"Hurt by the Church"

Nearly every week I talk with someone who tells me they have been "hurt by the Church." Every time I hear these words, my heart breaks because I know exactly what they mean—and exactly what they don’t mean.

Years ago, my wife and I went through one of the most painful experiences in our lives. Our close friends and partners in a local church hurt us deeply. The fallout was massive. We lost friends who once called us their family. We lost a lot of money, and rumors about us abounded.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. We trusted and loved these people and believed that they trusted and loved us. They invested in us, and we invested in them. We were serving side by side in a local church. Then it was all suddenly gone.

I was effectively told I was not worth it and that I was no longer needed or wanted. I will never forget standing in my kitchen that morning, telling my wife about all that happened as we cried bitter tears together.

When someone tells me, “I was hurt by the Church,” I know exactly what they mean. I have been hurt too. However, I also know what they don’t mean.

I believe to speak of being hurt by “the Church” is a safe way of speaking about our pain. It allows us to keep a safe distance from the events that have wounded us—because "the Church" is a faceless thing.

Each Sunday, our congregation gathers in a building in Denver. Some call this building "the church." Many talk about going to this building to “go to church.” There are frequent questions about our church. The word “church” is used in many contexts to mean many things.

A building. An event. An organization.

There is an unspoken agreement on what we mean when we use the word in certain ways, but ultimately it is a term with a kind of generic meaning. What people don’t mean when they say “I have been hurt by the Church” is that a faceless organization has hurt them.

What they really mean is that a person or group of people they associate with the Church has wounded them. As is often the case, thinking or speaking of their hurt in such personal terms stirs up painful emotions.

It is hard to talk about our wounds and say the names of our friends, pastors or mentors who have caused the pain. Sometimes it feels like death to say exactly what they have done to us. Each time we retell the story, something inside us replays our experience that, in one way or another, told us that we were not needed or wanted.

However, if we are ever to move past this kind of hurt and journey toward restoration, that is exactly what we must do. Forgiveness can only exist where the truth is present and spoken.

This does not mean publicly stating the person’s name and spilling all the details of our grievances. It does mean addressing the pain in appropriate ways and, if possible, telling that person directly how they have hurt you.

There are no guarantees with this. You may share your wounds and have your forgiveness thrown back in your face. As painful as this is, Miroslav Volf observes that in that moment, you stand with the crucified and risen Jesus—the One who has given everything to offer forgiveness to all humanity, only to have many reject His love.

To speak this honestly is always a frightening idea, for it means once again placing our trust in someone else. But the reality is that if we are ever to get out of our pain, we must go into it. We must acknowledge the hurtful moments and recall the injury. We must stand and face down the lies that haunt us and tell us we are not wanted or are unlovable.

For it is in that pain that we will find Jesus. The one who bore our sorrow, our shame and our pain. And in that place, He will show us His wounds and we will hear Him whisper, “I think you’re worth it, and I think you're lovable.”

If you have been hurt by the Church, I can tell you that I know how you feel. By the goodness of God and His people, I can also tell you that because of those wounds, I also know the love of God in a deeper way than I ever thought possible.

Michael Hidalgo is the lead pastor of Denver Community Church and lives withhis wife and children in downtown Denver, Colo. He blogs regularly at AView from a Point. Follow him on Twitter @michaelhidalgo.

38 Comments

85,025

ken commented…

The church also gets hurt by insensitive people. As a pastor of a small church I can't control the actions or the words of everyone. When someone does something in an unlovely way or says something that wounds others, I too have heard the words, "I'll never go back to that church." The damage has been done, the family has gone, and the church loses too. Many people have no idea what pastors suffer because of the actions of others. The common response of others when this is shared with them is, "I never want your job." It's not a job, its a calling and only God's grace can get you through it. Its true that leadership has been at fault too but we live in an age where everyone is sensitive to what is being said and what is being done. God will have to sort all of this stuff out.

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TonyTr

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TonyTr commented…

The word teacher in Koine Greek isDidaskalos, which means teacher and instructor. This is equivalent to "Rabbi" in the hebrew language for the old testament. The book of James (perhaps as early as 45 A.D.) is one of the oldest books in the new testament, and it is said that it was primary written to an Jewish audience.

With all that said, I would 'assume' you couldn't be a teacher, instructor, or a Rabbi in those times without being a leader. Nowadays, a teacher with no ministerial authority is common. However, then I'm not to sure........

Nonetheless, if my biblical hermeneutics is incorrect, please forgive me!

God Bless You Mrs. Dutton, and have Wonderful day!

Tony T.

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85,025

Johnfam2010 commented…

It was 1989, for my husband and I. Sometimes it feels like yesterday. My husband has bi-polar disorder and I suffer from depression. We had a baby girl born and died on May 27, 1989. My husband was close to a breakdown, as was I. Our "worship pastor" and my husband's "best friend" decided that we needed to have a confrontation on the way we handled our finances right then. Cruel, disgusted, arrogant, harsh.....Time helps with forgiveness, but forgetting isn't as easy.

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85,025

SHELIA D BLAIR commented…

I hear the hurt of many in the previous posts. I cannot take away your hurt, but I want you to know I grieve for each of you. I know time heals all wounds; but, I pray someone comes alongside of you and give you or help you work towards getting what others took from you.

I want you to know the morning does come and weeping comes far and in between.

Continue to seek Christian relationships and membership for someone deserves to know you and love you. Do not allow the hurt to overshadow you for the rest of you life.

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Wayne Bienek

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Wayne Bienek commented…

My children were taken away from me..

I don’t have custody or visitation.

The ‘Church’ (all the members) stood by and never reached out to me in my pain. I was a Sunday and Wednesday Baptist.

.. So my daughters get to grow up without their father. I was (At the time drinking ~ about 3 times a week I would drink a bottle ` 1.5 of bottles wine ~ dump the last half down the toilot) and because of that, my wife the ‘HOLY’ Christian (I am one too, but I really don’t like the “Righteous” Christians because there is no forgiveness.

I don’t drink anymore, and I have found the grace and love of God through Christ who has brought me healing, but there is no more illusion of “Christian” love and forgiveness. Its a farce. I think Christians like to believe that about themselves, but I assure you, when put to the test, it’s not there.

I now know “Christians” would watch as your kids are taken from you and never bat an eye. Because you’re not good enough to have your children.

I wouldn’t trust them with my heart, time or mind again.

Any of you babies whining about “Doctrine” have never felt real pain. Let your children be taken from you – never to be able to read them stories at night.. Never go on walks again – never ride your bike with them – go get ice cream, experience the joy of being with your children. Then you’ll never think about “this doctrine” or “that doctrine” It’s a joke and a luxury people who don’t know real pain quibble about.

My ex wife was a ‘Christian’ too. I put Christian in quotes because I think most “Christians” are a joke, who would happily watch as someones house burn down. You think to yourself.. “No I wouldn’t” You’re right. You would put your arm around the person.. maybe bring him/her food or give them a bit of money.. then go about your business, nary a thought about it again. Things like “Bear one another burdens” etc.. A joke. You’re on your own. Going to church and believing that those around you care about you is a scary thing because if you should ever need these people you IMAGINE are there for you, you’re in for a RUDE awaking. It would be better for everyone to just admit. I am NOT here for you.. And if you step out of line, we’ll make sure you’re children are taken from you.. THAT’S christian accountability.

If you don’t think this is true, drink a few bottles of wine and watch as ‘Christians’ take away everything you love. Their love is as fake and conditional as monopoly money.

They LOVE you as long as you’re white washed on the outside.

Put it to the test if you don’t believe me. But be warned, they’ll take your children away and cast you out. Nobody will call you. Nobody will care for you. Then you’ll know what real Christian love is.

I am unfortunately very bitter as you can tell. I found out that being a steady church going member is worthless and only serves to give you a false sense of security. The truth is, each person only cares for themselves and would let you die on the side of the road at best. At worst, take your children from you.

Yes.. Drinking three times a week .. Very wrong.. And I’ve stopped.. But because she was a CHRISTIAN, my kids were taken away from me. You would think I robbed a bank and killed someone.

No I never EVER hit my wife.
Never cheated on my wife (not so much as a kiss on another woman)
I never watched sports on tv, but spent all my extra time with my kids.
I read them stories (or told them stories from my head ) every night until they were taken from me.
Spent my weekends ONLY with my kids (no friends outside of my wife and kids so I spent all my extra time with them)

MY CRIME WAS : drinking three times a week for the last two years of the marriage.

If I had done more, I wouldn’t be so bitter against CHRISTIANS, I would think .. Yeah, I deserved it.

As it is, I think ALL Christians (and everyone for that matter) who aren’t perfect should have their kids taken from them as I had mine taken from me. So yeah.. UNIVERSALLY I am hurt by the ‘Church’ Nobody helped or cared.. They still don’t I wouldn’t trust them with the smallest thing, much less my spiritual well being.

I just about lost faith because of the church abandonment. I would never place any part of my soul or well being in their hands. They’re self righteous and that self riotousness will destroy you if you make any mistakes.

By the grace of God I quit drinking.. I was drinking because I was afraid people didn’t really care for me. I was proven right. After that I really didn’t need/want to drink. These people had me for something worthless.. OR below worthless.. They would like nothing more than to be proven right, so that their act of taking my kids from me would be justified.

Nobody should have their kids taken from them.. I always have SOOOO much pain simmering below the surface..

I always come back to: If I am not good enough to have my kids. I am not good enough to be around Gods kids.

I used to go into prisons and minister to prisoners. Knock on doors and share the gospel. I used to do so much for the cause of Christ. Now I only have this horrible pain.. I have much less mercy and compassion for people anymore.. I just want everyone to know the pain I am in.. To know what it feels like to be abandoned by everyone you love and for those you loved to either participate or stand by while your kids are taken from you and the courts are used to ensure you have no rights to them.

Argue over doctrine.. Care about ‘gossip’.. But until your kids are taken from you and you pray to die with tears three times a day.. morning noon and night.. you don’t know pain.. and you don’t know ‘CHRISTIAN’ love ~ or lack thereof.

I am still a christian who loves Christ. But I can’t see myself going to a ‘CHURCH’ of non-forgivers. I don’t want to hear the garbage from the pastor, who I know, if put to the test, is full of baloney. Its just words to make themselves feel good about themselves. There is no action behind the words, and worse, they’ll harm you if given the chance.

My healing (if you want to call it that) comes from the fact that I had to get over that some people don't like me. They dislike me enough to take my kids. I always have to be prepared for people to hurt me as badly as they possibly can if I let my guard down.

I was naive to think that people who profess the name of Christ actually believe what they are saying. I will not be caught off guard again. I will live a life as pure as I can for my love of God and Christ, which shows respect for what I believe was done for me to wash away my sins.

My last words to my three daughters, May 10th 2013 as their mother packed their clothes and left the house (The last time they lived with me) : "This is what happens when there is no forgiveness"

There is your Christianity.. That is Christian forgiveness.

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