When Church Hurts



If you’ve been a member of a church for long, you’ve probably been hurt. Why is it that being part of a local church is one of the most beautiful of human experiences, and yet also, at times, one of the hardest? One of my favorite authors, Tim Keller, tweeted a few years ago:

“The church is a hospital for sinners (where triage happens) not a museum for saints.”


The Church is Full of Sinners

Without analyzing his tweet too deeply, one truth sticks out: the church is full of sinners. In the midst of a church that truly desires to see children of God mature in the faith, there will come painful times where our lack of maturity shines through. This could be in the form of rumor, rejection, gossip, division, or in any of the many other ways that show that none of us have yet arrived on our journey toward Christlikeness.

While this seems like such a negative thing to think or say, that the church is full of sinners, if it’s not acknowledged and truly understood, our maturing process will slow down greatly. Once we get to the point where we think we’ve arrived, and we don’t see our great need for sanctification and spiritual growth in the Holy Spirit, we will stop maturing. We will become like teenagers who think they know everything. We NEED to know that we are desperately inadequate, but that our God is more than adequate!


What to Do

If you’ve been hurt by people in your church, here’s a few things I’d encourage you to do.

  1. Forgive. Absolutely and completely forgive anyone and everyone. This doesn’t mean that we don’t need to deal with issues. But is does mean we’re called to forgive even those who never ask for it. Our fuel for doing this is the Gospel. Christ died for us, “while we were yet sinners” (Rom. 5:8).
  2. Learn. There’s a reason God wants us to meet consistently with a group of people who are imperfect. In the midst of this group of people, brought together by Jesus, God will show you things about yourself you never would have known without his church. Don’t jump to others’ faults. Learn about your own.
  3. Grow. Learning who you really are is great, but don’t forget God wants us to grow and change. In fact, one of the very purposes of pain and suffering is growth! Romans 5:3-5:

“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our heart through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

  1. Refuse to gossip. Make a commitment to refuse to say something negative about another person, especially those you feel have hurt you. In fact, make also a commitment to refuse to RECEIVE a negative comment about another person. Don’t just avoid gossip, but avoid even receiving it!
  2. Get in the Word. It’s easy to become consumed by what someone may have done to us, and forget the far more important thing that GOD has done for us. The only way we can see what’s happened in light of the far bigger reality of Jesus, is to be consistently overwhelmed and consumed by God’s truth.


Continue with God’s Church

We are saints in God’s eyes, and we’ve been reborn and have new life, but our minds and hearts won’t reflect this reality fully until we meet Jesus one day. Until then, we must trust God and His Word as the only trustworthy thing on which to stand. In Acts 2:42, we see perhaps the most succinct purpose of the New Testament church:

“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”

In the midst of an imperfect group of people, we are united in Christ. We must, as much as possible, continue to be devoted to the Word, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Yes, deal with issues, including especially sin that has not been addressed. But we must also continue as the church to be devoted to the Word, to the fellowship, and to prayer.


My Hope is Built on Nothing Less

There is so much joy in knowing that God is not like man. Our God is holy, pure, perfect, and our Heavenly Father. He loves us, and will never forsake us. It is his faithfulness, not man’s performance, that brings us together.

If you’re looking for the perfect church, you won’t find it. And maybe, in a weird sense, we should be thankful the perfect church doesn’t exist! Why? Because we’d likely be tempted to find our hope in people, and not in Christ.

Perhaps the perfect song to worship with right now, particularly for those of you who may feel hurt by people in your church, is “My Hope is Built on Nothing Less.” Check out these words!

My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand; All other ground is sinking sand.

When Darkness veils his lovely face, I rest on his unchanging grace. In every high and stormy gale, my anchor holds within the veil.

On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand; All other ground is sinking sand.

His oath, his covenant, his blood supports me in the whelming flood. When all around my soul gives way, He then is all my hope and stay.

On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand; All other ground is sinking sand.

When he shall come with trumpet sound, O may I then in him be found! Dressed in his righteousness alone, faultless to stand before the throne!

On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand; All other ground is sinking sand.


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