I Got Hurt in/by “the Church”

I encounter numerous people who say outright or imply that they have been hurt in or by the church. I can testify that I am among those. When I experienced one of those seasons, so many people were afraid that I would walk away from my call to ministry and turn my back on God. By God’s grace, I didn’t. However, some people are hurt so deeply that they no longer want to embrace the concept of the church. Some of those grapple with their relationship with God because of the hurt while some still cling to the Lord without the church as a part of their life. I can understand what leads to this. For the remainder of this post, I want to address the things that bring hurt to those in the church.

Leadership bullies. This is most often the pastor or a deacon. These people feel such a sense of power that they bulldoze all who stand in their way. This “my way or the highway” approach is not Christlike and hurts many good people while these leaders fight for their way. These individuals who are on the power trip do eventually receive what they dish out. Many of the things listed below will stem from this.

Removal from a church position. People are often removed from positions of service for various reasons. Some people are willing but were never given the knowledge or tools they need to serve effectively, so they were replaced with someone the pastor or a committee wanted. (I will be clear that I find nominating committees often cause this hurt because they do not understand the heartbeat of the church. I personally think they should not exist.) People are sometimes removed from positions because of unbiblical attitudes, often without someone ever addressing the attitude. The biblical thing to do is address the attitude that leader has that is creating problems and help restore that person to the joy of the Lord.

Abuse by church leaders. This is often verbal, physical, or sexual. We have seen, heard, and read too many stories of those who abused their position to take advantage of others. This abuse often happens multiple times because the victims are threatened. Sadly, the “good ole boy” system exists within many churches and denominational structures and these crimes are swept under the rug and victims or abusers are often shipped off to other places. 

Church members’ gifts and resources are abused. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen churches say, “Hey, Roberta is willing to serve in 15 key ministries in the church PLUS she has money, so let’s put her to work and do what we can to keep her.” What is the result? Burnout! They work so hard that they don’t want to work anymore. No one is willing to help, so the easiest thing to do is worship the Lord at home. 

Self-righteous people look down on others. This happens WAY too often. We find out that a young lady in the church is promiscuous. Rather than find out why she is behaving this way and love her through it, we talk about it in our gossip circles or cast stones. I’m afraid many church members have not read Galatians 6:1 – RESTORE them to where they need to be in Christ, considering that you could be the one who struggles with sin.

Treated like you didn’t exist. Many people are hurt because no one ever treated them like they had any significance. They are mistreated or ignored because of financial/social status or a variety of other reasons. Some churches consist of people who are only there to punch in their hour for Jesus (more like for themselves) and have no desire to engage in relationships with anyone. On the flip side, you may not have fit into one of the church cliques. I dealt with that as a church staff member. I was an outsider who moved from another state and was not invited to be a part of many things. Now I’m a pastor who has started from scratch and am constantly emphasizing the need to be ONE community rather than separate cliques. 

This list is by no means exhaustive. I welcome those who read to add any thoughts to this. You, the reader, inspire me to be a better blogger. As one who has been wounded by my own, I understand and want to help others. I have a feeling this may have a part two on steps to healing from this kind of hurt. Stay tuned!

Author: Matthew Winters (The Comeback Pastor)

Born and raised in Portsmouth, VA, I eventually landed in upstate SC because when God calls I move. I gave my life to Christ in 1987 and surrendered to the call to ministry in 1997. I am a three-time graduate from Liberty University and Theological Seminary: BS in Religion (2003), the MA in Religion (Leadership concentration - 2006), and the Master of Divinity (Pastoral Ministries - 2013). I have served as a worship leader and senior pastor in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia since 1996. After experiencing a divorce, God graciously gave me my wife, Jennifer, whom I married in September 2015. Between the two of us, we have 6 children. I am the Lead/Founding Pastor of Overcomers Church in Walhalla, SC, a church plant that is helping those who have been overcome by life to become Overcomers in Christ. Jennifer and I both love people and long to see them enter into a relationship with Christ and walk in the power of His Spirit. I pray that these thoughts I share will challenge and inspire you to greater heights and deeper depths for the glory of Christ.

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