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We all know about the cancel culture. These folks live on the left side of the political spectrum. They have views that contradict the Christian message, and if you choose to speak your opinions, they mobilize to cancel you quickly. Though most Christians do not live in the rare air of popularity that gains these folks’ attention, their power and influence do scare us into self-censorship.
You don’t have to be their target to be affected by how they expect us to conform. We read of their antics and conform to their agendas without being in their direct line of fire. We do this by adopting their language. E.g., a Christian will apologize for saying something that is not politically correct, or we buy into the mask hysteria by conforming to what others expect out of fear of retaliation.
To wear a mask or not should be a decision based on conviction, discretion, other-centeredness, common-sense, and biblical guidelines, not because you’re afraid of what others think, say, or do. Fear and worry will conform you to cultural expectations, along with their demands, while distancing you from figuring out how to be Christlike to a culture that needs Jesus.
The Christian community is not radically different from the secular cancel culture. There are preferences and expectations that Christians believe, and if you don’t conform to the group’s usual way of doing things, you will be on the outside, looking in. I have many illustrations of this type of cancellation mindset. E.g., here, here, here.
The good old boy network is alive and well within the Christian community, and if you choose to ride a different rail, you will not receive the perks of being inside their group. This unwritten code is powerful enough to tempt Christians to cave to the politics of acceptance for the possibility of an upward push.
This problem within our ranks makes it intellectually dishonest to speak against our secular cancel culture as though we’re not susceptible to the same sins. Our Adam-tendencies and theirs are the same. What’s needed are those voices who are kind, gentle, and humble but firm, direct, and courageous. The world needs fewer clones and more folks who know what they believe and are willing to share it according to the uniqueness of what God is doing in their lives.
There are many ways we can succumb to quieting our voices while glomming ourselves onto accepted norms. Facebook is a common place where Christians are afraid to speak their minds. I’m not talking about those with no social filter: those who are harsh, mean-spirited, and unkind. I’m speaking to those who know the words of Christ and could communicate them in gracious and effective ways. But they fear retribution.
Another familiar context for failure to “grow your voice” is in discipleship contexts. How many times have you thought you should say something to a friend or relative, but you were afraid because of the potential blowback? The counseling office is not a place for the timid, insecure, and fearful soul. Sadly, we hear too much about the harsh person, not realizing the larger contingent are those with fearful voices.
The most-oft repeated command in the Bible is “fear not.” Our natural instinct is to recoil from courage while conforming to the norms. Very few people are willing to stand out, explore the possibilities, and speak into the chaos with compassion and boldness that looks like Jesus. Each of us does a cost analysis, and typically it’s the fear of failure that wins the day.
To grow up into the person that God is calling you to be means you will fail many times. It’s the five-year-old T-baller who whiffs at the ball. If he quits, he will never realize his potential. He must keep swinging, getting his reps in, pushing the limits of his capacity so that he can mature into the best version of himself.
Show me a unique leader, and I’ll show you someone who has failed many times. Nobody fulfills their potential without many disappointing defeats. It’s those who keep pushing that find that special place of usefulness in God’s world. They factor failure into the equation. They are not pessimists at all, but they understand the path to success. They have enough humility not to succumb to discouragement when they fail the first, second, and third times.
Interview any successful person, and they will tell you about their many failures. They understand the path to success and how many defeats lay along that path. If you’re afraid of failure or the critique that comes with not getting it right, you will conform to what everyone else is doing. Settling for mediocrity should not be the desire of any Christian. The abundant life that God offers is not about your self-esteem but about accomplishing wondrous works for the fame of God and the benefit of others.
What is that thing you want to do? What do you believe God is calling you to do? That thing—whatever it is—is your burden; it’s an inward desire to do something for the fame of God. The list of possibilities is virtually limitless. You identify what makes you tick, and once you dial-in on it, you begin to explore how to fulfill that passion. I’m speaking of an internal calling. Everyone feels a unique quality about themselves, but few folks are willing to explore how they can impact the culture because they refuse to step outside of their fears.
As you explore your burden—your internal calling, you begin talking to those who have experience in what you want to do. These folks are a few mile-markers up the road from where you are today. These experts understand the process and the pitfalls. They also are not afraid to affirm your calling or disagree with your opinion of yourself. You want to surround yourself with competent people in your chosen field who won’t flatter you.
What you’re trying to discern are your internal and external calls. Some folks feel called to a thing (internal), but nobody else agrees with them (external)—except those who don’t have the expertise in the field or flatters them. If you believe you’re good at something, there should be an objective presence of that gifting, though you have not perfected it yet. Also, there should be those who affirm what you believe you possess.
There are many options for finding that “unique you,” your voice—the person God has called you to be. Do you want to be a counselor, author, marketer, videographer, culinary specialist, mother, pastor, or production worker? You pick the field. The choices are limitless. Once you have a general direction, you want to start carving the path to your goal.
Your two strongest temptations will be caving to fear and imitation. The fear will be anxiety over whether you will succeed or not. We all are afraid to fail. Imitation will be a desire to mimic others rather than being yourself. It’s easier to find a working model of what you want to do and imitate it. But that person is not you. You’re cloning someone else, which will have an air of artificialness and hypocrisy.
You see this fear of failure and temptation of imitation in the Christian world regularly in the books we read. Rarely is there is a standout voice, who is not regurgitating what others have said a thousand times. The best writers do not sound like everyone else—anyone else. They have their unique voice, and they are not afraid to rise or fall on who they are. Regardless of what you choose to do, you want it to be authentic. But you will never get there if you don’t step outside of imitation and defeat the fear of being who God is calling you to be.