I wouldn’t be in ministry today if I hadn’t learned how to be patient and forgiving when offended or hurt by my church.
Sometimes, we expect more from the pastor and church staff than we expect from God. That will always lead to disappointment, frustration, hurt, and offense. It’s important to remember that the church is God’s house or gathering place, and He’s the head of His household – the family of God. The only perfect person in His house is Jesus! Everyone else, including pastors, elders, and leadership teams are imperfect people. They make mistakes. They can inflict hurt. They can offend.
People in the congregation are also imperfect people. We’re each at different levels of maturity. Some may think it’s their role to correct or admonish. Some are young Christians still learning about the Christian life. Others might not be Christians at all.
When I wrote the Crosswalk article, Is Watching Church Online the Same as Going to Church? , I was saddened to read many comments of people who stopped attending church because of a bad experience. Some never returned.
If you, like me, have been hurt or offended by people in the church, let's look to the Bible to discover how we should respond. It’s kept me in churches where I know God wants me to be, even when everything in me says to run to another church. Don’t let a few people rob your joy of fellowship in Christian community.
Here are five common causes of hurt in the church and how the Bible says to address them.
“Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” Philippians 1:27
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Some Causes of Hurt and Offense:
1. Gossip—When people talk about you, even in prayer.
“A perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends.” Proverbs 16:28
“A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid anyone who talks too much.” Proverbs 20:19
2. Leadership: When leaders are insensitive to parishioners’ needs or mistreat others in the church.
“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?” Luke 15:4
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3. Rejection: When you don’t feel you belong.
“For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.” Romans 12:3
4. Judgment: When another member forms opinions about you.
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Matthew 7:1-2
“Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God. So let’s stop condemning each other. Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not cause another believer to stumble and fall.” Romans 14:12 NLT
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5. False Teaching: It’s never acceptable to stray from the Bible.
“[ False Teachers and Their Destruction] But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves.” 2 Peter 2:1
“I say this because some ungodly people have wormed their way into your churches, saying that God’s marvelous grace allows us to live immoral lives. The condemnation of such people was recorded long ago, for they have denied our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” Jude 1:4 NLT
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What to Do When the Church Hurts or Offends:
If you don’t forgive, bitterness will harbor in your heart. Forgiveness doesn’t make what was said or done to you right, but it is the right thing to do.
“Even if that person wrongs you seven times a day and each time turns again andasks forgiveness, you must forgive.” Luke 17:4 NLT
Why? Because didn’t Christ forgive you of much?
“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32
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Confront the offenders directly, even if that’s the pastor or someone in leadership. Often, hurtful issues are resolved once we better understand the other person’s perspective. Other times, we can’t resolve the problem. Still, you have set your heart free and dealt with the issue in a biblical way.
“If a fellow believer hurts you, go and tell him—work it out between the two of you. If he listens, you’ve made a friend. If he won’t listen, take one or two others along so that the presence of witnesses will keep things honest, and try again. If he still won’t listen, tell the church. If he won’t listen to the church, you’ll have to start over from scratch, confront him with the need for repentance, and offer again God’s forgiving love.” Matthew 18:14-17, The Message
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"...that there be no divisions among you..."
"I appeal to you, brothers and sisters in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought.” 1 Corinthians 1:10
3. Be Patient
“Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble and keep on praying.” Romans 12:12 NLT
A lethal temptation is to talk about an offense with others. If we give into this temptation, we become the gossiper. Or maybe we desire to even seek revenge or retaliation. If we give into this temptation, we become the offender.
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Pray for God’s guidance. Did He lead you to this church to make a difference? Or is He showing you it’s time to move on to another church gathering while you pray for the one you’re leaving. If you decide God is leading you to another church, remember you’re still taking you with all your expectations, personality traits, and past experiences. God never wants us to stop coming into fellowship with other believers in His house, even if it’s a challenge.
“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds,not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:24
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"I ask God for guidance in how to rise above the issue and carry on joyfully loving..."
I’ve been hurt, rejected, criticized, judged, disappointed, misunderstood, and gossiped about both as a church member and a leader. But I never considered leaving God’s church or the meeting together of His people, keeping Hebrews 10:24 in mind.
I’ve had to patiently confront, forgive, ask for forgiveness, consider the source, ignore, and look objectively to see if I needed to change. I ask God for guidance in how to rise above the issue and carry on joyfully loving His people, loving the lost, and loving serving Him.
So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?” Hebrews 13:6
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"It’s not easy, but it is biblical."
How about you? Can you forgive, confront, be patient, and pray when offended? It’s not easy, but it is biblical.
“Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.” Romans 12:17-19, The Message
Janet Thompson is an international speaker, freelance editor, and award-winning author of 19 books.Her latest release is Mentoring for All Seasons: Sharing Life Experiences and God’s Faithfulness. She is the founder of Woman to Woman Mentoring and About His Work Ministries. Follow Janet on Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Twitter.
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