Wendy Billington challenges Church to take off the mask in new book, 'I'm fine!'

In her new book published last month, Wendy Billington explores the Christian response to some of the biggest pastoral issues faced in today's society.

She examines clearly and methodically how we can respond in a Biblical manner to various circumstances, and offers practical advice for those wanting to build a loving and caring community in a church context.

What sets her book apart, however, is the way in which she expertly exposes one of the biggest problems of Church culture. Billington uncovers the 'masked society' of the Church, where we hide behind the ever-so-easy, roll-off-the-tongue response - "I'm fine!".

It's the answer we so often give whenever we are asked how we're getting on, regardless of the reality of what we may actually be struggling with.

In today's culture, it is often assumed that those who go to church have got it all together. It's an issue explored in John Burke's 'No Perfect People Allowed', where he discusses the necessity of establishing a "come-as-you-are" culture in the Church.

Billington supports Burke's conclusions in her book, calling on readers to "be honest and open with one another...knowing that [God] cares for us and wants us to grow in freedom and wholeness."

She says that the closed culture we have created is contrary to the example set for us by Christ. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus says "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." He invites us to share our worries, our fears and our brokenness with him.

We need, she argues, to cultivate real relationships within the Church that go deeper than just the cursory 'How are you?'

Scripture is referenced throughout the book, with particular emphasis on Isaiah 28:6, which names God as "a source of strength to those who turn back the battle at the gate", and Psalm 23 where David calls on the Lord in a time of trouble and says, "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me."

Billington gently reminds readers that nothing is too big for God to deal with, that He is always compassionate and kind, and that often his healing power is revealed through professionals "whom he has equipped for his good purposes".

Each chapter of her book focuses on a different issue, from depression to grief, from addiction to domestic abuse.

Topics are helpfully put into real-life context, with stories from those who have struggled in the past, including the author herself.

It's certainly not a light read, and won't be for everyone. But for those dealing with a particular issue, either themselves or through a friend, or who would like to be more clued up as to how to better offer pastoral care, it's definitely worth a read.

As Billington notes, "God can use each one of us to relieve suffering and bring about change and growth."

'I'm fine!' is out from Bible Reading Fellowship priced £7.99