Written by The Transition on 09/12/2020
People have been hurt by the church. In a variety of circumstances, there has been some form of mismanagement causing harm to individuals and groups in the very place one should search for healing. Such is the regularity of the problem it has even adopted a name – church hurt.
Church hurt can be explained as the result of abuse (improper treatment) within the church community. The Church is not restricted to the religious buildings it is usually associated with, instead it is an all-encompassing collection of every Christian believer. Meaning the Church, just like believers, is rooted in the teachings of God, and there is no room for interpretation when it comes to God’s instructions on how we should treat one another. “Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone–especially to those in the family of faith”. Making the entire phrase a paradox in itself, church shouldn’t hurt.
Interestingly, on several occasions we see the opposite of this teaching in the Christian community when people aren’t treated properly. This is not apparent in every church, in fact, many churches are handling the work of God with a level of diligence that will make our Saviour proud, but wherever we are not, we rob people of the opportunity to connect with God.
Versions of this disease plaguing the community appear in any form and every area of the church. The prominent examples include the obvious errors like embezzlement or manipulation but ultimately it stretches to anything that can inflict harm on anyone within the church. Written descriptions can only scratch the surface, however, an individual account of church hurt moves to provide genuine insight.
Timmy joined a church and was very quickly pushed into leadership which he was initially excited about because he was convinced he was working for God. He soon discovered that the leadership role was demanding, as he was constantly required to join various church activities – prayer meetings, fellowship, services etc. and it started to affect his personal life. Trying to balance the heavy load of leading along with his everyday commitments left him with little to no time for himself, and eventually, the workload burnt him out. Timmy turned to the leaders of the church for support with this problem, but rather than receiving a helping hand, he was instructed to continue with what he was doing because it was the “work of God”.
Understanding the importance of completing God’s work, he felt forced to carry on, and when he did, the strain grew worse. Serving became a burden and he began to question Christianity and his entire relationship with God; instead of extracting fulfilment, he was coming out feeling drained. His struggles continued until he started noticing differences between the word of God and the teaching coming from the church leaders; the scriptures presented the truth and exposed any lies. Seeking truth, Timmy felt led by the Holy Spirit to leave that church so he could properly pursue his relationship with God.
Timmy’s account examples why church hurt is potentially one of the leading factors pushing people out of the church’s community. It can create demise in individual relationships with God and presents a barrier that stops individuals from entering the very place they need to be. Considering these drastic implications, the need for solutions is desperate so people are not missing out on the glory of God due to human deficiencies.
The diversity of church hurt makes it difficult to suggest an unerring resolution but there are practices we can adopt as believers to assist us in tackling the problem:
The Truth – The Bible is the undiluted Word of God and is the source of truth for all Christianity. It is therefore essential that every person involved in Christianity refers to the Bible to capture the truth, helping then to recognise inaccuracies should they occur.
People problems – The Church, albeit the house of God, is made up of people, making the expectation of a perfect church unrealistic. There is definitely a standard the church should maintain but the inclusion of people guarantees complications. We need to be aware of this so we do not confuse the tendencies of people with the infallibility of God.
Critical thinking – Learning how to think critically as a Christian minimises the risk of receiving incorrect teaching. If we can incorporate this skill into our faith, we will not only enhance our personal walk but be better positioned to aid others too.
Prayer – Praying about our church challenges is often overlooked but God wants to hear and he wants to help. Sharing difficulties with God through honest prayer enables God to help us exactly where we are.
If you have suffered a version of church hurt and it has affected your relationship with God, or driven you away from the church, we’re sorry. No one should have to deal with abuse in any regard, particularly in the church. And along with an apology, let us extend to you that the fleeting temperament of human beings can never be a measure of the living God. God loves you and desires to have a personal relationship with you, and no negative experience can ever stop that.
“True, some of them were unfaithful; but just because they were unfaithful, does that mean God will be unfaithful? Of course not! Even if everyone else is a liar, God is true.” (Romans 3:3-4)
So if you’ve been hurt in the house of God, you can still look to God to heal.
~ Luciano Osbourne