This story was written by Julia Powers, our new blog manager here at EA Resources, and was originally published by the blog of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA. Julia has written in this story, as well as at her own blog, about the issue of Post-Traumatic Church Disorder (PTCD), which we have begun discussing here in recent posts.
Several years ago, I didn’t want to go to church ever again. Yet several weeks ago, I started an internship at a church. I can’t help but wonder: How on earth can a person go from wounded by church to working at a church?
When I was 16, a few well-liked pastors at my church—including my youth pastor—were very suddenly and mysteriously laid off. The abrupt leadership changes, accompanied by changes in worship and preaching styles, led many families to leave the church en masse. A sense of shock set in for many of us youth as a veritable spiritual safe haven was pulled out from under our already-wary adolescent feet.
The biggest issue, though, was lies from leaders. Church leaders denied problems and discouraged questions, reminding us to “respect our elders.” They started threatening individuals not to leave, even informing me that “Jesus has a plan for this church, so if you leave you’re leaving Jesus.”
Guess I’m leaving Jesus, I thought.
But leaving Jesus, it turns out, isn’t that simple. Because Jesus is the very embodiment of truth, he is able to speak more powerfully than lies, threats, or any other church hurts we experience. “If you continue in my word,” he says in John 8:31-32, “you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”
In short, the path Julia describes for moving forward when church hurts:
- Remaining a disciple of Jesus Christ to the best of your ability through prayer, Bible study, service to others, and sharing life with others — whether or not that looks like being a member of any particular church.
- Regaining trust in churchgoers and church leaders through one-on-one or small group meetings, conversations, counseling, or whatever works for you.
- Returning to church at your own pace, allowing yourself hearty doses of discernment, patience, and hope.