Have you been wounded by a church?
My experiences in leaving
two churches were painful, but I didn't carry deep wounds. My faith had grown
strong enough to anchor me, and many positive experiences in church gave me perspective. I drifted away from church once and knew this was not the
answer. Many who leave church carry wounds they cannot forget. Their reluctance
to find another church is understandable. They may need professional help, but
they must also look for another church. Lone Ranger Christians lose their spark.
Their growth in Christ is stalled without a church. They may even lose their
faith as I did.
Unfortunately there are
pastors and church leaders who demean, manipulate, seduce or even sexually abuse
a member. These hurts are deep and real, even traumatic. Expectations attached
to the role of pastor are shattered; trust is gone. Those leaving a church for
horrendous reasons will need to seek professional counseling to heal the damage
done. Be sure to see a Christian counselor familiar with your denomination or church.
Keller, in his book, The Reason for God, says
"I realize that so many people's main problem with Christianity has far more to
do with the church than with Jesus. They don't want to be told that to become a
Christian and live a Christian life they need to find a church they can thrive
in. They've had too many bad experiences with churches....I realize how risky it
is to tell my readers that they should seek out a church. I don't do it lightly,
and I urge them to do it with the utmost care. But there is no alternative.
You can't live the Christian life without a band of Christian friends,
without a family of believers in which you find a place."
Some who leave church and
don't return have unrealistic expectations of church. They don't realize that
Christians are sinners. We can be mean, petty, and unkind; you name it. Many
people leave church because they view other members as hypocrites. They fail to
realize that we are all works in progress. We can "talk the talk" better than we
can "walk the walk." Who can't?
with others are fraught with problems. Look at family problems, marital
issues, and extended family conflicts. Relationships are difficult. But we learn
in relationships and we need them. The alternative is to be alone, uninvolved.
Churches demonstrate greater love and acceptance than most groups even though
the church spans all generations and all economic levels. Also, God has covered
our sins and accepted us without any merit of our own. We are told by Jesus to
love and accept others.
leavers, I urge you to look for another church. Do so carefully
and prayerfully.There are many caring and safe churches.
elders, please be alert to visitors who have been deeply hurt by a
church, but have decided to follow Keller's admonition (and mine) and look for
another church. Handle them with loving care.