Recently I have been sharing some of my church leadership encounters. A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about church war rooms. And this week, I shared a bit of Liz and my story over the past decade-plus.
But first, why I am not sharing them.
I want sympathy.
While I shared in one of the posts that I have received counselling because of what has happened, my purpose is not to elicit sympathy or to present myself as a victim. (in no way taking away the hurt from those victimised by the church and its leaders). Liz and I had to learn to be resilient since childhood, and our faith has proven to be solid, and we have consistently found ourselves surrounded by caring and wonderful friends. We have landed in a good place and are excited and confident about the future.
I want revenge.
There are moments when I hope those who have hurt me get what’s coming to them. I am human. However, I quickly recognise that I do not want what is coming to me. If forgiveness is real (and I believe it is), I have no idea whether various people in my life have repented and sought forgiveness from God. If so, then I want them to receive it in full. And if they haven’t, I hope they do. Most likely, not everyone will make amends with me, as they probably don’t even remember what happened. That can be hard, but I did enter into this knowing there was a cross involved.
So, why I am sharing them?
- Ravi Zacharias
- Bill Hybels
- Bruxy Cavey
- Jean Vanier
- The Southern Baptists
- Hillsong (multiple)
- James McDonald
- The Gatlins
These are just some of the past few years more prominent names and stories. You probably immediately thought of names I missed.
It never stops.
People who lead like this must be called on it.
The aggressive and defensive leaders I have mentioned in these posts are not unique. We have all encountered them.
And often, when we encounter them, we leave, and they stay, accumulating more power as they chase away any who might stand up to them.
And as you have likely seen, these types of leaders are the ones who move up the ladder. They “get things done”, so they are given greater authority and greater power over more and more people in their denominations.
I want others to know they are not alone
Since I began writing these posts, I have had people reach out. Some have said they are done with the church and wrestling with their faith. Others are still serving but grieve that abusers are still hurting people.
I do not view what happened to us as on par with what so many have endured. However, I do want to be present in that space to share hope and encourage people to not give up on Jesus.
I wish I could tell them to just go to a local church and get connected, but honestly, that feels like playing Russian Roulette.
I am sharing these stories because I want to “mind the gap”.
I want to show not only where things are. But also where they should be. I don’t have all the answers, but I believe there are ways we can mind and perhaps bridge the gap between our current model of church leadership and something that looks much more like Jesus.
Let me end this post with a question to consider.
Most churches would readily acknowledge that churches have hurt people but would add, “we’re different”.
Go back to that list above. Didn’t you think they were different?
They said they were.
Here’s the question:
Why should anyone who has been hurt by church leaders believe that?
Because you said it?
Because I did?
That is the gap we need to bridge if we hope to see people believe that the church and Jesus have anything for them.