Navigating Church Hurt

By Vladimir Savchuk | July 20, 2023 | 4 mins

Navigating Church Hurt

I’ve been a pastor for about 20 years. At about 16 years of age, I started off as the youth pastor of my local church–Hungry Generation. When I was around 30 years old, I transitioned to be the lead pastor of that same church. For as long as I can remember, I have been in church and for a number of years I have witnessed people’s lives be changed, but also hurt within a church. Here are some things to consider.

A Perfect God, Imperfect People

The church, by nature, is a community of believers. It is a place where people are at various stages of spiritual maturity and as such, misunderstanding and sin can occur. The book of Luke tells us a story of a man named Zacchaeus who was desperate to see Jesus but couldn’t because of the crowd (Luke 19:3). Those closest to Jesus didn’t help him. And often, those closest to the church can be unhelpful to those who are far from Jesus.

The Reality of False Prophets

In Acts 20:29, the Bible warns us of the inevitability of false teachers who would infiltrate the church and lead people astray.

However, Jesus is in the business of perfecting the Church.

The books of James, Galatians, Colossians, and others in the New Testament highlight the various issues that can arise within the church community. These include class distinctions, misunderstandings about faith, legalism, heresy, and even outright sin. No church is perfect, as evidenced by the seven churches addressed in Revelation (chapters 2–3), one of which is so unhealthy, it makes Jesus want to vomit (Revelation 3:16).

Causes of Church Hurt

Church hurt can occur due to our own faults, sins committed against us, or failed leadership. Offenses are not exclusive to the church; they happen everywhere. In John 6:66, we see that some disciples turned their backs on Jesus. “From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.” There are individuals within the church who harbor evil intentions, and some leaders who are not true shepherds but wolves (John 10:12).

When faced with church hurt, it’s important to discern the source. Is it due to misunderstanding or intentional abuse? Understanding can solve the former while leaving the environment is crucial in the latter.

Keeping Your Focus on God

Experiencing hurt in the church does not necessarily mean you’ve taken your focus off God. The key is not to let these experiences shipwreck your faith. In 1 Timothy 1:18-19, Paul reminds Timothy to hold on to his faith and good conscience despite the challenges he might face. “This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, having faith and a good conscience, which some having rejected, concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck.”

Read: How to Care for Your Spiritual Life

Steps to Healing from Church Hurt

  1. Go to God in prayer and His Word: Find healing and comfort in Scripture.
  2. Resolve your past: Don’t ignore your own shortcomings (Matthew 7:3).
  3. Confront the offender: Handle conflicts biblically (Matthew 18:15).
  4. Confide in a faithful friend: Find support but avoid gossip.
  5. Pursue Holiness: Strive to be the embodiment of Christ’s teachings you wish to see in others.
  6. Trust in Love: Love covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8).
  7. Forgive and Remember: Hold no grudges, but learn from your experiences (Matthew 6:15).

Though healing may require stepping away from a particular church community, not returning to any faith community robs that community of its most precious resource: a more refined, wiser, and experienced you.

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