It is likely that if you have been in the church you have been hurt by someone in the church. This is truly unfortunate. However, we must realize that the church is full of sinful people who are trying their best to follow Jesus (we hope!). In this kind of environment, there is a likelihood that someone may end up getting hurt. I mean think about it, the church is described as a family (John 1:12, Galatians 6:10, ), and we know that sometimes we can be hurt by someone in our family.
While some take a break after they have been hurt, if they are true believers they will heed Hebrews 10:25 and, “not giving up meeting together” with the church. Where do you start?
Where do you start? I wish that there were a simple straight forward answer but it sort of depends on the nature of the offense. Is the offense small or great? Is it perpetuated by one person or the whole church? All of these factor into your response.
The first thing someone ought to do is to try and reconcile. Follow the framework Jesus sets up in Matthew 18:15-17. Go and talk to the individual who has wronged you. Try and work it out. See if it was a miscommunication, if they were having a bad day, or if it was intentional. I’m convinced that most of the time it was a miscommunication, the person was having a bad day, or they didn’t realize how what they said or did came across. Typically, a conversation fixes this.
If a conversation does not work, then Jesus says we are to take someone with us to talk to the person. If that doesn’t work then we are to get the church involved. I would start with meeting with the pastor and the person.
Now, what if this is a problem with the whole church, or how the church is structured? Then you start with the pastor. If the problem is with the pastor, then you need to seek reconciliation with him directly.
Reconciliation is the desirable outcome when someone is hurt by the church or someone in it. However, this is not always doable. There are legitimate reasons to leave a church. Unfortunately, most people leave the church too soon (not allowing time for, or seeking, reconciliation), and for poor reasons.
It must be noted that not all churches are healthy churches. If you seek reconciliation and the issue is not able to be resolved (or the church is unwilling to change), then it may be time to look for a new place of worship. This is only after you try all you can to reconcile.
No Reconciliation, Now What?
If there are really deep issues that cannot be overcome then…
Look for a new place to worship. I AM NOT advocating church hopping. You need to make sure the church you join is a healthy church, with healthy leaders, and authentic Bible-based discipleship. You should know that there is no ‘perfect’ church since sinners are everywhere. However, there are more healthy and less healthy churches. Know that it will take time to find one that is healthy. You will not be able to tell with just one visit–it takes weeks and sometimes months to find out the health of a church.
Don’t bring your old attitude. Sometimes we import our old attitudes into our new location–don’t! Remeber, the hurt you experienced happened somewhere else, by someone esle. Do not treat the new people like the old.
Keep Jesus first. You could potentially be looking for something that is not like the church you came from. For instance, you might be looking for a church that doesn’t do “X” because it was the source of the hurt you experienced at your old church. Programs and structure are secondary. Programs and structure serve the purpose of helping point people to Jesus. The thing you want to look for is a church that puts Jesus first–and helps you do the same.
Again, I encourage you to try all you can to stay at the church of which you are a member. You have history there, which can be good and bad. If you have had struggles it can make it difficult, because we think that others will be judgmental–which actually makes us judgmental of them–and we think that they may not accept us. We need to give them the chance to work through the surprise and shock and allow the spirit to grow them and us to be more Christlike.