I grew up in a denominational church (as did many of you) and this was my typical experience at any youth related event:
-Attend a youth event or rally
-Hear a message about what a sinner I am and my need to repent
-Cry my way to the altar
-Rededicate my life to Christ
On the surface, it looks fine and I’m NOT saying we don’t lead teens to Christ. But, here’s the problem…most of us at these events were already saved and we had not committed any sins (at least none that we knew of) and we did not need to feel like a wretch and cry ourselves down to the altar again.
And further, we didn’t need to rededicate our life to Christ. We were already dedicated.
For me, and I’m sure many others, this got into my head and became a regular cycle of shame. I would be ok all week, come to church and be made to feel like a horrible human being. I would beg my way back into salvation and do the same thing the next week.
I cannot tell you how many times I “rededicated” my already dedicated life.
No, I am not saying we don’t need to repent, I am saying there was a fall out from this method of conversion and we should address it.
What’s the problem with this method?
Well, many of us were presented with a “shame” gospel. That is, we were told we were horrible, we were bad and we needed to come to Christ to fix that.
Obviously, we live in a broken world and we are imperfect people but when we get into the habit of telling people continually, “you are bad” it sticks in their heads and it leads to what I call a Christian Shame Cycle.
Brene Brown defines shame as “the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing we are flawed AND therefore, unworthy of love and belonging.”
Shame leads to feeling unworthy and “Christian” shame leads to feeling unworthy of the love of Christ.
Brene goes on to say, “I am bad.” “I am a mess.” The focus on self, not behavior, with the result that we feel alone. Shame is never known to lead us towards positive change.”
Shame does not lead to Christ. Many used to think it did, that’s where you get those “fire and brimstone” preachers. But, shame only leads to feeling alone and unworthy.
The impact this has on teens is that they grow into adults that want nothing to do with the church because it constantly makes them feel bad. That is not to say that a Christian shouldn’t be on a path of becoming more Christ-like, of course! But, it is not our job to shame people into that in fact, it won’t even work.
A New Path
If you grew up like this, I want to encourage you to first realize Jesus Christ came in love to bring grace, mercy, forgiveness and FREEDOM from condemnation.
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1 ESV
While I do believe the people who taught this previous method of shame were well intended, it was not biblical. What we have to do know is get that negative self talk out of our heads and replace it with the Word of God.
Shame is not God’s method of bringing us to Christ. It just isn’t. Shame is the tool of the enemy, it gets us to a place where we feel so bad we want nothing to do with anyone and we feel unworthy of the love and life Christ died for us to have. That is not the will of God.
I pray you receive some freedom from that today, just know, Christ did not come to bring shame-he came to bring forgiveness and love.
For more on this topic, listen to today’s podcast!
Sarah Ann is an author, speaker and media personality committed to honesty, vulnerability and authenticity. She has a passion for empowering people who are willing to be honest and walk out life in Christ together. Sarah holds a Bachelors in Biblical Studies and a Masters in Theology and Apologetics, she also owns a clothing company, Ascent516.com and is the creator of SarahAnnSpeaks.com and the Sarah Ann Speaks Podcast. Sarah is featured daily on GEB TV.