When the Church Fails You

I have been avoiding this post. I haven’t wanted to write it. I have cleaned my house from top to bottom. I have rearranged furniture, and I have done craft project after craft project to avoid writing this which is why there were no posts from me last week.

It is one thing for me to confront my own failures as a member of the body of Christ, but in this post I must do something that I hate doing and that is confronting someone else. In this case, I am confronting the Church, but while I am very uncomfortable doing this, it is something that just won’t leave me alone. And since it is something that I just can’t seem to forget or to get away from, here we go.

I have been hurt by the church. I have been ignored, forgotten, and left feeling unloved and unwanted by the church. The church has failed me.

The church has failed me as a single Christian. The church has failed me as a woman. The church has failed me as a person. The church has failed me as a member of the body of Christ.

Oh, I fully admit that I have failed the church. I’m not playing the victim card here. (Read this post: When I Failed the Church.)

But the church has failed me too.

It failed me when I was a teenager struggling with depression and my feelings of self-worth.

It failed me as a single young adult who was looking for someone to love who would love me back.

It failed me each and every time I would visit a new church and no one would come and greet me.

It failed me each time I was struggling and no one seemed to notice or they just didn’t care.

It is failing me today as I need it to reach out to me and support me.

I’m not the only person that the church is failing though. It is failing those who are lonely, those who are depressed, the elderly, the disabled, the poor, and the needy in any way. Basically, it is failing each and every one of us.

When I read about the church in the New Testament (especially in the book of Acts) I think about how different it is from what the church is today or at least how very different it is from the church in America. In the books Acts, the church is described as being of one heart and one soul. They were united. They didn’t claim anything for themselves, but shared everything. No member was lacking and no member was left in need. They met together daily.

On the other hand, the church in America is divided. It is divided by denomination. It is divided by worship styles. In some cases, it has even been divided by the color of the carpet.

Many of the members of the church are left in need and the needs of the members are varied. For some they simply need companionship, to know that someone cares and notices them. For others their needs are more basic like food, housing, clothes, etc. Others need jobs or training to get jobs. Children need homes and families. Elderly need assistance with daily living. Caregivers need someone to give them a break every now and then. The needs are as wide and varied as the members are.

Many times the response of the church is to tell people to pray about it because the Lord will provide, but they never stop to ask themselves or the Lord if they are meant to be the ones who are meant to meet the need and so the church is failing.

The church is failing because it is made of people. We are not saints. We are sinners. We are not perfect. We are flawed. We get busy and we forget. Or we truly believe that we are doing everything we can. We believe that if people need help they will ask for it. We believe that if people are interested in knowing Christ they will come to church on Sundays. We are selfish and self-centered. We are afraid to get out of our comfort zones, or we think that someone else will always do it. We think that we are not good enough or that we are not qualified. We all have our reasons, our excuses, and even our own beliefs that keep us from being what the church is truly called to be.

The church is called to be a light to the world. The church is called to be united, one body, one heart, one soul. Each member has their own job to do as a part of the body, but they are all part of the same body. When one member is hurting in some way, the whole body suffers. And in some cases the whole body can become sick. And so the church in America is failing.

Lately I wonder though, “How can we change this?”

What do I need to do in order to keep the church from failing others?

How can I help change the church so that it is once again the light of the world, so it is reaching out to those who feel lost, forgotten or ignored by the church?

And what do I tell people like me who have been hurt by the church?

To those who have been hurt by the church I have this to say:

  • Recognize that the church is made of people, and people are fallible. We all make mistakes. We all sin and we all fall short of the glory of God.
  • Remember that even though we are imperfect we need each other. We need to be with other believers. We need to worship together and share life with each other.
  • Forgive the church. This is more for you than for the church. Many times people do or say something that hurts and they don’t even know it so forgiveness becomes about healing you and not letting the world harden your heart.

To the church I have to say this:

  • It is time to step up to the plate. It is time to stop “going” to church and time to start “being” the church. We are called to love one another and that means everyone, not just the ones that we deem “worthy.”
  • What are you doing to help the needy in your local body?
  • What are you doing to help the needy in your community?
  • What are you doing to help the needy in your city, your state, your nation and worldwide?

Yes, we are all busy. Yes, we are insecure. Yes, we all have our excuses, but it is time to examine ourselves, our hearts, and our minds to see if we are truly living out the calling of the church and loving others the way that Christ loves us. Being the church means more than just showing up on Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings.

Being the church means being a light to the world and loving others the way that Christ loves us. It means getting involved and building relationships. It means getting messy and getting out of our comfort zones. It might mean contacting someone who hasn’t been at church in a while and seeing if they are alright. It might mean serving dinner to homeless people or taking in an unwed mother who has been kicked out of her house. It is going to mean different things to different people, but if the church was doing what it could and what it should just think of the difference we would be making in the world.

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