Moving Past Church Hurts Means Having a Different Conversation

Moving Past Church Hurts Means Having a Different Conversation

By Lisa Whittle | February 21, 2012

If I had a dollar for every person who told me they were hurt by the church, I'd be writing this post on a much newer MAC.

This we know: imperfect people reside in corporate worship spaces. And since they do, imperfect things go down inside them.

It heartens me to see a surge of pastors and ministry leaders who desire to do it better - to love better, lead better, BE better. But even with this forward movement, the church will still be flawed. Therefore, we will never completely eliminate the issue.

It is why I'm interested in having a different conversation. I've grown a bit weary of talking about why we hurt each other in the body of Christ, as if our humanity is not reason enough. Instead, I want to shift our energy and effort to a conversation that is more productive: becoming better ourselves, and helping the church wounded be restored, again, after being hurt.

The truth is, we have stepped over the carnage long enough. The gifts of many hurt by the church lie wasted, and seeing them restored and used is a most worthy cause.

My heart for this conversation stems from my own experience of having a mega-church pastor-father who became embroiled in a scandal that resulted in his lost pulpit. Those who know this story and how much I love the church despite my past grapplings, often ask: "How did you move past your hurt to love the church, again?"

Understanding the following things is how I found my way back. For the person who has been hurt by the church, they are things they will most need to know.

1) You are not foolish to believe in community. Those who have been hurt by the church almost immediately begin to question everything that happens within it. Because of their experience, they may feel duped and may disregard all the good, determining that none of it can be real. They may shy away from any type of community, sometimes for an extended period of time. They need to be reassured that though believers are flawed, we can be a great gift to each other in times of need, want, and hurt, and it was God's plan for it to be so.

2) God is not responsible for man's decision. The most tragic thing that happens when church people behave poorly is that it can alter the way someone sees God. In researching my book, {w}hole, the Barna Omnipoll discovered that over 30 million people say that religion has caused them to question God. It is important, then, to encourage people to separate the perfection of God from the shortcomings of people, not holding God responsible for the decisions man make without Him.

3) Dropping out or changing churches won't heal your heart. The tendency when hurt by the church is to self-protect by dropping out of church or finding another place of worship. While there is a time and place for finding a new church (a decision based on core beliefs, steadied prayer, family consideration and theological compatibility) it is important to help people realize that church hurts will only be healed the Healer, and it is work that will need to be done independently, in the heart.

4) Stay open, believe the best, but lessen your expectations. Church hurts are some of the toughest to move past. But it is our responsibility to help guide people to keep their heart open and pure. How we, as leaders, set the example with how we handle our own disappointments in the church will be the biggest key to this. Things like believing the best in people, offering grace, holding expectations loosely and having a commitment to working through tough issues and disagreements will be the glue that will hold the community together.

5) Know that through the holes from church hurts you can find Jesus. Church hurts can cause deep, limiting and defining holes in our life. But through those holes exists space to see more, know more, and experience greater love for Jesus. Holes help us view the One who will never hurt us or let us down, and with that focus, gathering as flawed humans to worship our one great God becomes possible because it remains about Him.

Jesus lived and died for His message of redemption. Seeing those who have been hurt by the church, loving them, and helping restore them back to spiritual health not only furthers this message, but invests in those who already believe but simply need to find their way back.

We owe it to Him to have the conversation.



First originally launched female Barna author, Lisa Whittle, has a long history with the church and writes about it, her pastor-father's costly scandal, and how holes bring great hope in her new book, [w]hole. She speaks a bold message of truth and wholeness, helping others live well by discovering their whole story. Visit Lisa's blog at and the official [w]hole book site at (including a FREE download of chapter one).

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