— 28 —
Statistics show that a great percentage of persons who
stop going to church, do so because of some type of offense or injury to
their feelings. It's unfortunate that such experiences ever occur. You may
not be able to stop offensive things from happening, but by applying God's
principles you can stop them from hurting you. "Great peace have they which
love thy law: and nothing shall offend them" (Psalm 119:165 KJV).
The following are several things that people can do to
protect themselves from getting hurt in the church:
(1) Avoid developing unreasonable
"My soul, wait silently for God alone, For my expectation is from Him" (Psa.
The definition of disappointment is "the failure to
attain one's expectations." Don't expect things from the church or the
minister that they can't deliver, or that the Bible doesn't teach for them
to do. Many expectations have to do with preconceived "traditions" which we
have come to associate with a church, perhaps from another fellowship we
once attended or grew up in, etc. It's a good idea to meet with the pastor
and ask what you can expect of his ministry and the church.
Occasionally people get disappointed when they find
out their church can't supply all their earthly needs. Most churches attempt
to help the needy during crisis and emergencies, but some expect the church
to meet all their material needs or pay their bills like the early church
did. Unfortunately, this just isn't possible unless everyone agrees to sell
all their property and possessions and give them to the church like the
early believers (Acts 4:34-35). Most churches would be blessed if everyone
merely paid their tithes, however statistics show that only a small
percentage of churchgoers give a full tithe regularly.
Neither is it realistic to expect the pastor to spend
all his time with you, to attend every social function, or for him to show
you constant attention. Learn to place your expectations upon God — He will
always be faithful to His promises in His Word.
(2) Don't place an absolute trust in people.
"Thus says the LORD: Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his
strength, whose heart departs from the LORD" (Jer. 17:5).
Come to terms with the fact that everyone is human and
will fail you at sometime or another. Even the pastor will make mistakes.
The only one you can trust entirely without fail is God.
Realizing that any human can fall short, the degree of
trust we place in people must be limited and will depend on their track
record. The more we get to know a person's character and the history of
their behavior, we'll be able to determine how trustworthy they are. This is
one of the reasons why the scriptures tell us to get to know our pastors and
spiritual leaders — so from their godly lifestyle, we'll be able to trust
their leadership. "And we urge you, brethren, to recognize those who labor
among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you." (1 Thes. 5:12).
There's a difference between "love" and "trust." It's
possible to love and forgive someone, without placing an absolute trust in
them. To illustrate this, let's say there's a school bus driver who has a
drinking problem. One day while transporting a load of children he becomes
intoxicated, wrecks the bus and kills all the children. As the lone survivor
of the crash, he turns to the church to seek God's forgiveness for this
horrible act of irresponsibility. If he repents of his sin, will God forgive
him? Absolutely. Should the church love and forgive this person? Of course.
And what if he would then like to volunteer to drive the church bus for us?
Do we trust him? Absolutely not! It would be unthinkable to put a person in
the driver's seat who has shown such recent negligence. Certainly, we love
and forgive him, but because of this man's poor track record, we could not
risk the lives of our passengers. Over a long period of sobriety and safe
driving, this person may be able to prove that he is again reliable, capable
of being trusted as a bus driver.
Remember that love and forgiveness is granted
unconditionally, but trust must be "earned." Trust is the acquired
confidence in a person's actions. We certainly can, and should trust persons
who show trustworthy behavior, but because all men have the potential for
failure, we should never put an infallible sense of trust in anyone but God.
(3) Focus on common ground. "Now I
plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all
speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you
be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment" (1
Avoid becoming highly opinionated. Opinions are the
interpretations and ideas of men, which if constantly pressed on other
people, can cause division or promote sinful debates and quarrels (Rom.
1:29). Opinionated people are prone to get hurt when others disagree with
The Bible teaches for all Christians to "speak the
same thing" so that there will be unity in the body of Christ (1 Cor. 1:10).
The only way such unity is possible, is for Christians to focus on the
common ground of Christ and His Word. That is, we need to "say what the Word
says," to let the Word speak for itself and not try to promote divisive
opinions about it. In scripture, we see that Paul instructed Timothy to
"Preach the Word," not his opinions (2 Tim. 4:2). A preacher is intended be
a delivery boy of God's message, not a commentator of the message. That's
the Holy Spirit's job (1 John 2:27).
Similarly, at one time the news media was required to
comply with a very strict code of ethics. They were to report the facts of
the news accurately without adding their opinion or commentary. However, as
time has passed, news reporting has become less factual and more opinionated
— corrupted with rumors and gossip rather than real information. Reporters
have evolved into commentators which manipulate what people think about the
news. Like reporters, preachers need to stick with the facts.
Naturally every believer has his or her own
convictions about a great many things, but if you continually try to push
your opinions on others, conflict will eventually emerge. Avoid controversy
over scriptures which are vague and foster many interpretations — stand fast
upon those common, basic truths — Jesus, His life, death and resurrection —
and don't add to what God's Word says. "Every word of God is pure; He is a
shield to those who put their trust in Him. Do not add to His words, lest He
reprove you, and you be found a liar" (Prov. 30:5-6).
(4) Don't expect any church to be perfect.
"For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to
will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For
the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that
I practice." (Rom. 7:18-19)
It is remarkable to consider that the Apostle Paul
confessed that he was not perfect — that is, like us, he experienced
struggles in his flesh to do the right things. If one of the leading authors
of scripture and apostles of the early church admitted to this, it should
not seem too strange if we find other brothers and sisters in the church
struggling with imperfections too.
Since churches are made up of people like you and me
who have imperfections, there will never be such a thing as a perfect
church. Unless people understand this, they'll have an unrealistic view of
the church, and will eventually become disillusioned and hurt.
One of the jobs of the church ministry is to help
perfect the saints — like a spiritual hospital, where people go to get well.
Instead of resenting persons in the church for their flaws, be thankful
they're there trying to grow in Christ to get better. Learn to love and
accept people for what they are — they're not any more perfect than you are.
Just as it has been said of beauty, imperfection is in
the eye of the beholder. A person with a negative attitude can find fault
wherever they wish. In contrast the person with a positive outlook can
always find the good and beauty in things. The well adjusted person in the
church should seek out the good and encouraging things as the Bible teaches
(Phil. 4:8). Those who dwell on the negative or continually find fault with
the church will eventually get hurt.
(5) Don't seek to promote yourself or your own
"Do not lift up your horn on high; Do not speak with a stiff neck. For
exaltation comes neither from the east Nor from the west nor from the south.
But God is the Judge: He puts down one, And exalts another" (Psa. 75:5-7).
Have a humble and meek attitude like Christ (Matt.
11:29, Rom. 12:3). Besides being obnoxious, pride and arrogance will set you
up for a fall (Prov. 16:18). Don't promote yourself, campaign or strive to
attain an appointed or elected position. God is the one who puts persons in
such positions, and unless He does it, stay away from it. Lift up the Lord
in all that you say and all you do. Don't boast or talk about yourself. "He
who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who seeks the glory of
the One who sent Him is true, and no unrighteousness is in Him" (John 7:18).
Avoid an attitude of competition which creates
conflict in unity. A competitive attitude compares self with others, and
strives to rise above that comparison (2 Cor. 10:12). The philosophy of
Christianity is not to try to outdo one another, but to submit to and lift
up one another (Eph. 5:21). We are even told to "prefer" our brother above
ourselves. "Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in
honor giving preference to one another" (Rom. 12:10). Competition between
churches and Christians is divisive and contrary to the faith.
Don't expect to receive preferential treatment or to
get your way about everything. The Bible teaches that favoritism is wrong,
and the church will try to make decisions and do things in the best interest
of the whole congregation, not just a certain few. "...but if you show
partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors"
(James 2:9). If you do things for the church or give generous offerings, do
it to bring glory to God, not to bring attention to yourself or to gain
influence (Col. 3:17). The Bible even says that when you give charitable
offerings, do it anonymously so to gain God's approval, not merely man's
Avoid the trap of presuming that your opinions are
always divinely inspired or are indisputable. Share your suggestions and
ideas with church leaders, but don't press your opinions or personal agenda.
Sometimes, persons feel that all their ideas come from God. They may attempt
to add clout to their suggestions or complaints by saying "God told me so."
Indeed, God does speak to His children, but you will not be the exclusive
source through which God reveals himself in a matter. If your opinions
really come from God, the Bible says that others will bear witness with it,
especially His pastors and leaders (2 Cor. 13:1, 1 Cor. 14:29). (You won't
even have to invoke God's name — they'll be able to tell if your ideas came
from Him. Be cautious, lest you find yourself using His name falsely, a very
dangerous thing — Ex. 20:7). Pastors are His representatives in His ordained
chain of command, and if He wants to get something across to His church,
He'll bear witness with the persons in charge.
(6) Avoid blaming the church for personal
"You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he
trusts in You" (Isaiah 26:3).
When you go to church, you should try to dissociate
the church from the other personal problems you deal with. The majority of
hurt feelings in a church result from wounds and sensitivities people carry
in with them. This kind of emotional distress can create "distorted
perceptions" which may prevent you from seeing reality the same way others
do. Such things as a low self esteem, abuse as a child, marital problems,
personal offenses, family conflict, a root of bitterness, health problems or
job dissatisfaction can twist your interpretation of words and actions. You
may imagine that people don't like you (paranoia), or misinterpret
well-intended words as an offense. Trivial problems will seem like big
problems. Blame for unhappiness may be transferred to the church, its
leaders or the people. You may lash out against others or be quick to find
fault with the church. Remember this: Don't jump to conclusions over
anything, because things are usually not as bad as they seem.
(7) Treat others as you wish to be treated.
"Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is
the Law and the Prophets" (Matt. 7:12).
Human beings tend to be "reciprocal" creatures. That
is, they reflect the way they are treated. This is why Jesus gave us the
Golden rule: "Do unto others as you would have them to do unto you." The way
that most people interact with you is as a direct result of how you interact
with them. If you have a frown on your face, you won't get many smiles. If
you offer friendliness, it will usually be offered back (Proverbs 18:24). Be
gracious, encouraging, and a blessing for others to be around. If you have a
negative, critical attitude toward people it will tend to generate their
critical attitude toward you. "Judge not, and you shall not be judged.
Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be
forgiven" (Luke 6:37).
Many hurt feelings can be avoided if we will realize
that people usually react to how we deal with them. Take a close examination
at the way you say things, or even how much you talk. "...a fool's voice is
known by his many words" (Ec. 5:3). Don't be rude and impolite. Check your
attitude that you're not overbearing and bossy — people will be turned off
and will seek to avoid you.
(8) Have a teachable, cooperative attitude.
"Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for
your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not
with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you" (Heb. 13:17).
The Bible teaches believers to be cooperative and
submissive to their spiritual leaders — something that's not possible unless
the believer is committed to a church and accountable to a local pastor.
Accountability to a godly shepherd is a part of God's order for the
spiritual growth of every Christian. God's Word gives the pastor authority
to organize and maintain order of the church, and to teach God's truth, to
correct, and to discipline when necessary to hold his flock accountable to
biblical principles. In Paul's encouragement to ministers, he stated,
"Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke,
exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching" (2 Tim. 4:2). (See also 2 Tim.
3:16, Tit. 2:15, 1 Tim. 5:20.)
A lack of proper respect toward authority is a common
problem today. People don't want to be told what to do, or be corrected if
they are wrong. This is one reason why the modern church is turning out so
many immature believers. When some people hear something they don't like, or
are corrected in some way, they simply pack up and go to another church down
the street, or church-hop until they find one that says things they like to
hear. "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but
according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will
heap up for themselves teachers" (2 Timothy 4:3).
As long as you are a part of any particular church,
you must come to accept that the pastor and leaders are in charge there.
Regardless of how unqualified you might think they are, God recognizes them
as the authority in that body and will hold them accountable to that
responsibility. Consequently, God holds you accountable to respect their
authority, to pray for them, and to cooperate — not to be defiant and
Always be cooperative, willing to humble yourself. If
you have a rigid, inflexible attitude in the church you will probably get
(9) Don't oppose or hinder the church.
"These six things the LORD hates, yes, seven are an abomination to Him: A
proud look, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that
devises wicked plans, feet that are swift in running to evil, a false
witness who speaks lies, and one who sows discord among brethren" (Prov.
One of the things that God dislikes most are those who
sow discord — who create division and strife in the body of Christ. Don't be
a gossip, a complainer, or stir up turmoil. If you're displeased with the
church in some way, offer your help to make improvements, pray for it, or as
a last resort, find another church you're happier with — but never become a
source of agitation or hindrance.
Don't badmouth a man of God — if you do so, you're
asking for problems. One time when Paul was punished for preaching the
Gospel, he unknowingly condemned Ananias, the high priest, who had ordered
the apostle slapped. However, when Paul realized who he was, he apologized
for speaking against Ananias, knowing that it's forbidden to speak against
God's representative — despite the fact that Ananias' treatment of Paul was
in error (Acts 23:5). It is a serious matter to "touch" God's anointed —
either with our words or our actions. Imperfect as they may sometimes be,
they are His representatives. "He permitted no one to do them wrong; Yes, He
reproved kings for their sakes, Saying, "Do not touch My anointed ones, And
do My prophets no harm" (Psa. 105:14-15).
If a minister has done you wrong in some way, don't
incriminate yourself by responding in an unbiblical manner — don't lash out
against him, retaliate with rumors against him, or run him down behind his
back. You should go and confront him privately according to the scriptural
fashion described in Matthew 18:15-17. If the first and second attempts do
not bring a resolution, take the matter to the spiritual body, such as the
church board, or denominational overseers to whom he is accountable — any
correction or discipline should be left to them. Keep in mind, an accusation
against a minister is a serious matter and will not be accepted unless the
matter can be substantiated by other witnesses (1 Tim. 5:19).
When things are not as they should be in the church or
with its leadership, there are honorable ways to help promote improvements
or resolve inequities. However, it's unethical to oppose the church or
attack its leadership, and persons who do will likely end up hurt, bitter or
(10) Be committed to forthrightness and truth.
"Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault
between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother.
"But if he will not hear you, take with you one or two more, that by the
mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he
refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear
the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector" (Matt.
When someone has wronged you, Jesus says that you are
to first go to them and confront them privately between yourselves. Most
offenses in the church result from misunderstandings, and many could be
quickly resolved if offended parties would just go to the source and find
out the facts. Unfortunately, some offended people will just absorb the
offense silently, while growing bitter and resentful. It is important to
God, and a matter of obedience to His Word, that such issues are confronted
so that (1) you will not become bitter and withdraw from the church, (2)
that the offender is held accountable to not repeat his offenses which could
harm the faith of others, and (3) so that the offender who has perpetrated
sin might be reconciled with God. If they are uncooperative with your first
private effort, you are to try a second time, taking witnesses with you.
Finally, if no success, turn it over to church leadership.
You should never take one side of a story and accept
it as fact without verifying it with the other party. There are always two
sides to a story. The scriptures address this very problem, that before we
believe a rumor, we are to investigate thoroughly, to verify all the facts.
"...then you shall inquire, search out, and ask diligently... if it is
indeed true and certain that such an abomination was committed among you..."
Without doubt, it is not possible to have a
relationship with a group of people without occasional misunderstandings and
offenses. And unless you will commit yourself to confront these issues in
the way Jesus described, you will become hurt in the church.
(11) Be devoted to love and forgiveness.
"He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for
stumbling in him" (1 John 2:10).
Christians will avoid a lot of problems if they will
just commit themselves to an unconditional love for their brethren. The
practice of loving the brethren — all the brethren, not just the lovable
ones — keeps us from stumbling. Never forget that Jesus takes personally how
we entreat our Christian brothers and sisters. When we love even the "least"
of our brethren, Jesus accepts that love toward Himself (Matt. 25:40). You
cannot love the Lord any more than you love the least in the body of Christ.
"If someone says, I love God, and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he
who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he
has not seen?" (1 John 4:20).
Be quick to forgive and don't hold grudges.
Unforgiveness and bitterness is one of the greatest reasons why people get
hurt in the church and probably the greatest cause of apostasy — falling
away. Remember that unforgiveness is one of your greatest enemies. If you
refuse to forgive, it will prevent God's forgiveness of your sins and could
keep you out of Heaven. "For if you forgive men their trespasses, your
heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their
trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses" (Matt.
(12) Don't get caught up in the offenses of
"Lord, who may abide in Your tabernacle? Who may dwell in Your holy hill? He
who walks uprightly, And works righteousness, And speaks the truth in his
heart; He who does not backbite with his tongue, Nor does evil to his
neighbor, Nor does he take up a reproach against his friend" (Psa. 15:1-3).
One of the great characteristics of the body of Christ
is to care about the burdens and sufferings of one another. However, as we
seek to console and encourage friends that have been offended, we may be
tempted to take up their offense against another. In sympathy, we may tend
to take their part against the pastor, the church or whoever they blame for
the offense. This is very unwise and an unscriptural thing to do,
considering that your friend may be the cause of his own offense. His hurt
feelings may be due to a misunderstanding, a difference of opinion, his own
rebellious attitude, emotional instability — or he may be childish and
immature. There are always two sides to a story, and only an idiot develops
an opinion based on one side or without all the facts.
Sometimes offended persons will seek sympathy from
naive, listening ears. They go about pleading their case, pouring out their
bleeding-heart of injustice to those sincere, tenderhearted persons who will
listen. Their goal is to seek out persons who will coddle them, support
their opinion and take up their offense against the offending party. You
should love and encourage a friend with hurt feelings, but reserve your
opinion and avoid taking sides, lest you find yourself a partaker in other
men's sins, or you also become offended and hurt with the church.
(13) Don't personalize everything that's
Obviously, every pastor preaches with the hope that everyone will take the
message personally and apply it to his or her own life. "If the shoe fits,
wear it." However, there are always a few who think the minister is pointing
his sermon specifically at them. This is a common misunderstanding which
causes persons to get hurt.
This feeling of personal focus from a sermon may occur
if persons are (1) under conviction about a particular matter, (2)
especially self-conscious, (3) under emotional distress, (4) if they spend a
lot of time counseling with the pastor, or (5) if he has previously
corrected them or hurt their feelings in some way. Keep in mind, a pulpit
preacher doesn't focus his attention solely upon one person. His concern is
for the broad range of people in attendance.
Occasionally persons think their pastor focuses on
them, the same way they focus on him. When a pastor stands in front of a
congregation week after week, they develop a feeling of close friendship
with him — they come to know personal details of his life, his family, and
other traits. However, even if the pastor knows each person in his flock,
it's not really possible for him to concentrate on each with the same detail
that they do on him. It's easy for dozens of people to know him well, but
not realistic for him to know dozens of people in the same way.
Consequently, some develop the illusion that the pastor focuses on them when
he preaches — that he remembers their personal details in the same way they
remember his. But the pastor has too many other people to consider. He
counsels with dozens of people, hears scores of similar problems and
details. It's not likely he will single someone out and preach at them,
while trying to minister to the whole congregation. If there's something
specific that the pastor needs to say only to you, he will deliver it to you
personally, in private — not in subtle hints from his sermon.
Besides this, it is the job of the Holy Spirit to personalize God's Word to us — so that we'll examine ourselves and search our own hearts. When the Lord is dealing with us about His Word, it may seem like the pastor is speaking directly to us. Sometimes the Holy Spirit may even direct the preacher to unwittingly say things that may pertain specifically to us. The best attitude to have is to listen to each message objectively. In every sermon from the Bible, God has something to say to all of us. Be open to whatever the Lord would have to say, willing to accept His correction or guidance. Defensiveness is usually a sign of resistance to conviction.