It’s inevitable. At some point, in some way, some one involved in the church will hurt you.
A pastor will say something you don’t like. A church staff may counsel in a direction that offends. Conflict may stir between you and another member.
It will happen.
And unfortunately, feeling burned by the church is the story for all too many people. The pain is real, the rejection, abandonment, and sting often create scars that last for years if we allow them.
But there are the key words: if we allow them.
The reason that painful experience or moment is inevitable lies in one inescapable fact: we, every single one of us in the church and outside the church, are sinners deserving of judgment. We are incapable of perfection, incapable of loving one another well at all times, incapable of rightly applying God’s Word in all ways at all times. We are sinners.
But one fact distinguishes us from the world. Those who are believers in Christ understand that we are saved by grace through faith in Jesus alone (Ephesians 2:8-9), and therefore must practice that grace with one another, as well.
Right now, you may be thinking, “well no one had that grace with me!” You may be correct. Someone may have mishandled a situation and you became the collateral, and the pain from that broken relationship has followed you.
Here’s another possible reality. You may have had the wrong expectation of the body of Christ, or you may have been the one mishandling the situation or truth and accountability felt like rejection. You may have been part of the problem. Maybe you were actually the problem.
But please don’t stop there.
Can we encourage and challenge you?
We live in an individualistic culture, which is growing more so every day. Too often, worship, accountability, the art used, the items purchased, and the specific words spoken tend to be more offensive to our individual preferences than because they are out of line with God’s Word. Christianity tilts toward culture’s view of tolerance when everything has to be exactly our way or we leave. Christianity tilts too much toward legalism when everything has to be exactly the way it has always been to be godly or we leave.
If you have left the church because you feel you have been burned, we want to call you back. To clarify, we are not necessarily calling you back to the same little “c” church family you were part of. If there is unresolved conflict there, as a believer in Christ you are called to pursue unity and reconcile (Matthew 18:15-18). You are called to acknowledge your own fault and then address your brother’s (Matthew 7:2-5). It is good for us to live in unity (Psalm 133:1). And it is good for us to reconcile, even if you only contributed ten percent to the problem, even if it is still wise to part ways at the end of the conversation. If you left without a final conversation to seek resolution, no matter the circumstances, you may be part of the problem.
The bigger issue is if you left the big “C” church, meaning the global body of believers, and associate all believers and church leadership with your experience. We truly grieve over your pain. It is never what God intended. What He did intend was for believers to belong to the body of Christ, to find their place to serve and love one another, and to be a picture of reconciliation, redemption, and love to a watching world (1 Peter 4:8-11). If you left and no longer want anything to do with the church, if you tell your story of pain without ability to share the victory of the Lord softening your heart or moving in the situation, you are part of the problem and no longer part of the solution.
Friend, don’t let past hurt define your ability to see the beauty of belonging to Christ’s body. If you are a believer in Christ, you are a vital part, and we need you to join us in furthering the gospel. Sometimes that will mean showing grace, confronting conflict in a loving way, and keeping short accounts of one another (Proverbs 19:11). At other times, it will look like taking a long look in the mirror and an even longer look at scripture to confront areas where we may be holding unbiblical expectations or elevating our own preferences or idols that the gospel clearly outlines as painful for us.
We know every circumstance is different. We know pain and emotions are real. But we also know that we can’t allow them to be our compass. We need one another. And we need to be a picture of love and grace to a watching world.
If you have been burned by a church, can we encourage you to seek help, healing, and accountability in the days ahead (Psalm 107:19-21)? If you have left the church, can we urge you to come back and be part of making the body better by using your gifts uniquely given to you (1 Corinthians 12:12-27)? The Lord’s grace is sufficient in every single weak area (2 Corinthians 12:9). We need grace. The church that hurt you needs grace. You need grace. And more than anything, a lost world needs to see truth spoken in love and grace extended from us now more than ever.
We can’t imagine some of the circumstances that have caused pain in your life, but we know healing is found in Christ, and we have tasted the goodness of God through relationships with other believers. We would love to invite you to join us each Sunday for worship, a biblical message by Dr. Robert Jeffress, and Sunday School classes where you will be encouraged and strengthened by other believers who will spur you on to live the life God desires for you. Come and heal with us, learn with us, grow with us, and transform the world with God’s Word…one life at a time.