Journeyman Project Dispatches from the Life of Patrick Fowler: Christianity Explored

4Aug/130

Churches that Hurt…should not run you off

I have seen my fair share of people hurt by churches in the past few years and I definitely empathize with their pain and anger toward untrustworthy individuals.

However I find a lot of these people discontent over imperfect churches, hoping to find the perfect one out there somewhere, and I think that is a myth that needs to be broken. I hope you realize that this issue is not connected with the American church model...it's been the issue since the first days of the church. Paul--the first and greatest church planter laments to Timothy that everyone has abandoned and betrayed him in 2 Timothy. The church has been highly imperfect from those first days, and it remains that way today. Even the great Reformer Martin Luther died a bitter drunkard isolated from the church he had help restart.

Do your best to come to me soon. For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry. Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus. When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments. Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. Beware of him yourself, for he strongly opposed our message. At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion's mouth.  (2Tim 4:9-17, ESV)

 

Wikipedia summarized Martin Luther's final days like this:

His poor physical health made him short-tempered and even harsher in his writings and comments. His wife Katharina was overheard saying, "Dear husband, you are too rude," and he responded, "They are teaching me to be rude." In 1545 and 1546 Luther preached three times in the Market Church in Halle, staying with his friend Justus Jonas during Christmas.

His last sermon was delivered at Eisleben, his place of birth, on 15 February 1546, three days before his death. It was "entirely devoted to the obdurate Jews, whom it was a matter of great urgency to expel from all German territory," according to Léon Poliakov. James Mackinnon writes that it concluded with a "fiery summons to drive the Jews bag and baggage from their midst, unless they desisted from their calumny and their usury and became Christians." Luther said, "we want to practice Christian love toward them and pray that they convert," but also that they are "our public enemies ... and if they could kill us all, they would gladly do so. And so often they do."

 

All in all, Don't go looking for a church that will never hurt you. It doesn't exist. Go looking for a church that will admit its faults and ask your forgiveness when confronted. Don't withdrawal from relationships because they hurt--confront those relationships like we are instructed to in Matthew 18 and watch as God makes you both better friends and better church members. It is only through working through hurt that we find and deepen trust. We see that in movies and on TV shows all the time...but somehow we miss it in real life. That's the lesson God has taught me in recent years. And I hope you will try and find that it is true for you too.

So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.  (Matt 5:23-24, ESV)

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church.   (Matt 18:15-17, ESV)

I am reminded finally of Mark--a companion on Paul and Barnabas first missionary journey, who abandoned them part of the way through their trip. When they prepared to make a second journey, Paul and Barnabas disagreed so much over whether to take Mark along again that they ended up traveling separately. Paul was not ready to forgive. However even though they separated, Paul came to forgive and deeply appreciate Mark.In what was probably his final letter, he wrote: "Bring Mark with you when you come, for he will be helpful to me in my ministry." We must learn to be hurt, and yet still be the ones to seek reconciliation.

Praying for those hurt by the church today. I really hope they find healing and the key to relationships through confrontation and forgiveness.

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