Have you been hurt by a church? If so, you’re not alone.
As a pastor of a church, I’ve heard stories from people who have found church confusing, contrarian or even damaging. Not every church hurts people, but most churches have hurt someone at some point. Some people are hurt through their own mistakes, others because of sin committed against them, and still others because of failed leadership. This reality can leave them reluctant to re-engage, afraid of being hurt again, wanting to protect themselves and questioning the place of church in their lives. The good news for the hurting is that God has spoken to your pain in the Bible.
Most of the writing in the New Testament about how to live in a church exists because the church has never been perfect. Most, if not all, of the letters were written to solve problems in the church:
• 2 Timothy to solve tension in succession (2 Timothy 4:9–16).
• Philippians to solve conflict and selfish ambition (Philippians 2:3–22).
• 1 and 2 Corinthians to solve a whole host of problems centered around the issues of human pride in gifting and speaking that led to loveless and arrogant religious activity.
And that’s not even to mention the letters to the churches in Revelation (chapters 2–3), one of which is so unhealthy, it makes Jesus want to vomit (Revelation 3:16).
And we think we’ve got problems.
A Broken, but Growing Church
That said, the church is the bride of Christ and the body of Christ — a people set apart to declare God’s praises to the nations and called to become more like the people of God we are meant to be. We shouldn’t be surprised by hurt and pain in the church, because everyone in the church is still sinful. But while saving faith in Christ is not surprised by brokenness, it is never content or negligent with it either.
So how do we make progress in the midst of our church’s flaws? Many things are outside of our individual control, but God has given us a simple formula for walking through every stage of life with every kind of challenge, grief and disappointment. There’s nothing secret or magic about these steps, except for the Father who loves to reveal his power when we give ourselves to them.