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?