If you do any kind of ministry or are willing to hear people’s stories, it is amazing all the heavy things that happen to people over the years, especially in church.
I am wondering if you would be willing to share any deep negative events that may have happened to you. Nothing graphic, please don’t in the comments below name names or churches because that is not the intent right now –– the intent right now is to expose that across the board people are hurting. So if you have a story either share it below so others will know they are not alone, or message me/email me privately and I can make it anonymous.
I have talked with a lot of people who have been in church circles that leave them later in life who had experienced some sort of abuse even if it’s just mental. Many people I talked to on the streets that are hostile to the gospel or mad at God have been hurt by something that happened in church. Some have been sexually abused, some have been rejected, some have been slandered, some have been manipulated, some have been used, some have been given up on and thrown to the world.
Fair or not, many people associate the church with God – if the church abused them or abandoned them or neglected them or manipulated them or cheated them, it feels the same to them as if God was doing it directly. It feels like that because it feels like God allowed it — or at least HE had the all-power to put a stop to it and He didn’t come through. It’s like the atheists who don’t believe God exists yet they hate that God as well. The reality is they usually are extremely mad at their earthly fathers and that anger and hatred carries over to how they see God.
My take on all this would be as follows — if a chain of restaurants that had a great reputation gradually started going under and each year more closed and people got very sick eating there and many people had a bad experience and started complaining and so business was eroding – you could do one of two things. First, you could yell at the customers for eating elsewhere and guilt trip them for their disloyalty to check out other restaurants to see if all restaurant food is bad, and be threatened when they go and talk to the diners who they no longer see there anymore when they used to see them all the time because the owners have over and over told the patrons that still come that only they have good taste and those that left simply don’t know good food if it came up and bit them. Back in the kitchen and in staff meetings you can gather and mock the picky eaters who no longer go to the restaurants and make sure you continue to point out their lack of support for the food made from recipes they assumed they still were following that were passed down for generations, and be bewildered that people won’t come despite the fact you had put so much money into building these fancy places and making sure they were on every corner.
OR two, you could maybe address things with management and maybe see there is a problem for why people are now not going. And why so many claim they are being poisoned so they are warning others not to go either.
Like for me – one struggle was despite doing so much “ministry” my wife felt neglected and abandoned especially when health issues with her worsened – and I did things like leaving her later in the day after every delivery of our children to go to church – but despite putting “God first” (I was oblivious to the fact that taking care of my wife was putting God first) – I never felt “good enough” and always felt like a failure no matter how much ministry I did. When I lost my job for taking a stand against the morning after pill, I felt abandoned by the church and that made me feel I was abandoned by God and I ended up back relapsing big time into the porn addiction that defined my life from 3rd grade to salvation. I spent a week in a psych ward after threatening suicide. I am not saying it is the church’s fault for the bad choices I made, but they didn’t provide the atmosphere where I was accepted for who I was, nor really encouraged that my worth wasn’t linked to what I did. Yes, they would have a Pastor come on occasion that did teach that such a message – but that was drowned out by ACTIONS of busyness and an ATMOSPHERE of “try harder” and “pull your Christianity up by your own bootstraps.”
I wouldn’t say I was abused by any church, but it did shape my decisions and let me feel hopeless when I couldn’t do what I felt I was called to do. I was nothing if I couldn’t “perform” for God. But when I did do things “for God” it was never enough. I was led by guilt, and not the spirit. But how much of that is from hearing messages urging you surrender to full time Christian service because the laborers are few — and you wave your hands saying, “God I surrender.” And the churchES tell you essentially, – “Go sit back down! You are a pharmacist!”
Now when I say CHURCH, I mean the general flow of churches in America. The world is a reflection of the church, but the world will do to the Nth degree what the church does. Corporate America is always pushing you to do more, and the more you do the more they demand. Pharmacy was always about increasing your numbers from last week and last year and doing more flu shots and why are your numbers so low – as they cut tech hours and cut the pharmacy hours.
Those at the top of the food chain in Hollywood or in the political realm are being exposed for sexual crimes against children and all kinds of perversion. The churches have these problems but want to look good, so the general direction of the church is to hide your sin and struggles and SMILE and SOUND good and have your church uniforms on and meanwhile, inside something is off.
What I see is the churches tend to blame those lives who fall apart as BECAUSE They left, and conservative churches will blame the liberal/charismatic/emerging church/mega churches for their lack of standards and lack of preaching for the problems in the lives of those who leave. And those that leave those churches now blame legalism and rigid rules. The truth is there is error in both camps, but Camp 1 throws stones at Camp 2 and vice versa and if you cry against the issues in your camp, you are kicked out of the camp!
I often hear their stories and find their lives were a train wreck because of what they experienced inside church walls and when they left they really didn’t find anything either that held the answer. Most churches want to look good but deep down they can let us down because they don’t have the charity that needs to accompany what they promise. They like to boast about the 4,000 converts but they don’t really want the rest of the great commission as much and they don’t want the mess of even 40 Converts returning for the long, painful road of learning to deny one self, pick up one’s cross, and walk the lonely road of discipleship.
So we are left hanging in the balance – church often fails to be there for you and so you end up going to the world’s counselors and medicines that your insurance covers, and it is just often a lifelong experiment of finding something that works and you are always chasing a carrot of hope from them waiting for an increased dose or a new medication or a new treatment.
And Jesus yes is the healer of hurts in all places – but His promises get muddied when things get dark.
My heart goes out to those who are hurt- and I feel like the church (meaning any church in America) is not good at providing real answers but they like to declare someone 100% ready to live life after one big service or one special meeting or one trip to the altar. Anything more than that is going to take time away from the next potential convert.
I also think that there is not an atmosphere for those really struggling and that wants to change.
I found freedom in recovery groups where you can be honest about your struggles and be accepted by who you are and not what you do. This atmosphere rewards honestly and bringing struggles into the light – and provides a place to deal with lapses before they become relapses. Monsters live in the dark.
The church seems to offer either white knuckling with any struggle or just giving in and being miserable and stuck. The church is not often a place for healing and recovery because they reward those that can hide their sins, and put on the happy faces and have the crisp polished suit and pearly whites, and those struggling and begging for help mostly get tough love, if any love at all.
I don’t know what you are facing – i don’t know if you have struggles or addictions or are just hurt — but most of us guys have some issues especially when the church is a breeding ground of “keep this stuff secret and figure it out on your own and as soon as you are clean then we can accept you” – and meanwhile you find out that many leaders in whatever circle you are in were guilty of greater sins than you are tempted to commit only they hid it to stay in ministry.
My point on being someone in recovery and wanting to help others who have addictions and bad habits and experienced abuses — the church needs to be willing to listen to the cries of the hurting. Many many many have been hurt by their church or their leaders or their Pastors. The way out of this is to be willing to examine our own circles and be willing to listen to the NATHAN’s in your church. Be courageous enough to ask people to step forward. To listen to those who left instead of making those who stay be afraid of them. Understand that we have nothing to gain to claim the church needs to amend it’s ways.
For too long the churches have listened to the false prophets telling them how great a work they are doing. Yes, you may be doing good to the 99 – but JESUS was about the 1. The 1 to the church today is a THREAT.
I am wondering as someone who is hurting, did anything happen to you- or did you witness anything or hear about anything that is haunting you to this day? Your story is important, and it need not be in vain.