I know many of us view church as a spiritual safe haven for our weary souls. Church is a place for us to connect in sharing in our faith with fellow believers. We join together in worship for a renewal of our spirits, and we come for healing for deliverance. I know many people like myself who were raised in the church. Church was like a second home for me, and it also was a place that I endured some of the deepest pain. I saw many others within my journey to find a place of worship to call home enter as well broken hearted and heavy burdened. They entered with childlike readiness in anticipation leaving just as broken as they came following another bad experience. Was it something wrong with them? Hey, was it something wrong with me? Maybe the answer lays in the fact that our view of the church and who God is was a bit distorted by our own personal views and expectations that aided in our sensitivity of what we deemed as “being hurt by the church” that added in our negative view of the church ministry.
All In The Family
I am not justifying any form of mistreatment or conduct by any church or leader. I loved our little family church in the back woods of Waynesbro,Georgia. It was a church that my ancestors established following the Reconstruction Era. It was all I knew. My grandfather and uncle were dedicated and respected church elders. Every 2nd and 4th Sunday my cousins and I would sing heavenly praise from the traditional Baptist hymnals, and devotion songs. I enjoyed Sunday school training union and participation in the annual programs at church. I learned how to be a leader watching my late cousin Betty with her grace and poise conduct Sunday school class. I learned about service in watching my dear cousin Flo who made the best cakes ever dutifully visit the sick and shut in with care. My grandfather taught me about honesty and character in being the president of the trustee board. I met by best friend at the age of seven at our little home church, and we have been side by side ever since. However, due to our parents and grandparents leadership roles at the church we both had a listening ear to the on goings of the many quarrels and issues. After high school we had enough of seeing the drama and the fluctuating leadership. We both went to college and went our separate ways for a spell. Later, we following college we both went searching for a church to finally call home. I like my friend saw that what we experienced at our small church wasn’t immune to any church despite the denomination, size, racial makeup, or other.
The Perfect Place
In my immaturity both in age and in spiritual understanding I viewed church as the “perfect place”. I thought of it as the closest thing next to heaven with smiling faces, hugs, songs of praise, and the pastor being this father like figure of regalness in leadership over his flock. That way of thinking really sets you up for disappointment because you truly forget that church is a place full of everyday people who are just like you who are taking it day by day living with their own personal struggles. I also witnessed that in my desperate search of finding this “perfect place” in church hopping here, there, and everywhere saw many of the same issues at every church. The issues may have differed in dramatics or circumstances, but for the most part I discovered that there is no such place as the “perfect church.” I begin to look at church as a hospital for those who are searching to be healed while working through their problems instead of a place for the holier than thou saints! I do feel that church leaders and those who preside over any leadership within an platform or auxiliary should uphold some form of accountability. I don’t believe that they should be placed on a pedestal of unrealistic perfection without given the same form of forgiveness, grace, mercy, and compassion that we study as believers of Christ. I apply that same concept with fellow church members as well. I don’t condone ungodly behavior or actions, but I learned that my response to other people’s behaviors show more about my character in Christ more so than theirs.
I learned to focus more on building my own personal relationship with God through prayer, study, worship, and in giving of my time in service. We collectively as a family decided to find a church home that fit our families spiritual needs, beliefs, and which provides fellowship that we all can enjoy. The same negative and toxic personalities that we endure on our jobs may be at church . Most people don’t quit their jobs or careers over a negative experience or the presence of a negative personality. We keep signing in our time clocks for our jobs, and we may decide to come into work a little early to grow to better ourselves. We simply speak kindly to those we see who have quirks and ways that we don’t like; we keep the conversation short moving on to do our jobs. We can have someone at church mistakenly give us a cold look, and we won’t step foot in another place of worship for 10 years! In the end it’s not about them, it’s about our souls. We are living disciples here to work in spreading the love of God, and all that Christ stands for to the best of our abilities. I have my faults and flaws. We all do. However instead of seeing church as a mere building we can view at as another vessel leading towards our salvation. We can choose to “Be the church” by our lifestyles and actions. Church is deeper than a building. We are the church.
Tips For Coping With Church Hurt and Building Your Own Personal Relationship With Christ:
- Take the time to build your own personal relationship with Christ by creating your own time for studying the bible and for prayer.
- Always be open to offering grace and mercy as Christ has done for you for your mistakes. There is no “perfect church,” and there are no “perfect people.”
- Be open to Christian counseling or talking to someone you really trust who can give you biblical guidance and understanding in helping you cope with what you are going through. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help if you need it .
- Take a step back if you need to from various church activities until you feel lead in prayer to return to your usual duties if need be.
- Don’t engage into gossip or negative talk about the issue or concerns especially when you know this is someone who is spiritually immature.
- Know the difference between church hopping and searching for a church home for your family. When we are searching for a church home we usually do our research, visit for a time spell, and take the time to get to know the members before being active. Church hopping is a on going cycle of venturing place to place and getting actively involved, and later leaving for whatever the reason without making in effort to make a true commitment.
- Do your research and take your time at your pace in being actively involved in any auxiliaries or activities.
- Get involved in a small group or connect group to grow in the word and in fellowship with others. Also, take the time to get to know others. Cultivate your own circle of trusted friends who are believers for support.
- Also go in prayer in learning more about yourself in the areas that you need personal growth in development in being a living disciple .