time salary but only shows up on Sunday. We have no bible study. Each time he is told about the lack of commitment to his job and calling, he feels threatened. He secretly says that God does not call women to preach. I pray everyday.

  10. I am so thankful that I am in a church whre transparency is common, even among the leaders. Oh sure there are secrets that are not shared but not because they are not welcome to do so. I worship with real people, redeemed people, but people who have struggles with life and sin just like everyone else. The difference is that in our faith community keeping it a secret is the exception rather than the rule.

    If you want to make your church a place where people really find hope and healing? Be honest with them. Don't pretend (leaders) that you somehow are able to live above the fray. All of us have those Romans 7 moments and its ok to tell your forever family when you do.

  11. Dave– I think many can identify with what you say regarding the "Big Secret." I especially your comment regarding the tendency to just pretend that secrets do not exist. You are so right about the danger for future generations.

  12. *The woman whose husband is not a Christian and constantly puts down her beliefs. She has to be involved in a huge fight each time she wants to get out the door to go to church and knows the arguing will continue once she returns. But she puts on a happy face at church, always volunteering to help everyone else and prays none of her friends from church discover her situation. They'd never understand.

    *The man who has lost his job so he quietly drops out of the church, giving logical excuses, because he can't stand to hear someone ask what it is that he does for a living. He has no clue how he will pay his bills this month. He feels like a failure.

    • Firefly–

      I suspect that variations of your second example are repeated again and again. I wonder if this is even more prevalent now, with many families facing some very hard economic times.

  13. *The teen who wants to become a member of the church but won't because he knows that means someone will probably visit his home. He knows his parent would be furious and a preacher would not be welcome in his house.

    The grandparents who tell all of their friends that their grandchildren are staying with them for the summer just for a vacation. In reality, they worry about how they will explain enrolling their grandchildren in school in the fall because their son and daughter-in-law are in prison on drug charges.

    The leader in the church whose child has been diagnosed with cancer. He has always looked at others in these situations and declared that his own faith could withstand any horrible situation. He was sure he would always praise God for every circumstance. But, as his little girl fights for her life and goes in for an operation to insert a feeding tube, he begins to wonder where God has gone. He is angry and feels that God has abandoned his family.

  14. Firefly–
    Oh my– These are very real, very sobering situations. I could think of similar situations that I have known. Only the names and a few details are different.

  15. The young lady who plans to end her life because she feels her situation will never improve. The only thing that keeps her from following through is her fear that she will be condemed to hell if she does.

    The person who makes large donations to charities hoping to "win points" with God.

    The woman, new to the community, who cringes inside each time someone tells her that she "doesn't look old enough to have a child that age" because she WAS very young (and unmarried) when she became pregnant with her firstborn.

    The man who dreads Mother's Day. All the cards congratulate moms on doing such a great job. His mom didn't. He finds it difficult to honor his mother, although he knows he should.

  16. The worship leader who wonders why he hasn't heard from God in years and struggles with unbelief, and yet at the same time is fearful that God talking to him would mean more responsibility.

    The long time member who feels that there is no place for him in the church other than to support the latest vision of the leadership.

  17. The young man who is a leader in his church and is beginning to understand that the depth of the Faith is bigger than the four walls of his denomination and has a rich 2000 year history is scorned and corrected because of his 'wrong' views that don't line up with the denominations. He wants to be a missionary and the denomination is known for its missions focus but he can't betray his conscience of what he knows is right. He begins to feel an outcast because his views on politics, eschatology, the gospel, the world, humanity, etc. begin to look different than the crowd's and aren't tolerated. He no longer can share his mind or heart openly because he has been shut down too many times and marginalized. He wonders if things will always be this way or if he'll have to betray himself in order to follow God's calling. Or how far will his life lead off the beaten path where only faith can carry and guide.

    • jonathanblake,

      Oh my goodness. You have put your finger on a secret that a lot of people will identify with. In particular, I suspect that ministers will identify with your comment. You make such good points. And what does a person do when he/she feels like he has been shut down again and again. So often this person pulls way from the body and just looks on. Sad.

  18. The preacher who no longer believes that some of the "core doctrines" of his fellowship are true. One of the scariest moments in a person's life is when they come to a point where that which they always thought was true, becomes a lie. They realize in their faith that they can no longer trust in their right answers to a few selected theological questions, but that everything depends on Christ. This, is liberating.

    • Thank you sdjquad. You are so right. There is a real disorientation that comes with recognizing a misplaced faith (in anything). Yet, what satisfaction to experience a faith in Jesus above all else. I have experienced both of these emotions. Thanks.

  19. The Church is S-I-C-K ! Isn't it!

    We need incredible emotional healers… true lovers of their souls… brokenness… God's Mercy!
    God save us from ourselves.