The Hurting Church: Why we get hurt and hurt others

Written by Gail Rodgers

The hurting church is not an occasional dilemma. More and more often we find people who have been hurt deeply within the family of God, leaving them worn and exhausted. More and more often we find leaders in conflict within the body of believers, robbed of the joy Jesus promised in Him. When we find this hurt hanging on to our own bruised soul, it can make us want to leave the church and sometimes even want to “back burner” our God who seems to have allowed it all.

Sadly, we have come to accept that this is the way church is. There is an epidemic of fractured believers out there and we have actually come to accept this as the norm. So we either stay away and let our hearts become cold … or we put on our Sunday best, call “forward march” and implement a new vision or program and hope the problems will just go away. The hurt in individual hearts and churches gets buried … until it gets bumped again.

Can we break this cycle that happens over and over in heart after heart, and church after church?

I am continually amazed at the simplicity of God’s Word and the direct instructions He shares with us. The Father’s heart toward us, His children, is so open and loving as He instructs us in living in the day-to-day challenges of rubbing shoulders where the rubber meets the road.

The steps God gives us are simple, though not necessarily easy. They are steps that can help us move from being reactive in conflict to becoming proactive in guarding our hearts and our churches. And, as steps always do, they will take us to higher ground where we can live above disunity and confusion.

The framework these steps are built on is love. Love is also the handrail that helps move us along from one step to another. Without love, the steps move us from the fulfillment of right living that God calls us to, to self- righteous living, which is hollow and void of the power of the Holy Spirit. God says our trademark will be love. “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35)

Step 1: Know your enemy

We don’t like to focus on the devil. We don’t want to give him any glory. Yet, in failing to heed the warning of Scripture that the devil actually “prowls around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8), we find ourselves consumed (devoured!) by all kinds of irritations in one another and in the church.

How the new programs run, personalities of the leaders, worship styles that become the focus and the quarrel, people who “just don’t get it” spiritually the way we do, all begin to rob us of our joy and steal our effectiveness as a body of believers. And we are so often oblivious to what is really going on in the spiritual realm. Scripture says, “We wrestle not against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers…” (Ephesians 6:12) When in conflict with another believer, we need to ask ourselves the question, “Am I wrestling against flesh and blood?”

The answer in these situations is usually “yes.” And the solution is so simple we miss it. As Christians we are in a wrestling match. But our opponent is in the spiritual realm. His mandate is to “kill, steal and destroy” (John 10:10). Instead of recognizing that, we put on the gloves and begin to engage in battle with one another, leaving scratches and scars, bruises and bleeding that sometimes takes years to heal and always leaves a mark. And the trademark of love becomes so faint, onlookers can hardly see it.

Scripture tells us to “be alert”, “resist the enemy” (1Peter 5:8,9) be on your guard and “stand against the schemes of the devil”. (Ephesians 6:11) So when irritation strikes … know immediately who your opponent is … know immediately he has schemes and plans in place that will at best steal from you and at worst destroy God’s people and their effectiveness.

Any pervasive, downward spiral needs to be called what it is. Be alert to the red flags. Our human nature wants to defend and justify ourselves. God knows the propensity of our hearts to go their own way. That is why He calls us to pray for our enemies (Matthew 5:44) and to do good to those who spitefully use us (Luke 6:27). (The trademark of love, remember?) Only the “God strength” in our lives, His strength invited in at our point of weakness and frustration, can remedy this battle that is fought in the heavenlies, yet lived out in our churches.

“Be alert and always keep on praying” (Ephesians 6:18) When prayer is no longer the oxygen of our spiritual soul or the heartbeat of our church, our defense is down. Praying for those who hurt us becomes something we don’t even want to do. Neglect in prayer and in the spiritual training of the Word leaves us with open doors for the enemy to turn the wrestling match on one another. It is so subtle and we can feel so justified, but the loss in our own hearts and in the Kingdom is an unnecessary tragedy. The stealing and robbing is done long before we have even recognized the enemy was at the door. Knowing he is prowling the neighborhood keeps us in a proactive state and able to recognize and withstand his tactics.

Step 2: Keep short accounts

The simple truth of the Word of God in the instruction from Paul to “not let the sun go down on your anger” is so profoundly elementary that we miss it.

The Bible often uses the picture of seeds and reaping and sowing. Seeds of irritations and annoyances, not plucked out and dealt with on a daily basis, grow in our hearts. When they are not dealt with as soon as we recognize them, they take root and each subsequent encounter with that same irritation, which will always be linked to some person, will cause that root to dig just a little deeper. The deeper it goes, the more bitter it gets.

Scripture tells us “a root of bitterness springs up and defiles many”. (Hebrews 12:15) When it finally spills out, or spits up, it defiles us and those around, and hurt is the result. When our own bitter roots spit up we hurt others. That is why Proverbs 4:23 tells us “above all else guard your heart for it is the well spring of life.” It is the very source of all we are. What is in our heart spills out of our mouth (Matthew 12:34), and it is by our very words that we often grieve the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:29, 30), and love goes out the window. The trademark that identified us as His disciples vanishes and the world looking on can see no difference in us.

So guard your heart. Take stock every day. Holiness is really just truth in the inner part. Keep short accounts for your own heart’s sake.

If the root is only just beginning in your own heart and still undetected by others, go to God and ask for its removal. You know when it is there. Ask for grace to be poured out in your heart so that you will have all the grace you need to deal with that particular situation and person. 2 Corinthians 9:8 says, “God is able to make all grace abound to you so that in all things and at all times having all that you need you will abound in every good work.” If the root has already spilled out and hurt others, go and confess to them. Even if they do not receive you or do not own their part of the conflict, keep your own heart guarded and clean. You are only responsible for one heart. Unresolved conflict in the heart of another is God’s job to deal with.

The presence of God in a life and the degree of truth that is allowed in the inner part will be evident in the fruit of our lives. Watch the fruit in your own life and in the lives of others. The fruit gives us away (Matthew 7:20). If you have owned your part in a conflict and others refuse to do the same, give them grace, pray for them, and if necessary, distance yourself from the overflow of their bitter root until they allow God to do healing in their heart.

Always be alert to the seeds that you allow in your heart. They all eventually produce fruit of one kind or another. List the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness/humility, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22). Ask yourself the simple question: “What fruit of the Spirit is in short supply in my life right now?”

Then take an honest look at the seeds that may have begun to take root in your heart.

Step 3: Don’t be afraid of accountability

It seems we have come to allow gossip, slander and anger to simply be overlooked and rationalized in our churches. We excuse the fractures among believers by telling ourselves that God is purging our church, He is bringing justice. We stand up and glibly say, “God is in control,” while heads roll and tears fall and tender spirits get bruised and crushed. We forget that God gives us a choice in how we deal with matters and that the enemy is alive and well, attempting to influence those choices. We forget that for God to be in control of the moment, the conversation or the situation, we need to say “yes” to Him in allowing His Spirit to work in us and through us. Psalm 15 depicts the marks of an authentic Christian. It says, “He casts no slur on his fellowman…. but honors those who fear the Lord.” In any given troubling situation we need to honestly ask ourselves, “Am I making choices that allow God to be in control here or am I taking control?”

Proverbs 3: 5, 6 tells us to “trust in the Lord with your whole heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your path straight.” If your own understanding is resulting in opinions and actions that bring division, be accountable for what is going on in your own heart.

God speaks harshly about the one who promotes division. (Titus 3:10) If you are prompted to speak to one who is causing division, remember the trademark and go in love and in the power of the Holy Spirit. Don’t be afraid to call or be called to accountability. We can run to God, our help. God is sovereign and He is the great redeemer. No matter how bad a situation is, if He is invited in, at any point, He will come in and redeem the situation, work things out for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28) and put a derailed train back on the tracks.

2 Chronicles 7:14 says, “If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked (selfish) ways, then I will heal their land” (their church, their heart). It’s a sure promise!

Step 4: Acknowledge pride

Scripture says, “God resists, or opposes, the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6) Pride is a killer. It is one of the subtlest tools of the enemy. God actually resists the proud! Who would want to be opposed by God! Yet in the church we often do find pride, but it wears a different cloak than it does out in the world.

In Christian circles we know that pride in our position and possessions is not a godly thing. We scorn openly the pursuit of “fame and fortune” alone. Yet pride exists in our hearts and in our churches in two prominent ways that we often try to justify.

  • There is pride in standing for a “principle of righteousness” while walking away from reconciliation. Making such a stand is not wrong in itself; however it is very often accompanied by a lack of grace and a spiritual superiority that cuts off the Spirit of God from working in a situation. If you are ever tempted to “stand for righteousness” against another Christian brother or sister, check if your trademark of love is visible, make sure your heart is clean in all the secret places and that you have done all you can to live at peace (Romans 12:18). If the basis for your stand is your own pride be very careful, for God does resist the proud.
  • The second place pride plays a major role in the church is in the area of spiritual gifts. You may have a discerning heart or a prophetic gifting. God may reveal truth to you in a situation or even in the life of another. Again, be very careful. God calls us first to prayer and often, to nothing more. If words are to be spoken God will clearly reveal that, but the first task is to obey the call to prayer.

Much damage has been done in the church when someone feels they have received a word from God and simply talks, rather than prays, about it. If you think you sense something pray, pray, pray and God will reveal if there is anything else He requires. God’s whisper in our Spirit will never be in conflict with what He directs in His Word. When we speak in spiritual pride, the Spirit is grieved and we cut off that which God was at work doing in our lives and in the situation. (1 Corinthians 13) The simple question to ask before opening your mouth is: “Will this lift Jesus higher or will this lift me higher?”

Be slow to speak, especially words that sow negative seeds about another, and be quick to listen. Ephesians 4:29, 30 says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God…”

Step 5: Be willing to plant stakes in the ground

When we recognize there has been hurt in our church, we must be willing to take a stand to say what will be different from this day forward. So often we experience hurt within the church walls and we retreat for a while, only to return to find a new vision or a new program and a turning of the page to “forward march” and “forgetting what is behind” without ever acknowledging why we got to the hurtful point we did.

If there is one thing we have learned throughout history, it is that history repeats itself. Struggles with pride and accountability, with tending the seeds of our heart and not recognizing our enemy are day-to-day struggles.

Unless we recognize where we have been in hurting times and plant some stakes that serve as markers to check us when we tend to spiral into the same patterns, we have not taken the opportunity to mature and move ahead in our journey with God as a church. Ask yourself: “Am I willing to acknowledge my part and take steps to prevent a repeat?”

When conflict threatens your heart and your church, as it always will, seek first to be intentional about raising the prayer banner in your life and in your church. This invites the Spirit of God to be at work in the lives of those involved and minimizes our tendency to lean on our own understanding. It moves us toward recognizing afresh our utter dependence on God and God alone is the hope of the hurting church.

If you are part of a church that is experiencing hurt and conflict, confusion and disorder, God gives a measuring stick to determine what value system is at work.

James 3: 13-17 talks about two kinds of wisdom, one, which does not come from heaven, and one that does. The one not based on heavenly values is centered on earthly, unspiritual values with envy and selfish ambition at the core. Not hard to spot. The trademark of love will be missing as well.

The wisdom based on heavenly values will be pure, peace loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.

This higher value system can be reached by applying these five steps based on the foundation of love – love that comes from the heart of the Father to our own individual heart. Then the world will see our trademark and glorify our Father who is in heaven.

Tend your heart wisely! The state of your soul, the health of your church and the world that is watching depends on it.


265 Responses to “The Hurting Church: Why we get hurt and hurt others”

  • Chris says:

    Marie….i pray jesus protect and bring you the health you need! by his wounds may your healing appear!…its true all churches have some type of defect so let the lord continue to lead you to where he would have you and even to help with changes he would like to make! when we see a problem, normally that is Gods signal to us to atleast begin praying so the newness of his spirit can touch that needy área in his body. as long as we have the attitude of giving as you do, not only financially but spiritually, we cant go wrong because that is the end of our being conformed to jesus image, being a servant to all! Matthew 20.26 to 28. blessings to you both!

  • Marie says:

    Hey Brother & Sisters in Christ,

    It has been a long time since I personally posted my update on this board. First off I want you to all keep me in your prayers I am having surgery on 4/28/2015. I know God is a miracle worker and a healer! I put all my trust and faith in God! He is the first and most important person in my life! I dedicate my life to him! Proverbs 3:5

    Okay here was my take on the Church issue. I felt in my heart that the church is a place where believers gather to uplift the name of God and worship him and all truth and spirit. I felt that in every church there are both struggles and sinners. Including leaders of the Church. I do not believe in tithing because it is not biblical but I do believe in the bible stance of Giving from the heart and not under compulsion. So either though the Church I was attending taught the tithing principle I always gave to the Lord by handing my check directly to the church secretary. I felt in my heart who am I to judge and as long as I am following God to pray for those that are not 100% in alignment with him. But this is a whole another subject in itself.

    Getting to the chase I am having a dilemma going back to this church for the simple fact is that the leaders of the church are self-serving. When I say self-serving what I mean is they are only concerned about helping a selected few people and not doing the FULL works of God! They only pray for certain members of the church and shun others. I am having a hard time accepting this because they are suppose to be like CHRIST!

    Now some of you are going to say well if they are like that then find another church to attend. Well I have been to 10 churches and they all have some flaws so I cannot keep running. Either I attend and just deal with the issues and let God fix them Proverbs 3:5 or I just quit attending church altogether.

    The sad thing is that me and my husband are extremely loving, compassionate and kind people and it is a shame that people can be so rude, mean and uncaring towards us.

    I am at wits end on how to deal with this issue so I have given it to God to fight for me.

  • Chris says:

    jean…. sorry to hear you are struggling…you have done what Matthew 5.23 to 24 says. now its up to your friend to apply Matthew 18 and forgive or else her own forgiveness from God would be called into question. you need not bear this burden any longer. cast it upon christ for he cares for you! 1 peter 5.7

  • dream says:

    Jean.. Firstly I am suprise that you wrote that talking about other is what you use to do in your church. There should be some preaching about it to stop it because it divide the church. Then I think you did everything what you should do . You regret it and what to change it. You apologized to your friend. You should be in peace. Your friend should forgive you that what the Bible says: Matthew. 18.21-35.Your friend is guilty of not forgiveness not you.

  • jean says:

    I recently hurt a friend in church by talking about her, at first didn’t think anything of it cause that’s we are used to doing. But a month ago I stop because I became convicted and wanted to change who I am. Well as of now she won’t accept the apology. I am hurting because I hurt her and that was not love. Help!

  • Jamie Jamie says:

    I am sorry Wayne, I don’t know if your previous requests for moderation were received by anyone. Your messages have all now been removed. Know that there are people who here who will be praying for you. If you would like to talk to a mentor in private rather than have your comments posted in public here fill out the Mentor Request Form at and one of our mentors will be in touch with you soon by email.

    Lord God I do pray for Wayne as he struggles with the great sorrow in his life. I pray that You would bring comfort and peace for his heart. Grant his wisdom to know how best to respond to his circumstances and strengthen his relationship with You. In the powerful name of Jesus Christ, amen.

  • Ps. Charagh says:

    Dear in Christ Pastor
    Greeting in the name of our saviour We are praying for you and your ministries Works that you are doing in the field of the Jesus Christ. We are working in rural areas in Pakistan. We are working on these ministries, Children Education , Youth,Sunday School , and Evangelism in outreach.

    Our prayers are with you that God prosper and expand your work in all over the world and we pray that the HOLY SPIRIT will be rest upon you like never before. Lord Use us in all over the Pakistan for the Preaching, Evangelical meetings, Church Plant and Leadership conference and also in Middle East areas.

    We are requesting you to come in country to win the lost souls of Pakistan at any cost. We invite you for the Pastors Leadership Conference and Healing Crusade together for the Glory of the Lord in , We are distribute the Holy Bible especially outreach areas and needy people. We will be very thankful if you give us the Blessed time and dates for the GOSPEL of JESUS in Punjab Pakistan and God wants to use you in Pakistan also and in Pakistan harvest is ready to reap lets do work together for HIS KINGDOM because Rapture of the Church is very closed.Punjab Pakistan
    ‘ Like cold water to a weary soul is good news from a distant land’ Proverbs 25:25

    We are waiting your positive and blessed reply.

    “Please keep pray for me and my family may God keep us from evil and may God bless us in health, wealth and wisdom, for the glory of Jesus Christ.” Amen

    May God bless you richly according to this Promise

    Pastor Charagh Roshan
    Hallelujah Evangelistic Association
    [it is our policy not to publish personal contact information]

  • jenny says:

    This page is supposed to be for support from like people. We all have individual stories and ONLY God knows every person’s level of pain. I have learned that some think they have been in worse cases so it makes them more superior and is entitled to belittle and minimized someone they know nothing about. One of the checklist things is pride when we read at the top of this post. It helped me to hold myself accountable in my judgement of why I felt hurt by the church. This sight has been very helpful for me and others as a way to learn to heal. There are o their gems connected to this web sight for men’s issues.

  • Chris says:

    Wayne bienek…been down the same road friend, exactly. jesus has brought me through it and he will you too!! isaiah 43

  • Chris says:

    Wayne bienek…sorry to hear you are struggling…having been abandoned and divorced, robbed of my children also, i can understand your pain but i can assure you its not because jesus is cruel or being faithful to him and his body is why that happened. we live in an unjust world where governments and laws are being liberalized more each day. what was once against the law to do, now is not. my divorce papers read…incompatability which is just another name for…i dont want to work this out. jesus said that before he returned the world would be characterized as it was in the days of noah and sodom and gomorrah, luke 17. violence, injustice and sexual depravity. but that doesnt mean you need to let your wife destroy your life. i didnt and have since remarried. i have found that with jesus there is nothing nor anyone who has to destroy me unless i let them. you can too!, jesus encourage you today!

  • jenny says:

    I have lowered my expectations for church support. I have found a great new church recently meaning that they have lots of community service so as I hear the Word in church, and learn more about the Word through personal relationship with Jesus grow in wisdom, knowledge, love and I feel Gods gentle nudge to go out and help in which area I feel lead to. Lots of work to be done out there. People need more love more than ever, even the christians. The last place I was, lots of battering of the christians over the pulpit. I understand having to chasten but sheesh, we are also all grown folks and last time I checked I wasn’t on anyones payroll there. Its like calling someone a pig because they need to lose weight thinking that they will loose weight because of putting it that way. God is the same and He is trying to let those who desire to hear Him, hear what the Spirit is saying on how to deal with the present condition of this world and its people now and today. Love you all! Pray for me and my family :-}

  • Marie says:


    Unfortunately there is dysfunction in all churches. So from personal experience leaving a church to find a church that I have liked has proven to be a challenge. There is no perfect church. What I have found as a follower of Christ is to walk by faith and not by sight. There is no church out there that is free from sin. You are always going to have some bad apples no matter what church you go to. The key is to not let anyone interfere with your relationship with God. I have been to 10 churches in my community and each one of them have their flaws, some worse that others and I finally ended up going back to the 1st church I left. Many members are rebuking me but because my faith in the Lord has strengthen I am unfazed by their hateful attitude towards me and I can actually love those that hate me and all I can do is pray for them and ask God to have mercy on them.

    I sit alone by myself and there are the usual cliches of people together, etc but I know my main purpose of going to church is to serve the Lord not men. It took 6 years of hard prayer and actual deliverance for me to get to the point in my life where I am now. I show love for all men and members in my church. I even go up to a few of them and speak with them and express how happy I am to see them. I no longer worry about the reaction of men I concentrate on doing the works of God. God is the author and finisher of my life and that is who I want to please.

    So in conclusion regarding “Church hurt” the key of survival (coming from a person who had to walk through this journey) is to please and do the works of the Lord. Walk by faith and not by sight. It feels good knowing when you do the works of the Lord you know for 100% that you are going to heaven and for that you can be eternally thankful!

    God Bless Everyone!


  • Aldo says:

    Folks, the fact remains that God’s Word commands us in Hebrews 10:24-25, “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.”

    If one church doesn’t do it for us, then let’s find another one. God’s people need to be meeting together “for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” (Eph.4:12)

  • Rev. Bowers says:

    I don’t know if anyone is still interested in this type of topic, but I have a web site concerning this very subject. I have given about 18 years of my life in the ministry only to be hurt by not one but two organizations. I’m talking down right left for dead, not just me being offended at what the preacher said. I wrote the site because I believe there are way too many people getting hurt in churches these days. the site is: God bless!

  • Celine says:

    I didn’t mean to be so harsh but was saddened that while in Spain they are protesting abortion and China I heard ended forced abortion there seems to not be huge protest like they had in Spain against it here. Also interestingly though I admit I’m not perfect because I do eat with other people and they think I’m too legalistic. I try my hardest to stay away from companies that think so little of life and sanctity of life isn’t valued. It does sadden me that while so many believe in sanctity of life that people don’t go a step further to just not support those companies who do not value life and use humans only for profit and there safety, health doesn’t matter. I’m not perfect but I think I try and it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make. I know that it might not be so good because if we don’t shop there people could lose jobs but it would be so nice if we lived like in the Book of Acts that we could just support each other. Think about back in the day they didn’t have those companies and had no need for them. Of course it was a different time I think it would be wonderful just to have each believer learn some sort of trade and then use that has a job. I’m not against companies and capitalism but when companies cross the line and profit is before loving and caring about others and is used to hurt people and abuse people that are poor and make them work in abusive environments it’s evil. I think as a believer it’s not good to be complacent about it. Where is the outcry about the abuse or people being forced to get rid of their children to work in those places? I don’t think it’s legalistic to want a person to have a safe environment to live and work in. That’s why people need the Gospel and know about real love. Of course only God can help us to love like he loves. I’m guilty to but I don’t want to not care. I hate when people are abused just because money is the name of the game. God come quickly I’m tired of this dying world and people not loving each other. We need another revival so bad in the church and out of the church.

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