They’ve been burned. Badly.
And to make it worse, they were burned in church, by other Christians. A place that was supposed to be safe and free became a place of conflict. Kind of a huge breach in trust.
Maybe you’ve been there. It’s not a good place to be. But I don’t think you can go to church very long without some conflict being inevitable.
Since Easter is this week, I think it’s a good idea to share some of these stories, and finally put them into perspective.
The Floodgates Opened
It all started over a year ago. Late at night, I tapped out one of the quickest blog posts I’ve ever written. I called it “Why Church Hurts.”
That simple post has become a perennial favorite for blog wanderers. It’s been reposted and borrowed by all kinds of people. And it’s brought all kinds of visitors to me, who’ve shared their stories with me. Stories like this:
“My church was controlled by several “church lady” and “queen bee” types, and I guess I wasn’t in their inner circle. Strangely, their little power grabs and social games even played out online. I was selectively “unfriended” by many people were were closer to the inner circle than I was.” – Charlene
“I’m a long term missionary, and I’d like to have my church’s support, but every time I’m at church, the pastor literally turns his back on me.” – Walking Wounded
“I’m as close to being excommunicated as possible after my pastor publicly slandered me.” – Anonymous
People from all over the place, all kinds of churches. They’re like burn victims whose spiritual lives are on life support. And I’ve started feeling like a nurse on the burn ward for the church.
Sometimes, You Have to Burn Bridges
Of course, when I wrote that post and the floodgates opened, I wasn’t writing hypothetically. I was burned, badly. You can read more about my story over at Prodigal Magazine (which went up yesterday.) It is an awful feeling to go to church, knowing you have a target on your back, to not know which Christian “brother” or “sister” will betray you this week.
It gives me a lot of mixed emotions when people say they just can’t go back to church, any church. Because I’m convinced that people can’t go it alone, even though being with other people always is a gamble.
I had to burn bridges and start over to save my spiritual life. I hope if you’ve been burned, you won’t let those people steal what belongs to you. Don’t let them take your spiritual life. The pain you feel shows how much it means to you.
You Don’t Serve a Church
It took me a long time to realize that church doesn’t really hurt. The church doesn’t burn people or betray people. The church is full of sinful people, the same sinful people who exist outside the church. And you can’t go to church, make friends, get married, have kids, or leave your house without taking an emotional risk.
But Easter reminds me of something.
We don’t serve a church. A “church” is just a man-made thing, full of broken people. The church is full of faults, because people are full of faults. People have done awful things in the name of church. If you think you’re the only one who’s been hurt by church, just start reading the Bible. You’re in good company.
But we don’t serve a church, we serve a Savior.
And our Savior is not broken. He’s not a liar or a slanderer. He’s not a betrayer or a saboteur. He doesn’t endorse wars or political games. People use his name in vain to justify their awful, stupid, selfish actions, and Jesus just says, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
I hope you’ll remember that this Sunday.
I’m so thankful for the people who allowed me to include their story today, because I am sure that it will help someone in pain see they aren’t alone. So I want to hear from you too! Tell me about a conflict you had in church and how you resolved it. Oh, and I’d love it if you checked out my story at Prodigal too.