“Those that be planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God.” Psalm 92:13
Have you ever heard the phrase, “I’ve been hurt by the church…?” What does this even mean and why are people always so “hurt by the church?”
Growing up as a Pastor’s Kid and a hard-core church girl, I love the church and I’ve never really liked that phrase. One reason is that I’ve seen too many people come and go and do more damage in their own lives by hopping from one church to another, (or completely abandoning church—or even the Lord) because they’ve been “hurt by the church.” It’s more apparent to me now more than ever that we need the Lord’s help to bring healing and truth to our hearts when it comes to this whole idea of “being hurt by the church.”
But, here’s why that phrase doesn’t sit well with me. YOU are the church. I am the church. WE are the church. The church is not an inanimate object, organization, business, or group; the church is its people. The “church” is not a building or a position—the senior pastors are not “the church,” nor are the executive pastors, youth pastors, volunteers, ushers, or small group leaders. You cannot define “the church” as one particular person or staff, because the church is made up of all of God’s people. Some of these people work at a church, some people work in the marketplace, some of these people work at home… but either way the church IS people (1 Corinthians 12:12-26). These people who make up the church are just that: people! They are all doing their best to follow God and help other people. They are not God; therefore, they are not perfect. Sometimes these people make mistakes in their pursuit to look more like Jesus.
If I was into throwing around the phrase, “I’ve been hurt by the church,” then I would declare myself the Chief Expert of being “hurt by the church.” Why? Because I’ve grown up in the church and like everyone, I’ve been hurt by people who say they love Jesus. I’ve watched my friends, my brothers’ friends, my sister’s friends, and my parents’ friends stop attending our church and, in the process of leaving our church, drag our names through the mud, write blog posts about how they dislike us, tell everyone around them how horrible the church is—the works! One time, the biggest mentor in my life unfriended me from Facebook when they left the church. I was 17 or 18 at the time and the person who poured into my life the most unfriended me on Facebook. Seems silly, but that’s a hard rejection for a 17 or 18 year old girl to navigate through.
As a PK, I’ve had a front row seat into the beautiful and wonderful, and sometimes bad and ugly, behavior of “the church”—people. Through the years, the Lord has done some intense heart work on me to bring healing to the real hurts. I vividly remember a time when I was 21 and just about to graduate college, laying on the couch in my dorm room crying my eyes out as the Lord had me confront the hurt I felt from people I had trusted, people my parents had poured into and people I had done life with. The Lord walked me through the forgiveness process to release people who had hurt me, my family and our church. The kicker is that these people were not the least bit sorry about the pain they had caused—yet, I knew I needed to forgive them. So I get it—I get what it’s like to be hurt by people who should’ve known better. I get how it feels to be disappointed by “the church.”
On the flip side, I also get what it’s like to be the one with thin skin; the one who is too easily offended, or who holds onto a hurt for too long. I’ve learned that in life, in ministry and in church you have to have thick skin and a tender heart that consistently walks in love and forgiveness.
But here is why I really think “I’ve been hurt by the church” is a dangerous phrase. This phrase takes away the accountability that we have as Christians to handle our conflict or offense in a mature, responsible and Biblical way. To say, “I’ve been hurt by the church,” means you’ve been hurt by people. So if you’ve been “hurt by the church,” what you’re really saying is that you’ve been hurt or offended by a person(s). The Bible tells us what to do when we’ve been hurt or offended by people and we have a responsibility to handle our offenses God’s way. When we use the scapegoat phrase, “I’ve been hurt by the church,” we put a blanket over the real issues we are having with people, so we walk around with a wounded spirit and in the process we drag others into the hurts we have not dealt with. Instead of being honest, dealing with the hurt in a Biblical way—we just tag it with “the church” and we never have the hard and necessary conversations to resolve the conflict, wounds or hurt we feel. This is not God’s will for our lives, so we need His help to deal with the real issue.
I want to encourage you, if you have been “hurt by the church”—I hope you can see there’s more to the story. There is an offense or a conflict that God wants to help you resolve. I encourage you to go before the Lord and ask for His help. I would also recommend looking into some resources on a Biblical way to handle offense. There are a lot of great books on the topic. A great message I heard on this topic was by Pastor Steven Furtick, take a look here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RwXqcOMw0ng (Matthew 18:21-35, Ephesians 4:1-3, 25-42).
I suppose I felt led to write about this simply to encourage all of us—we who are the Church—let’s not allow the enemy divide us through offense, hurt and unresolved conflict. Instead, let’s walk in love and forgiveness and do what Colossians tells us, “Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony,” Colossians 3:13-14.
Say This: “Lord, we come before you, knowing that there are a lot of people in our world who have been hurt or offended and have yet to receive healing from that hurt. God, we ask for Your truth, honesty and healing power to be at work in their hearts and minds. We pray that you would help all of us to work through our pain, offenses and conflict in a healthy and Biblical way. Give us grace to be people who are quick to forgive and slow to get angry and speak poorly of others. We fully recognize our need for You and we thank You for your help to make allowances for each other’s faults, and to forgive anyone who offends us. We remember that You forgave us, so we choose to forgive others. Today, we clothe ourselves with Your love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.”