“The things that hurt you won’t always hurt you. You can heal. You can trust his word again.
You can love it again.” -Kristen LaValley
Church hurt is real.
Whether from spiritual abuse, religious trauma, or misconduct, many folks leave churches feeling scarred and distrusting of other such institutions.
The hashtag #churchtoo started as people began sharing sexual and spiritual abuse from church leaders. Some ventured to join other churches. For others, that was the final straw.
How should churches be wary of spiritually abusing their flocks? What is something off-putting to many members?
Joining us today is our guest blogger with the pseudonym Aurora Sanders. A teacher, blogger, and theatre nerd from the Midwest, Aurora loves all things Disney and giving her dog lots of cuddles.
An Open Letter to Churches
I recently left a church that prided themselves on caring about its members and guests. Ironically by the time I left, I felt so unloved and rejected that I almost quit going to church altogether.
Had my best friend not invited me to visit her church, who knows where I’d be (but that is a completely different story).
I left because I no longer felt that I belonged. I no longer felt I could call it “my church.”
1. A true loving church would not make its members feel like outsiders.
You may boast that you are prettier, better dressed, or smarter than someone else, but that just means you are small minded.
Do you even believe the simple truths taught in the Bible? Truths like God repeatedly choosing to use the “outcasts” and “thinking more highly of others than ourselves”?
Church members: it is time we practice those basic truths.
I am not saying to forgo all morals and values—we still need those. But your gawking Pharisees with self-made standards will only judge and divide people. The church is bigger than any person or clique.
2. Churches also need to remember that their pastor is not God.
He is just a man called to do God’s work. I am sad to say I fell into that trap too. Until I woke up. Then I started seeing the truth.
3. God loves all people.
Sure, pastors preach it, but their actions often prove otherwise. Deep down it usually comes down to the pastor’s ego and the image of their church.
Pastors with big egos have no business being pastors much less telling others they need to humble themselves. How can the leader promote qualities he himself won’t exhibit?
4. When church leaders see a problem in someone’s life, correct them gently.
Don’t be so blunt and eager to chastise others. Speak the truth, but with some love and authentic compassion. You hurt others—you hurt me—and I’m sure you’ll hurt many, many more.
Dear Church, these are just a few reasons I left you for another. Just a few reasons.
Do I feel guilty for leaving? Not at all.
I do still feel angry.
Angry with the leadership for allowing others to treat myself and others as less-than. Angry with leadership for leading me to believe that God required me to maintain man’s standards. I’m angry that many church “friends” quickly shunned me and showed their true gossiping colors.
And I’m angry that many such cliques, spiritual abuse, and slanders are still permitted—even from the pulpits of many churches today.
I love church. I truly do. I enjoy coming together in a loving environment to worship God with other believers—in a judgement-free zone—where all are welcome.
God welcomes everyone. Why can’t churches follow His example?
Maybe many churches have become more focused with their rules, their images, and their pastors over their own congregations.
And you wonder why so many people leave!
3 thoughts on “Guest Post: An Open Letter to Churches”
Thank you Aurora for the wonderful post and Madison for giving Aurora a platform. This hits very, very close to home. Having had an ex use church as a way to control me, I still have strong feelings about ever going to church and religion in general. I hope you find strength in knowing that you are not alone.
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Oof! Using church as a ploy against people is never ok. I’m sorry for your painful experience, and I hope authentic people are pouring into your life.
From Aurora: Thank you for your kind words. I hope you find a church that you love and loves you!
I don’t think I will ever go back, at least not anytime soon. For me, it’s like going back to an abusive partner.
What hurt even more was the community I lost. I had a close group of friends that would go, almost like family. They all abandoned me and didn’t want to understand what really happened. It felt like they just wanted to use me (which turned out to be true, sadly).
It’s tricky. Part of me has moved on, but part of me is still deeply traumatized. I guess what I am trying to say is that you have to heal in your own time and if going back is meant to be, it will happen.
I hope you find your tribe, Aurora. ❤
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