Let me start by saying that everything you're about to read is coming from a black millennial that is actively serving in ministry. If I say anything that offends The Church, my mission has been accomplished...
After receiving news Sunday afternoon that a fellow musician, artist and big brother in Christ, was found unresponsive in his hotel room, and was pronounced dead, I was and have been a complete emotional wreck. I've found myself hurt, confused, angry and weeping not just at the thought of him being "gone" but connecting to how he felt in the moments leading up to his death.
Someone known for being so incredibly gifted, full of life, the most encouraging, and anointed did so from a place of emptiness - constantly pouring from an empty cup. And I've been there. Spiritually dying while actively attending and serving....IN CHURCH.
So my question is... How is the church so oblivious to the real issues that are plaguing its members? Anxiety, depression and suicide have become an epidemic in (the black church especially) yet the idea that "someone within the body needs serious help" continues to get swept under the massive rug that proposes what the "The Perfect Saint" should look, feel, walk and talk like.
The sad fact of the matter is that the church has become the LAST place you can go if you have a real struggle. It's so quick to demonize and judge struggles that they don't know how to deal with because it's easier to lay hands on someone and "pray the gay away" than it is to follow through and make sure that following the episode of being slain in the spirit is backed up with a legitimate plan to see their life be transformed by the Word of God. Or better yet, because it's easier to condemn someone's struggle openly than admit that you yourself have been dealing with the same thing for years.
The 21st Century Church doesn't know how to connect to Millennials which is why we're said to be the most "Un-churched" generation of all time. Now I could go into how it's our parents fault but that's a topic for a later discussion. The truth of the matter is transparency is the language of our generation and we keep our mouths closed due to fear of rejection, ridicule and/or condemnation.
We're over cliches and adapting to The Church's perception of what our life should look like when we grew up being let down by prominent leaders who's scandals rose to the surface. Instead of transparency and people being honest about homosexuality, adultery, pornography, masturbation, drug use etc., it's not until someone gets outed that it's ever discussed. And the problem is that underlying issue itself never gets dealt with yet everyone has something to say!
Fred Hammond, Tye Tribbett, Kirk Franklin, Eddie Long, Zachary Timms, James Fortune and more recently Israel Houghton..... All had a struggle, received all the criticism in the world for the struggle yet NOBODY actually ministered to them out of love. Nobody wanted to pray with and for them or see fit that they get help or even offer an outlet to where they could feel like it's okay to talk about the things they were dealing with.
What's funny is that once news got out about their individual struggles everyone wanted to cut ties with them. However, they had been struggling and ministering the entire time.... we just didn't know. And God was still able to use them.
I know pastors who smoke cigarettes and weed, I know musicians who are total sluts, I know pew members that addicted to pornography, and hell...I struggle and have struggled with an eating disorder, anger, rage and bitterness and lust - and The Church can't continue to put on a facade that they're holier than thou and the moment you get saved a magic wand swords off all thoughts, imaginations and feelings.
I'm saying all of this to say. It's gonna take transparency to win the hearts of not only a non-believer but to keep millennials in the church. We love God and we believe that the Word works. We know that prayer changes things. But the struggle is real and we need actual advice on how to handle life's curve balls. We want a place to fellowship, feel accepted, be edified and experience life transformation. But we also want to know that we can be honest and open about real life issues that we're facing.
Like if it's late at night and I'm feeling some type of way, or I'm on my way to kick it with someone I'm attracted to, I need actual advice and preventative measures I can take to keep me from doing something I don't have no business doing. If I'm a drug addict and I'm still being tempted to snort a line, I need someone I can talk to that can help hold me accountable for this new lifestyle change I'm seeking after. If I'm ready to fire on somebody for crossing me the wrong way, I want to know that it's okay to have those feelings because I'M HUMAN!
I don't want to be told I have demons and I need to pray them away. I don't want to be looked at as if I'm disgusting and that should never have that type of problem because I'm a child of God. Be real with me! Tell me what you did when you were in my shoes! Like, don't tell me to pull out my bible and get down on my knees! I need someone to talk to because I'm actually about to get down on my knees and you're not listening!!!!! (Help us Lord! hahaha)
James 5 tells us to confess our sins one to another so that we may be healed. However, healing can't take place if the confession is one sided. We as a body need to foster an environment to where people can freely go to the church to be accepted. No, I'm not saying condoning certain lifestyles or actions but accepting of the person and loving on them as Christ loved us! Creating an open door for transparency and creating a plan of action to not judge or condemn but hold accountable and encourage every step of the way.
And it starts with us in the church. If we can't control this within the body, not only will the world not take us serious (which they don't already), but we will find ourselves in cycles of regurgitating broken church members who are spiritually dying within the 4 walls. Leaders, musicians, singers, teachers, all get pulled on to serve with their gifts and "be anointed" but are like TC, pouring from an empty cup and wishing someone poured back into them.
I said all of this to challenge everyone, especially those serving in ministry, to be the listening ear that you yourself are longing to talk to. Check on people that you require a lot from and look up to. Don't wait until someone has already taken their last breath to tell them you appreciate them and their gifts. "Be that somebody that makes everybody feel like somebody".
And open up to someone about your daily struggles...and don't be afraid to see an actual psychologist after getting hands laid on you. That doesn't mean you have no faith. It means your putting your faith to action and you're seeking additional help.
All in all. LOVE on people. Life is too short to deal with it on your own or behind closed doors. I believe wholeheartedly that if someone had made themselves available to TC and got him actual help, he'd still be here.
Rest Peacefully Thomas Clay.