In a world full of chaos and so much uncertainty, it seems to me that the church is literally a last resort. I mean you go to work, and your boss is always yelling, you come home to an abusive spouse and you visit your family that seem to have all the problems that fill up the sky. So you think to yourself, perhaps God is the only one who would never leave me or forsake me, His presence will definitely gladden my spirit. Then boom, the church hurts us and we completely shut down on everyone.
You may be asking, what is church hurt? Well, church hurt is basically a situation where you love God but have been wounded by His people. It also refers to the pain inflicted by religious institutions. Church hurt happens to quite a number of people who serve in different capacities in the church. It could also happen to that new member who is not yet grounded in the Word.
In most cases of church hurt, you will find that people in the church have tried to bring you down by saying unkind things to you, spreading false accusations about you, slandering your personality in whichever way they can, and ultimately causing damage to your reputation.
Some other causes of church hurt include not agreeing with the vision of your church leadership,
doctrinal disparity, change in circumstances like your geographical location, growth reasons, God reasons and irreconcilable differences.
A church that has a pastor who is completely worn out, doesn’t preach Christ, has lost its fire for evangelism and has no growth strategy often hurts its members. Churches that don’t pray much don’t grow much.
There are those who believe that church hurt is no reason to abandon God, because the church is full of damaged people who are working their salvation with fear and trembling. I can agree to some extent. You should never abandon God, I mean, without Him we’re hopeless.
But where my problem is, is when people use the human factor to justify their actions. So, they say, we’re human, so there’ll definitely be character assassins. Fair enough! But our humanness should not cause us to abandon the very principles God stood for; the basic one being love. We are to love others just as Christ loved the church, and to go into the world to preach the gospel to every creation. The question is, how can we preach a gospel we don’t practice? Is it possible to love God and hate his people at the same time?
It beats my imagination how religious institutions handle individual church members, how individual church members handle their fellows and how new church comers are constantly humiliated.
I had a personal encounter with one pastor’s wife who ridiculed me over some petty issues. I had men of God constantly looking down on me. And there were those that said unkind things to me. They made it a point to treat me like I was insignificant every time I was in their midst. I heard and witnessed similar experiences with others.
Truth is I never for once thought of abandoning God because I was wounded by His people, but I know many who did.
So I’ll share with you a few tips on how to overcome church hurt.
First off, understand that it’s not worth it. I know how it feels to be hurt by the church. I know what it feels to have that one place you find solace bring you so much pain. But the truth is, none of it matters in the end. Salvation is not communal. It is a personal choice. God will not ask you why your friends refused to accept Him as Lord and Personal Saviour, each one will give an account of himself. So, know God for yourself and know peace. Don’t stick in a toxic environment that doesn’t glorify God. God is everywhere.
Secondly, understand that it’s part of your growth! I can’t begin to tell you the damage church hurt has caused the few people I know. I mean it literally turned them into atheists. They were literally struggling in the world and yet to find their feet in the Word, but the church took all the hope they had left, away. They treated them with scorn and really did a lot of harm to their self-image. Some even had dissociation issues where they would have split personalities; one for the church and one for their normal lives. Terrible, isn’t it? I wish it wasn’t part of the growth process but sadly it is. Rejection has caused many to go deeper in search for the truth and that helps them build a better relationship with God.
Another thing you can do is to pray. Prayerlessness can lead you out of God’s will and into God’s wrath when you don’t seek God’s face in taking certain decisions. Don’t forget to ask God what His plans are for you concerning the church that hurt you or whether you should confront the offender. Alternatively, you can choose to forgive and move on with the church.
Moreover, understand that the church is not always a place of love, safety and God’s goodness as it should. As much as the people there are trying to emulate the life of Christ, they would fall short at a point. They can only do so much: try to live in His image.
Maybe it’s time to move on. Maybe. From all those who exploit, manipulate and abuse you. But know this: the hurt cycle in churches will not stop. All you need is to find a church that does not enable sin, but condemns the sin and loves the sinner. A church where the sins of the pastor or members or the elders are not hidden, but are rebuked in love.