Doug slumped down into my couch weeping. The kleenex could barely stem the tide of tears as he explained how over 2 decades ago a pastor had violated him in an unspeakable way. After sharing his story he said, “I haven’t trusted a pastor since.”
Dana shared that in a pastoral counseling session she had trusted one of the pastors at her church with the story of her rebellious past. Weeks later she found out that he had shared one of her most humiliating stories with the entire staff. She looked up at me with a distant stare and said, “Now, I don’t share anything with anyone. If you can’t trust a pastor, who can you trust?”.
Kyle used to be excited about what he felt like was a call into ministry. Not any more. Why? A long time ago he was excited about the opportunity to serve the church in leading the men’s ministry. The senior pastor had told him that at the start of the new year he’d be stepping into that role. Kyle’s mind flooded with ideas and vision as he looked forward to this new life changing position. It never happened. The first of the year came and went and the pastor started to avoid him: stopped returning phone calls and e-mails. The pastor acted like the conversation had never happened. Kyle looked at me as he recounted how he felt and said, “He made me think I was crazy. Who does that?”.
These are just a few of the stories I’ve heard recently of people that have been burned by church leaders. These stories should be shocking, but sadly they’re common for too many. For those that depend and trust in God’s shepherds, some have found themselves wounded for a lifetime. Some walk out and never come back. They walk away alone in the pasture, withdrawing into isolation angry and bitter. Here’s the sad ripple effect I’ve seen in people who’ve been wounded by leaders:
1. They leave church completely
2. They attend church, but don’t engage
3. They spill their bitterness on others by sharing their story over and over with anyone who’ll listen.
4. Their bitterness turns into malice and they begin to actively destroy other church leaders.
If you’ve ever been hurt in this way your pain is understandable, but so is the solution. You don’t have stay here. Jesus made a way through the cross so that healing and forgiveness could be yours. It is possible trust again and lean on the church and it’s leaders.
If this has ever been you, and you’ve never heard that much needed apology; would you let me speak directly to you as an imperfect pastor in their place?
“I am so sorry I wounded you. I was wrong. You trusted me and I let you down. Please forgive me.”
I pray that you’d receive those words. Allow God to bring healing to you through them. Remember these words from scripture:
“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32 ESV)
God has lavished his grace on you. As you reflect on his goodness you’ll find enough grace to give to those who’ve hurt you. Don’t let the pain of your past rob you of one more day. Forgive and with joy move forward into a new day.