The Church It Was Never Meant to Be

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The Church. A place of love and joy and peace. A sanctuary of safety. A haven where the flock gathers and works together and loves one another with the love of Jesus and builds one another up and spurs one another on and helps one another grow.

At least that’s the idea.

Sadly, this is not always the case. In fact, there’s a lot going on in churches across the nation that Jesus would never have endorsed—or tolerated.

Three different times this week this topic has surfaced among people I’ve watched suffer deep and damaging church abuse. One of those people is a friend who has been a mentor for nearly 30 years. His ministry has been his life since before I met him, and a few months ago it was cut blindingly short by a dagger of deception so sinister he and his family are still reeling. The fallout has been severe, not only for him but for all who know and love him—and this man of God has an innumerably wide reach. Put simply, what was done to him is unconscionable. The fact that it was done in the name of God makes it even more despicable.

But are these the things we dare not write about or speak out loud? Are these the things we sweep under the vestibule rug and pretend never happened, all in the name of not further harming the Church’s reputation? Is this healthy? Is this beneficial? Is this right?

Where is the line—for certainly there is one, is there not—between diplomacy and deception? Can we call out the practices that are harming God’s people and sending them running away from Him as fast as their weakened legs will carry them?

Perhaps the more accurate question is how can we not?

What if we started believing we have not only the right but the responsibility to call out sinful treatment of God’s people in the Church? What if we started understanding that such vigilance when done in genuine love is not destructive but healing and growth-inducing?

What if we stopped tolerating hatefulness and abuse and selfishness and greed going on in the name of church and stood up and said, “Enough”? Wouldn’t Jesus have done so? Didn’t He call out things people were doing and call them wrong out loud?

We don’t have to use a hammer. If the pen is mightier than the sword, can our words be prayerfully woven and used to effect positive change within the Church? How many lives might be made more lovely? How many lives might ultimately be saved?

Can we continue on in silence while abused believers limp around on shattered stained glass and carry those slivers out the door with them perhaps never to return?

Who will save His children if not us? Isn’t it time we speak out?

6 thoughts on “The Church It Was Never Meant to Be

  1. Oh, what a timely message.
    I feel that this was posted just for me.
    You see, I just had to vent about some things that have happened in the past two churches that my husband and I attended and even became members of.
    In less than one year some very key people in the first church set out to take down that pastor in a terrible way. Now those very people started a new church, under a new name, with a new Board of Directors and Leaders and Elders. Those are the Country Club people that I mentioned in my post.

    To answer those hard questions that you posed: yes, there does need to be an accounting done.
    Yes, there are issues that do need to be addressed. In a gentle and loving way?
    How do you do that? None of what was done in secret can be dealt with in a gentle and loving way.
    People have been hurt in both churches, the former and now the new.
    They will not be given a chance to speak of their hurt and their disapproval because they will be told that they either accept what is in place or they can leave.
    Oh yes!! Money talks. Big business owners with the money.
    Very high paid employers, employees, lawyers, maybe some medical personnel, etc.
    These are the ones who financially support the church and they are the ones who make the rules and call the shots.
    Those of us who are in the senior category with nothing but social security checks get very little say about anything in the church. We, who have worked all our lives and supported our church for many years get no say in anything that really counts.
    Oh, yes, there is a lot of lip service about taking care of the seniors, the disabled, the children, the widows. But, we get very little respect and we do not get to have any meaningful input in the operation of the church.

    The Bible does speak about what was done in secret and in darkness, will be brought out into the light. But how many people have the courage to stand up in a Sunday morning service and start speaking out as to what was done in secret needs to be addressed?
    Yes, it would have to be addressed to the congregation at large.
    I daresay Jesus would not go into the office to make an appt to speak to the church leaders.
    I believe Jesus would stand up in the middle of the Synagogue or the Church and He would call out the guilty ones and He probably would refer to them as “a brood of vipers”.
    Since Jesus faced the crowd of people who would have stoned that woman, I believe He would face those very same hypocrites in the church today and He would point out to them that what they did was an abomination unto the father.

    Unfortunately, there are so many of us that are discouraged, they leave that church and start searching for another church to attend. And it starts all over again.

    • Pat, I wish I could say your story is rare. You were one of the several people I saw hurting over things like this, just this very week. Sadly it has happened to us in the past and we’ve watched it rip church bodies asunder in more than a few situations. You are right: it is not supposed to be this way. You should never feel like you have no say within the body of believers with whom you worship. The only suggestion I have is to find a group (even a small one) of like-minded believers who really do get the whole Jesus thing and worship corporately with them. You are in my prayers, dear friend.

  2. Yes, it is time, and I am speaking out, also. So many have been deeply damaged by spiritual abuse in our churches that it makes my heart break. Thank you, Lisa, for sounding the alarm and rightfully so. I have done a 3 week series on recognizing and healing from spiritual abuse on Beyond Abuse Radio. You can find the archives here if anyone would like to listen: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/voicesunitedradionetwork/2013/02/23/beyond-abuse-radio-recognizing-spiritual-abuse

    • Thank you so much for sharing this resource, my friend. I’m sure it will be a help to many. The collateral damage from spiritual abuse can be difficult to quantify, but by God’s sweet grace we can heal and move forward stronger and wiser and even more dedicated to the work of His Kingdom as He has called us to be. Thank you for sharing your thoughts here with us today.

  3. For quite some time I have felt this very thing. How can we continue in silence when so many in our churches are “allowed” to destroy lives? Lives that deeply love the Lord and are called by Him into ministry. So often when I speak up I am told I have no grace or I have no right to judge. So lately I’ve kept quiet, for I want my words to be filled with love, grace and healing. I want to restore, not destroy. But am realizing that when truth is spoken, even in love and filled with grace, it still stings the heart and soul of a man (or woman).

    • There were letters written to early churches telling them they needed the kind of sorrow that led to Godly repentance. I agree with you: I think we are robbing the Church of the kind of guidance that leads to repentance and positive change, all in the name of not stepping on toes. The truth is, there are some toes that need stomping! And we can certainly do that in love just as Jesus did. And we must. Bless you for sharing your heart here.

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