I don’t know if there is any greater feeling than being truly known. Wait . . . I need to add something very important: I don’t know if there is any greater feeling than being truly known and, in spite of this, being loved. This is hard to find. Some people go their entire lives without experiencing this. A few problems occur. Either we are truly known and rejected (a primal fear built into all of us) or we are never let people truly know us due to this fear of rejection. This extends to all our relationships. It starts early as children hide things from their parents. It happens between siblings as one sister or brother looks down on the other for things they have done or feelings they have. This is most tragic when it comes to husbands and wives. Each of them keeps a significant part of their lives hidden in fear of the repercussions that will follow if their true self is revealed. All of these things depress relationships, as the basic foundation of relationships is honesty. The acquaintance wants to have confidence that what you are revealing about yourself is really . . .  well, yourself.

Different institutions offer us varying levels of authenticity. When you walk into a convenience store and ask the clerk how they are doing, we don’t really want to know. It is just not the time or place and we are not expecting a true or, much less, a remotely exhaustive account that reveals what is actually going on in your life. We just want them to say, “pretty good” or “great.” We might even tolerate a “hanging in there.” But if they say “not good at all” or “it has been a bad day,” we begin to fear they will go on, and we don’t actually want in on it. In the family, as I said before, we allot portions of our lives only to those who we trust will not judge us for what we share. It’s the same among friends. Each friend gets a part of you. It is a rare thing for us to have one person who will listen to and love us no matter what we share, accepting us as we are. We normally have to pay someone $200 an hour to bear all our business! Or, alternatively, we can (as so many do) find such acceptance at a local bar. Let’s face it, sometimes we want to go to a place “where everybody knows your name.” It’s funny that this line from the introductory song to a popular 90s sitcom called “Cheers” is more relevant than you may realize. Yes, we want to go where everyone knows our name. But consider the meaning of “name” in the Scriptures. It was not simply the handle people used to describe, identify, or greet someone. One’s name carried everything about them. “Name” was a description of who you really are. It is your reputation and bears the weight of your entire life, history, personality, positions, and the like. Consider the Third Commandment, “You shall not take the Lord, your God’s, name in vain.” It means you are not to make the Lord’s reputation empty, void, or misunderstood. We are to represent everything about God correctly or we destroy his “name” among those who listen. Cheers was providing a “safe place” (I know we are somewhat sick of that phrase . . . just think of it pre-2013) for everyone to come and get to know your name—the real you, warts and all.

Keeping with the societal institution’s theme, let me ask the reverse question: which of our institutions is the place where we shut people out of our lives the most? Which of these is the most fearful to go to due to fear of rejection? I already elected the local bar as the place most people might choose as the “safest” place to go. And I would definitely put A.A. or some other similar support group down. But which is the hardest place to find people who really even want to know your name and you want to tell them? I could make a long list, but I spare you the drama. You know where I am going. I believe that the church may be the hardest place on earth for one to let others know their name. There is so much I want to say about this. I literally have thousands of notes for a book I am working on about authenticity. This is a big subject. But I want to share with you a small and relevant entry point to the somewhat radical statement I am making here.

Not too long ago I was listening to a story about an evangelical missionary who used to take a short sabbatical and attend some gatherings where other missionaries were present. He said on one corner, there was the evangelical gathering he was supposed to go to with all his buddies. And he said on the other corner was the dreaded liberal missionary gathering. From his perspective, the evangelical gathering was filled with like-minded Christians who were all about sharing the Gospel and the liberal gathering was filled with a different breed of missionaries with whom his theology and philosophy of missions were diametrically opposed. Then he shared something somewhat surprising. He said that, to his shame, he would end up sneaking to the liberal group. Why? Because, according to him, it was much easier to find the existential bond of the brotherhood of humanity. They were much more accepting he continued. And they seem to smile and laugh more. He did not have to share his resume of righteousness, but he could express all his shortcomings without judgment and embarrassment. It only surprised many of us listening for a second though. Why? Because that is probably exactly what we would do if we had the courage.

Unfortunately, on Sunday mornings we often go to a place where people know our name the least. It is like there is a greeter at the church doors who hands us a mask that is reserved for that day only. It is not as if we don’t like the people at church, it is more like we don’t know them. Why? Because they normally have the same mask on. Suddenly, pretty much everything in our lives straightens out in the church foyer. The tears are wiped away, our broken heart is mended, and any frustrations we have with God and this life are replaced with smiles of feigned hope. All the sins we have cannot be known, as this will destroy our plagiarized resume we pirated, ultimately, from the church leadership.

I am not implicating every church here. It is a breath of fresh air when you go to a church that is authentic, no one has a mask, and everyone want to know your name. I have been to one or two of them.

At Credo Church (the church I am just starting) the other day, I expressed this desire: That we could all show up every third Sunday with a t-shirt we that listed all our sins and failures. These are the things we hide as deep as we can the moment we enter the church doors (it might even start in the parking lot!). I am not saying that this would solve all our problems with inauthenticity, but it would be a great first step. Better, what if God made the t-shirts?! That is right. No fake t-shirts! Does this make you cringe? If it does, it might immediately express the need for this to happen.

Think about the results of such a radical idea. The entire church body would be completely disarmed. There would be no room for judgment, jealousy, envy, or, most importantly, shame. The moment you even thought about judging or looking down on someone else, you would be silenced and humbled by looking down at the writing on your shirt. We would finally see that every one of us has a pretty significant list of failures. We are all the same. Would you be surprised? Of course. You thought the Nelson family was perfect. You thought Jill and John had a ideal relationship. You had no idea that Matthew was so addicted to pornography. You never suspected that Emma was so full of jealousy and bitterness. Yes The hidden would be brought to light. We would see that we have all come to the same hospital to help deal with our wounds. Everyone’s shirt would be filled with those things that Christ’s gracious blood has washed away.

Without transparency, we fail over and over again as the body of Christ.

As I said, I have so much to say about this subject, but let me end with this attempt to practice what I preach. I actually made this shirt and showed everyone that night. I was really scared. But I knew the example had to come from me if we have any hope of being a truly gracious and authentic church. Many of these failures are present failures. Some, thankfully, I have in my rearview mirror. But I don’t distinguish which is which. If you want to get to know me—if you want to know my name—this is a part of who I am and why I love Christ.

There is nothing in this world like the knowledge that we are all in this together and your marred life is common to all. When you look and see the shameful revelation of the man or women who you thought had it all together, your shame is placed in the cleft of hope—hope that your are not alone.

If someone shows up to the church with a blank T-shirt on, they probably need the gospel. They don’t know their own wretchedness. If Isaiah can come undone before the presence of God, you can too.

Again, this type of authenticity has to start at the top. The more the people see the leaders, elders, pastors, and others in their respective positions do this, the more they will be ready to shed light, before God and before man, on their own desperate need for the grace of God.

So, with fear and trembling, I share with you my name, even more than I have ever before. Unfortunately (or maybe, fortunately) God did not write it. It is a work in progress. But I so want you all to know my name.

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Find him on Patreon Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Join his Patreon and support his ministry

    12 replies to "The Shame of Hating Sunday Mornings"

      • C Michael Patton

        You are very right, Kim. Most of my readers over the last 20 years will have a big duh. However, what does make me nervous is the I am going to send this out to 25k people, about half of whom have not come to know me through my personal writings, but follow me for other, more academic or consumer reasons. It will be interesting to test my theory that this kind of stuff normally does not cause a loss of following, we will see how many unsubscribes I get!

    • Lisa

      Is it necessary to tell a litany of all our sins that are now under the blood and buried in the sea of God’s forgetfulness? Even in my church family I am careful about what I share. Yes if I think it would help someone and God led me to do so in the case of a particular sin that someone else is struggling with that I overcame then maybe I’d share. I’m in my present church for just 3 years and I’m still ashamed to say the depths that I have hit in my past. The sins you mention some I still struggle with. But praise God he delivered me from smoking in 86. I’ll pray for you that you are able to give it up.That one as my husband used to say was one that we were doing constantly.It’s hard to witness to someone when your slave to that habit. I gave it up first and my husband never smoked around me or let me smell it for a couple years till he finally was able to quit. We made our home a smoke free zone as soon as I stopped.I don’t think I could have succeeded if we’d try to quit together.

    • Tom Howard

      That is all very well and good, an interesting concept, as true James say’s; “Confess your faults one to another”, Why? “So that you may be healed”. James 5:16, as healed here means all of; spirit, soul and body.
      Healing means change. What if you went to a Doctor and he kept giving you the same medicine, yet saw no change? Would you become to think the medicine was useless?
      Sure, as we have 2 Corinthians 5:17 to show “change”, and if it does not come, we have 1 John 3:6,7 to “blame”.
      What if Paul came to Ephesus a wearing that T shirt? No, he said; “I follow Christ, so you follow me”, as he lead by example as Christ was his (and should be our) example 1 Peter 2:21.
      We should not be novice’s, but have a good report, when it comes to being leaders, 1 Timothy 3:6,7.
      Really, come to Sunday with a t-shirt that listed all our sins and failures? What if we came listing all our victories? As the word say’s, “we are more than conquerors in Christ”Romans 8:37
      As “For whatsoever is born of God overcomes the world: and this is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith.” 1 John 5:4.
      So we can give thanks “…to God, which gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 15:57
      Paul well puts this to a test; “Examine yourselves, whether you be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know you not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except you be reprobates?” Meaning someone who does not go through this change, basically an unbeliever. 2 Corinthians 13:5.
      I am saying, how can we grow in the grace of God (2 Peter 3:18) while looking at sins Christ has bore on the cross (1 Peter 2:24), that by such, we are healed, from the “sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;” Romans 3:25..


    • Tom Ball

      Michael, since I have some differing thoughts on church I felt compelled to enter my 2 cents. Sunday morning is my favorite time of the week. According to scripture, God has given us 3 agents to lead our progressive sanctification (conforming us to the image of Jesus). those 3 are: the word of God, the Spirit of God, and the people of God. To take any of those 3 out of the equation is to short circuit God’s plan for our sanctification. So even the church with all it’s spots and blemishes plays a significant role in our conformation to His image. I’ve been in church leadership from a lay perspective for 46 years, and I couldn’t make it without the incredibly deep relationships of the Body of Christ through all those years. My wife and I have always felt deeply known by our brothers and sisters and know many of them deeply also with all our flaws also being known. Yes , plenty of people do hide themselves, but that should not turn us away, but instruct us to love like Jesus and seek to love more sacrificially. I love God’s church and am always refreshed in corporate worship and interaction with God’s people, and engaging always in prayer with and for His people.

    • John P Dudley

      Appreciate your honesty, Michael. We seem to be stuck between our sanctification (“semper reformanda” on a soul level) and the presence of our flesh. “So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.” (Romans 7:21-25, ESV) I want to be more than “the wretched man that I am,” and the pressure to show progress or success in sanctification often occludes the reality that “I’m still a man in need of a Savior.” (“In the Light” – Charlie Peacock). True community is a good antidote: maybe a little less superficial head nodding over theological concepts, perhaps a little more tearful worship and thanks for Christ’s (ongoing) redemption as we hold each other up toward the finish line.

    • Taylor

      I get what you’re trying to do, and I completely agree. For everything the church is supposed to be (“a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints”), I know I’m not the only one who feels pressured to keep up the appearance of having it all together. That pressure gets stronger when you’re in leadership and people begin to ask you for advice, or theological questions, or see you as some sort of example. If I came to church wearing a shirt that said, “… arrogant… doesn’t love his kids equally… lazy… doesn’t want to talk to you… bisexual… doesn’t like to pray… addicted to video games… wishes he was a woman… occasionally suicidal…” and a laundry list of my other issues, would I be asked to step down? Would I ever be allowed to teach again?

      The shirt idea is interesting, though I also understand some of the concerns some other commentors have mentioned. Being open and authentic and honest with our church family is great. Even just reading your shirt I can see overlap with what I would have on mine, which is encouraging. The worst part about keeping struggles secret is the nagging belief that “I’m the only one.” At the same time, I see the concern about labeling ourselves with our struggles. Yes, we are sinners, but we are also new creations. Yes, we regularly stumble and struggle, but those areas are covered by the blood. Yes, we fail, but we are also more than conquerors and have the power of the Spirit.

      Holding the reality of our failings in tension with the reality of our position and new nature in Christ is not always an easy one and dangers lie on both sides. Is it better to err on the side of honesty and create an atmosphere where there is potential for excusing sin (or even celebrating it)? Or is it better to err on the side of holiness and our new creation, thereby creating an environment that can potentially incubate shame, secrecy, gossip, and performance-based religion? Obviously, the right road is in the middle, but how do we practically walk that line? I don’t know.

      • C Michael Patton

        Thanks SO much for your honesty here. I really appreciate it.

        Would you ever be allowed to teach? That is a tough one. Not because I think the concept will break in your situation, but because I don’t know the people and leader ship of your church. But I do know is that if the concept was followed, you were your T-shirt and they had theirs, it will present an entirely new situation. If you’re wearing your T-shirt alone, you’ll probably have a lot more problems than if you were at with a person who was in leader ship over you determining Whether you would teach. I think this would be incredibly interesting, refreshing, and mostly lightning for all of us. Especially, like I said, if God wrote the T-shirt.

        Another thing that I may be didn’t make clear is that the concepts of the T-shirt include that the shins written on it (or short comings) are seen as shins by the person wearing it. In other words, these are not things that the individual in any sense celebrate. They are on the shirt because we recognize their sons, and we are in some degree of a wrestling match, hoping for victory. Hope that makes sense since I am voice to texting this!

      • C Michael Patton

        And you’re exactly right about not labeling ourselves according to our struggles. I’ve kind of got this whole parable of the T-shirt worked out in a much more detailed way. It would just take too long for one blog post. But ultimately while people would be able to see our current and past struggles sins and shortcomings, they would see this T-shirt covered up with a white T-shirt that has nothing on it with the tag Jesus Christ on it. So, wearing this T-shirt is not the end of the road, is the beginning. Unfortunately, it rarely is the beginning for our relationship with other people. Again, we hide ourselves from the day we meet out of fear of being known. If we lived in a perfect world, obviously we wouldn’t have these sessions on our shirt, but if we did, and a more perfect world, this would be the first shirt people see because you want people to know where are you come from and how the grace of God still sustained you.

        The idea of just wearing a white shirt from the very beginning is only Correct and an ultimate feel logical sense. But is not correct in a practical sense.

      • Shanda

        there are still some sins, that could ruin your reputation in Christian circles. the secular world seems much more open about these “realities”. yes, all sins are equal etc, but this category of sin has been ruining famous Christian leaders for a long time. to some extent one can get away with a potty mouth, and mild arrogance, fear, escaping. but lust etc is one that no one wants to be too transparent about. yes, I can admit to general lust, but no one wants to admit in any detail, nor would it be wise, that they’ve had lustful thoughts, some about the people you’re called to minister to, no matter how fleeting the thought was. “I didn’t think about it for long, but the shape of your (insert body part) is very attractive. now let’s pray together”. not going to work.

        your thoughts? i tend to agree with Taylor. but what level of transparency should Christian leaders strive for? i value transparency but at what points does it become unwise?

    • Chris

      The best thing I ever did for myself was get counseling. I suffered childhood trauma, lived a “Prodigal Son” type of life til age 22 and started following Christ at that time. That was 1994. I went to seminary from 1998-2002 and got married in 2002 also. We moved to NC and joined a church in 2008. I went to Ethiopia in 2010 and it broke me. Now here’s the kicker: I had struggled with anxiety, OCD, and crippling fear. All kinds of coping mechanisms. I couldn’t tell my pastor about it because I was “preparing for ministry.” After Ethiopia broke me, I had a breakdown –so serious it almost ended my marriage. I still cry about it to this day. My pastor said to me, “You have this air of having it all together because of your theology, but you’re faking it.” That may have been true, but I was also pissed because I didn’t feel like I could tell my pastor my struggles. That comment I think was undeserved and frankly it pisses me off. It says a lot about evangelical church culture: theologians, apologists, ministry leaders are supposed to “have it all together.” I had good theology and people came to me for questions, and I debated, and taught adult Sunday school yada yada, but I broke down. Ergo, I’m a faker? Something in evangelical church culture has to change. Change IS happening, but it’s taking a long time! “You’re so authentic” people told me even way back in the 90’s. “And because of this, you’ll never fit in the church” they said!

      Anyway –I finally got counseling, and my counselor did tell me, “Chris, you have a lot of ‘young’ pain. It’s time to stop faking it and get real with God.” I took that to heart, even though I felt like I was real with God. I don’t know. It’s a mystery what happened to me, but all I can tell you is it’s the best thing ever. I still struggle with all kinds of sin: fear, lust, feelings of inadequacy, promises to God I have failed to keep, guilt, shame, arrogance (why are people so !@#$ stupid!). The list goes on and. I cuss, I drink. I play guitar too much. Do I drink too much? Do I cuss too much? Probably. I still love Iron Maiden & Metallica. Ok?

    • Kevin

      As a pastor, I appreciated your thoughts and t-shirt. it reminds me “as such as is common to man”. I am not alone after all. I don’t think I have ever had a church friend who I could actually be as real with. But I have had a few who I thought maybe– but who ended up leaving dramatically, because I didn’t leave. I am glad now I didn’t take the risk. Still processing and wounded but wanting to grow in holiness so much. Ever feel like you want to be a monk? Not so much to get away from people, but to save people from having to endure me! Anyway, I for one enjoyed your post. And I am not helping you move ever.

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