Overcoming Church Hurt

A few years ago, I heard someone mention the term “church hurt” and they began to explain how many people don’t attend a church because of past church hurts…

It’s funny how you don’t really get some things until they happen to you.  Abstract concepts take on new meanings when they become concrete in our lives.

One of the greatest hurts that I have felt within the church is betrayal.  It’s weird because I have felt betrayed by friends, family and business associates but for some reason a spiritual betrayal seems to rock your core.

How does this hurt occur?  Usually as a result of gossiping and speculation.

Betrayal in essence occurs when someone that you trust behaves in a way that makes you unable to continue trusting them.  Either they say something about you that is not true or that was told to them in confidence or they do something that hurts you whether that action is intentional or not.

I believe ministers, spiritual leaders and church people hurt others more than family, friends and business people because many of us view the church as a scared place.  We think that the people who are supposed to represent God take that charge seriously.  We believe that they have our best interest at heart and genuinely want to help us become better.  Sadly, that isn’t always the case because the church is filled with humans, which means that regardless of their title, they are imperfect.

When you are fresh in the spirit, I think you are even more vulnerable to becoming a victim of church hurt because you don’t really understand the dynamics and politics of “church”.  In theory, we view the church as a sanctuary of Holy people carrying out the will of God but in actuality, that’s not always the case.  There are all kinds of people in the church doing all kinds of things in and out of the name of God.

I’m wrestling with overcoming a church hurt and I have to continuously pray for guidance in dealing with the situation because I am sure when I confront the person they will apologize and all should be well but to me, the incident is symptomatic of a larger issue.  A part of me knows that I shouldn’t be surprised because this person is human and I can’t expect perfection from anyone but the human part of me is disappointed because I held this person in a high esteem and wonder if they can be restored.  Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t idolize this person but I believed that they were sincere in the things they said to me and now when I talk to them I find myself wondering about the sincerity of everything they say.

** Don’t worry… this incident won’t prevent me from believing in God, attending church and doing the work that I feel is my calling ;)

Outside of praying about a situation… how would you get over a church hurt?  Do you think church hurt is different from the other hurts we suffer in our lives?

30 thoughts on “Overcoming Church Hurt

  1. @robsmada says:

    This is an excellent post because so many of us have gone through what we consider “church hurt”. You hit the nail on the head towards the end when you spoke about expectation and that we can’t expect perfection. We expect more from our church leaders and church families and when they don’t or can’t live up to that expectation, we become hurt, disappointed, offended, etc. But should we? As you said, they are human too and are susceptible to the same “issues” that we are all susceptible to. People will always disappoint you but God never will. Regardless of how they profess God they can never live up to His standards. God expects us to love His people but we must love Him more. He will never hurt us.

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    • Gloria Woods says:

      Very good . I am expereincing a very hurtful situation of some Leaders who I have know fro almost 30 years. I think the mistake I made is forgetting their humanity. It hurst deeply but God keeps reminding me of aho i rally should be serving with all my heart and that is God!!!

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      • Gloria, I came to the same conclusion. We have to keep our focus on Him and love church people because they are our brothers and sisters in Christ and remember they’re human.

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  2. Staying in FAITH comes with struggle. We feel confidant that just because people go to Church they are clean from all faults. We’re human and at times put so much trust in those we shouldn’t. You shouldn’t have to feel when one is speaking if they are genuine. Place your Trust & Faith in GOD and know he has your back unconditional. So amazing to know at any given time I can go to him in confidence and share “ALL”. He never changes, He never fails, He will never betray me. And most importantly he will not act out of CHARACTER.

    Yes, you are correct everyone does not have your best interest at heart, But GOD will today, tomorrow and forever more. Life Lessons are hard and even harder in the Church. The devil moves everywhere waiting for the right person to slip-up. Put your Armor on and trust that GOD will lead you to the right people who have no motive. The problem today is we give certain people big shoes to fill. Meaning placing high regard to; too many people. Sin is in all of of us~ Perfection not so much. No matter how much we hurt, its important to forgive, forget and move on or we will blocked our blessings.

    My grandmother taught me a valuable Life Lesson when I was 12. Everyone is not your friend, so stop calling them friends. You need to share information; Share it with GOD. I didn’t get it until 2 years later, rest assured its embedded now.

    I was ecstatic to hear you say:** Don’t worry… this incident won’t prevent me from believing in God, attending church and doing the work that I feel is my calling :)

    Honestly, this was just a test for you. The best advice I can give you is speak with that individual and express your concerns. Put your heart at ease. Be open to the reply and then make your decision in Love to: Forgive, Forget, Keep in Life or Move On.

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  3. Renee Villanueva says:

    I left the church in my late teens/early 20’s after experiencing church hurt and delusion of how a minister is supposed to carry themselves. Fast forward 20 years later to my early 40’s…my heart and spirit is crying out for spiritual comfort and what I knew and how I grew up with Jesus and church being a big part of my life (my grand mother was Southern Baptist and we lived in Church). I found a church for my family and myself. I was finally home and surrounded by people who pulled me through some dark hours. Ours kids went to school together, had play dates, went to church together. With the exception of not sleeping in the same house we were a giant family.
    We/I were/was very much apart of the church, teaching Sunday school, volunteering in the office, cooking, working in the Christian school and any thing else that was needed. The “principle” of the school gave the pastor misleading information about the inter workings of the school, myself, the teachers and a few other things. As a result the school closed shortly there after, 90% of us who worked with the school left the church.
    That was over 3 years ago. I still haven’t found a place to be. Those wounds were deep and I felt a physical pain at the things the pastor said to me. Like a parent disowning a child. I am not over that. I still keep in touch with a few of the others that were also affected, we all seem to be in the same boat.. without a church home and dealing with that betrayal. We gave alot of ourselves and time to the church and the Christian school. I miss that family.

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  4. Karen says:

    I have not personally experienced “church hurt” so you may not consider my opinion valid; however I would like to suggest some food for thought. As Christians we must evaluate situations based on God’s word. Jesus said we would have tribulations and be persecuted and unfortunately it often occurs in the church. Also, we have an enemy, Satan, who does everything he can to keep us separated from God’s people. If you have been out of fellowship with other believers you are depriving the body of your God-given gifts and talents. We need you. Pray and ask God to get you past this hurt and come home to the body.

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  5. For years I didn’t understand people who left the church due to “hurt.” Even after becoming a pastor I would just look at the people who left and shake my head. Six months ago, we lost our church and most of our friends, and it made a whole lot more sense. I read a great book called Loving God When You Don’t Love The Church. Helped a lot.

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  6. Ms. Womack, I sympathize with your hurt. I pray others will find peace from reading this article. To those who read this article and are skeptics church hurt is a valid hurt. It is not a false accusation by someone whining and easily offended, and it needs addressing.

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  7. TL says:

    This article and responses were very helpful. I am experiencing this now…and never would have imagined it. It’s hard because I felt like I was growing there, but I can no longer bring myself to attend because these days I don’t have the energy to be so guarded for spiritual warfare every Sunday.

    When many come to a church, they are already broken, dealing with outside issues at home and at work. If I leave church feeling torn down instead of built up, strengthened, and nurtured…then it may not be the place for me.

    I have been praying for my heart to forgive, praying for the people that have hurt me, praying for the church (because it’s so small, the absence of one is felt), and praying for the Holy Spirit to pray for us.

    I have been visiting other churches in the meantime.

    Ps…You are right, we are human. People will make mistakes. I think we forget that sometimes.

    Question…how do you know if this hurt is enough for you to change church homes?

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    • It blesses my soul to know that you found an ounce of comfort in this shared experience. I also attend a small church so I can totally relate to what you are saying and the only thing that you can do is pray. Normally, when people hurt other people it is because they are hurting. It is sad that those hurt people sometimes bring that destruction into the church.
      I believe that if you have prayed and attempted to work through your church hurt but still haven’t found peace then it may be best to change church homes. Your worship experience should not be dependent on the place of worship rather the feeling of worship. You need to be in a place where you can feel the spirit of God and become fulfilled. That type of place is different for different people which is why I think we have so many different types of churches and congregations.
      I will continue to pray for you and everyone else going through this. We serve an awesome God of peace and love. If we are to live as Christians, a life like Christ, then we too must be able to dwell in peace and love.

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      • Darrell says:

        hello my heart goes out to those who have left Church, I am a pastor myself and it hurts when others leave the church for whatever reason , my heart is broken for you, for those leaders and pastors that have missed use, the flock, that God has put in your hands you will have to give an account for that ,some will never return back to church. my prayers always with them may God bless you and restore you back to your place in him. pastor v

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      • Thank you, Pastor V.

        It is a tough situation and fortunately, I am in a much better place but this post has been searched for many times since it was written which tells me that there are still people experiencing this type of hurt. We all appreciate your prayers.

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  8. Cheryl says:

    Thank you so much for sharing. I am in a similar situation and I am so
    so hurt. I did not see it coming. I have endured all this pain and suffering for control over a youth group. It has been nearly three months and the harsh dull pain is still with me. The pain is sometimes suppressed, but it is always with me. I have been broken. I can feel a very strong presence from God. I know God is carrying me. I know that God will take care of me. I will never give up on God. I am trying to moved on. I am attending a new church. I am praying that God will help me forgive and heal my heartache. I am praying that God will create new opportunities for me to work with another youth group.

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    • Cheryl, I am praying with you and sometimes just knowing that others are going though/have been through a similar situation helps. I pray that your new environment will be nurturing and help you to move past the previous situation. Allowing God to lead you in this situation and all of life’s situation is the key, especially when working with you because they want to “see” our faithfulness more than hear about it.

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  9. Shakaela says:

    Well I’m 19 and I started attending this church a whole 2 years ago , loved it! loved the people also, and I met this lady and she took me in, I didn’t ask for anything because honestly I moved churches because of being in church hurt already… so the pastor preached me into reality and it was like God just placed me in the right place. I mean everything just felt so wonderful . but anyway the lady I met was so sweet and nice she told me that I could talk to her about anything, but see me I like to give people a chance because im a really sweet person inside and out and im not the type to be like antisocial from being hurt already, Im friendly I guess you can say. so we got so close and I felt like really deep inside that we got REALLY close because of this girl who I was friends with, but I was like naw she likes me for me… but just some months ago she stopped speaking to me for no reason, I cried, I asked everyone for advice on how to approach the situation ,I just felt so bad, I didn’t know whether I did something or not, but slowly I just tried to be positive about everything and I took the time out to be the bigger person and just speak to her , even though it seemed like she really didn’t care to speak to me I kept trying ….until one day I realized that she wouldn’t say anything to me unless I said something to her , so I waited to see if she would and she didn’t , so again I cried almost every day and you wouldn’t think that it would affect me this much but it did because I expected more of her especially since she was an adult and im basically a child, but she didn’t really care I mean she called this meeting and was like saying it was nothing wrong but she deleted me from like every social network without a reasoning but I mean im still trying to be the bigger person and look passed the hurt and keep moving forward I don’t cry anymore but its still some pain here and there but its nothing I can do about it but move forward and it taught me to go to church just looking for God because everything else is there to throw you off track. I say it is what it is and try to keep a smile I still love her from the bottom of my heart life is a process

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  10. Jessica says:

    i have been hurt big time through my church, to were i do not know what to do other then cry and laydown and not be near anyone, i do not know what to do.

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    • Jessica, it truly grieves my heart to hear that but always remember to place your faith in our Father. The church is filled with a lot of people who may have good intentions but they are human and many of them dealing with their own issues which sometimes causes them to act out and hurt others. Be encouraged that our God’s strength is more evident during our moments of weakness.

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  11. Nicole Jones says:

    I have been dealing with “church people” nearly all my life. And it’s very different when a Christian hurt you than your family. Right now, I’m dealing with a betrayal of a sister in church and I can truly say she was very well aware of what she was doing. So, I have no sympathy with that part of her. She apologized and I’m not fully over the incident and I need some time to let God help me with this issue concerning my marriage. I also deal with an issue within the ministry that I work in at church and I’ve just been dealt a bad hand since day one that I joined this ministry. But, I thank God that He’s given me the strength and power to endure in spite of how I’m treated. It’s as if I’m not good enough to be in this particular ministry. I’m hurt and I am a bit devastated. My heart is really heavy right now. I have been praying but it seems as though I’m so hurt that I can not hear God speak to me. It has caused a bit of strain in my marriage and most of all my spiritual life and walk with God.

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    • Nicole, you made a great point that when a church person hurts us, it’s different. There’s an implied trust of people who are supposed to share our spiritual walk. We quickly find that not everyone walks in the light as we are commanded. I will continue to pray for your strength, your ministry and your marriage.

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  12. moochie261 says:

    It was God that lead me to this site.and I thank u Ms.Womack for sharing and all the responses is helping me.I just started attending church again and its been 2months.we are small and I love the church and the memebers.but one memeber I had thought was a friend went and lied on me to pastor and said thinggs I never said.So now I’m. Lost and hurt and upset. Because I’ve never been threw anything like this in a church.I feel bad because I don’t like messy people and now I forgave her but I cannot deal with her far as trusting.and because God said love her I will.I love God with all my heart and soul.I’ve came along way and with this happening I’m need prayer and god to help me threw because I don’t want be hurt or bitter.Its very hard to deal with something like this.Onething I won’t leave the church and I willl continue to ask God to give me stregnth to continue in the race.

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    • God is pleased when we put Him first. Man will always disappoint us but we serve an awesome God who just wants us to trust and believe in Him with our whole hearts. You may feel like you’re going through the fire but just like the three Hebrew boys in the furnace, He won’t allow the enemy to harm a hair on your head. Keep on praising Him!

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  13. Nathan says:

    I was a member of a local church in my area. I was very active and a worship leader in that ministry for several years. One of the workers in the Church who was a good friend of mine severely betrayed me and my family because of his desire to be “close to the pastor.” I had a strange discernment when I first met this guy, but I ignored my intuition and was burned in the process. This guy eventually rose to the rank of assistant Pastor (a role that was originally given to me, but was rescinded). Till this day I do not know the true reason why. I just noticed the pastor stopped trusting me all of a sudden, and became very cold right around the time this guy rose the ranks.

    There were things he did during this process that shocked me to the core which I can’t go into in full detail. I will say that this betrayal was one of the most hurtful and unexpected ones I have encountered. I left the Church after several revelations came through the Holy Spirit, warning me of things to come. My wife was also severely damaged by this man and by his circle of friends within the Church. The deceit, lies, manipulation was soo shocking to my wife because he betrayed her first. What was surprising was, the Pastor was 100% loyal to this guy till the end. I was amazed. One day (just before i left the Church)I was sitting in my cube at work after getting a scolding from the Pastor on the phone. after the call, I sat there for about 10mins, heart racing, feeling an overwhelming sense of dread, confusion, guilt, violation, manipulated, deceived, etc. I was sitting there with all this on my mind, and I heard a voice say Ezekiel 34. I turned around, and there was no one there….I was certain I heard a voice speak clearly from right behind me. I soon realized it was The Lord speaking to me….i had never read that particular scripture in my life, but when I turned to Ez 34, the revelation was clear. God himself was angry at the way his flock was being treated by the Shepherds. I read this from beginning to end, and this gave me the courage to take my family and flee. I left this Church, and till this day feel an overwhelming sense of rejection from my Church family. I could not shake it, the complete lack of empathy, love, care, or support from the Church, it’s leadership, or members. Two, maybe three people reached out to us. It was clear that a major slandering had been done to us after we “left the fold.” God, this hurts so bad. I poured my heart into that ministry, and was one of the most visible leaders in the Church not by choice, but purely by calling. I am still a young man, and I believe The Lord is teaching me something through this experience. He has lead me to a new fold, and I can say he truly is the shepherd of my soul. I am healing, but the scars are deep. I am learning to trust God so much more now because this walk has been purely by faith. He is restoring lost relationships, is given me a clear sense of purpose in world missions, and I am learning what it means to truly be a closet believer and follower of Christ. Church hurt is very real folks. I will say that Churches need to be careful who they appoint as leaders because a lot of these people are generally very ambitious people. The same people that rise to leadership in the workplace often rise to leadership in the Church. They are the kind who are into ruthless politics, brown nosing, and very shady dealings with absolutely no reverence for God. This is why I believe God showed me Ez 34 as a warning. My eyes are opened now.

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    • Having a spirit of discernment to know who is real and who is cutthroat in ministry. Otherwise, you risk going through life believing everyone is one way or everyone is the other way. The truth is that there are people with good and bad intentions everywhere we turn. When asked, God will reveal a persons true intentions and then it’s up to you to act accordingly. Praying for you and your family’s continued strength.

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  14. This really needs to be addressed I have endured brutal humiliating church hurt to painful to discuss and I know its nobody but JESUS that has kept me sane looking for help felt so bad today in my soul couldn’t even work ya’ll please pray my strength trying to stay focused.

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  15. Yaseph says:

    I don’t know how to start my response to what LaKesha Womack has started. However, I am blessed to read these responses, from Pastors and you all. Yes, indeed church hurt is real, and it is painful than any other. It is even worst when it involves a Pastor. But one thing that each of you underscored is we are human being, including pastors. Even though we sometimes expect more from them, and rightly so, we have to expect much leadership from them because they are our leaders. As an aspiring pastor, I think that sometimes God uses such incidents to teach us, at least for me, I believe that is the case and I am trying to make the best out of it. Nevertheless, it is not easy, it is an uphill battle. Sometimes it is a struggle to go church, it is a struggle offer yourself to the work, it is a struggle to love. However, as we all would agree, all things work together good for those who are called by God. One of my mentors, the late Dr. D. Pitt, once told me, “God never waste a wound.” The pains and wounds we all have experienced in the church is meant to prepare us for where we are going. More importantly, it is has happened to us so we don’t repeat it. it has happened to us so we can stop and attend to others who will be hurt. It has happened to us so when we hear that a member of the body is hurt by another member we would not just tell them, you need to grow up or get over it. For some us the struggle will linker longer than others because of where God is taking us. So allow God to finish His work in you. It is being a six or more months and my wife and I are still struggling. But we are believing God for total healing. Thank you all for sharing your experiences, God bless you and keep.

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    • Thank you for adding your story. We do learn from each other and the support throughout this comment thread shows that we are not alone, most importantly we all know that God is with us. I will continue to pray for you and your wife during this time.

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