Here we are again discussing church hurt. Although this once hot topic has made its way into the common conversations of the church, it still has a significant effect on how some view the Church. So, I guess we could say that we never really left the subject. We just buried it under all the other trendy topics that we’ve been inundated with.
Speaking of church hurt, I’m reminded of this post that was circulating around Facebook. The post posed a question to “church dropouts” asking why they stopped going to church. Posts like these don’t usually draw me in, but this one got my attention. Because I was attentive to this post, I began to ponder some things. Things that, in today’s culture, we dare not inquire about lest we become judgmental, insensitive, or a “super saint.” Nonetheless, I am typically not one to shy away from a hard conversation. Neither am I afraid of asking hard questions. So, let’s talk about this for a brief moment.
God’s Deity and Our Humanity
I do understand that some things are difficult to speak on if you haven’t experienced them. So, I want to make sure that people always understand the perspective that I am writing from. I try to approach every subject from my belief in a supreme God who has the power to do all things. And when we deal with topics such as these, we have to understand that humanity does not define God’s deity. But God, as the supreme deity, gives clarity to humanity and human issues.
Having said that, I am not a church dropout, and I haven’t experienced church hurt the way others have. However, I have experienced some nasty, mean, hateful, and just downright disgusting so-called “Christians.” (Should you even be able to say that about a Christian?) But that never led to a place of detachment in my life from the local church or the faith. And if I’m honest, I’ve been at least two of those adjectives previously mentioned at some point in time myself. Maybe not with ill intent yet not with innocence. But thankfully, with repentance.
We Have Options. Or Do We?
I’m thankful that I never left the church, because Lord knows where I’d be if I had. Even though there were times I could’ve easily walked away from the local church, a certain knowledge and acknowledgement of God and His distinguishing character (that is nothing like that of any human being on this earth) caused me to still be able to see His goodness amid our human wretchedness. But when I saw this question on someone’s Facebook page, I immediately thought about how we give ourselves other options when it comes to things in the world. We find reasons to seek out different avenues, alternatives, and perspectives as it deals with things that quench our physical thirst.
Whenever we experience bad customer service at the grocery store, we don’t stop going to the store. We don’t pick up gardening and stop buying groceries. We just find another store to frequent. I’m also not familiar with anyone who has quit working all together because one employer treated them poorly. They may or may not have quit that job, but if they did quit, they commenced finding another one. However, this is not something that we do as it involves the church.
Grace and Church Hurt
The same grace we ask the church to give, we don’t often reciprocate. The same understanding we expect of the individuals that make up the church, we don’t graciously render. We quickly default to, “I want to stop going to church because that church did this or that person did that.” Or we make a blanket accusation, point the finger at God, and decide He’s ultimately to blame. But what we don’t consider is that this world is made up of flawed people. Flawed people that we cannot base our spiritual lives upon. The same flawed people whom all of us just so happen to be named amongst. So those who point fingers at the church, more than likely have three pointed back at them as well.
Looking Unto Jesus
When dealing with the Christian faith and the local church, there is a certain focus we must have. We have to look to the Life of the universal church and that’s Christ. Knowing this doesn’t void the disturbance and saddening of the disconnect and the sudden mass shift in the hearts and minds of people towards the church. For some, the sting of church hurt has been experienced one too many times. But for others, I believe this disconnect and shift has its roots in borderline idolatry.
People have made other image bearers the ultimate example for how the Church should function. So, Jesus isn’t the standard, the people who profess Him are. We don’t look past these “church” people like we do the rude cashier at the grocery store. We don’t seek to recognize the greater need in our lives on the other side of the disappointment we endure. Rather, we look at people to set the tone for how we view God instead of viewing people through the eyes of God and against the fall of Adam. If we did this, we would accept that God is nothing like us. But we are nothing without Him, and we should all be working to be like Him.
Although we can’t base our conclusion of what the Church should look like on those who subscribe to the Christian faith, it would be dismissive to think that church hurt isn’t a lived reality for some. Because of who believers say they are called to, they have an obligation to uphold. That’s the whole premise behind calling ourselves Christians—being able to properly represent the one we’ve pledged our lives to. But the truth is, some people don’t and won’t do this well. It’s somewhat comparable to marriage. Even though those who wed take vows before God to commit themselves to each other, all do not honor this commitment. But then, there are some who do. And just like those who adhere to a commitment to love, honor, and obey in marriage, the true Christian [bride] does the same for their bridegroom [Christ].
To label the entire church as irresponsible and unapproachable is akin to the stereotypical statements some give certain people groups. Sadly, some, instead of seeking to find truth in Christ, opt to blame the entire church for what a few people do. Something we refuse to do with anything that physically benefits us in this world. The response to church hurt that brings about the embracing of deconstruction and pulling away from the faith, I do believe, can be attributed to a lot of things. But one of the main reasons we’ll withdraw from the church before we will the grocery store has its roots in the dismissal of Matthew 16:24—denying ourselves.
It’s easy to walk away from the faith and the church because our human flesh and our human minds don’t find surrendering our will to someone other than ourselves as easy as just walking away. We want control. Now, don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of people who are not representing the faith very well and church hurt is very real, but there are a lot of believers who desire to help others heal. A host of believers who desire to see those hurt by the church helped by those who belong to Christ. There are Christians who desire to show those victims of church hurt that they can surrender to Christ and live on the other side of that surrender in the fullness of joy that comes with knowing Christ.
Showing the Love of Christ
Because we know the impact of church hurt, believers have to be ready to embrace and love those who have experienced this. However, in acknowledging that there are those who suffer and have suffered at the hands of nominal believers, when opening ourselves up to those who have experienced church hurt, we have to employ discernment. We must be able to discern between those who are true victims and those who are just tired of the Holy Spirit convicting them and want to blame everyone else for the course of their life.
But not only do true believers bear the responsibility to discern this and be willing to help, there is a corresponding responsibility of those who are alleging this hurt to seek the truth. Just like we search Google and incessantly read reviews on new grocery stores, we have to seek for and pray to be shown places of truth filled with people of truth.
Seek and Ye Shall Find
I’ve heard plenty of stories of people who were struggling with their faith and the authenticity of the Church. But what I love about these stories is the resilience and the determination to not lose hope. They continued to pursue truth and they were able to find a church community that showed them the love of Christ. This lets me know, without a doubt in my mind, that anyone can be redeemed and healed from church hurt. Because church hurt is really the hurt we experience at the hands of people camouflaged by a building and a steeple. And these stories of redemption and healing also let me know that we can all find solace in the words of the Bible when it tell us, “seek and ye shall find.”