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Church Taught Me…

March 23, 2019

Church Hurt…almost everyone who has ever attended church on Sunday mornings has experienced it. Sadly, I received an email a few days ago that broke my heart. It wasn’t the first of its kind and I’m sure it won’t be the last. It was from a sweet soul who, like many, have fallen victim to that hurt I’m referring to. You know the kind I’m talking about.

The shunning.
The shaming.
The condemnation and criticism.
The downward glances and the feeling that no matter what you do, you will never be one of them.

Because in church, there are cliques. Every church, every size, every place. There are the ones who attend weekly because it’s what you do. There are the ones who only come for special events. Then there are the ones who are always on the “in.” They are the cool kids. The ‘chosen ones’ as Josh and I have referred to them in the past. No matter what they do or who they upset, they manage to stay on the up-and-up within the congregation.

What the Church Taught me About Church Hurt

In one sense, that’s okay. It’s good to have stable and reliable individuals within any body of believers—assuming of course that they are held to the same biblical standards as everyone else and held accountable for their words and actions. What’s not okay, however, is when the church becomes a social club that only allows certain folks in. That’s where the American church is missing the mark. We have exchanged the notion of welcoming in “sinners” with the belief that we are too good for them. Generally forgetting that we are sinners, too.

Being a member of the American church has taught me a few things over the years. Some good, others not so good.

The Church taught me that everyone is sinner…including the preacher.

There is a misconception that a pastor is untouchable and immovable. Friends, this is a lie. I have heard far too many stories of ministers, preachers, and pastors who have fallen and fallen hard. Some who have fallen due to monetary struggles (i.e. greed and embezzlement) but more often than not, with personal struggles and temptations. Pastors who have placed themselves in situations that likely could have been avoided, but were not. We are encouraged to pray for our pastors and it’s our duty to remember that because they are pastors, they are often on the devil’s radar. We also cannot forget that they are human. They are not God nor are they perfect. They are broken individuals just like we are.

The Church taught me that judgemental people are everywhere.

I wish this wasn’t true, but it is. Wouldn’t it be nice to believe that people inside the walls of a church were the most loving, welcoming and encouraging people around? Wishful thinking, I know. Nevertheless, according to a study done by Andy Stanley for FOX News in September, one of the top five main reasons people leave the church is because they do not feel welcome. Likewise, “church hurt” is another of the five reasons people are leaving.

We [the American church] are turning people away all on our own because we have failed to welcome them into our ranks. That homeless person who sits on the back row every few Sundays that no one speaks to? Has anyone welcomed them? Have you? Maybe it’s the recovering meth addict or alcoholic who has been attending for weeks on end, but never speaks to anyone? Have you taken the time to say hello? Or are you just assuming the preacher will do that (that’s his job, right)?

Personal conviction from the Holy Spirit is often much bigger than we recognize. Our job is to give grace.

Are you smiling, only shaking the hands of the people who you don’t make you feel uncomfortable and passing by the ones who look too ‘messy’ or ‘broken’ for you to acknowledge? We are failing them, friends. We’ve got to step up our game.

There are always going to be people who “do no wrong” within the church.

Whether it’s the youth minister, the preacher’s wife or the pastor himself…some people will seemingly never catch flack for their conduct and behavior. I have personally been on the receiving end of hurt by a pastors wife at least three times that I can distinctly remember. You know what? It sucks. It hurts. But they are people, too. They make mistakes, too.

Despite the pain that that has caused me in the past, I know that I personally have hurt people unintentionally in the past before as well and I do not want someone to hold that over my head one day when I am a pastors wife. We cannot always be perfect and we are going to mess up. Such is life.

On that note, we also need to remember that as a church body, we do not always know what goes on behind the scenes. That thing the youth minister did that rubbed you (or perhaps the entire congregation) the wrong way? That thing the preacher’s wife did or said that you thought no one else noticed? The comment the pastor made during the Sunday service that didn’t quite sit right with you? We don’t always know the full extent of what goes on after the fact in those circumstances. We don’t always know what God may be doing in them, with them or to them as a result of their actions. Personal conviction from the Holy Spirit is often much bigger than we recognize. Our job is to give grace.

It’s easy to look at the church and see only through the eyes of someone who has been hurt, burned or burdened by it. I’ve been there. I get it, believe me. In the midst of my own pain after dealing with some of the worst “church hurt” I have ever experienced in my life, I walked away. I turned my back on church as a whole and never wanted to go back. I know others who have been hurt by churches in the same way and haven’t been back in decades.

Our responsibility as believers isn’t to everyone else and their actions. It’s to ourselves and how we are acting within the walls of the church and community we have been placed. The questions is, are we doing it?

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