Yesterday was gray, rainy, and depressing. The weather outside also wasn’t so great. My heart was broken and I felt lost in grief.
I am grateful for my ongoing experience on Twitter — I get to connect with world class leaders and hear bitesized words of wisdom throughout my day. I’m kept up to speed on news as it happens. Its one more way I get to connect with Christians around the globe and feel that kinship in Christ…
It also connects me with those who have been abused and crushed by church leaders. I hear stories from and interact with those who have been treated in devastating and brutal ways — stories that anger me and make me want to throat punch those who call themselves pastors but act as bullies and overlords. From sexual abuse through to public humiliation, the tools of torture used by hirelings posing as shepherds is truly horrific. To hear people so damaged say they would never ever trust a pastor again — never enter into a church family again — really bruises my heart.
When I think back to how my wife and I have been abused by church leadership in the past I can totally relate. There were seasons we left the church bleeding and broken, swearing to each other we would never return. We loved Jesus but his Bride was a real pill. Why would we ever want to enter back into a poisonous culture where pastors seemed so dishonest, selfish, manipulative, demeaning, and competitive? Where was the glory of God in all of this? Surely He wanted better for His people — surely He wanted better care for His sheep! Leaders are trusted to care for the sheep in sacrificial ways but all we saw where “shepherds” willing to sacrifice sheep in order to get what they wanted and be comfortably fed. Leaders are trusted to be champions of truth but the lies and deceit were appalling! Don’t they know God knows all and sees all and one day church leaders will give account?! Not only do these “leaders” act out in reprehensible ways but support other leaders who act in similar fashion! It reminded me of passages I read in Psalms and Proverbs about the wicked…
Behold, the wicked man conceives evil and is pregnant with mischief and gives birth to lies. (Psalm 7:14)
Transgression speaks to the wicked deep in his heart; there is no fear of God before his eyes. For he flatters himself in his own eyes that his iniquity cannot be found out and hated. The words of his mouth are trouble and deceit; he has ceased to act wisely and do good. He plots trouble while on his bed; he sets himself in a way that is not good; he does not reject evil. Psalm 36:1-4
O LORD, God of vengeance, O God of vengeance, shine forth!
Rise up, O judge of the earth; repay to the proud what they deserve!
O LORD, how long shall the wicked, how long shall the wicked exult?
They pour out their arrogant words; all the evildoers boast.
They crush your people, O LORD, and afflict your heritage.
They kill the widow and the sojourner, and murder the fatherless;
and they say, “The LORD does not see; the God of Jacob does not perceive.” (Psalm 94:1-7)
He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous are both alike an abomination to the LORD. (Proverbs 17:15)
I used to think the Psalmist had gone too far when he wrote 58 but the more I see and hear of the abuse committed my heart rises with the same sentiment…
The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray from birth, speaking lies.
They have venom like the venom of a serpent, like the deaf adder that stops its ear, so that it does not hear the voice of charmers or of the cunning enchanter.
O God, break the teeth in their mouths; tear out the fangs of the young lions, O LORD!
Let them vanish like water that runs away; when he aims his arrows, let them be blunted.
Let them be like the snail that dissolves into slime, like the stillborn child who never sees the sun.
Sooner than your pots can feel the heat of thorns, whether green or ablaze, may he sweep them away!
The righteous will rejoice when he sees the vengeance; he will bathe his feet in the blood of the wicked.
Mankind will say, “Surely there is a reward for the righteous; surely there is a God who judges on earth.” (Psalm 58:3-11)
Essentially, in modern day vernacular, the Psalmists want the wicked to be curb-stomped. I know we will have troubles in this world — I’m not naive about that — but when churches are slaughtering their very own people and supporting the pastors who model this my heart explodes in my chest and my thoughts become red with rage…
God! Do you not see what is happening? Do you not hear the lies being preached, the words cutting down, the actions damaging Your people? Will You not intervene for Your glory?! How long, O Lord, how long must we wait for Your righteous judgment to come and stop the hurt? Lord, help us bring love and healing to those who have mistreated. Help us to gently draw back those who have left abusive churches for self-preservation. Forgive us for those times we have neglected to step in and act justly. Forgive us for not bringing leaders to account under the guise of grace when, in fact, true grace would be immediate correction for the protection of Your flock. Forgive us if WE have been the ones who have manipulated to get our way. Forgive us when we are so consumed with doing OUR ministry that we neglect reaching out to others who are not in our local church family forgetting we are called to Kingdom ministry and it has no geographical or denominational boundaries. O Lord, break our hearts and fill us with compassion. Fill us with a desire to see You glorified when we stain Your name!
One blogger responded to the hurts being communicated on Twitter…
Thinking about those who say they’ll never go back to church given the abuse & hypocrisy they saw there. Breaks my heart. So sad when we get taste of fake religion & fake church, and it inoculates us against real thing. But there is a real Church. You need her & she needs you. ~ Julie Roys
I have no need to go looking for more work to do in ministry — I’m sure you all agree, our plates are more than overflowing — but I have been reaching out to people who have been wounded by pastors — how can I not? My heart is both broken and compelled by love for strangers I have never met (only God can move a heart in such a way). Surprisingly, most have been grateful and receptive for the interactions. Others, have acknowledged my attempt to reach out but unsurprisingly (and understandingly) remain cool to the idea that there are pastors/church leaders out there who care. I’ve wondered why I would even bother to reach out — I am a stranger to them, some Canadian pastor, in a little town, in a little church, with little to offer practically. All I can offer is a listening ear, words of love, and prayers for healing. And then I read this quote this morning…
A young lad walking the beach, noticing the thousands of starfish washing up on shore, began throwing them back one by one. A man approached, took in the scene, and said, “You’ll never make a difference!” The boy threw back a starfish and said, “I made a difference for that one.”
If we have the favour of God, in our churches there will people attending who have been abused. People who have either been abused by other pastors/church leadership. We may even have pastors who have been abused by other leaders or their very own congregants. May God give us supernatural sight to see who needs care and supernatural ears to hear their stories. May God empower us with the Holy Spirit to love them well and help them know they are seen, valued, and not alone. In doing so, God, may you heal those in Your Family who are bleeding, lift up those who are discouraged, and knit back into Your body those who feel abandoned and alone. Amen.