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 family.org and barna.org).
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!