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  Being Hurt by the Church - an Article by Randy Rocket (Randall Alan Fultz)

Being Hurt by the Church - and Overcoming It

Copyright 2000 by Randall Alan Fultz.

Being Hurt by the Church - and Overcoming It - by Randy Fultz

    I am going to make a bold statement.     If you have been a believer for more than a year, chances are that someone in the Church - wherever you're attending - has disappointed or failed you.   Maybe they've let you down or made you upset by something they've said or done, and you have probably felt either wounded or hurt - hurt by the Church.    

You may think this is a negative, unfounded assessment, but I think I'm right.  There may be some exceptions to the rule - I praise God there are, and I wish there were more.  But too many precious believers have been, and still are being hurt by the Church.

Now, I believe that the Church, of all places, should be a Sanctuary.  It should be a truly safe place, where people that are lonely, hurting, confused or broken-hearted can come to be comforted, encouraged and restored....and be loved back to wholeness.  

I believe that the Church should be a place where the power of God's Spirit and His love flows forth in worship and ministry to His people - to bring life, health and wholeness to every area of our lives.  Where we can feel free to be ourselves, where we can be totally honest with God, with ourselves and with others.  A place to be free to reach out and help others, and to be helped in return when we sometimes find ourselves in need.  The Church should be a place where we can pray and sincerely seek God's grace, His wisdom and His forgiveness - to be changed to look more and more like our Lord Jesus Christ.  That's how I see the Church, and praise God - that's what He's doing in many local Churches all around the world, and even doing today as we're gathered here together.  

Yet, how often do we end up being hurt by what other believers say or do?  How many of our brothers and sisters in Jesus are walking around still wounded by something someone has said or done to them, maybe even though it occurred years ago?  Or even worse, how many are grieved from something hurtful they've heard that someone said about them?  And how many people are no longer even going to Church, or following Jesus because of being hurt by other believers?  Only God knows...

What I'm talking about is called being hurt by the Church.  As much as we hate to admit it, this is an unfortunate reality.  It happens all the time.  It destroys the faith of many, and it must break the very heart of God.

Let me radically change gears here, and ask you a strange, hypothetical question: If you wanted to really wipe someone out and ruin their life, the best way to attack them would be to cause those that they love and trust to turn against them, right?  Just get everybody that's on their side to turn away and reject them - or maybe you'd only need to turn one or two key people to do it.  What could hurt anyone more than that?  

You've probably heard it said that "God has a plan for your life".  But I tell you that Satan hates you and has a plan to ruin your life?  He really does, and if he can use another believer to hurt you, or to divide the Body of Christ, then by all means he will!   Oddly enough, the best tools he can use to bring about our destruction are those very people that we most love, trust, or look up to as examples in the Church.  

I think this is especially true for those of us who are in leadership roles - Pastors, elders or teachers - those who have the opportunity to speak often to people.   Just think of all the chances Church leaders have to offend you - as we talk with you about your money, your family relationships, your marriage, or raising your kids.   When we talk to you about your faith, and maybe even are used by God to expose areas of sin in your life.   We bring up almost everything - even the most personal, sensitive and intimate parts of your life.   And we do this on an ongoing, week-by-week basis.   In light of of this, you can almost understand why they stoned the Prophets!

Think about how easy it is to be offended or hurt by the Church!   Who hasn't been confronted, challenged or offended by a sermon that some Pastor has preached?   Whether it's seeing them live, on TV, on the radio, or hearing a tape.   Who hasn't been embarrassed at some point by another believers' poor witness or bad example at work, in public, or maybe at a family gathering?   Who was not offended by what happened with Jimmy Swaggert or the PTL scandal?   Or what about the stories you hear of waitresses who don't want to work on Sundays because the Church crowd has a reputation for being overly critical, demanding, and leaving lousy tips?   The possibilities go on and on.   It's easy to take offense, the opportunities are endless.

Well, I know what it means to be hurt by the Church, because I'm just like you.   I've been hurt by the Church, too.   In fact, I was hurt so much that, at one point in my life I completely walked away from the Church for a five or six year period of time.  As a result of this, I wasted six years wandering around, never denying the Lord outright, but never entering the doors of a Church.   Well, I finally ended up giving my life back to Jesus, and I remember at that point, when I made the decision to come back to the Lord, saying something to God along these lines; "Jesus, I don't care how badly people misrepresent You, or how much they fail me... I'm not gonna leave You.   I'll never leave You again, 'cause I know what it's like out there".   I wish I hadn't gone through all of that.   I wish I hadn't made those wrong decisions.   I feel like I missed out on six years of walking and growing with the Lord.

But I've learned some important things as a result of this process.  
- I've learned that God's ability to forgive is beyond our ability to sin.
- I've learned that Jesus is faithful to us.   Even when we are running away from Him, He is still faithful.
- I've learned that He really will seek out the lost and the wandering sheep, and restore our relationships with Him, (and one another, if we will let Him).  
- I've also learned that we really DO need to be involved in a local Church body, IF we truly want to be growing and becoming all that He desires us to be.  
- And I've learned that people ARE still being hurt by the Church, and sometimes will even leave it for a while.  They are not lost, only wandering about grieved and broken, searching for answers, disillusioned and isolated from the only source of true healing and restoration - God's Church, His body here on Earth.
- But most importantly, I've learned that these wounded wanderers CAN overcome these hurts.   They CAN move on, they CAN grow, and they CAN become effective and useful once again in the Body of Christ.

Let's talk honestly here.   For many people in the Church, and among many groups of believes, a persons acceptance or your inclusion depends upon their performance.   They are included or accepted IF they're consistently attending, IF they're teaching Sunday School, IF they're involved in this or that ministry, or IF they're a tither, a leader, an Elder or a Deacon.

In these unhealthy Church environments, the opposite also holds true.   Perhaps you would be ignored, not allowed to have your input or ideas considered.    Maybe you would even be ostracized or excommunicated if you didn't do exactly what the Church leaders told you.   Or, God forbid - if you had the boldness to stand up and say something about questionable decisions or policies within the Church that you didn't agree with, or dare to even mention that someone was hurt by the Church..... Then Watch out!!

We've all cringed when we've heard of things being so tightly controlled; when "The-Man-in-the-Suit" up front is "the Holy Anointed One of God".   When he's believed to be the ONLY one who can hear the voice of God, or to receive prophecies, 'cause he's the MAN!   When he controls the flow of information, makes all the decisions, etc...   Many of us have seen the resulting heartbreak and terrible destruction that such abusive or overly-controlling Church leadership practices can inflict.

You yourself may have even lived through a nightmare like this.   You may have received the infamous "Left foot of fellowship" - or told to, "Be fed, be warm, and be gone!"...    If so, what kind of baggage might you be still dragging around?   What hurts are you still carrying around with you?   Hurting people often move from Church to Church to Church, never facing or dealing with these hurts, never getting healed up, never being delivered or set free - and missing out on so much!

I believe that unresolved Church hurts such as these will and do prevent God from having a free hand to move in the many powerful and miraculous ways that He would want to move, in each of our lives, and throughout His Church.   Could we, somehow, maybe not by choice, be holding ourself or others back in their growth in the Lord by not dealing with our having been hurt by the Church?  

Several Pastor friends of mine who do a lot of counseling say that the majority of people that they minister to are believers that are dealing with Church-related hurts.   People who have been shot in their very souls by this destructive "friendly-fire".   These precious children of God have been hurt - IN the Church, or BY the Church or the Church leaders, and it cuts them deep.   Why is it so often considered "taboo" or "unmentionable" to talk about having been hurt by the Church?   Wasn't it Jesus's last and most important command for us to "Love one another",  1   so that those that do not yet believe will see and know that we are becoming like Him?   Shouldn't this "love" include reaching out in tender compassion and powerful ministry to bring healing and forgiveness to these among us who have been wounded by our own Brethren?   Remember that Jesus Himself was betrayed by a Church leader (Judas Iscariot), and that the "Church" of His day (the Scribes and Pharisees of the Sanhedrin - including the High Priest) were the very ones who had Him falsely accused, condemned and crucified!   And that those everyday people - we regular Church members - were the very ones who shouted "Crucify Him!"   Are WE really so much different or any better than they were?  

Jesus said; "If anyone so much as causes one of these little ones to stumble, it would be better for him to have a millstone tied around his neck and be thrown into the sea..."   2 , and "If anyone even gives even a drink of water to one who believes in Me, he will not lose his reward."   3    and "Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for Me"   4.

In Romans 12, the Apostle Paul wrote; "Love must be sincere.   Hate what is evil, but cling to what is good.   Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.   Honor one another above yourselves.   Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.   Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.   Share with God's people who are in need, practice hospitality.   Bless those who persecute you.... Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.   Do not be conceited.   Do not repay anyone evil for evil.   Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.    If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, be at peace with everyone.   Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written; "It is Mine to avenge, I will repay", says the Lord.    On the contrary, if your enemy is hungry, feed him.   If he is thirsty, give him something to drink... Do not be overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good".   5

Ephesians 4:32 says; "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ, God forgave you."   6      These Words of God are truly words we should live by.

Face it.   We're all in this together.   We are imperfect people, being changed from glory to glory to be more like Jesus.   If we are truly followers of Jesus, then we MUST obey Him and do what He says!   For He clearly stated; "If anyone loves Me, he WILL obey my teaching.   My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him."  7    Let us each take these words to heart, pray over them, and endeavor to live them out by the power of God's Holy Spirit working in our lives!

Over the years, as I have walked with the Lord, I have sometimes felt hurt or disappointed or let down by people in the Church, even by the failure of individual fellowships, Christian organizations, or denominations of the Church.    Their sincere best efforts to effectively manage and build the Church often fall short of showing the love, kindness and mercy of the One Whom they represent.

Like you, I am learning to forgive, and to move on in Christ, to reconnect with the Church, and to risk once more being in fellowship with other believers in Christ..   But in all fairness, we must each ask ourselves this painful, soul-searching question; "How many people might I myself have hurt or disappointed or let down?"    and "How can I grow in my own faith and become all God wants me to become, without the regular fellowship, encouragement, interaction and prayers of other believers?"

I think James says it best; "We all stumble in many ways.   If anyone is never at fault, he is a perfect (mature or complete) man, able to keep his own body in check.  ... the Tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts.   Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.   The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body.   It corrupts the hole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell".    8

In any relationship between two or more people, you're going to eventually find that there is a disagreement or a source of conflict.   Think of a marriage.    The honeymoon wears off, and eventually one begins asking; "Why don't you ever put the lid on the toothpaste?", or something else just as trivial.   Little and insignificant things can get all blown out of proportion.   Or consider your life interactions where you work; getting along with coworkers, or dealing with a difficult boss.  How about relating to neighbors, or parents, or relatives, or kids?  

Disagreement, misunderstandings and conflicts are an unavoidable part of life.   We are all different.   So why is it that when we walk through the doors of a Church, we suddenly expect everyone to be different than they are the rest of the week?   We all still have the same life issues, struggles, and problems getting along with people - whether we are at work, or at home, or at Church, because we're still the same people.  

I say it's time to make peace, it's time we choose to get right with one another - no matter how difficult or messy the process, because we really DO need one another.    We are told to be reconciled to each other and to God.   "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!    All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them.    And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation.    We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us.   We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God.   God made Him who had no sin to BE sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God".    9   We need to DO this!   God would have us forgive, and to seek forgiveness wherever we have wronged others.   And He has given us this message of reconciliation to be Ambassadors for Christ to others - to bring them to know the Lord, or to bring them back to the Lord, if they have wandered away.  

Do you have a friend, a family member, or maybe a coworker who was at one time walking with Jesus, but isn't today?... Who was going to Church, but isn't now?   Too many sincere people are walking around wounded, hurt or bitter against the Church, even mad at God because of being hurt by the Church.  

Did Jesus hurt them?   Did He want that to happen?   Does He approve of the actions and behavior of believers who broke the hearts of His other children and have alienated them from the Church?   ABSOLUTELY NOT!!   Instead, does He not long for them all to be back in fellowship and growing at a local Church - plugged in and becoming all they can be in Jesus?   Without question - YES!  

In God's Word we are told to reach out not only to the lost, but also to our brothers and sisters.   "My Brothers, if one of you should wander from the Truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins".  10    So, how do we do this?   We PRAY - pray and ask God to lead us by His Holy Spirit, as to how we can reach out to a person or group.   We pray and wait... and continue to wait for Him and His leading.   He will show us the right time, the right place, and He will give us the words to say.  
Secondly, be yourself, be open, be genuine about your faith and about your being human.   Be honest.   You don't have to be Super-Christian, you don't have to know all the answers, you don't have to look, act or be perfect.   It's a lot better to be honest about you failures and your weaknesses.   For when you are, people can see that Jesus is real.   They will likely begin thinking, "If Jesus can work in this person's life, who's got their own set of problems, maybe He can work in my life 'cause I've got some of those same problems."   

Thirdly, remind people that God does not change.   He is still the same, yesterday, today and forever.   He doesn't reject us, He never stops loving us, He always wants the best for us - even if we've been deeply hurt, somehow wandered away, or are no longer "on fire" for the Lord.  

Another way to reach out to those wounded brothers and sisters, is to simply include them, think of them as, and treat them as fellow Christians.   If a person knew Him once, they still remember His love and kindness - they're just hurt, disillusions and confused - they've just wandered for a while from the truth.   They desperately need someone to care and to reach out to them.

Lastly, tell them that Jesus offers us - all of us - His continuing salvation.   A new birth, a new wholeness, another chance to start over.    "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!"   11.

We can all, whether intentionally or accidentally, cause hurt, or be hurt by others.   There's not a single one of us that is immune to Church hurts, because various areas of sin and brokenness still exist in our lives... because we are imperfect people that are in the lifelong process of being changed from glory to glory, to slowly become more and more like Jesus.   This will always be true, until the Day of the Lord, the Rapture, or until we're at last home in Heaven with Jesus.   So, it is as if God is asking us, while we're still here, to each deal with these hurts, to pursue forgiveness and reconciliation, and to move on with Him, and with others in His family.  

God desires us to be forgivers.   He wants us to seek to be reconciled, to be in harmony with one another, to be of one heart before Him.   He wants us to reach out and heal the wounds which have been inflicted upon one another, to be at peace, and to genuinely love and get along with others in the family of God.  

The Apostle John was a very old man when he wrote these words.   He said; "This is how we know what love is.   Jesus Christ laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.   If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need, but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?   Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue, but with actions and in Truth."   12   

(Prayer:) Great and Loving Lord God, let the words of this song be poured out as our hearts' cry and prayer to You...

Help me forgive, Lord, like You forgive
When I don't know if I want to, and I'm not sure what to do
When the memories come to fill my mind, and feelings hurt anew
Oh, Jesus help me put these things into Your hands,
Release them unto You, oh, let Your Spirit move.
Help me forgive, Lord, like You forgive

Help me forgive, Lord, like You forgive
When I feel I've been mistreated or I'm so misunderstood
Or when I can't seem to forgive myself for not doing as I should

When someone sins against me, give me eyes that I might see
How I can respond to them like You.
Cause me to remember all the grace You've given me.
Complete forgiveness that I've found in You
Help me forgive, Lord, like You forgive.

Scripture References:

1. John 13:34-35
2. Matthew 18:6
3. Matthew 10:42
4. Matthew 25:40 & 45
5. Romans 12:9-21
6. Ephesians 4:32
7. John 14:23
8. James 3: 2 & 5-6
9. 2 Corinthians 5:17-21
10.James 5:19-20
11.2 Corinthians 5:17
12.1 John 3:16-18

Copyright 2000 by Randall Alan Fultz.

"Now many will hear of the wonderful things He has done for me, & put their trust in Him"(Ps 40:3)

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