Soul Survivor: Surviving Being Hurt by the Church

“One of the seven angels…came and said to me, ‘Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.”  (Revelation 21:9)

In his book, Soul Survivor: How My Faith Survived the Church,  Philip Yancey writes, “When someone tells me yet another horror story about the church, I respond, ‘Oh, it’s worse than that.  Let me tell you my story. I have spent most of my life in recovery from the church.”

Unfortunately, people being hurt by the church is not a rare thing. But it’s also nothing new. (Think: Pharisees – the church leaders of Jesus’ time.)

Eugene Peterson describes the church as “equal parts mystery and mess.” I’ve witnessed up close the messy side – the underbelly – of church and, as a result, have been ready to give up on the modern-day, institutional church altogether.

But I didn’t. Here’s why.

I sat with a friend in a coffee shop battered, bruised and tired – ready to give up on church. I was deeply hurt, and deeply angry. My friend looked at me and lovingly said something I’ll never forget: “Nick, you can’t tell Jesus ‘I love You but I hate Your bride.” I thought to myself, “Ouch.”

The hurt received at the hands of a church can be devastating.  Someone once said, “Evil is never so evil as when done in the name of religion.”   Has someone in the church hurt you? Spread lies about you? Gossiped about you? Betrayed your trust? If so, trust the Lord. Jesus’ desire is that His Body reflect Him. And when it doesn’t, He doesn’t need our help fixing it.

Following his own negative experience with church, Philip Yancey wrote, “For all its shortcomings, [the local church] is the body of Christ—God’s chosen agent for bestowing grace on a grace-starved world.”

For every church that appears to specialize in hurting people, there are many more who truly embody the love of Christ.  Find one.  Regardless of how deeply you’ve been hurt, never lose hope in the church as a whole:  it’s Christ’s Body.  And “you can’t tell Jesus ‘I love you but hate His bride.”

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick