I would argue that one of the most complex (and sometimes dysfunctional) environments in the world, is the Christian church. Picture any church - regardless of its location, size, or denomination - any church you’ve actively participated in for longer than one year. Have you ever been hurt? I can almost guarantee your answer is a resounding yes. And if you haven’t been hurt, you’ve likely encountered deep disappointment.
Recently, I had the opportunity of having a conversation with a group of Christian young adults where we explored the question. “What if I’m struggling with the leadership of my church?” Pretty relevant, especially if you are committed to a local body of believers. In fact, I want you to do a quick mental exercise. Take the word “church” out of the sentence and replace it with “work,” “school,” or even “family.” Now it becomes universally relatable.
I’m confident that many of you have wrestled with the leadership of you boss at some point. Maybe he/she made an executive decision that had a negative impact on the health of your team, leaving you questioning their judgment.
Similarly, some of you might have faced challenges with the leadership of your school or university, which ultimately affected you as a student. This could have left you feeling disheartened and skeptical about the institution’s decisions.
And don’t forget your family dynamic. Some of you may have wrestled with the way your parents led your family at home, leading to a sense of skepticism towards other types of leadership systems.
I’d like to introduce a controversial perspective regarding the dynamics within a local church, which may shed light on our disappointments and frustrations with those leading a congregation.
CHURCH HURT IS REAL, BUT IT DOESN’T ALWAYS REFLECT REALITY
If you stick around at any local church long enough, commit, and serve, you’ll experience an immense sense of joy and fulfillment. Trust me, it’s worth it! In fact, I wholeheartedly encourage every followers of Jesus to dive into the life of the church. God will work in your heart as you serve His people.
However, let’s be real - hurt is practically a guarantee. Someone might say something that stings, shoot you a look that rubs you the wrong way, or a leader could make a decision that leaves you shaking your head.
Let me pause and acknowledge that there are those of you who have experienced hurt that has left deep and lasting wounds. Maybe you’ve even left a church due to its unhealthy environment (Church abuse is real!). If that’s the case, I want to say I am sorry! I want to validate your feelings, grieve with you, and help address the issue.
And while there might be valid hurt in the church, I might also want to consider the nuances and complexities of each situation. I’ve discovered that some complaints (not all, of course) stem from miscommunication, misinterpretation, or plain old entitlement. So, it’s essential to differentiate between legitimate instances of hurt in the church and hurt caused by unmet expectations.
I’ve lost count of how many people have left the church, not because of someone else’s actions, but because of their own sense of entitlement. They thought they deserved special treatment and saw everyone else as a threat.
If you’re upset because a pastor, leader, or friend in the church graciously pointed out inconsistencies in your character, that’s not “church hurt.” It’s more like, “I got convicted, and I’m mad because I think I should be able to live however I want.”
Let me graciously remind you that accountability isn’t abuse, and calling people to holiness isn’t controlling.
It’s time for The Church to be The Church and stop seeing everything and everyone as a threat. God’s desire for His Church is to be holy and blameless (Eph. 5:27), not victims of entitlement.
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