What Not to Say to Someone Who Has Been Hurt By Church

5 May

Abusive behavior happens in the church, and it comes in all forms.  Victims are found in small rural congregations and megachurches alike.  Their voices silenced from power.  Their pain driving them from what had once caused them so much joy.

This article is fantastic written by Jonathan Hollingworth from RELEVANT MAGAZINE.

Click Here!

Unfortunately, I and many others identify too much with the article.   Here are some powerful statements from the article.

“I could either lie and make up a nicer-sounding story, or I could just keep my mouth shut. Either way, I was forbidden from telling the real story, inside or outside the church.”

I have heard these words spoken in a room on multiple occasions.  I have heard them spoken to me, and to those I love.  It becomes the normal mode of operation for many churches.  It draws an either/or scenario where both choices lead to the continued abuse of the victim and the protection of the institution.

Unfortunately, the victim often feels that these are the only options.  The victim is unable to see another way to escape, and chooses a path that they know is leading to their own destruction.

“I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. It’s one thing to be abused by people you barely know, but it’s another thing to be betrayed by someone you trusted and looked up to.”

An abusive relationship is often built on power – one has position, leadership, financial resources, or support over against the resources of the victim.  This fact makes the church a very common place for abusive relationships to develop and flourish.

The complexities of abuse within the church is that God is often used as the purpose.  I grew up in an environment with an extremely elevated perspective of pastors – they lead the church, they feed the church, they act for God, they speak for God.  How can you speak against them?  How can you stand against them without jeopardizing all your beliefs?

If you’re more concerned about the church’s reputation than you are about the abuse itself, you might have your priorities mixed up.

jesus on crossMoney drives churches.  Churches need money to pay for staff, and buildings, and lights, and heat.  Conflict can cause giving to drop.  Conflict can cause people to leave.   This is motivation behind silencing victims.

God’s church is not dependent on His reputation.  He is not wringing His hands over a church split.  (I do sometimes wonder if God is waiting for the western institutionalized church to implode so that He can heal His remnant and restore health.)

Not only is it dangerous to ask a victim to make amends with their abusers, it also puts an undue burden of responsibility on the victim to come up with a solution.

There was a time when I broke the silence demanded of me.  I begged, and pleaded for intervention.  After promising that my situation would be discussed among those who could have intervened.  I prayed and waited in agony for their response.

I could not believe the answer.  I was sent back to my abuser.

In order to healing to come, fear needs to be removed.  Power needs leveled.  This only happens in an environment that is safe for the victim.

“Religion will molest you, then accuse you of being bitter about it.”

Some reading this might read these words and think, “Yeah, the author sounds bitter.”  People will rarely actually use those exact words, but usually cover them with a thin veil.  However, the veil never covers the message that they believe you are spiritually immature for not recovering from the past.

I think all people hurt by the church will admit that journey includes some bitter days.  There are some days when cynicism seems to be the only way to recover.

However, I no longer feel that way.  I see a way towards healing while avoiding bitterness.

My own journey has lead me to new life – a life I never would have imagined.  My own journey has lead me to deeper perspective, a renewed freedom, and a stronger faith.

Abuse within the church will not make me bitter.  It has made me sympathetic.  It has made me kind.  It has made me courageous.

Dr. G. David Boyd is the Founder and Managing Director of EA Resources.






2 Responses to “What Not to Say to Someone Who Has Been Hurt By Church”

  1. Melinda K.Taylor May 5, 2015 at 13:28 #

    So true, Dave


  1. Pulling me from the other side of the world | SP? OCD? ASD? Just one ME! - May 10, 2015

    […] This article is incredible…the issues I had with church were not experienced quite like this, … […]

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