Anonymous from Cape Town asks the following question: What reason do I have to trust the church if the church has hurt so many people, including myself?
First of all, let me just say, I am really sorry to hear that you have experienced hurt and disappointment in the church. The church is supposed to be a place where people encounter the love of Christ and experience his healing, restoration and guidance. It is supposed to be a place where you feel safe and secure, knowing that the church’s leadership and your fellow church members have your spiritual, emotional, and physical well-being at heart. Unfortunately, however, there are many people out there – including yourself – who, for some reason or another, have experienced some form of hurt in the church. For some people this hurt cuts so deep that they no longer belong to a church. They don’t want to have anything to do with the church. They love God, but feel completely alienated from the church. Maybe some of you listening to this programme today feel this way about the church. You love God, you want to worship Him and obey Him, but have no interest in belonging to a church, because in your experience the church and its people have deeply wounded you. This hurt may have been on an emotional level, a spiritual level or – in some cases – even on a physical level. Regardless of the specific nature of the hurt you experienced, today, as a pastor and representative of the church, I want to say to you: I acknowledge your pain, I acknowledge your hurt. And on behalf of the church – on behalf of the Body of Christ – I sincerely apologise for the pain and suffering you may have experienced in the church.
Anonymous, it is my heartfelt prayer that you will find it in your heart to forgive the person or persons who have wronged you. The reality is that the church of Christ is made up of people, people who are still prone to sin at times. People who will sometimes disappoint, sometimes upset you – and, yes, unfortunately – sometimes hurt you. However, I urge to keep your focus on Jesus Christ. As the Bible says, Jesus is “the founder and perfecter of our faith” (Heb. 12:2a, ESV). As long as we keep our focus on Jesus, commit ourselves to Him, live in communion with Him, our faith will not fail and we shall surely reach our eternal destination. Although Jesus does meet us as individuals, it is my fundamental conviction that we encounter Jesus most fully in and through his church, in and through our brothers and sisters in Christ. I believe the Holy Spirit directs us most clearly and powerfully when we are part of the church, which is the community of disciples.
Therefore, it is also my sincere prayer that your journey of healing will ultimately lead you back to the church. The fact is only once you’ve experienced healing, will you be able to trust the church again.