Who is being wounded?Stsimon08 No surprise—church members. This is to be expected, as there are more church members involved in the situation than church staff members. More than a third of the respondents, however, were lay leaders in the church when they were hurt, so they had been elevated to some position of leadership. More than fifteen percent were hurt while they were full- or part-time church staff members.
Many respondents privately answered that they were pastor’s wives or children of the pastor when they experienced hurt. A few were missionaries. Some were youth people or children when they were wounded by the church.

Who is doing the wounding? Again, when we consider that one person usually has more interaction—up close and/or from a distance—with the church members, we should not be surprised that 42 percent of the poll respondents reported that they had been hurt by the pastor. Yet nearly fifty percent say they were hurt by “many people”—either an informal group or people of a specific committee. Only ten percent lay blame at the feet of one specific church member, and another twelve percent say they were hurt by a church staff member who wasn’t the pastor.
In the private comments, a staggering number of people reported that the pastor “initiated it” or was the primary cause, yet he never spoke to the aggrieved individual. Many reported that the pastor’s “hatchet man/woman” did the dirty work for him in order to avoid a direct confrontation.
Several respondents report that it was the “entire church” who caused the hurt—by a spirit of legalism or criticism.
One person reported being asked to stop volunteering in a Sunday school class because he or she was poor. The volunteer was told that it looked better if the church had “rich people” in teaching positions.
Women received their share of blame—the elders’ and deacons’ wives, the pastor’s wife, and women’s ministry leaders.

Was this wound caused by a single incident, or was it ongoing? Poll respondents split on this question—36 percent report a one-incident situation, but another 36 percent an ongoing problem. Yet nearly 30 percent describe their hurtful situation as nearly continual.
One prevalent theme seems to be pastoral withdrawal from the people. Confrontation isn’t pleasant, yet scripture commands us to go to those who have hurt us and hear those who come to us. So why are so many pastors ignoring the aggrieved?
“A one-time action was taken,” writes one respondent. “When we asked to meet with the pastor to have some questions answered, we were repeatedly ignored. Finally, after two years, a letter garnered a phone call from a new staff member telling us that the pastor was too busy.”
“[The hurt was] continual,” writes another woman. “[I was] married to an unbeliever. Church policy was not to minister to women in my situation or my children.”
“One situation caused ongoing rejection and animosity.”
Another person writes that he was hurt because of “an arrogant, ‘we are God’s voice to you and know God’s will for your life’ attitude. This was not concerning sin, but concerning my being in missions in another country.”
“Like a slow-moving train wreck,” writes another person. Indeed, often it is a small incident that snowballs into continuing animosity. Like a small wound that festers into a larger one, hurts that are ignored can grow into tremendous wounds.
As one respondent wrote, “the hurt is still here many years later.”

When the hurtful situation occurred, how did the wounded party attempt to handle it?
The vast majority of these people did what the Bible instructs us to do—54.8 percent went to the person or person who had hurt them. But of that group, over 20 percent were unsuccessful in their attempt to confront the person who’d hurt them.
“One cannot just go to the pastor during church or during the week,” writes one respondent. “He is surrounded by a circle of people who keep others away from him. So we telephoned, emailed, and wrote letters.”
One woman went to the pastor, and “he told me he was the leader and if I didn’t like what he did, I could leave.”
Another respondent went to talk to the church leaders, and “they didn’t want to listen, they acted like they did nothing wrong.”
Another person went to speak to the pastor, and he “made them [the people who’d hurt her] apologize to me.”
Yet another respondent was told “that they were leaders and I didn’t understand scripture.”
If this a church member didn’t understand scripture, isn’t it the pastor’s duty to teach and help her understand?

Those who were hurt did not suffer completely in silence, however. An overwhelming majority shared their thoughts and feelings with a spouse or friend. Twenty percent went to another church staff member, and nearly 23 percent went to people outside the church for advice. People need to feel that they are heard, and we all can use advice, but the person we usually need to talk to is the one who hurt us. Yet people are reluctant to do that, for the reasons given in the preceding question.
“We took our families and left after attempts to talk to the pastor were dismal failures,” one woman wrote. “Basically, we were told that we were the problem. That people with domestic problems (both of our marriages were suffering due to husbands wandering from God) were outside the will of God and that we were in the wrong all the way around. The pastor was a retired school principal and did not seem to care about kids—especially teens. It didn’t matter to him that he had hurt our children badly with his comments.”
(I have to wonder how this pastor would have counseled Hosea, who married Gomer, a prostitute, because God told him to. Hmm.)

Of those who have been hurt by the church, over 33 percent are still in church—but not the one where they were wounded. Only 10 percent remain in the church where they were hurt. Sadly, over 28 percent are no longer part of any local church, and 12 percent have no interest in attending church again.
Technology has provided an option that did not exist a few years ago. “We ‘attend’ an on-line church service and mail our tithes and support missionaries,” writes one respondent.
Others remain in church, but they are silent. “I have always had leadership roles in church, but I will no longer attend a business meeting or lead anything.”
“I am still a member of the church where I was hurt, however I am very cautious about my involvement and interactions with other.”
“I’m finding it hard to worship regularly. I’m afraid to get close to anyone.”
“Have attended quite a few churches, but I am weary.”
“I am still a member of the church [where I was hurt]. I’m not active in it for any ministry and God and I plan my ministry on the side. We attend services there, but do nothing else associated with it.”
“I have no desire to be on staff at an established church ever again.”
“I will go to church, but I’m not nearly as active. I basically go on Sundays, when before I was there for every event, church session, etc.”
“I want [a new church] dearly. I went to one this past Christmas Eve and loitered around the table in the back as long as I could, feeling very stupid and alone. Not one person greeted me.”
“My husband walked away from the church and then he walked away from our marriage. I attended church alone. But the divorce branded me in the church, so my involvement was limited from that point on.”
“I find myself cynical about church leadership. It’s not easy to trust again.”

For me, after my wounding, I went into a service—just in case I was wrong to feel wounded. But I couldn’t sing without sobbing, I couldn’t pray without weeping, I couldn’t listen. When they gave the closing prayer, I bolted for the door and haven’t stepped foot in that place since. It was no longer a sanctuary for me, it was a place of pain.
I know I’m not alone. I know I’m not the only one who has had this experience in a place of worship. So if you’ve been wounded too, let’s figure out what God would have us do to restore our peace and make things right.




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