God Hates Abusive Churches, But He Still Wants You Part of a Local Fellowship
Churches That Abuse was a book published 30 years ago that documented abuses of churches and Christian organizations and the effect that abuse had on its members. At the time, this book was a God send for helping people recognize spiritual abuse and how to get healed from it.
Abusive churches grieve God to no end. In 1 Corinthians 11:17, Paul writes, “But now when I mention this next issue, I cannot praise you. For it sounds as if more harm than good is done when you meet together.” What was the issue that caused Paul to comment? When the church was to meet for the Lord’s Supper, they were to wait for everyone before partaking. But many of the rich decided to eat and drink and not wait for their poorer brethren. This caused divisions, therefore bringing reproach on Jesus’ idea of unity. As a result this disregard for each other caused sickness and even death (verse 30). This shows how important loving each other is.
In James 3:17-18 from the Message translation we read these helpful words. “Real wisdom, God’s wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others. It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced. You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor.”
Great advice, right? But in the very next section, chapter 4, verses 1-3, we realize that this church wasn’t taking this godly admonition to heart. Again this is how the Message puts it. “Where do you think all these appalling wars and quarrels come from? Do you think they just happen? Think again. They come about because you want your own way and fight for it deep inside yourselves. You lust for what you don’t have and are willing to kill to get it. You want what isn’t yours and will risk violence to get your hands on it.”
Think about that, believers killing to get what they want! Talk about not understanding the Christian faith. This still shocks me when I read it.
As a retired pastor, over the years I heard numerous stories of people that had been abused emotionally, financially, or sexually by church leadership. This has caused me much heartache to see how God’s people can treat God’s people. Of course these wounded believers then reject “church” and in many cases even renounce their faith.
What is a Christian who has been subject to this ungodly and horrific behavior to do? Many believers who still know and love Jesus decide to stay away from church and just worship on their own. I can’t judge anyone like that because of the immense pain they are going through. However, God does not have a plan B. He doesn’t tell us to stay away from other believers because of horrible abuse. No, His solution is to get healed and align ourselves with healthy Christians, who do their best to live out what Jesus taught.
So how do we get healed and how do we find a healthy church? Getting healed means to find a trusted counselor, pastor, or friend who will not judge your pain, but acknowledge it. Then that trusted person helps you to forgive those who wounded you. If you choose not to truly forgive, you will be in emotional and spiritual bondage for the rest of your life. This forgiveness leads to healing. It may take quite a while, but if you consistently pray daily to forgive, eventually the healing will come.
Once you are healed, then you actively search for a group of believers who meet together regularly and are healthy so you become connected. Ah, but how do I know if the group of believers are healthy? It is a risk. But, you can interview people who attend a fellowship and find out their experiences. You can research local fellowships that have a website, and see their mission statement and look at some of their activities that show the spirit of the church.
Remember a local church doesn’t have to meet in a building. Many meet outdoors, others in homes. You just have to find a group that meets at least weekly, has recognized leadership, teaches and practices the word, worships, takes the Lord’s Supper, and cares for its people.
Stating the obvious, a healthy church is not a perfect church. So don’t look for everyone to do things without error. Remember, you are a wounded saint, and you won’t bring perfection to that body either.
You see brothers and sisters Jesus said He would build his church. The church is His body, so to reject the Body, ironically causes us to reject Jesus. So yes, churches do abuse and cause pain, churches do things wrong, but churches also change lives. I know because I experienced both sides. I have been wounded horribly and have been blessed tremendously. But at the end of the day, since this is what God wants, and I am His disciple, I choose to be a part of a local fellowship. May God heal those of you still suffering from abuse, and may you find the courage to risk being a part of the body. For God’s sake and yours.