What Should You Do If You've Been Hurt by the Church

One of the most common reasons I hear for “Christians” not attending a local church is that they have somehow been “hurt by the church.” I’ve often wondered what exactly this phrase “hurt by the church” means. It seems like it could refer to anything from “I was assaulted in the foyer by a mean-spirited deacon” to “I didn’t like what the pastor had to say about my sin,” which makes it very difficult to know how to help someone who has been “hurt by the church.”

Thabiti Anyabwile has an excellent post over at the Gospel Coalition’s blog on how we should think about this phrase “hurt by the church” and on what someone who has been “hurt by the church” should do with their hurt. Here’s an excerpt:

"Most people 'hurt by the church' were hurt by individuals in a local congregation. Once we establish that, then we’re then left to help them think through whether the offense occurred knowingly and intentionally or unknowingly and accidentally. I’m surprised how often the individuals or churches that 'hurt' someone have no idea an offense has occurred. They’re bopping along rejoicing in the Lord while unbeknownst to them dark clouds of anger and resentment swirl over their names and reputations.  And I’m always grieved for the person experiencing the hurt. It’s never pretty to be dominated by pain. So here’s one pastor’s simple plea:

1. Take your pain to the Lord who bore your pain and bore the sin of those who offended. In His arms are 10,000 charms.

2. Take your hurt to the ones who actually offended you and seek reconciliation–and if necessary take godly, impartial help.

3. Stop saying, 'The church hurt me.' It’s affecting your heart toward an entire congregation, many of whom are likely unaware and uninvolved in your hurt, and possibly affecting your heart toward all Christians everywhere. Don’t blame 'the church.' Don’t spread your 'hurt' over a wider area. If you do, it will dominate you. But if you target your pain and your reconciliation efforts–making it as small and specific as you can–you’ll experience greater control over and freedom from the hurt.

4. Do realize that not every church hurt you and people are not 'all the same.' Find a local church you can join. Start slow if you need to. But let the Lord’s manifold grace come to you in the fellowship of His people. That’s normally how He comforts us in our trouble and pain (2 cor. 1).

5. Live in hope. Your Lord is also Lord of the Church. He cares for your brokenness but also the brokenness of the Church. And guess what? Your pain is the means He will use to teach the church to grow in love and their love will be the means of your healing. The church needs your hurt and you need the church’s love."