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This article is from Issue 64: July/August 2013

Is the Church a Broken Institution?

Several years ago, I left the Church.

My wife and I were deeply wounded by our closest friends and partners in ministry, rumors about us spread like wildfire and we felt abandoned. I said goodbye to God and the Church and, it was safe to say, I was never coming back. I thought the Church was a broken institution.

A year before that, I was a pastor. My congregation was filled with people who loved Jesus and had a passion to see His renewal come to this broken world. I never tired of hearing stories of brokenness followed by experiences of healing. Our belief was simple: the Church should be the last place you should find people who pretend to have it all together. I was having the church experience many people are blessed to have in their lives: one that was vibrant and exciting.

I didn’t know that not everyone agreed with my mind-set, and a few did all they could to ensure I would not be a pastor at that church for long. One morning, I was told I had to resign. As I looked around the room, I saw people who were more than friends—they were family. One of those in that meeting used to tell me I was “like a son” to him. But now, as one leader told me, I was simply “an issue that needed to be dealt with.”

There was no warning and no conversation; just a severance agreement I had to sign or else I’d get nothing. So I did. What followed was one of the most painful seasons of my life.

I walked out of that church, and no one from its leadership team ever reached out to my family again. Apparently their “issue” had been dealt with. But it wasn’t over for me. Our community, my career and our future with the church were all suddenly severed, and my wife and I were devastated. We’d had such a strong sense of spiritual purpose, and now we had no idea what to do with our lives. For years, I had met people who had been “hurt by the Church.” Now, I was one of them.

We are everywhere

The saddest part in all of this is my story is not unique. Many of us have had painful experiences with the Church, Christian ministries, organizations or universities.

My friend Rick worked at a Christian university for more than 15 years. He quickly became one of the most beloved and popular professors at the school. For many students, he served in a pastoral role, offering godly guidance. Rick challenged the comfortable Christianity of many students and invited them to truly make faith in Jesus their own.