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When Church Hurts

Did I tell you about the time I was kicked out of church.  Yes, me – the good Christian girl who has almost always done the right thing, was told (not asked) by a pastor to get out of his church.

A year before that experience I left a different Christian ministry because I questioned their motto of “work until you’re burnt out” and when I did, they told me I was “sowing seeds of discord” and better shape up or get out.  Needless to say I chose to leave before it got any worse.

I’ve been burnt by church.

By Christian organizations.

By the ones who are supposed to be love with skin on.

And it hurt – a lot.

However, this post is not about bashing the church or Christians or ministries.  It’s not.  I love the church.  Heck, I believe we as believers are the church.  But I write because there are others out there who’ve been hurt and I want you to know

YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

But what is one to do with all the hurt and mistrust?  How can we move on from the pain of being wounded by those who are supposed to be the most loving?

I don’t have all of these answers (I know it’s shocking, cuz I am so smart) but I can tell you how I did it.

1. Don’t Compromise

If you are apart of a Christian organization and something seems a little off, or you don’t agree with the way things are being done – don’t ignore the feeling.  Take it to the Lord.  Go to His word and search for what is true, right, pure and lovely.  When we were in Australia at the church we were asked to leave, the pastor was allowing people who were living and sleeping together, outside of marriage, to lead worship and preach in the church.  For me, this issue was pretty black and white and when I went to God’s word, it was confirmed.  So rather than compromise, we asked the pastor about it (him and no one else).  Instead of explaining his point of view, he defensively accused us of questioning his authority and then proceeded to tell those couples that we were judging them.  The pastor!  Gossiping to the members of his church about us.  This, and so many other things, were clearly wrong and I’m glad we stood up for what we believed in, even though we were really hurt.

By not compromising, I’m not encouraging you to say, “I’m right and you’re wrong!”  But if you go to the Lord with your concerns and He and His word confirm those concerns, it may mean you need to step away from a situation.  This is what happened in my experience with both the Christian ministry.

2. Forgive

No matter how you may have been hurt by “organized religion” (I really hate this term because my faith is not a religion to me, but a relationship) please, please, please choose to forgive.  Forgive those who’ve wronged you so you don’t turn around and become exactly like them!  The pastor who so deeply wounded us in Australia was a man with his own deep wounds.  He carried around a lifetime of hurt and bitterness and pain.  And it’s true what they say, hurt people hurt people.

So forgive.  Really do it.

Go back to that place in yourself that was hurt so deeply and face it.  Feel what you need to feel.  Cry the tears you need to cry.  Get angry if it helps.

And then hand it over to God.

Forgive because He first forgave you.

The hurt you felt, He’s felt from you.  But He never held it against you.  Only offered you love and a second chance.

I’ve been hurt by the church

But I’ve chosen to forgive so that I don’t become the church that hurts another.

I’m writing this post because I hear so many people say they’re mad at “the church”, forgetting we are the churchI don’t want you to be driven away from God and away from community because of a few bad people.  I want you to experience the fullness of God’s love in the body He created you to be apart of.  I want you to find hope and healing.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, stories or concerns.  Please feel free to comment or send me a private message.  I always love hearing from you.

In Him Who is Able,

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15 thoughts on “When Church Hurts

  1. I have heard countless stories of people who have “fall outs” from their churches. This post is such a great example of God’s love, the kind of love that we need to show those who have wronged us in the church. 🙂 Thanks for sharing

  2. Thanks for writing this, Heather. I totally agree with you – there is so much pain in the world because of wrong actions within the church, and yet I still believe that Church is a wonderful and beautiful thing.

    It’s funny how much we think alike – I wrote a post about the church awhile ago, and called it the exact same thing!

    When Church Hurts

    I’m so thankful that your experiences with Church have brought you closer to God, and that you are out there blessing the people around you, rather than allowing pain or bitterness to damage your view of God’s wonderful plan for His church.

  3. I know this feeling because it’s happened to me once before. And when it does happen, it can cause you to question everything. I wanted to leave the church completely and never go back. And I guess I did, but by finding a new church family to worship with. But those feelings afterwards made me not want to worship with any church ever again.

    And you are right about #2. The most important thing you can do is forgive. It can be hard, especially if you’ve been burnt badly by people you thought you knew, but it’s so important to let it go, to forgive them. You won’t be able to give yourself fully to God and your new church home if you don’t.

  4. I stumbled across this from your twitter feed asking about color choices for your blog. I must say I don’t feel it was anyway a coincidence that I did. When I was a very young girl my mother was kicked out of a church..and it had a very negative impact on her life. She turned away from God, and turned to the world. So this post is something that is very near and dear to my heart. My mother has since experienced healing and has even been apologized to by the people who wounded her from the church. Our walk with Jesus is now stronger then ever. Just goes to show the miraculous power of our lord and savior. Thank you for sharring your story! 😀 xoxo

  5. Thank you for writing this beautiful post! My husband and I have been going through this process for over a year now. We move to the city we now live in and were very involved in a church but over time things changed, the vision changed, the focus was no longer on God. We didn’t compromise and asked questions which were unfortunately bushed off with sarcastic answers or we were just ignored all together. We were hurt, sad, discouraged…

    It has taken time to heal and during that time we have spent holding resentment, anger and bitterness toward the church…. toward God. I realize we left that church by choice, we looked for a new “church” to call home but nothing was “right”.

    I recently started to heal I started to consider returning to the church that hurt us so badly because we are all human and we all sin for which He gave his only Son. We hadn’t been to church for a long time and we knew we needed to get back into a community to grow and fellowship together and we really prayed and considered returning to that church. It was at that point I felt free.

    We didn’t end up returning to the church but I think I was in the place where God wanted me to be, a place of forgiving. Since then many doors have opened and we have found a wonderful new church we now call home. I believe God was not leading me to this new church because he knew I was not ready, my heart was not ready… but now I am!

    Thank you again for righting this post it has helped me put all the pieces together clearly.

  6. My heart breaks when I hear stories of how the church (little c) drives people away. I’m appalled at some of the stories you share … and some that I’ve heard in my own community. But like you said, “we” are the Church (big C). It seems you’ve stepped up and taken that role seriously. Well done, Heather.

  7. Just recently I was reminded about how the church had hurt my family and I realised how much emotion I still carry from that. I agree that it’s so easy to forget WE are the church. I just wanted to leave the church completely. I also felt like God had let me down, it wasn’t just the church that hurt me.
    Thru it though I feel as though it gave me a jump start into the realization that my relationship with God doesn’t have anything to do with the church. That’s between God and myself. If the church hurts me, it’s between me and that person/people. I think I had this expectation that believers in Christ don’t hurt one another, and yet we are all sinners and we all make mistakes, the bible clearly says that. How many of us finally see the light when we feel at our lowest? God can take the hard times and turn it into something beautiful, if we are open to that. Which, in this case, He did for me!
    Thank you for sharing this. I really needed to hear it and it made me realise I still needed to forgive some people.

  8. oh heather. this is soooo good.
    i’m SO sorry about your experience. that’s too bad 🙁
    i have been hurt by the church in many ways, too.
    and by hypocritical, self-righteous christians.
    but like you said, we are the church.
    we need to forgive.
    love this!

  9. Great advice I appreciate your perspective and that you’ve got one of thee most important things down that most don’t. WE are THE CHURCH. “the church has left the building”
    It’s nice to meet another writer, from one to another in His grip…

  10. Thank you for this post. I’m tired of getting ‘demoted’ or asked to ‘separate’ in church. You work so hard but then you get a big kick in the butt – the last time was because I voted for Obama. I was told I’m not a real Christian. The pastor did apologize to me but he gave me nothing but excuses. I do remember though who it was I was working so hard for. Obviously I’m still hurting because I’m on here searching. Someone told me to stay away from the small town churches where there are people with small minds – oftentimes it is one family who controls most things and everything is centered around them and everyone else has to watch and listen to them them them….. Our arms need to be reaching….

  11. Hello! This is the first time I have seen the advice “Don’t Compromise” in a list of ‘how to move on after being hurt by the church.’ What a healing concept! Those whom I have communicated with regarding church hurts and spiritual abuse really need to understand “Don’t Compromise.”

    I would like to add that it is almost glib to say to people that they should ‘forgive.’ Please hear me out. When we tell people to forgive, we need to be careful to also tell them to forgive when they are ready. True forgiveness is hard work and for those who are already beaten up and spiritually abused (which I agree with David Johnson and Jeff VanVondern in “The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse is when “an individual is left bearing a weight of guilt, judgment or condemnation, and confusion about their worth and standing as a Christian,” struggling to forgive prematurely can suck them more deeply into questioning their “worth and standing” because they can’t seem to forgive completely right away – therefore, they are not measuring up.

    They have a lot to process and they need to do the hard work that will lead to being able to forgive. More than anything, people just need to know that God loves them and nothing can ever separate them from that love. Nothing. Being told they don’t measure up to church leader standards often results in a belief that they don’t measure up to God’s standards. Forgiving often ranks high on the “to-do” list. But we don’t have to measure up! Rest. Know God will never leave you or forsake you. Forgiveness will come but you don’t need to fret over it and think that you are not loved or not good enough because it takes some time.

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