How can I best move forward after being hurt by a church?

Hello Mrs. Manning,

I have a question about dealing with wounds from the past. About 9 years ago, The Lord very specifically and deliberately lead me back to my very small, ingrown home church where I grew up. He opened doors for me to immediately become involved in leadership there. I began assisting with worship service, resumed Sunday evening services, implemented a Friday night prayer and fast meeting followed by a fellowship and fast breaking meal on Saturday. For a time things seemed to begin to improve and a hope for the future of that small dying church began to emerge. However, the assistant pastor decided to attempt to remove me from involvement there over what amounted to nonsense accusations. When the senior pastor declined to acquiesce to his demands he resigned his position, withdrew his family from the church and swayed all the remaining church attendees to stop going to church there. To make matters worse, the assistant pastor is a family member of mine. I felt responsible in some way, that I had said or done something to cause this kind of a reaction from him. Not only that, but I felt I had broken the church that I was trying to help. I lost all confidence in myself an my efforts as a leader there. Eventually I stopped attending, completely dejected. I have since come to realize that the vast majority of what happened wasn’t my fault. There were dynamics going on that had been in play since before I had returned, and I was more or less an unwitting player in a conflict that had nothing to do with me personally. I was just an excuse for parties to take action. However, that church now exists only as an empty unused building with the “pastor” holding services in his living room for one old woman who drops by from time to time. I haven’t had a church home since then and I desperately miss having one. However, every time I think about trying to integrate into a new body, I am paralyzed by the memories of how bad things went at my old church. I have seen how horribly malicious church attendees can be, and am legitimately afraid of being that exposed to people who could turn on me without warning for reasons I can’t fathom. How do I get past this and move forward with my fellowship with other believers?

2 Likes

Dear @BenIAm (Benjamin),

I am deeply saddened to hear of your experience in a place you called “home” and deeply loved. I do believe we can and should expect those who claim to be Christ followers to behave and live in ways that exemplify the Savior - at the very least this means acknowledging when we get it wrong, asking if we feel we may have offended another person, and working towards compromise and congruence for the sake of the church body and the kingdom. Sadly, we know it doesn’t look this way, and you know this from first-hand experience.

It sounds as if you are reconciled to the fact that your own actions were not the cause of the split, so that is not the issue. If I am hearing you correctly, your concern is one of fear of rejection and of experiencing the same dynamics over again. The truth is you won’t ever know unless you give it a try again, but you can go slowly. I recommend you work with a Christian counselor who can help you build skills which will equip you and help you to be stronger should the “worst” scenario occur again. You can also attend a church for a long time - really getting to know people and finding ways to serve that build towards leadership positions - you don’t have to be in a leadership position to be contributing to the body of Christ - you simply need to keep making yourself available to serve in whatever capacity the church needs and in alignment with your gifts.

Let me tell you a story from my own life that might be helpful to you. I have always been desperately afraid of getting lost - it is just one of my fears - and like you, at times it paralyzed me. Several years ago, I was in a situation in which I was going to have to ride the bus in a major metropolitan city in order to get to jury duty. Of course, I was terrified - what if I got lost? Got stuck on the bus and missed my stop? What if people on the bus were mean to me or wouldn’t help me find my way? All of those thoughts went through my mind, but I had no choice but to take the bus to jury duty. Getting on that bus, all of my fears were in full force - in other words, I didn’t feel confident first. But, you know what? After I rode the bus, I wasn’t scared anymore. I took a small step and then I became an avid bus rider!

Now my example is a simple one, and not at all on the same magnitude as your story, but I believe the principle for healing fears is the same in your situation. You will have all the feelings of fear you currently have when you first walk through that door. But, if you keep going, keep searching till you find the best fit for you, you’ll soon find your fears will dissipate. I know for sure they will not go away by avoiding them, even though you need time to heal after you’ve been really wounded. So, it is ok that you’ve taken a break, and now it sounds as if you ready to get started again. Take small steps, Benjamin, and I believe you’ll find a new church home in which you can grow and serve.

I hope this might be helpful to you and encouraging.

Every Blessing,

Margaret Manning Shull

4 Likes