Nov 19 2023 Wounded By the Church

Another thing our church has done over the years – is being a respite for those who have been burned or wounded by church or other Christians.

Here are some books that have helped me through this process:

Larry Crabb – Shattered Dreams / The Pressure’s Off

Philip Yancey - Disappointment with God, What's so Amazing about Grace, The Jesus I Never Knew

I’m not going to address direct abuse – but rather, unintentional abuse – people of good will – people trying to help – but sometimes they don’t understand boundaries or offer uninvited advice. All of us have probably done this – and it has probably been done to us.

Sometimes it comes from a misunderstanding or an ignorance of the negative impact that our methods and approach have on people. We want to do what is good, but the approach and method is not good – and those matter significantly. Sometimes a good heart with a bad approach can have a negative impact.

Maybe not as positive – but not too negative – sometimes church leaders have a mindset problem – believing that their (our) way of discipleship is the only biblical way.

In my early days of church – there was a great focus on The New Testament Church today – and we were doing it! Trying to live it out! And what I have learned – there is not a Christian church that did not think they were doing that in the early days! And look how different we all are!

We know that there is not only one right biblical way with so many things!

What the first century church did – they tried to become the gospel as faithfully as they could in their culture and context – and that is what we learn from them! How do WE live out the gospel in our culture and context?

We are not to replicate that – we are to learn from it! There is a big difference!

Sometimes Christians and churches are motivated by selfish spiritual ambition. It is not evil intent – it is spiritual – they really want to build a big church or whatever, but there can be selfish ambition behind that. They want to build a HOLY church – church should be holy, right? But there can be selfish ambition behind that! They become judgmental of those who aren’t achieving their holy standard.

Even worse – sometimes spiritual abuse and manipulation come from an attitude of superiority and arrogance. I remember doing campus ministry and we thought we were the best ones! And that is just appalling! Sinful!

A couple examples – let’s say there is someone who is passionate about evangelism and witnessing -they have the gift, and have developed a method and strategy that works for them! And that is all great – UNTIL – they believe that everyone should do it their way and try to impose it on everyone.

Another example – a person – or people who have passionate hearts for the family! That is a good thing! We should all have a heart for the family. And these folks come to a point where they believe that they have found the Biblical way to raise children – and they have been successful – and have raised children who are Lake Wobegon, but better! And that is fine, until they try to impose their ways on others. But the Bible does not give us a step-by-step way to raise children.

Financial stewardship – people making you feel bad you are not following their way of financial stewardship!

This sounds biblical and works for some – and they always have verses attached to it – and the people are genuine – and good Christians – but for reasons we’ll look at – maybe they are unknowingly wounding people – making people feel ashamed, or whatever.

As Larry Crabb said – they put huge pressure, guilt, and shame on others. They are not trying to – but that is the result – and they can create significant forms of legalism. I’d like to give some safeguards to people of good will…

Maybe it is a misunderstanding of their impact. We all have control issues – and we don’t see those control issues when we are doing it.

Oftentimes, we don’t realize that there are flaws in their hermeneutic – the ways they read, interpret, and apply the Bible. I have studied this for the past 20 years. That does not make me an expert – but it is something I have been passionate about -for this reason – when I think of my own church wounds, shame, and guilt – for the most part, it came from good churches, good people who were serving Jesus, but had some fundamental flaws in understanding how to read, interpret, and apply the Bible. And this brought harm to me – and I don’t want to do that. I’m still learning! There is no such thing as a Bible expert, except Jesus, God, and the Holy Spirit! Not even Paul!

Like I mentioned last week – we need read, interpret, and apply the Bible in the way it desires to be read, interpreted, and applied.

We read things according to our biases. We never ask – IS THIS what the Bible teaches? We were told that – but is it that?

So, Larry Crabb talks about this – and I think why good people wound others – and this is what his books are about, as he was wounded by these things.

Our form of faith and discipleship – that goes like this – if we follow the playbook, which is viewed as a book of laws, rules, command, practices, and examples – if we do all of that, as fully as possible – life will work and turn out the way it is supposed to and you will be blessed

“If we get it right -we’ll enjoy deep peace, our kids will love us, our souls will be refreshed and rested, our ministries will be successful…” – and all that worked for a long time until it didn’t.

You know how your bank account goes up like an escalator and comes down like an elevator? I think that is how this works – we have this escalator of discipleship – and then stuff happens to us and we go down like off a cliff!

Jacob gets into this wresting match – and that is what he is known for. And every once in a while, God touches the socket of your thigh and it breaks and many of us have experienced this.

I am going to give an example of this kind of discipleship from one of the most beloved parables – the story of the prodigal son.

Luke 15:1 Now all the tax collectors and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him. 2 Both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, "This man receives sinners and eats with them." 3 So He told them this parable, saying,

Tax Collectors and sinners may or may not have been those who had a faith that worked but then didn’t – but one thing for sure, the religious leaders of the day shamed and berated them. The religious leaders did it right – but they were about to go off a cliff because Jesus comes. I am going to skip the whole thing about the prodigal!


Luke 15: 22 "But the father said to his slaves, 'Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; 23 and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; 24 for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.' And they began to celebrate.

I am going to take some license with this – this is not serious biblical exegesis – allow me this – after the son goes through his confession – we don’t hear the father say the things we expect to hear – “I forgive you – what is the moral of this story – what could you have done differently” – He basically ignores the son and turns to the servants and says – let’s have a party – my son is back!

I think this is the father’s way of doing faith and church! The way he does it – a celebration of the resurrection – a celebration of new life in Christ – a celebration of grace, mercy, and forgiveness – and I believe that is the way the Bible wants us to read the Bible! It says it right here – this son was dead and is alive!

25 "Now his older son was in the field, and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing.

“Oh no! Dad is backsliding! Music and dancing! He is going to hell!”

26 "And he summoned one of the servants and began inquiring what these things could be. 27 "And he said to him, 'Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has received him back safe and sound.'

28 "But he became angry and was not willing to go in; and his father came out and began pleading with him.

(Note, the father comes to both children)

Here it is – his Larry Crabb moment:

29 "But he answered and said to his father, 'Look! For so many years I have been serving you and I have never neglected a command of yours;

The older son was living a life of faith and discipleship that was ‘doing it right’ – and it worked for him for so many years…

and yet you have never given me a young goat, so that I might celebrate with my friends; 30 but when this son of yours came, who has devoured your wealth with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him.'

So, it worked, until it didn’t – and when it didn’t work – he went off a cliff!

He needed to UNLEARN his understanding of discipleship, faith, and church.

31 "And he said to him, 'Son, you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours.

(it is not about doing it right – it is about the generosity, love, and grace of the father!)

32 'But we had to celebrate and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found.'"

We do not need to perform to ‘get stuff from God’ – it is not based on our performance, but it is a celebration of the resurrection.

Practical applications – keep unlearning and re-learning

Matthew 11: 28 Then Jesus said, "Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke (teaching and discipleship) upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

Does your discipleship cause your soul to rest? Or does it bring anxiety?

30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light."

I have mentioned this in the past – I always think of Dennis Knable when I read verse 30 – For those of you who didn’t know him – our churches merged and he became a pastor here – and with 10 years of friendship – he always wanted to lighten peoples’ discipleship load. That is just the type of person he was.

Preachers and pastors tend to emphasize that following Jesus is hard. Yes, following Jesus will bring suffering – it is a reality and part of life – but Jesus is clear – it is not a heavy burden – not a great weight – but easy to bear and light. And that just doesn’t’ fit our culture and world at all – we believe things should be hard – and yes, it is hard – but I think He is speaking of guilt, shame, performance – spiritual burden He doesn’t want us to bear – He bore them for us on the cross.

First, lighten the load – first, for ourselves and for others.

We need to learn to become wounded healers.

Henri Nouwen – wrote a book – The Wounded Healer.

Jesus is the wounded Healer – By His stripes, we are healed. But we can become wounded healers.

Hebrews 4: 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are--yet he did not sin.

16 Let us then approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

He has been through everything we have been through – suffered, wounded – so that we can have freedom.

“We must realize our power to speak or minister on God’s behalf to wounded people depends on our ability and willingness to speak out of our own woundedness”

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