Wednesday, March 09, 2022

Have You Been Hurt By the Church?

(Tree, in my back yard)

(I periodically re-post this to keep it in play.) 

I have met people who talk of being hurt by the church. Here are some things I think about this.

1. If you are a follower of Christ, then you are the church. You have been placed within the community, not as an outsider. You are one of the church's body parts. (See 1 Cor. 12:12-27) It is important to remember this in relation to what follows below. 

2. Some people who say they have been hurt by the church never give church leadership an opportunity to respond to their pain. They just leave. Some of them go and tell others, "I left that church because they hurt me." Some post this on social media. If you have been hurt, don't do that. That is unloving.

3. Never leave a church family because someone hurt you, unless you first try to correct the problem. Go to your pastor and share with them your situation. If that doesn't help, try this. If you choose not to do this, do not announce to the world that you've been hurt, because you never gave others a chance to listen and respond. That is not loving, and is a way of hurting back (vengeance).

4. Pay no attention to rumors, gossip, or slander. Be a person who follows this biblical counsel: "If you have something against someone, go to them." (Matthew 18:15)

5. Some who leave form a group, centered on the common denominator of being hurt by a church. This is a "hurt by the church" support group. If these people are Christians, they are forming another local church. This is because "church" is people, and wherever two or more Christians are gathered, that's "church." If they did not deal with their hurt properly, then eventually they will bring this to their new group. Then, the same thing will happen all over again (they will get hurt by someone in this group, leave, talk to others about it, etc.) Note also: healthy support groups not only share hurts, they provide solutions. A "hurt by the church" support group, if it is loving, should discern how it can help the church.

6. No church family is perfect. If you see something wrong in your church family, address it. And remember, you are not perfect or "above" others.  If you are part of any community it won't be long before you upset someone in that community. Search your own self and see whatever responsibility you may have. ("Search me O God, and know my heart. See if there is any wicked way in me." This applies to non-Christians, the non-religious, you name it, because hurting others, unfortunately, is part of the human condition. Just try to imagine, e.g., the number of people we have met with who were raised by atheist parents who hurt them.)

7. It is easier to tear down than build up. Anyone with a sledge hammer can demolish; it takes skill to construct. Your responsibility is to edify, not complain and destroy. Beware of coming off as the righteous one who stands in judgment of other church people.

8. Distinguish between being hurt by unkindness, and feeling hurt because someone does not affirm your particular theological beliefs, or your tastes. See here. If you do not affirm something I believe, I am not to respond to you by telling others how much you hurt me. To disagree is not to hurt; to be disagreed with is not to be hurt. But, sadly, some take it that way, probably because of unhealed wounds in their heart. (See, e.g., Jonathan Haidt on the American culture of "microaggressions," "safetyism," and the need to be "coddled.")

9. Jesus said "Blessed are the peacemakers." Be one.

10. You have been given a ministry of reconciliation. Do it.

11. Our real battle is not against flesh and blood. Therefore, if it has flesh and blood, don't battle against it.

12. Sadly, some churches are toxic and abusive. Some Christians unknowingly get in these churches. If this is you, you can attempt to address it with leadership. Leave if you are not listened to, and corrections are not made. If it is a toxic church, the likelihood of this happening is slim. In some cases it might be best not to bring this to leadership, but just get out, because in the process you could get abused even more. Do not abuse in return, but pray for them. (For information on what a toxic church is, read this, or this.)

13. Some Christians get hurt by anything. These are unhealed hurting people who will leave church after church after church. They have a spirit of victimhood and, sadly, live off it. They bring their problems into whatever becomes the next church they go to. Every pastor has seen this.

14. Never post on social media your grievances about some particular church you were part of. Such behavior is destructive, immature, and not reconciling or peacemaking. If you have done this, contact leadership and ask for their forgiveness.

15. When you feel hurt by someone in the church, this can be an occasion for growth. It is mostly in darkness that faith is tested and strengthened. Read this book, and this book, to see how this is possible.

16. Finally, in my thirty years at Redeemer, I know I have said and done things that have hurt others. When I discover this, I am saddened. If you have been hurt by me and want to talk with me please call - 734-731-1709. 

One time I confessed to the entire church, asking forgiveness for something harsh I said in a sermon. (Thank you to those who forgave me!) I am so grateful for those who have loved me enough to come to me personally and share any grievance they may have against me. This has served to deepen our understanding of one another, and strengthen our friendship. I thank God for you!