What to do when you have been hurt by the Church
Have you or someone that you know ever been hurt by the church? Countless people have left the church (not the body of believers but the institute or physical gathering place) because of something that happened or something that they saw. It is highly possible that you or someone you know will experience church hurt at some point. Why does church hurt happen and why is it that people respond to it by loosing faith in the church as an institution and in some cases even decide to not associate with Christians again?
There are many reason why people in church get hurt. There are those moments when a person will see something that challenges their belief in what the word of God has to say and when that happens they feel a certain disappointment and decide to leave the church. There are also moments when the pastor, some leader or even a member does something to violate an individual and the person decides to leave as a result of the hurt felt. Finally, there are times when people cannot have their way and in disappointment, they leave the church hurt. Whatever the case may be, church hurt does happen.
When people are hurt by the church ( even if an individual causes the hurt, it is often considered the Church's' fault) it cuts deeper than any hurt that you have ever felt. For example, if you are fired from a job, you feel hurt. On the other hand, you quickly get over it when another job comes along. Another example is you have had an argument with a best friend. Often, the misunderstanding is short lived as one person or the other will determine that the friendship is worth saving so they give in and call to reconcile.
When it comes to being hurt in the church, it has caused people to leave the local assembly and separate themselves from Christan's altogether. Why is this? This occurs because the church is the one place that you let your guards down. It is the one place that you expect for people to not be judgmental of you or to understand and accept you and your reactions or responses. It is the place where you expect people to live a life consistent with biblical teachings. Unfortunately,though those expectations are legitimate, they are not always what we experience. There is no excuse for a pastor, leader or church member to act contrary to the word of God. The reality though is that it does happen and when it does leaving the church is not the answer unless the occurrence violated the law of God, the law of the land or a person in a manner that harm of the physical body took place. The thought behind that statement is that sometimes, we are hurt due to our own actions, reactions or responses. An example is that is if you sing in the choir and you had a particular sung that you suggested but everyone else did not agree; do you get your feelings hurt and leave the church? Many people have and that is not really a cause for hurt and more specifically to leave the church. It is not that you cannot be hurt in the case of that example. It is that in a case such as the one in the example, we have to ask if it was warranted or if it was a case of someone wanting his or her way? Such an instance is not a good reason to leave the church not to mention the body of Christ. On the other hand, if an inappropriate act occurred in the church and no efforts toward reconciliation took place; that may be just cause for being hurt and even leaving the local assembly but not necessarily for separating yourself from other believers.
Granted, whether one is hurt by the church is relative; we cannot always justify being hurt because of an incident, occurrence or action of an individual toward or observed by us in the church. The reality; however is that it does happen and when it does you cannot and must not ignore it. You must acknowledge it and you must take an action to resolve it. Fortunately for us, God anticipated that things would happen in church that would hurt us and he addressed the issue and even gave us instructions for healing in Matthew 18:15.
The process of healing from church hurt is not always simple but Matthew 18 does give us a place to start. There may be times when professional counseling is needed, but again, Matthew 18 will help you begin the process of healing that God prescribed. The steps are as follows:
In verse 15 notice it says that if your brother shall trepass against you, it becomes your reponsibility to go to him/her and tell him/her their fault. What a spin on how we normally do things. This verse suggest that you take responsibility to handle church hurt even though it is not your fault. It further states that you should tell them their fault. Be sure that you have the facts when you do this, but tell them what was done to offend you. It is amazing that people sometimes don't realize that they did something that was wrong or offensive. The key is to tell them what they did wrong, but do it with love seeking ereconciliation..
The rest of the instructions in this verse tells you to do this while there is just you and that person first. If the person refuses to listen then you go to the next step which is to go back and take with you one or two witnesses. It is a good idea to take with you people who are not "on your side." Take people who you believe will speak the truth with love and who may not see it your way. The idea is to seek to help the person understand and at the same time you to may gain valuable insight into what really happened.
There may be times that even with witnesses things don't change for the better. In that case, go to the next step in the scripture which is to take it to the church. The church in this case does not have to be the church that you attend (some will disagree with that) but it can be a church where you believe the pastor is not close to the situation and therefore he will likely discern what happend and advise wisely.
Even the best plans fail from time to time and people even when key leaders are involved. People oftenjust want listen even if you are right. If this is the case, the final step is to let them be a heathen and a publican or better yet in some instances excommunicate them.