Chapter 8 – Uncomfortable People

From the book: “Uncomfortable: The Awkward and Essential Challenge of Christian Community” by Brett McCracken

  • “Membership in a local church means ‘joining your imperfect self to many other imperfect selves to form an imperfect community that, through Jesus, embarks on a journey toward a better future… together.’” (p. 125)

This doesn’t mean that it is easy. Not even the 1st century churches were without their challenges. Most of the Apostle Paul’s letters were to the churches who were having personnel clashes over theology and other things. At that time, the Church was combining people from Jewish backgrounds with those from Greek and Roman cultures.

“Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution.” (Acts 6:1)

There was a built-in animosity between these people. The key difference was Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. But Paul wrote to the Galatians:

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)

This is more easily stated than practiced. As our author points out, even Paul and Barnabas had difficulties in their relationship (Acts 15:36-41). Even in the book of Revelation, John was directed to write about the problems within seven of the churches. One of these is the church in Pergamum. Their problem was divergent teaching.

“But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality. So also you have some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans.” (Revelation 2:14-15)

We will discuss this more in Chapter 12: Uncomfortable Unity, but people still facilitate these problems.

  • “Part of the challenge for Western Christians is that our environment is radically individualistic.” (p. 126)

This then brings up the following question: “Why do you go to this church?” Not that worship style is not important to our ability to worship, but have you ever deeply thought about your choice?

If the pastor changes, do you move to a new church? If the worship music style changes, do you look somewhere else? If you see something that isn’t quite right, do you bring it up to church leadership, or do you just ignore it until you can’t abide by it anymore and then quietly leave?

Is your current church like your family? When problems arise, will you stay to work out the problems, or will you just bolt to another church? Are you part of the body or only an easily removed adornment?

  • “Peter says Christians are ‘like living stones’ who are ‘being built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood‘ (1 Peter 2:5), with Christ as the cornerstone (1 Peter 2:6-7).” (p. 128)

We don’t see many buildings today built of random stone like then. However, here in Kentucky, we can see the stone fences around the horse farms. Look closely at the building of these fences. Different sizes and shapes of stones are used to create beautiful stone fences with intricate self-supporting patterns. Each stone is just as important as every other stone. The smaller stones are used to support the larger ones and fill in the gaps between them. Sometimes the stone needs to be shaped to be most effective. The wall builder must knock off some rough edges or unnecessary protrusions to fit a stone into place. Essentially, every stone remains the same but becomes more of a part of the fence.

“We are stones being chiseled and smoothed and refined together, and it is painful, but the house the Spirit is building through us is a beautiful thing.” (p. 134)

We, like the stones, make up a spiritual house – the church. We are not like any of the other people, but we all have a vital part to play. When you are not part of the wall, you are just a stumbling block for others. It is only when we are together, supporting one another, and filling in the gaps that we truly receive blessings from God.

  • “The ‘stay and embrace the pain’ value is counter-cultural in a world that encourages people to ditch relationships that are difficult or inconvenient.” (p. 130)

To press the limits of the stone wall metaphor, there will be stresses between the stones in the wall. It is these stresses that make the wall strong. Rather than see these stresses as destructive, let’s use them to help both the church and ourselves grow stronger. You must be willing to tolerate music you may not fully appreciate because there is someone else who is probably being blessed by it. Over time, you might find that it will grow on you. That doesn’t mean you don’t ask for some music you prefer, but be flexible. This goes for all the other elements of the service.

In our next chapter, we will discuss “Uncomfortable Diversity”. This is more than just race, ethnicity, culture, gender, and age. It also refers to any differences that we have. Rather than focusing on our differences, we need to focus on our commonalities. What makes us alike is what brings us together.

There is much made of the term “multi-cultural”. Unfortunately, multiculturalism focuses on our differences. It pries us apart and divides us into separate tribes. It creates an “us vs. them” attitude. A better alternative is the term “omni-cultural.” Omniculturalism focuses on our commonalities. It brings us together. From this perspective, we see our differences as additive to the relationship rather than the divisive nature of multiculturalism.

“But we are aliens together, sovereignly placed together as residents in our community for such a time as this.” (p. 134)

As stated in the book “Resident Aliens,”

“Christian community, life in the colony, is not primarily about togetherness. It is about the way of Jesus Christ with those whom he calls to himself. It is about disciplining our wants and needs in congruence with a true story, which gives us the resources to lead truthful lives. In living out the story together, togetherness happens, but only as a by-product of the main project of trying to be faithful to Jesus.” [i]

Wholesome Actress Danica McKellar Shares ‘Joys’ of Her Faith Journey After Finding Christ Last Year


[i] Stanley Haurerwas and William H. Willimon, Resident Aliens, Abingdon Press, Nashville, 1989 (p. 78).

Similar Posts