Home > Questions > Do I Have to Wear the Church Mask?

Do I Have to Wear the Church Mask?

Maybe I am asking the wrong question.  Maybe what I mean to ask is, “Can I be me?”

I don’t mean the me who has bad days and tells other people everything is fine when they ask, “How are you?”  They didn’t really care about how my day was so it was appropriate to give a passing answer in return.

I don’t even mean the me who has messed up and desires to be authentic.  The church culture has talked about that until we can all parrot the standard lines.

I am talking about being me – the nearly 40 year old, white male who lives in 21st century America.  The guy who likes country music and watching baseball… maybe not at the same time.   The guy who has a lot of questions and opinions that may not match up with yours.

In short, can I just be me?

I mean, really, how can you ever expect me to be transparent and authentic about messy spirituality issues when I can’t be me.  Why would you expect me to share how my day is really going with people I think are as plastic as I feel when it comes to what I am ‘supposed to be’ inside the 4-walled church?

You see, what I perceive from you is this – I am supposed to be a better version of me on Sunday.  The version who dresses up even though it’s the weekend.  The version who has read his bible every day and prayed for every lost soul during the past week.  The version who likes every song the choir sings and amens all the points in the pastor’s 3 point outline.  The person who has invited all of his neighbors and the gas station attendant to next week’s churchy function.  You know.. that version that would never _______ ( you can fill in the blank).

What I perceive is that you really want me to look like all those people around me who have their masks on too.  Some of them we may need to remove the masks to see if they are still alive because I think I see ivy wrapping around their ankles and the bottom of the pew that they have been assigned to the last 20 years.  I think others are snoring behind their masks – they checked out right after the egg casserole was served in Sunday School class.

Can I share a few things about this mask?  It doesn’t fit very well.  I don’t really want to look like your church did 70 years ago and I don’t need the ‘religious’ version of self-help in 40 days because it just feels like plaster in the cracks of this mask.  You know what?  I don’t really want to be hip either because I forgot what that looked like 20 years ago.  I think some of the hip maskers  forgot what it looked like too because they really just look cheesy in their masks.  Of course, the lights and fog are a good attempt at disguise.

You know, it’s funny… you told me Jesus loved me.  That He wanted a relationship with me. Which version of me were you talking about?  The real me or the version you want me to be?

Hey.. don’t get me wrong.  I really like your Jesus and I am digging your bible.  I just don’t get your masks.

You are all beginning to look the same.. and the shame of it is, you don’t look much like your Jesus.

Do I really have to wear the church mask?

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  1. August 25, 2010 at 4:17 pm | #1

    the fact that a group of individuals (church or not) would (consciously or not) decide they want people in their group to look and act a particular way does not seem strange to me at all.

    however, the fact that a group of christians would decide they want the people in their group to look and act in a way that is vastly different than Jesus, the very reason for their group, is incredibly odd.

    • August 25, 2010 at 4:30 pm | #2

      Brett… (what I am supposed to call you.. your ID confuses me ;) )

      This piece was mostly written as satire directed at a subculture that makes it seem like a ‘good’ Christian looks a certain way. It is like we have to lose our individualism in order to become part of a Christian blob. Instead of looking like a body that has distinctive members like arms and legs we instead become an amoeba where it is difficult to comprehend one part from another.

      I would like to think that I don’t have to live in a Christian bubble in order to be God’s child.

      We sometimes confuse unity as looking the same instead of all being connected to the same source.

      Maybe this is the reason we have so many denominations in the Christian context. We want people to reflect our values over and beyond what God has given us. It is a slippery topic because we can end up debating legalism and license.

      • August 26, 2010 at 7:06 pm | #3

        brett. that’s what i prefer to be called — though it is my middle name. but when i get older (like a grandfather older) i want to go by j.b.

  2. shellie (baylormum)
    August 25, 2010 at 4:49 pm | #4

    I don’t want to be one of those “plastic people”. I don’t want to be in the bubble.

    It’s funny. I wore masks most of my life. Trying to be what others wanted me to be. Never what I wanted me to be. God always knew who was under that mask. Always. There is no hiding or fooling Him!!

    Coming free from addiction was scary. Talk about hiding behind a mask! I had a dozen! One for the perfect mom. One for the perfect wife. One for the perfect Christian. They all defined who I wasn’t.

    I still put on one of those masks from time to time. Old habits die hard! I always come back to me. The scared me. The vulnerable me. If you can’t handle that, then move on. This is who I am. God defines me. No human can ever define me. Including me, but I can make choices today. Clear-minded choices. And I choose freedom from the masks!! May they continue to gather dust in the attic.

  3. August 25, 2010 at 4:58 pm | #5

    Wow… I think you hit it o the head, Shellie. Especially when you said this:

    “Talk about hiding behind a mask! I had a dozen! One for the perfect mom. One for the perfect wife. One for the perfect Christian. They all defined who I wasn’t.

    I think that is what I wanted people to understand.

  4. Amy
    August 25, 2010 at 5:27 pm | #6

    Hey Tony, I am liking this post! Not because I think that is what you want me to say or anything :-)

    I love Shellie’s comments and I am right there with her. I don’t know how any of it changes really…except we drop the masks. However, many of us are prone to putting them back on in certain situations.

    I know that I personally feel if the people in my church knew what I was really like…they wouldn’t like it. (That country music comment was funny because while I don’t listen to it all the time…I do listen to it and that’s not a tidbit I would share with those in my congregation. It is from the devil afterall :-)) I don’t think they would kick me out of the fold, but they would certainly desire for me to conform. I just wonder who it is I am to conform to. Is it really the likeness of Christ or the likeness of them?

    I am just about fed up with the whole church scene if I can be honest here (speaking of dropping masks)…I used to believe that church was an absolute necessity in my life, that assembling together was Biblical. I would tell others they should come, would disagree with those who said you don’t have to go to church to be a Christian and all that.

    Now, how am I supposed to tell people they should come to church when I don’t even want to be there? I believe I bring God no glory whatsoever when I show up and sit in that pew just cuz if I don’t someone might think I am a bad Christian. I am concerned about my children growing up legalistic instead of learning discernment and allowing God’s word and Spirit to lead them in their lives.

    I am growing bitter, not good. I know that is my problem to take up with God, but I am telling you what…I imagine what He must really think of all of this “playing church” stuff we do…and I don’t imagine He approves.

    Jesus didn’t have to wear a mask, He was real, genuine, truly loving. We get caught in the trap of pretending to be that way instead of allowing the transformation Jesus and God’s word could actually make in us. Vicious cycle, because we put on masks and our children learn to wear them too. How could they not?

    For the record Tony, you don’t have to wear masks around us…as a matter of fact it was refreshing to have you and the family around at church because it gave me hope. I didn’t see you guys as the mask wearing type and it’s just what I love about you all the most.

    • August 26, 2010 at 2:46 am | #7

      Amy,

      I didn’t realize that country music would be a contention.. :) I can understand if it is ‘cheating music’ though I bet the same people who would condemn ‘cheating music’ would probably watch a movie that involves elements of adultery.

      I would encourage you by stating that the church is absolutely necessary for a follower of Christ. We need the mutual edification and fellowship of our brothers and sisters in Christ. That may not be easy but when is family ever always easy?

      I understand your feelings of bitterness and, to be honest, we as a family are still dealing with elements of bitterness about prior circumstances. But I have hope. I don’t want to give up. God is in control and I trust Him. He has a plan and it may be outside of our comfort zones.

      I hope you all know that we appreciate your family as well. You have been blessings in our lives.

  5. Ike
    August 26, 2010 at 3:57 am | #8

    “If there is any encouragement in Christ . . .” Philippians 2:1

    What is our goal? Not bashing people over the head with the law. That may make us feel better about ourselves, as if our opinions were needed, but it is not the ministry of Christ. What do we find in him? Encouragement. It’s so obvious to Paul, it’s the first thing he mentions when he inventories our wealth in Christ here in Philippians 2.

    Do we find encouragement in one another? Sometimes. But that supply is limited. We come together at church not to amass the encouragement we bring in but to receive the encouragement he is pouring out. If we come to church only to draw strength from one another, that’s all we’ll get. And we will end up empty and angry at one another. Putting community first destroys community. Our encouragement is in Christ, and he is inexhaustible.

    • August 26, 2010 at 1:36 pm | #9

      Great point, Ike. It isn’t always about us, is it? Imagine if our focus was Him first and we let the by-product of that create the community aspect.

      I would guess that most/all churches would say that Christ is first. Are we willing to look at ourselves to see if that is true?

  6. August 26, 2010 at 11:26 am | #10

    As a pastor sometimes I tire of wearing the mask on Sunday morning, let alone the rest of the week. Gotta put the game face on you know? Sometimes I just want to scream and yell at the lack of concern for others. Sometimes i want to yell “hey can’t you seem I am hurting here?” or “hey, get real!” But my proper mask wearing says “no don’t do that.” I often wonder what would happen if some Sunday I didn’t sing, didn’t raise my hands, didn’t take communion, didn’t pray, didn’t smile and greet people and then when I stood up to preach said, “Look folks. I feel crappy (I word I never use so they would definitely know something was wrong) today. Can I just cry some and then dismiss us?” yep, wearing a mask gets old.

    • August 26, 2010 at 1:44 pm | #11

      Bill… man.. I feel for you and every other pastor who has to some how ‘get it together’ come Sunday morning.

      I believe that there is a level of maturity that we expect from our leadership, but there should be a level of humanity that we need to be ready to feel compassionate about. The congregation needs to see that Bill (or any other pastor) is a fallible human who is surrendering their will to the Father. That means there will be times when the limited ability of our humanity will show…. but how much greater to see that God uses the imperfect through His power instead of our own.

      You are not super-pious-man inside your salvation cloak. You are Bill, a child of God through His redeeming blood, anointed for the work that He has called you to. For me, that is a much more intriguing picture than the man that thinks he has it all together.

      Be the Bill that God appointed your days to be. Based on what I have read in your blog… these are all things that you already know. So maybe these words of encouragement are for you and maybe they are for whomever stops by here and reads your words and feels the same way.

      Thanks, Bill for being real.

      • August 26, 2010 at 7:52 pm | #12

        Thanks Tony for your good words. Can I recruit you to come to Spencer, IN and worship here? LOL Seriously, wherever you and your family land your pastor will find a great asset and someone he can lean on.

  7. Amy
    August 26, 2010 at 2:15 pm | #13

    Tony, thanks so much. Encouragement was needed, and God delivered. I attended a small group last night that we have been meeting with for a while at church. It was honestly started as an attempt to reach out to the young adults in the church who maybe felt displaced once they were too old for youth group but too young for the older folk group in the church. I didn’t want to go, after foolishly concentrating on my bitterness I wanted to give up. Then I realized that it is for sure one part of our church experience that gives me hope. That there is something very real and important in being there. We just sit down with our Bibles and read, talk, and pray. Sometimes we do something fun, get out of the church for a bowling excursion or go have some ice cream together…it doesn’t feel like playing church. I don’t have to be someone I am not, I can be honest about what I believe, what I agree or don’t agree with regarding the church, doctrine, teaching etc.. I was glad when I went into the house of the Lord last night.
    To Ike’s comment…you absolutely make a great point, I think my feelings about church many times come from selfishness. It’s not all about me, and I can be too quick to blame or point a finger at the church when really it’s what is in me that’s messed up. I am responsible for working out my relationship with God and I would certainly handle things differently if He were #1 in my life. I do lean too much sometimes on people and that will eventually always result in disappointment.

    Bill, I say if you are ever moved by the Spirit to step outside of the Sunday morning program…go for it! I for one would appreciate my Pastor sharing his struggle with us. Maybe it would make us more mindful of how much he needs us to be praying for him. I don’t know if he doesn’t because he relies solely on God or because he too wears the masks…only God knows. I wonder how much the Spirit is quenched due to our mask wearing? If we would see more work of the Spirit if we dropped them?

    • August 26, 2010 at 7:54 pm | #14

      Amy: you make a good point and ask a good question: how much of the spirit is quenched due to our mask wearing? how much indeed. My guess is too much because we (especially pastors) are too busy trying to salve the crowd than to pursue God’s leading. Thanks for you encouragement.

  8. September 1, 2010 at 9:01 pm | #15

    Christianity is a matter of the heart. The harder the face, the harder the heart OR the more hurt or tired the heart. Some people are just good people trying to do their best. They plaster that smile on when they are dying inside or literaly sick and dying, or have a spouse with cancer, or a child on drugs, or have lived with an alcoholic for forty long years. Let them have that mask – it might be all they have that brings them comfort or consistency. Do you have to wear one? Absolutely not. Know who you are in Christ and don’t judge the person sitting next to you in that pew. Do they make you uncomfortable? Get over it.(I say this with compassion, b/c it will be good for you to get you off your mind.) You are there to worship the Lord in public. Period. Make sure YOUR heart is right and you will be a welcome addition to any church by just being there.
    Should you be forcing yourself to go to church, take some time and just get with God. Maybe find the church He is leading you to or go less often, but still go… please. We live in a country where we still have that privaledge. I often wonder if it were taken away how many people would be lining up at those church doors begging to get in without a care in the world toward minor complaints. – just a thought.
    Ouch and God Bless and by the way, I needed this too. Thanks for reading.

  9. September 2, 2010 at 12:30 pm | #16

    Dawn,

    I am not sure that we are on the same page here when it comes to the point of this post. While I appreciate your sentiments, I don’t know that I can fully agree with some of your conclusions. You said of masks:

    “it might be all they have that brings them comfort or consistency”

    I would propose that Christians have a God that will give them comfort and consistency.

    You said of Christianity:

    “Christianity is a matter of the heart”

    I agree that heart(motivation) is definitely part of our Christian experience. However, so are the mind and will that make up our personalities. And all of those things are to be directed toward God and not our own circumstances. Paul does a great job of talking through this concept in the book of Philippians.

    This post was not directed at the true church (Christ’s bride) but at those who create an atmosphere of Phariseeicalism (my word) and call that church. Christ judged those who cleaned up the outside (put on a good face) but were dead on the inside when He ministered on earth.

    In the end, putting on a good face is not what Christianity is about. I would say that authenticity comes closer than a farce.

    God Bless

  10. September 2, 2010 at 5:23 pm | #17

    Wow. It sounds like you’ve been a part of my conversations with a friend lately. This is something that I’ve really been struggling with lately. How to be me when everyone else wants me to be someone else.

    • Anita Meroo
      August 1, 2012 at 7:35 pm | #18

      yes ur write i felt like that befor in my life

  11. Anita Meroo
    August 1, 2012 at 7:33 pm | #19

    i think this is going to be useful for everybody it’s right choose what you want to be then so try and bye this so i hope u try this and look at the mask

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