“Burned” By Church?

October 8, 2012

A lot of people today have a bad taste in their mouth for church.  As I serve as pastor, I run across people from time to time that say they have been burned by church and that’s why they quit going.

I’ve been thinking a lot about that lately.  I’ve seen “spiritual abuse” in several situations where it does seem like the church “turned their back” on people going through tough times.  Maybe a couple goes through a divorce and the church mistreats both the husband and wife.  I’ve seen a family ostracized because they had a child who was out of control.  Cases like these are sad.  That certainly doesn’t illustrate God’s love to those who need it most.

On the flip side, I’ve seen people that are in direct conflict with what they know to be God’s will and direction.  Their new sin begins to affect their wife, kids and church.  When a fellow believer cares enough to talk to them in love about their path, they totally cry “foul” and say the church has turned their back on them.

In reality, they are still very loved and the loving thing to do is to mention the issue with the friend.  I’ve seen those who have cried “foul” run away from those who love them and then blame the church.

One thing that cracked me up recently was hearing a former Sunday School teacher who had multiple affairs, even after being caught, proclaim, “I can’t stand fake Christians.”

He said that he felt “burned” by the church and fake Christians.  (I also know that men reached out to him in love during his failures and he refused to let them in.)  I would not call him or anyone else a “fake” Christian, but  I certainly don’t see that he would have rights to call others “fake”  just because they didn’t accept his sin or called him on his hypocrisy.

I think sometimes we “punch ourselves in the face” by our actions and then we blame God and the church when it is painful.  I know the church has a lot to learn about grace but I also believe that the church often gets a bum rap.

It’s a thin line to walk between helping each other move towards holiness, yet showing grace.  The church is filled with imperfect people, including this pastor.  I believe it’s important to accept everyone where they are and encourage them to go where God wants them to go.  The church is complained about because of “hypocrites”, yet complained about when they attempt to call people to repentance.  Thin line, indeed!

Those who claim to be teachers in Christ should be held to a higher level.  (See James 3:1)  If you’re a leader, you know better, and you shouldn’t be “burned” when you fail but you also should be repentant.  (That means stop the sin.)

What are your thoughts about this?

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6 Responses to ““Burned” By Church?”

  1. Linden Wolfe said

    Well said, my friend. Sometimes it’s all of the above – people are looking for any excuse and the visible church has failed them. In the end, they both have their issues but only Jesus has the solutions.

  2. jmluchun said

    I personally have been burned by the church more than once. I currently am pursuing my DMin and looking for a position. The church we attend has burned my family a few ways, while the last church we attended did the same. The only common denominator is us. Therefore, I must believe we simply share or give to much and have pulled back until I find a position locally that we can truly invest ourselves in.

    • eddiepoole said

      Wow! I am sure sorry that has happened to you…. twice even. I’m glad that it seems that you are still serving God. I hate that sometimes we feel like we share too much and the distrust affects our authenticity. I see where you are coming from. I think the church needs to learn that we have to accept people where they are in their honesty, while encouraging them to continue seeking God. I pray that you find the place that God has for you to serve and where you can grow in Him.

  3. Don said

    I think a lot of the feeling of being burned originates in that too many of us hold on to a false belief that we need a priestly intercessor to proxy for us and have unrealistic expectations of pastoral staff when our only priest is Christ Himself (Heb 6). The vital importance of deep, intimate, praying relationships w/ fellow believers in the church is so under emphasized. We also tend to hold pastoral staff to higher moral standards than we hold ourselves and easily turn our back on them when they fall into sin. None are perfect but Christ. We are all but mere sinners redeemed by the grace of God.

    • eddiepoole said

      Agree Don. Prayer is so important. Also, pastors should be held to a higher moral standard but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t human. They definitely fall and we can’t put all of our faith in any man.

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