Colorado Life Coach: Dear Church
I know you mean well. I believe you want to help people find a saving relationship with Jesus, and that goal is part of your mission to exist. Most of your members have good hearts (the new regenerated ones, anyway), and truly think they are doing God’s work.
Here’s a problem that bothers me a lot. In fact, I’ve been trying to figure out how to talk to you about this for a few years. I’m asking you to bear with me, even if you disagree. Hear me out, please. There are people depending on you!!
Many people in your congregations (or formerly in your buildings) have been hurt very badly. In fact, many have actually been traumatized. This could have been before they met you, maybe in their early childhood, in another country, by their parents, by a spouse, by a stranger, by a broken system, by their family, or maybe even by you. This trauma has caused them to be broken, scared, and scarred.
Victims of abuse, neglect, accidents, disasters, prolonged illness, addicted parents, mental illness, violence, etc. struggle with trust. They may have heard that you have some answers. They came to you desperate for help and hope.
Then you brought up their sin.
Over and over you told them that is the issue keeping them from Jesus. What you are missing, is that for many people, this doesn’t compute. You see, they may have been so damaged by OTHER PEOPLE’S SIN, that they can’t see their own… yet. They need to be held, bandaged, and cared for, not preached at.
~Do you see it?
~Have you wondered why some people come once or twice, but don’t return?
~What type of training does your prayer team have? Do they point out the person’s sin, ask them to memorize more scripture, or somehow blame them for the troubles in their life?
~Where do you send them when they come to you broken?
~Have you thought about whether you chase people away from Jesus?
I was a bible study leader at a large church, along with a friend of mine. I remember vividly sitting at a coffee shop with her after our groups one day (we taught different studies). She literally pounded on the table in anger about the “sin” in the world, how people were messing up their lives, and how it grieved God. As she worked herself into a tizzy, I asked if she ever wondered what happened to those people to cause them to sin.
What little girl grows up thinking, “I’d really like to sleep around and jump from man to man, never being able to sustain a healthy relationship. That’s my dream!”
What boy thinks, “I hope to grow up to be addicted to pornography, so it distorts my view of sex, and causes me to see my wife as an object instead of a beautiful woman.”
My good friend and former counselor, Mary Ellen Mann was my guest on a podcast last year. She asked pastors to stop using the word sin in sermons, because it causes people who have been sexually abused feel shamed. 1 in 4 girls will experience sexual violation before they turn 18. 1 in 3 women will be violated during their lifetime. Pastors and youth pastors consistently teach, “God loves you. You’re a sinner.” Do you know what these women hear? “You’re a sinner.” Instead of helping them find the hope they desperately need, they feel shamed. They hear:
I can’t satisfy God.
God is not pleased with me.
I disappoint God.
I am bad.
I am part of the problem.
What did Jesus do? He attached first. He took care of us first. Then after a year or so, he could say, “if you get rid of your sin, you could feel my love more.”
He didn’t poke people right in the middle of their shame. He overwhelmed them with his mercy and grace.
What if our message became, “God will go to the ends of the earth to find you.” “Someone has to pay for the sin of humanity, and that someone is Jesus.” “God adores you.”
What if you listened to people’s stories and truly heard their hurt?
What if you validated that what happened to them was horrific and they didn’t deserve it?
What if you didn’t blame them, or point out their sin?
What if you just cared for them, until they were healed and healthy enough to hear what you have to say?
One last question, Dear Church,
Could you shift the dynamic from the problem of sin, to one of God searching for you?
Maybe it’s just me, but I believe you’d have to add more services if that was your message!
This post written with love for the church by, Colorado Life Coach, Carrie O’Toole, M.A.
If you’ve been hurt and would like a coach to help you find healing, click here.