“There’s no hurt like church hurt,” is something that I’ll hear my Pastor say occasionally. I always nod my head in agreement. To be hurt by people in the church is so unique because it is supposed to be a place where people find refuge and safety from the cold harsh world. Having been raised in the church, I thought I knew exactly what he was talking about. I mean, I felt that I’d been slighted by church folks before. It wasn’t until recently that I realized that my little hurt feelings were only the tip of the iceberg, especially when it comes to the things that others unfortunately had to deal with when they came to fellow church members for comfort and understanding. Picture this:
A teen girl joins a church and finds that she really likes it. She gets saved. Although she’s accepted Christ, she isn’t perfect and still has her struggles like most people. She finds out she’s pregnant and remorsefully shares it with an older person in the ministry whom she had begun developing a close relationship with. They have a conversation about it and then this older person proceeds to tell the teen girl that she won’t be able to be seen with her as much once she starts to show.
My heart sank into my stomach when I heard this story and although it wasn’t shared with me until years after it occurred, I could still hear hurt in the young woman’s voice. That could certainly be a scarring experience. Unfortunately, situations such as this occur more frequently than not. Now, I can see that the ministry worker’s angle was that what the teen girl did was wrong and she didn’t want anyone to think that she condoned her actions. However, I don’t believe that “saving face” was worth the potential damage that could have been done to this young woman’s faith and self-esteem during her Christian walk. After witnessing enough situations such as this one where people are shunned or are talked about in the church for certain human mistakes, I can almost empathize with those that justify not going to church by stating that they’d rather not deal with phony and hypocritical church people. Of course, I don’t buy into this philosophy, but I can certainly understand the logic behind it.
I don’t claim to have all of the answers. I don’t claim to be perfect. I’m just a young woman and budding ministry worker trying to make it through graduate school. However, I just feel like we (myself included) have to do better. As the body of Christ, as Christians, we can’t continue to value man-made church doctrine over the well-being of the individuals that we have been called to help. So many of us come to church with our best masks on trying to impress one another instead of being transparent and trying to reach the people who actually need nurturing and encouragement. We all have a story to tell. No one is perfect. I believe that every organization should function under some type of order, churches included. However, when doctrine, rules, and church politics are what is pushing hurting people away, isn’t that defeating the very purpose for which Jesus came? In that case, what would really make us any different from any other “members only” club?