When Churches Hurt

This is a guest blog post by one of my favourite bloggers, Maurilio Amorim. Maurilio is the CEO of The A Group, a media, technology and branding firm in the states. You can check out his blog at www.maurilioamorim.com.

“I’m in a different stage of my life right now,” said the young man across the counter as I asked him if he went to church. “I don’t like what organized religion has become,” he continued. I hear a variation of that reasoning quite often. But as I probed and asked about his church background, I was not expecting his answer.

As he told me his story, he mentioned growing up in a church I know well in another city. Years ago, it was one of the most dynamic evangelical churches in that metropolitan area. It grew to mega church status and one day the fighting began. First it was over church governance, and then over musical styles, and then over whatever else people could find polarizing.  it grew ugly until the inevitable split. It was a mess. No one won. No one. Some have claimed victory, however. But the greatest loss to me was the disillusionment of young men and women who watched their parents, grandparents, mentors, heroes of the faith engage in a selfish, unforgiving, ugly battle over mere preferences.

I know the story well. There was no just cause there. No one was fighting heresy or a scandalous financial or moral cover up. They fought hard over preferences, the trivial. It broke my heart to heart to hear that this 26 year old who grew up in what once was a great church now is questioning his entire belief foundation. I don’t blame him. I have been around enough church fights that I can see how someone would be willing to walk away and never come back. I even considered doing it myself.

I’m sure there are many victims of ugly church splits wondering outside any faith community because those who should have known better, the supposedly spiritually mature, failed them miserably. I don’t have a solution for this problem. The human condition is never going to get better. Righteous indignation will rise up when someone decides to mess with the color of the church carpet, and people will need to be mobilized to stop the travesty from happening.

The one thing I can do is to keep my own heart in check and to save that righteous indignation for the things that really matter such as those facing a Christ-less eternity, human trafficking, hunger, child abuse. I pray for a proper perspective on what’s important and what’s trivial, and if I ever confuse them, may God take me home before I cause people like my young friend to wonder from their faith.

Have you seen the Church at its worst? How has that impacted your life?

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2 Comments on “When Churches Hurt

  1. Hey Tom
    I don’t get your last blog and thought you may be able to explain it to me. It seems like you are inviting people to share their bad experiences with the church, and for them to share where they have seen church at its worst. I feel a little stupid asking this, but is the reason for inviting stories like this to bring healing to people?

    God Bless.

  2. Hmmmm….

    Well, without trying to sound defensive, I think ultimately this guest post is in fact about bringing healing to the readers.

    Personally, I am always aware of how Grace attracts people who have been previously “hurt” by churches and are often so overwhelmed and encouraged by the love and acceptance they feel when they walk through Grace’s doors.

    I think as the “big C” Church we need to acknowledge the wounds and the mistakes we have made in the past, and also acknowledge our own tendencies as humans to get hung up on trivial issues and miss the point. To pretend like the church hasn’t hurt people is ultimately unhealthy and just untrue. That’s what happened in apartheid. I believe part of people’s healing is acknowledging the “hits” they have taken, and then helping them to move forward and beyond.

    I believe the last paragraph he writes sums it up well when he says:

    “The one thing I can do is to keep my own heart in check and to save that righteous indignation for the things that really matter”

    For me this is the redemptive side to the story – that yes, church is messy and filled with messy people, but I can decide today to stop pointing fingers, acknowledge my own propensity for sin and deception, and keep my own heart in check.

    I truly believe that the local church, when it is working right, is the hope of the world. And i believe that if the Church is willing to stand up and admit it’s own weaknesses, it will bring great glory to God.

    But perhaps I have missed something by reposting Maurillio’s blog. My heart was certainly not to create a “moaning session” for people, or to deface God’s chosen vessel to bring redemption to this world.

    Hope that makes sense.

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