The Gospel and Church Hurt

by Feb 15, 2022Apologetics, Fear

My wife was in tears, my children were confused by the suddenness of what had happened, and I just felt completely defeated.

This new idea of “church hurt” (for us at the time) had suddenly become very real, very fast. We felt ostracized, isolated, and abandoned by the ones who we thought would be the nearest to us. Worst of all, though we had no idea at the time, this pain would extend from days to years.

What about you?

Have you felt this way? Do you know someone who has? Even if your answer to both is no, I encourage you to keep reading, because we never know what the future holds. Before my family’s experience, I certainly would have answered no and moved on when seeing a blog like this. I wish I would have paid more attention.

Church hurt and deconstruction

Church hurt today is one of the drivers behind what is now commonly called deconstruction. If you’re unfamiliar with the topic, Ryan Dunleavy does an excellent job of unpacking the topic in his blog, on false assumptions about deconstruction. Church hurt occurs when people are emotionally, mentally, spiritually, or even physically damaged by those whom they thought they could trust. If the pain felt by those affected is ignored or simply overlooked, it can lead to a very dark place with some unhealthy conclusions. Fortunately, there is a way to address it to ensure things don’t begin spiraling downward.

The primary remedy for church hurt: The Gospel

There are many tremendous resources on navigating church hurt, but the best of the best center their focus on the gospel.

The gospel reminds us who our Leader is

Churches are comprised of one or more leaders, and all of them are sinners. No leader is perfect, and intentionally or not, leaders can sometimes overlook a family’s needs or neglect to care for the flock as they should. As such, hurt ensues. But here is where the gospel shines.

The gospel reminds us that there is only one Head of the church. There is only one Leader. Colossians 1:16 makes it clear that it is the Lord Jesus Christ. He is lovely. He is beautiful. He is flawless, sinless, and perfectly righteous. He will never seek to do you harm. When you or someone you love has encountered church hurt because of a breakdown in leadership, this is the truth to which we turn: every leader is capable of sin, but Jesus Christ, the leader – the head of the church – is incapable of sin. He loves us, He gave everything for us, and one day, we will live with Him in peace forever. We turn to Him first for healing, and we can trust that He will begin to lead us to others who will minister to us in our time of need.

The gospel reminds us who the Church is

Too often, “the church” is defined as just building on the corner. And that’s unfortunate because church buildings are filled with all kinds of people. These include people who are strong in the Lord, people who are struggling with their faith, people who do not believe and are just exploring Christianity – and, unfortunately, people who have no interest in the Lord and are there for any number of other reasons. While this can make church buildings an amazing spiritual hospital where the stronger are agents of healing for the weaker and bring the death-to-life gospel message to unbelievers, it also opens up opportunities for hurt. For this reason, we must be on our guard – not only for ourselves but for those we care about and love. We must also be careful not to confuse a church with the Church.

The Church, according to the Bible is the people, not just a place. They are those who have placed their trust in Christ. When church hurt emerges, we have to be careful about saying “the problem is the Church.” Quite the opposite is true. According to Scripture, we are to surround ourselves with those who genuinely love the Lord and are dedicated to His mission so they may bring comfort, healing, and encouragement. If we get these two confused (church vs Church), we end up choosing isolation from believers as a solution. But read this carefully Christian – Only one entity has the goal to isolate you and move you from the people of God. He is our common enemy and will continue to be until his defeat is eternally sealed on the Day of Judgment. People in the church may have caused hurt, but people from the Church will be your ministers of comfort (2 Corinthians 1:4).

The gospel reminds us where our home is

When we share the gospel with someone and they say “yes” to Jesus, their residency has changed. This earth, governed by the god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4; John 12:31), is no longer our home. Let this astounding truth wash over you as you look through these selections:

  • But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ. (Philippians 3:20)
  • If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. (John 15:19)
  • They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. (John 17:16)
  • Dear friends, I warn you as “temporary residents and foreigners”… (1 Peter 2:11)

More could be put here, but I think you see the point is clear: This world is not your home. Better yet, this world has been overcome by the Savior of your soul. In John 16:33, Jesus states, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

There’s not much more encouragement or truth that I can add to the above. This world is often a place of darkness and hurt. It is the active domain of the one who seeks to steal, kill, and destroy. As such, there is much pain to be found here. But, we can praise God that not only is this not our home, but this world of sin has also been overcome by Jesus! We can rejoice even in the midst of church hurt because while the world is being the world, our Savior is being our Savior – and He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4). What an amazing gospel truth to hold onto!

All of these truths have one thing in common – the gospel. When people in the church hurt us (intentionally or unintentionally), we can turn to the gospel and bathe in its truth for relief as we seek to heal in the presence of our great King and God.