Take Off the Mask

Ann Spangler
Ann Spangler
2015 23 Mar

John Ortberg makes the point that many of us are afraid to reveal who we really are, especially in church. The very place that should be a refuge for us, a safe place to reveal ourselves, is too often the place where we put on masks. But even the most carefully constructed mask will eventually slip. Ortberg tells of being in a store one day with one of his children who was pestering him for a toy. Finally, in exasperation, he responded, “No, I’m not going to get you that toy. I’m not going to get it for you today. I’m not going to get it for you tomorrow. I’m not going to get it next month or next year. I am never going to get it for you! Do you understand? When you’re seventy and I’m a hundred years old, I’m still not going to get it for you!”

Just then the clerk looked at him and said, “You look awfully familiar. Do you teach at Willow Creek Community Church?”

Ortberg recounts what happened next: “I said, ‘Yes, my name is Bill Hybels.’ I didn’t really say that, but I wanted to. I wanted to hide. It was awful.”1

The problem with hiding is that we miss out on the benefits that come from true community. Why? Because God doesn’t build on falsehoods. Neither will he build up a congregation where everyone is intent on projecting a false self. As Ortberg observes, “It’s possible for people to attend the same church . . . year after year, without anyone ever knowing them. . . . Nobody knows their marriage is crumbling, their heart is breaking. Nobody knows they are involved in a secret pattern of sin that is destroying their soul. This is not God’s plan. It’s a mockery of community.”2 Church is meant to be a place where people are healed. It’s a hospital, not a set for filming a major motion picture.

You needn’t reveal your deepest secrets to everyone you meet in church. But you should have at least a few people who know you well and one or two you can talk to about your trials, temptations, and failings.

1. John Ortberg, Laurie Pederson, and Judson Poling, Groups: The Life-Giving Power of Community (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000), 50.

2. Ibid., 52–53.

(Image courtesy tutu55 of at freeimages.com)