If you have served in a church or even attended church for any amount of time I’m sure you have encountered “church hurt”. Being hurt by the church whether emotionally, physically, personally, or even financially is a topic I feel like doesn’t get talked about enough, even though it happens all too frequently.
Church hurt is something I have learned about the hard way. No one preached about and there wasn’t sunday school lessons on it in particular. I have been going to church steadily since I started dating TJ. I went very often before then but honestly I never even paid attention to what went on. It was just a place I went to, to hang out with my friends.
Since we have been together we have served at 5 different churches over the years. With each church I can look back and point out the good, the bad, and the ugly (Sometimes, there is a lot of ugly). Not every church we served at ended badly, not every pastor we served with was disappointing, and there are many friendships that I still have today even through the worst of the church hurt. Which brings me to my first point of how I got over my church hurt..
1. By my church family.
At the last church we served at, things ended very badly, and we ended up moving away from the community, but I still have friends from that church that I talk to still today. Loving those people, and being loved by them through the mess that was made, I realized how important church family was. Sure a lot of times you meet someone at church and then when you part ways never speak to them again. But there are some people that God blessed me with that I knew we would remain friends and family. I am thankful for these people because through them, God helped chip away at the bitterness that would come up inside. It was through the church that God helped heal me of my church hurt. It sounds ironic but it’s true.
2. By learning to separate the sin from the sinner.
I had to learn that my hurt from the church was caused by sin. Whether it was my sin, sin from brothers or sisters, or sin from false converts or those who went to church but didn’t know Jesus. Sin is at the root of every wound that I received from church. It doesn’t matter the situation, it is caused by sin. And a lot of times it is very difficult to separate the sin that hurt us from the sinner that needs love and grace. Very, very, difficult… The pastor who slandered you, it was caused by sin. The sister who gossiped about you, it was because of sin. The treasurer who stole from the church, it was sin. That time you lashed out at someone in the church? Yep, it was sin. When I started to realize that church hurt is caused by sin, I started to separate the sin from the sinner because don’t I need as much grace for my failures as the ones who caused me hurt?
3. By grieving.
When we left the previous church we was at, we just stopped going to church. For a couple months, we stayed home, we didn’t visit churches, we didn’t try to find a new home church, we literally just stayed home. During that period of time John Piper was pretty much my pastor;) I would listen to John Piper sermons and podcast, and discover new people I could listen to and looking back, during that time I really grew spiritually. For me and Tj, we had just given our all at a church, and then gotten our hearts broken, and just had a lot of church hurt to deal with. I do not regret those couple of months, some people told us we were backsliding and whatever but honestly, I feel like that time away was like a grieving period for us and because of that time, God helped me grow through what had happened and also gave us time to focus on Him and rest. In the same vein though, I didn’t leave church completely and decide to never go back because of what happened. I didn’t use my hurt as an excuse to sin. And I feel like because me and Tj still sought after God during those months, he really blessed us and drew close to us.
I hope if you have been hurt by the church in anyway that you take what I have learned, pray about it, and continue to seek God through the hurt. I pray you don’t give up on church and that through whatever you went through you come out not only stronger and wiser, but also more forgiving and aware of our need for Christ.