Friday, November 09, 2007

Have you had a bad church experience?

Get Over it and Move On

How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD Almighty! My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. Psalm 84:1-2

Have you had a bad church experience? Then what have you done with it? How does that differ from bad family experiences? Accordingly to Focus on the Family and other research organizations such as ours at Into Thy Word have found that approximately 20 million Americans who have professed to be Christians and made a commitment to Jesus Christ, have said they have struggled with such bad experiences at their church they are no longer going to any church. Barna Research has given similar results that in a six month study, 10 million of them; spiritual life has nothing to do with church (gleaned from and

Yes the church has problems as I have perhaps overzealously pointed out or maybe understated them. The church is a human institution, filled with our fallen sinful nature al converging with each other’s sinful nature. It is also about our interpersonal relationships and being a family. So we should expect a few flaws of unsatisfactory reactions by people. After all, you cannot please everyone. And what relationship or family does not have its good times and bad, its ups and downs, so it is with any church too. We should expect it, prepare for it, deal with is, take the responsibility for it and move on with forgiveness when we are wronged and repent when we do wrong. And there is no institution better; after all, who is going to marry you and bury you? Who is going to hold your baby up in baptism or dedication? These important stages of life are centered upon the church, all the richness of the traditions, and all the hope we have to look to. Would you rather go to the courthouse? Well, if we do not reform and turn our failing churches around, people will rather go to the courthouse as many today are. And then where does that leave the church and its relevance in culture?

· Perhaps you have been gossiped about, someone told lies about you and you feel betrayed from someone you once called friend.

· Perhaps you are in a conflict, coming out of a conflict or headed for a conflict with another church member.

· Perhaps you are in serious disagreement with the pastor and or the church leadership.

· Perhaps you are discouraged that your issues and troubles are not being heard or your needs being met.

· Perhaps you are so stressed out in life and find church too consuming or confusing and do not know where to start or go.

· Perhaps you have been humiliated and lost any courage to go that you may have had once.

· Perhaps you feel you have been fired and rejected by the church and see no other place to go.

By the way, these are the seven top reasons why a person leaves a church then to never come again and many to never attend any church again. That is why I am so passionate about this subject that few are willing to talk about or admit. That leads to the thinking…. what am I here for, this is not for me anymore. Consider that thousands of people each Sunday feel that way as the clock strikes noon! You thought church would be fun and safe you could connect and grow there. And yes you still can, it is never too late as long as you have breath. You may need to reform it or find another one, but you as a Christian need a home to grow and serve in. And realize that you are not alone. You also need to realize that you have to get over it and move on and Christ will empower you to do so.

As Christians, even avid churchgoers and leaders we are still human beings, we are prone to make mistakes, either intentionally or unintentionally. That is why we have a Savior. Yet, we all have hurt people, and we have all been hurt; we are all in the same boat of doing life together. So, when we refuse to forgive one another, it is like escaping the disaster of a great house fire, only to try to go back and relight it again. Yet, that is what so many of us do in life and in church; we sabotage the very thing that is designed to help bring us a healthy life and relationships. Why do we do that? Because, as hurting people, we hurt others; we become so hurt that we intentionally or unintentionally seek to inflict that hurt upon friends and family. We need to understand that in Christ, our escape from the fire is our redemption, which we do not deserve. Christ gives us the means to be free and that is forgiveness. Since everyone else who are there or fleeing needs the cross too, why try to sabotage another? All you will accomplish is to maroon yourself. To stop the replicable cycle of hurt, we have to step out of the fire and be willing to put it out by being able and willing to forgive! We may get hot, but at least we will not burn!

If you have been wronged and I have been there many times and I am the pastor, we all must commit to getting over it! And yes anyone can and most have had a bad experience at church. The big problem is not just the leadership ignoring and then doing nothing about it; it is the person who has been hurt and doing nothing to move on from it. We must not allow our pains to imprison us away from what the church can be and should be.

So few of us will actually step out and forgive. So, out of the mistakes we make, or those others cause us, comes our pain, hurt, and resentment. This resentment escalates into animosity, and builds into bitterness, until it distorts our faith and even destroys our church and causes all of its once vibrant members into isolation or pain. If we refuse to forgive, and built an impenetrable wall that caused bitterness and isolation all we will do is wallow in our troubles, blaming everyone else for them. If we would just allow forgiveness to take place it will break down those walls of hurt that would permit the building of life and relationships. Forgiveness is the only human force that can stop the disintegration of relationships in the church. This is why it is so essential. This is why our LORD calls us to forgive. If you have been hurt, or you have hurt others—and we all have—open your eyes and realize that it is the call of the Christian to dispel these conflicts. It is our call and mandate to forgive. It is also in our best interest and one of our main avenues to relationship contentment. Without forgiveness, our growth and maturity with Christ will stagnate, and our church cannot be built!

We may suffer betrayal from trusted church friends, church leaders, pastors, denominational officials and other members and even outsiders. However, we are called to forgive, anyway! Why? Because, we need it, and because we are imperfect, fallen, and full of sin. Even the Christian who is saved by Grace is still in process of growth and sanctification. We are yet imperfect, no matter what our level of maturity. If you are thinking, I refuse to forgive others, consider this reason to forgive. We forgive because God has forgiven us. If we do not, the resentment will build and build—like battery acid that slowly eats away a car—until, unless we fix it, it will destroy us. Even secular psychologists tell us that resentment is the most powerful, self-destructive emotion in our arsenal. Will you allow forgiveness to build, or bitterness to destroy your relationships and life? (See my book on Building Healthy Relationships for more helps on this subject.)

What you can do to recover from bad church experiences is simple.

· First as already said, you have to forgive, even if they do not disserve it. Remember you did not disserve Christ’s forgiveness, none of us did, and yes we have it in Him!

· Then, read about the life of Joseph in Genesis chapters 39-45. See how much he was betrayed and been hurt and as long as he honored God, God blessed him and he was even able to not only forgive his family but be an instrument of deliverance to them too.

· Then prayer over your experiences, seek God out and allow Him to heal you.

· Look at the Scriptural references to this chapter in the appendix and read and then study them.

· Then commit to get back on the horse that bucked you off, the church that threw you and move on. If you can’t stay in your church, find another one, one where Christ is lifted up and preached.

· If you need further help seek a qualified Christian counselor or pastor, but remember it is your responsibly to forgive, forget and more on!

The sooner we all realize that no church is perfect, the sooner we can move on to personal recovery and build up our faith more. Christ is perfect ad we are to look to Him. Remember each of us, as in you are the church too, and in order to make the church better you also have to make yourself better too. And this is what Christ is all about, the Redeemer and giver of mercy, grace and faith, take a hold of Him!


At 11:20 AM, Blogger Christian said...

Please stop using the lame excuse that the church is not perfect so we should embrace bad experiences. This is the classic " to err is human" type of excuse. If one can't use that rant in court, one sure can't use that before God and before fellow christians.

The test for a true christian is simple:

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”- John 13:34-35

Bad church experience result from unloving people who abuse others in various ways.
If people inside a church are not loving, they fail the test, it is that simple.
Jesus was not at all friendly with the religious leaders, not because they were rich and powerful, but because they were hypocrites. There are alot of hypocritical church leaders today and why should we be making excuses for them?

At 9:50 AM, Blogger Richard said...

Yes you correct, I am not giving excuses, rather possible explanations. My point it to not allow a bad church experience to keep you away from Church. Dust off your feet ad move to a a better church that you suggested, one of love,

I will have a book coming out on this in a couple of months, The New Exodus, Why our churches are failing...

thanks for the commits

be blessed

At 10:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have had bad experiences, yet as you said the love of God covers. When you have sat on both sides of the table you'll understand and appreciate the server sharing what's on the menu so you can make the best decisions according to what you like or can handle for your appetite.

At 10:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have been on both sides-- the inflictor and the inflictee. God showed His love to me but because I was so inflicted, I began to harbor bitterness, resentment, hatred, evil thoughts within my heart. Which meant I did not let everything go. It caused me to easily be unforgiving to ones who were close to me; though I had been forgiven for close to the same things and much more. Nevertheless, someone had to keep praying for me until I came to my senses. It is not that anyone is making excuses, the facts are the history of our lives. We so have to be careful that we do not sit in judgement of those who have overcomed. See it as though we are throwing out a life line because we see others drowning. Even when you know to wear a life jacket, you don't when you get comfortable and everyone around you has theirs off too. When you least expect it, your boat may bump into a whale and shake you up. Then you will remember this very moment; God will still show His love toward His children.

At 10:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This has to be one of the hotest topics in church all across the country. Thank God we serve a God who came for these very moments.

(My testimony)
When you have sinned you know it, even in the midst of doing it. Asking God's forgiveness and accepting it is vital to moving on because people, including the saints, may not (until they fall in the same snares of life). Yes, it is true during that time you recognize that you do not have the love of Christ; may be that was the lesson He needed to show me. I thought I truly had it, I testified that I did while singing in the choir (4-5 times a week), serving communion, praying before the church, teaching Sunday School and VBS, and a prayer warrior; yet God showed me and helped me accept I was not loving others. So yes, Jesus called my sin out and helped me to love me, now I can help others who serve in church hypocritically that God is able to forgive you and cleans you. I don't focus on how saints don't want you to be forgiven, but on the facts that matter for the rest of my life, JESUS did not give up on me! He gave me testimony, His blood washed me within, white as soon AND NOW, I am no longer the same.

I pray this helps to bring someone out of bondage.

At 10:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you've been hurt by church members (family and friends included) then you may feel like Psalm 55: 12-14. But you must pray Psalm 51 and Psalm 55:16-22. This will help begin to give you healing and joy. You have to let the Word do it, even if it was adultery, fornication, lying, stealing, not paying your tithes, not praising God because what others think, you have to love as God does.

I know, from experience, you want to let it go, but a part of you is using it as a wall to shield you from any other hurt--- you had more trust in people than God. The truth is it is actually a weight upon your heart. Read the Job latter end blessing, only if he blessed those who "kicked" him when he was down. They inflicted pain on him when they spoke against his test though he had done them no harm. Let go of the pain and let God replace it with His true love. If it's a person, if they get it, guess what it will start out looking good and as though you were defeated, but God said vengenace is His. He will repay and we will all recieve the harvest from the seeds we've sown.

The spirits of the devil try to keep you bound and separate from God by connecting you with others who speak and do negative against those who hurt you. Every time you see them, you speak quickly and keep moving; no genuiness, but you "say" you forgive them. Make it right with God. Scream, cry tell God how bad it hurts and ask Him to help you move on and love those who hurt you. Cast your cares upon Him!!! ONLY GOD CAN DO IT FOR YOU. Then you MUST daily (by the second if you must) declare victory in that area, declare God's love to rule in your heart and mind all day! When it tries to resurface (and it will) pray--- it is keeping the line of communication open with God! Take it one day at a time. Diligently seek the Lord! Though it appears to be a thorn in your flesh, remember that His garce is sufficient.

I speak from experience not a book, myth or imagination. God is able to help you let it God but you must apply His Word daily! People will try to discourage you and say there is no hope because you just don't have the love of Christ. The devil is a liar through that used vessel, YET will I trust God!!! He is able, then pray for God to show the ones who think you aren't redeemable!!!

At 11:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The church should be a Spiritual Hospital, but what happens when you go and be butchered, threatened, raped, stabbed, shot by eyes, flooded by the rivers of slanders from human mouths, cut while being smiled at, cannon thrown at you while being preached at, kicked, spit on, traps set.... As a christian we are mandated to forgive the one who sings and serves communion with you but slept with your spouse or the one who ushers and preachers the Word to you or plays an instrument and teaches Sunday school to your children while others (friends) work as the "hospital" security to cover them and divert your attention. While others sit by and watch you cry inside from continuous, allowed by man, disrespect.

WHAT DO YOU DO? As a child of God, you STAND and say Father forgive them for they know what they do. You mUST forgive and move on, never to allow it to get to you again.

Do you change hospitals? NO! The hospital is the building, it has been consecrated for you to pray. So all you do is express yourself to the CEO---GOD. Tell him everything and ask His forgiveness that you may be able to recieve service from his servants again. See the servants are not perfect, sometimes He has to give them professional development (test of times) as well. Many servants have had to have heart transplants and brains too, but He did it and allowed them to continue working as He will you. But you must let it go. Someone else needs you to make it through so you can share a real story of overcoming being hurt in the church. We are not the first nor the last. Those who have inflicted pain, will someday experience the same or more. You will be their hope to make it through.

At 10:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I found your diatribe insensitive and self-justifying. Does God call us to be abused by pharisses? I don't think so. My pastor found out about the same time as I did that my husband had been cheating for years with other women, even prostitutes; that he had been consistently abandoning and verbally abusive at home to me and our children. He also knew that my husband was still lying to me about several of his exploits. I was angry. I kept insisting that I knew he was still lying. The pastor, a Christian psychologist and an elder all rallied to his defense and told me I was sinning by my anger and I had to continue in this marriage because of the damage I would do to my kids. My husband, however, was given love and support for his pain and trial. I was told to shut up and step up a day after finding out some of the truth. The truth is I was married to a raging narcissist, a consummate liar and a brilliant actor. Nonetheless, the evil alliance at church all told him that it was only important he confess his actions to God, not me. I could stay in the darkness of lies. It was my job to lovingly embrace him. Bad church experience? You betcha. One I would never return to. Oh, and by the way, I know I'm fine with God and I know this is a place Satan wants me to be, which is why I'm not there. So, before you talk of church hospitals and imperfect people, you should look at all contexts.

At 8:01 PM, Blogger Loriann said...

Hi I got very hurt by the music ministry leader in my church. She made a complete fool out of me and ruined my chances to sing. I had also been gifted to sing and she did nothing but stand in my way and then also have others come against me because she did not like to help someone who was just a good singer as her. She was the type of leader that did not build you up she basically was all out for just herself and only helped her friends or family. But I am singing in other places sometimes now.

But she truly really did destroy my spirit and helped ruin my singing for a very long time I did not sing after the discouragement I received from her and her husband. I don't know if she realizes how much negativity she had on my life. She also got her husband against me. Basically you can forgive but if people treat you like you are garbage that is not somewhere you would want to return. Also I had tried to make ammends with them but they were the type of leaders that you could not even talk to. They acted like they were so much better and very non confrontational. You felt like you could never speak or say anything. I felt like it was very controlling. I do think we need to learn submission and humbleness but they just tried to destoy my spirit and discourage me from singing and reaching my full potential. They result of the incident was devastation and years of hurt and rejection. I had to separate myself from them and and church because the Pastor sided with them because she told him lies. Anyway Not all leaders are caring and helpful to there sheep and I really got big time burnt but I do forgive them but I would never want to be under them or I could never go back to a church that literally humiliated and made a fool out of me like the way they did. I feel that things should be worked out if something like this happens and they just did not care to mend the situation.

At 8:10 PM, Blogger Loriann said...

Anyone have an good comments to share send them too me. Thanks Loriann

At 9:53 AM, Blogger Lars Dahl said...

Pastor, recently I became "one of those" who have been devastated by church leadership. I was the associate Pastor at our church until two weeks ago when I was told that I was not wanted on staff any longer, upon hearing these words from the Senior Pastor I submitted my resignation.

My spirit was and still is crushed by the comments of the leadership and now the congregants. Pastor, the under pinnings of my faith have literally been kicked out from underneath me. It's not a matter of forgiveness, my conundrum is why did God allow me to work their for 2 1/2 years and then seemingly rip me out of their?

I had been told for years I was doing a great job, keep it going, we are so glad you and your family are here etc.....

Then a sudden shift... At times I feel like Gods presence has left me and feel completely rejected by him. My love for them (the church) is still strong, I loved serving them. Now I cannot.

Thank you for your article I found it most refreshing. I will use it as I continue to reflect on what is going on this life that God has given to me.

Grace and Peace to you


At 7:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Church has spiritually and mentally bankrupted me.......period...
the story is to long...
i still haven't recovered...

my ONLY hope and trust is in the Lord....NEVER AGAIN IN ANY MAN OR GROUP OF PEOPLE

At 9:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fortunately, I haven't really had this problem. I did have a pastor that tried to project his own issues with his insecurities towards his wife onto my husband and me.

My problem is finding a church that challenges me and feeds my spiritual growth. My husband and I have moved around a bit. We even tried to get involved several times by doing little things for the church but received the third degree as to why we wanted to help out.

Ultimately, I figure it's just not God's time. Still, it can be really discouraging.

At 11:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I joined a church recently. Was approached by 2 members w/ gossip, warning me to watch my back, because the church pianist will sabotage my meager efforts at solo piano playing. I got so uncomfortable about this, I talked to the Pastor. A few days ago, another member approached me, meaning no harm, I feel, but they wanted to warn me that 2 of the gossipers told the Pastor I lied about whether or not I was married. I am in a relationship, and this has been no secret to any of them since the I come with this person to each and every service, so I was appalled when the Pastor met with the congregation after Bible Studies (2 of them) to gossip further about this situaiton which no one else had any intention of telling me about.

This is all very hurtful to me. I just wanted to worship in peace. I had grown closer to Christ in earlier months because it is like the church I was raised in, only I had forgotten that the reason I left the church of my childhood was because of the extreme judgmentalism of this particular religious sect.

My Pastor never once approached me to talk about this question of me marital status. This problem occurred because the church is so small and disorganized, they do not have new members to fill out membership applications that would have shown that I am divorced.

I was disappointed and so hurt that they preach the Blood of Christ covering a multitude of horrendous crimes and past misdeeds, but apparently, being divorced makes me a scarlet lady of some kind even though I certainly don't have the background to go with it.

I will get over this, but I don't know if I can stay there. The Pastor takes up for his Deacons when they do wrong. He says I "misunderstood them" although I have no prior knowledge of their dislike or mistrust of this piano player person. I find this hard to stomach. It smacks of pure evil. I am so very new there, I don't know anyone that well at all. I am so hurt, so very confused, and this whole things smells like a Koresh thing.

Your article is helpful to me in that I will forgive them because it is required, but I won't forget, and I don't think it is healthy to stay there and take more abuse from strangers.

At 11:30 AM, Anonymous Ernie said...

This is such a hardship, Even more so when it is your church leadership that has created the conflict.

How hard it is to sit through a service and listen to the preacher give his message and all you can do is wish he would live by those words.

You understand you need to forgive, and you try. Only to have to deal with concerted effort of the preacher and his wife, gossiping and making your transition to a new church that much harder.

Being ashamed as your anger rears up. Thinking you were passed such thoughts, that you may not have changed as much as you thought you had.

And I know these emotions make it much harder to hear God, and follow him. It creates footholds for satan.

I yearn to feel the sweetness of worship fold over me as it used to. The peace after worship is no longer there.

We will not give up though. We will cling to the Lord's robe. And we will forgive and love in a new church.

At 7:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 5:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

After enduring years of verbal abuse by my pastor, and being led by God to leave there I found another church in town that seemed to be what I was looking for. It started out okay, even though the congregation never went too much out of their way to say hi; they seemed to have their own little cliques already. I decided that maybe it would just take time so all seemed well; I started attending Sundays and Wednesdays and tried to get involved; already hard to do as a newcomer. Then this preacher came out of the blue and publicly accused me of doing something to get attention when that was totally untrue. I do have discernment, and have the feeling that this new pastor was approaced by someone from my former church and told lies about me because they are mad that I left that church, even though they did NOT care about me or my family. When I tried to make an appointment with this preacher, I was told I could meet with his wife for a few minutes before the next midweek service. So now a preacher can falsely accuse you before the entire congregation, and does not even have the decency to meet and talk with you. By the way, he has never done anything to try to get to know me or my family, yet feels comfortable to slander me within the first few weeks of attending there. I feel much respect for pastors and appreciate the hard work they do, but honestly, so many of them have no idea the harm they do since their words as authority have so much power to heal or to harm. I wonder how many people these preachers leave bleeding by the roadside and never even realize. They seem more intent on people living up to their high "standards", like they can pick and choose who should come, like the song says.


Post a Comment

<< Home