How to Overcome Church Hurt
If you've been a Christian for any period, you've most likely come across "church hurt." It's the kind of hurt you don't expect; loving Christians hurting (purposefully or not) other brothers and sisters in the Lord. But it happens, and it happens all too often.
How do you heal from and overcome church hurt? I'd love to tell you my story of healing and grace, and hopefully, it will help in yours.
The church is Christ's bride and oh how He loves His church. If you read Ephesians 5:25-33, you will see a beautiful picture of how much Christ loves, cherishes, and desires His church; you and I.
I've been serving in ministry my whole life. I started singing on the worship team at 14. I began leading my own team at 19. I am a "Pastor's Kid," and I have been involved in a local church my whole life.
About eight years ago, I was serving faithfully in ministry at my local church and was happy to be giving my gifts for the church God loves and adores. I was the worship leader and head of the worship arts ministries. I was on the leadership council and was faithful in serving the Lord and giving back the gifts He had given me to bless the local church.
I was a volunteer at the church, and while I know some churches put their worship leaders and leadership on staff with a salary, I was not one of them. I did not get paid for leading worship, writing and directing the productions, and heading up the ministry. Not getting paid wasn't a problem for me, because my ultimate purpose was to serve the Lord in ministry. I think that is an important point to clarify.
I was in the church for seven years when the Pastor started talking to the leadership about a deliverance ministry he wanted to start. Right away, this new ministry didn't sit right with me. I won't go into the details, because that is not the purpose of this essay, but I will say that a number of the leaders in the church began to question the Biblical backing for such a ministry.
Our Pastors key slogan was that as ministry leaders, we needed to be on board with the head leadership in the church. I agreed with that. After all, the Bible says in Hebrews 13:17, "Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you." But suddenly I found myself not agreeing with this new ministry, and the vision the Pastor had for the church.
Friends, let me tell you the turmoil I found myself. I prayed, fasted, sought Godly council; I did everything I possibly could to figure out why there was such an unsettling in my spirit over this "deliverance" ministry. The Pastor then mentioned to us at a meeting that to be in any leadership in the church, we now had to participate in this deliverance ministry and "try it out" first before the congregation.
This did not sit well in my spirit.
The Bible says that if you have an issue with a brother go and talk to them. (Matthew 18:15) And that is what I did. I spoke to my Pastor on numerous occasions about this ministry; trying to hear his heart and understand his purpose for bringing it to our church. I told him I wasn't comfortable with going through the deliverance sessions and explained that through prayer and worship, God had delivered me from the pains of my past and present. (Psalm 18:2)
After praying and seeking God about this issue for over a month, I finally went to my Pastor and told him that I'd like to sit out of ministry for a little while to just make sure my heart is right and make sure that I was hearing the voice of the Holy Spirit. I wasn't on board with his leadership regarding this deliverance ministry, and from his mouth, I shouldn't be serving in ministry if I wasn't on board.
I want to make it clear that I DID NOT want to leave the church. I just wanted to take a break from the ministry I had served in faithfully for seven years to be sure I was hearing from God. I didn't want to make a rash decision. I talked to the Pastor and elders about this, and they told me they would meet about my request.
Instead of allowing me to sit out of ministry, the Pastor and the elders of the church kicked me out, asked me to pick up my things, drop off my keys, and not to return to the church.
I was devastated. I cried for weeks going through the conversations, again and again, trying to find where I went wrong, what I didn't convey accurately, and questioning the validity of my stance. I thought I heard God; I believed I prayed the right prayers, I did what the Bible told me to do . . . And I got kicked out?
It took a little while, a lot of tears, and a lot of questions, but the Lord showed me His grace and favor through it all. He showed me it wasn't my fault, and He guided me along the path of healing in His presence.
How do you overcome and heal from Church Hurt?
1. Understand . . . God Didn't Hurt You.
Many people would first pray, but that wasn't my first step to healing because a very small part of me thought God was mad at me. I felt like He had kicked me out of His family. I believed that the church kicking us out was His way of chastising me for disagreeing with the leadership.
Oh, how wrong I was. My friends, if you are dealing with church hurt, the first step to healing is understanding that GOD DIDN'T HURT YOU, people did.
People are people, and we all make mistakes. "For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God," (Romans 3:23). We expect our spiritual leaders to be perfect, but they aren't, they are just people trying to do the best they can; just like you and I. It just hurts more, because, let's be honest . . . They should know better!
But God didn't hurt you. God didn't abandon you. God didn't abuse your gifts. God didn't abuse you. God didn't kick you out. God didn't preach false doctrine. God didn't do whatever it was that was the cause of you leaving or being asked to leave a church. God is perfect, and His ways are perfect. He loves you and cares for you. He cherishes you. You are the Body of Christ, and He gave His life for you.
God allowed me to get kicked out of a ministry for me to grow in Him. Because I was kicked out, I began to flourish like I never had before. I started to see how God was using the pain for His purpose. I decided not to turn on Him or become a victim; that would only put power in the wrong hands. I chose to rise, and continue on.
You can do that as well, once you know that God did not hurt you. Psalm 27:10 says, "For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the Lord will take me in." He has been with you all along, and He can use your pain for a great purpose.
Once you establish and know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God did not hurt you, people did; start to pray. Ask the Lord to show you what specific areas need to be healed. Pray specifically that God would show you why it is hard for you to overcome church hurt.
For me, I try so hard to abide by the rules and do the right thing. I wasn't hurt that I lost "my ministry." It wasn't mine in the first place; it was God's. I wasn't in the "how could they do this to me?" crowd. They are people, and people make mistakes. The root of my hurt was that I felt like I had broken the rules and done something wrong to deserve such treatment.
So pray specifically that God would show you the areas that you need healing, and then allow Him to do His work. If you struggle to pray, or you feel strange, or you don't know what to say, consider using our prayer prompts as a springboard to get you started.
3. Don't Turn From God.
As we established earlier, God didn't hurt you. People did.
There is no perfect church. The church becomes imperfect the minute you, and I step in. But there is a perfect God. In your hurt, don't abandon the assembling of the saints. (Hebrews 10:25)
I decided right away that I wouldn't turn from the church because this one had hurt me so deeply. I didn't go looking for a church in my area right away because I needed to heal and didn't want to take my past into a new day. But every Sunday morning, I took my family, and we sat around our television and live streamed The Potter's House in North Dallas with Pastor Sheryl Brady. We listened to the messages, we worshipped with their congregation, and the ministry of that church helped us to heal; even though we had never met and may never meet.
Every Sunday morning, we were faithful to "go to church" even if it looked a little different on the surface than what we were used to. We would not neglect a perfect God just because imperfect people no longer wanted to fellowship with us. God didn't hurt you, so don't break His heart by neglecting Him because of the faults of others.
Once we were ready, we began looking for a local church in our area that we could call home. We tried numerous churches and sat under different ministries. All of them were Godly, but we just didn't feel like we were "home." And then the Lord led us to a ministry that as soon as worship started, my heart lept and I knew we had found an oasis in the desert; we were home.
4. Seek Godly Council.
Once we took a little time to process what had happened, we sought Godly counsel. We didn't gossip about it or shout it from the rooftops what had happened to us; we talked to a couple who had been in a similar situation and had healed and moved on from their church hurt.
They didn't advise us to gossip or bash the leadership but to keep our eyes on Jesus. I didn't go back to my friends in the church and gossip about what happened. I told two ladies that I had led worship with that we would no longer be coming back at the Pastor's request. I sought Godly counsel, and that helped me through a whole bunch of sorrow.
Now, if you have been or are being physically abused in any way by anyone in church leadership, LET SOMEONE KNOW. Do not keep that to yourself. Get help and find freedom.
5. Forgive and Move On.
You know it. I knew it. We have to forgive. Oh that's the hardest one, isn't it? Colossians 3:12-13 says, "Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do."
Forgiveness isn't about them; it isn't even FOR them. It is for you. Forgiveness lifts the weight and gives the burden to Lord. You must forgive, my friend.
Years ago, I was in a terrible car accident that broke virtually every bone on my right side. I was in a cast for months, and the healing process was long and painful. But eventually, the bones joined back together. They healed, and that cast had to be taken off. I had to walk again.
I had to move on.
God is going to heal you if you allow Him to do the work. But once He has healed your heart, and you are ready to move on . . . Move on. Don't keep picking the scabs. Don't keep going back to the old wounds. He has healed you. Take the lessons you learned and move on letting the past go.
Isaiah 43:18-20 tells us “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. The wild beasts will honor me, the jackals and the ostriches, for I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people."
God is doing a new thing in your life, and you can't carry the old into the new. It doesn't work that way. You've healed. Now let go and move on.
Church hurt is something many Christians face. When leadership hurts you, I find it is even worse. But remember, we serve a perfect God. We serve a God that loves us and desires only the best for us.
I am on the other side of church hurt now, and I can look back and see God's hand in all that He brought me through and all that He showed me during the journey.
If you are dealing with a broken heart, know that God heals the broken-hearted. Don't turn from Him. Don't blame Him. Allow His hands to heal you from the inside out. He will do it! I am living proof.
Encourage Each Other: Are you on the others side of church hurt? How did you overcome? Are you hurting now? Let us pray for you.