Most people know hearsay or gossip does not carry a lot of weight, when you’re trying to convince somebody of something. I could have easily repeated some of the troubling stories people have shared with me over the years about personal church hurt; instead today, I choose to talk about mine. I’ve spent the last few days reminiscing and making decisions about which hurts I want to disclose. Since I’m a no sugar-coating, no faking kind of girl….I’m going with a few that rocked my world, and disturbed me greatly. But before I go there: A few days ago; and not to my surprise, “yours truly got a taste of how many church members and some religious leaders, specifically pastors ,view people who claim to have been church hurt. While I was not shocked about their responses, I was disappointed.
It all began when I stumbled across a question posted on Facebook, the question involved “Church Hurt.” Actually, I saw it on the same week of my first post on “Church Hurt.” In this situation a pastor posed a question asking why people leave the church when they get hurt, but don’t leave their job, when somebody at work hurts them?” For starters, in my opinion these are two totally different situations. You can’t compare job loyalty with church loyalty or loyalty to the Lord. There were several comments in answer to the question. Some believe, people who leave a church because of hurt, wanted to leave any way and used “church hurt” as an excuse. Others expressed opinions linking those afflicted by “church hurt” to people not grounded in the Lord? And then there were the real kickers….the comments suggesting people claiming to have been church hurt need to get thicker skin. In case you haven’t figured it out, those comments were made on the pastor’s Facebook page. However, on that same page, several people acknowledged that “church hurt” is real and these people even gave various examples of reasons people experience “church hurt,” as well as condemning it. My problem with the first group was there was no indication of compassion or acknowledgement, that people suffer hurt, as a result of behavior or actions church members inflict. That’s sad. However, they have a solution, in their opinion, people just need their solution to “toughen up!”
About this comment,”if the message stung you it was for you.” Sayings like this one are not only void of any substance, they’ve also gotten old, untrue and ineffective. Another irritating remark common among religious people Pleasers is:”Sinners sit in the back of the church.” In my opinion, You would have to be pretty removed from reality to believe this. Yet, people still blurt out nonsense like this during church services. At any rate, responses like these ridicule cries from God‘s people, as well as reveal perfect examples of why the church struggles to effectively reach the masses. Jesus met opposition from all sides, yet He acknowledged and validated people’s pain. How is it people claim to know the Word yet have no compassion?
To suggest it’s a figment of one’s imagination, if they claim to have been wronged or plain mistreated by some church folk is crazy. It is even crazier to allude, that mistreatment of people by church members and leaders does not cause “church hurt” as well as retard spiritual growth!
Nonsense like this is what makes me second guess motives of some church leaders and members. How can somebody claim to have the love of God in them and respond to people’s pain the way some of these folks did? I just don’t get it.
The one example of “church hurt” in my life that stands out more than any others is when ….my husband and I moved back north in 2010. Initially our move was full of much needed excitement and anticipation on all fronts. We looked forward to living in a downtown loft, getting closer to family and being part of a family oriented church home. Nobody could have paid me to consider the possibility that, “nothing would be what it seemed.” This experience turned out to be even more spiritually disheartening than in 1996, in Atlanta, when I found out my ex, a Deacon in the mega church we belonged too; had an affair with a woman in the church. The affair wasn’t enough for the good old Deacon, he also got her pregnant. When the poop finally hit the fan, it turned out a lot of church members either knew about the affair or suspected my ex and the woman were involved. Nobody told me, actually nobody really cared. At the time, my then mother-in-law, lived with us. Prior to that she had taken sick in her New York hometown. She had an aneurysm, stayed in the hospital and rehab, for several months. Once her doctor’s disclosed her prognosis, it was obvious she could not live alone. Since my ex was an only child, my mother-in-law had to move to Georgia and live with my ex and I.
In the beginning we went to church together, me, my ex, and my daughter. Not to long after my mother-in law moved with us, and when we attended church as a family, my husband said it would be better if we, meaning, his mom, my daughter and I, would start going to 11:00 am service, instead of early morning, 7:30 am service. His reason; it took me too long to get (HIS) mother ready. Yes, I did her hair, helped her shower and dressed her. She and I were very close. Now mind you, we would be ready within the time frame necessary to get there on time. My mother-in-law wasn’t pleased about changing services, because she thought I was upset. Actually I wasn’t all that bothered at first. It was not until I found a paper trail, in a box in the garage pointing to my ex’s involvement in an affair, as well as receipts for infant clothing. At the end if the day, it turned out he wanted his mother and me to stop coming to early morning service because his mistress came to early morning service. I also learned later that, shortly after his mother, my daughter and I started coming to the 11:00 am service, he and his mistress started sitting next to each other, every Sunday, while he was still a Deacon in the church.
My ex was the kind of man who bragged about how long he had been in the church, all his life, and he boasted about how well versed he was in the Word; he would even say he was almost perfect. This man was one of the most arrogant people I had ever known or allowed in my life circle. After learning about the affair, I stopped going to that church. And guess what, he kept going, and continued his Deacon duties. After 8 years of marriage and about 2 years, if I were to guess, of his 2 year affair, I filed for divorce. The Deacon was above reproach. Nothing new, just sad. A few years later I saw a picture of that mega church’s pastor, who was probably at least 60 years old then, thrice divorced, advertising himself as an eligible bachelor. Apparently somebody thought he was a good catch, because that advertisement landed him a new and much younger wife. Seeing a pastor shopping in what they usually deem as “the secular world” for a wife, really opened my eyes to the disturbing state of affairs plaguing various churches today.
About what happened in 2010. After re-visiting my experience of “church hurt” involving the situation with my ex and that situation, I don’t think I can elaborate on others at this time. Instead I’ll talk about what churches can do to minimize exposing themselves to churches that don’t acknowledge or practice scripture that promotes, exhibits and encourages unconditional love.
Finally, all of you should be in agreement, understanding each other, loving each other as family, being kind and humble.
1 Peter 3:8 NCV
It’s who you are and the way you live that count before God
Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth. That’s the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before Him in their worship. God is sheer being itself–Spirit. Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration. John 4:23-24
Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Romans 12:10 NLT
God takes care of everyone in time of need. His love never quits. Psalm 136:23,25 MSG
Now to him that is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory. Ephesians 3:20. -21 NIV
Make the most of every opportunity. Be gracious in your speech. The goal is to bring out the best in others. Colossians 4:5 MSG
Unfortunately for me, a plethora of Christian’s behaving unholy led to an in-welcomed impression of the church, on my life and eventually, to a change in my perception of the church in general. In reality, ignoring church hurt is the issue, and one that if not dealt with has the propensity to forever scar God’s lost sheep. Actually, churches can effectively put a stop to “church hurt” in one of two ways.
1. Place a huge sign in front of the church that says: “Don’t come here if you’re broken or fragile, because we only minister to people who have thick skin. Furthermore; our members are above reproach, they have no room for improvement and they follow by example, man’s that is.” Though we would love to have you, as well as your tithes, don’t expect our busy congregation to cater to all of God’s commands. We just can’t do that here!
2. Place a huge sign in front of the church that says: “Come here if your life is not becoming to you or if you’re in search of a Shepherd and designated workers, who care about and know God’s sheep. Don’t be afraid or fear rejection, because here we not only study the Word we live by it. What that means to you is this; you will come to know firsthand, “earth has no sorrow Heaven cannot heal.” Know that God sent us before you, so that we might receive you with open hands and keep you in protective arms. Our promise to God is to love you unconditionally, teach you reverently and correct you in times of spiritual confusion. “God’s gift has restored our relationship with him and given us back our lives. And there’s more life to come……an eternity of life! Titus 3:7 MSG
I believe it’s only fair that wayward church leaders warn those in search of a church home, when their views and spiritual obligations are not in sync with God’s. After all, life is too short to waste attending churches that endorse behavior unacceptable in God’s sight. You see, if you allow irreprehensible behavior toward God’s children, in essence you accept it. Whether it be sexual abuse, spiritual abuse of power, lack of compassion, meanness, favoritism, nepotism or the like; church leaders and members have a God-given responsibility to recognize, acknowledge, address, correct or discipline when warranted, those in error.
The ultimate and common goal of every Christian is
to get to Heaven. But you wouldn’t know that looking at how they treat each other, those on the outside trying to get in, and those who found their way in, but are made to feel like an outsider. The problems are real.
Names have been omitted to prevent defensive backlash from defensive religious communities.