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The Church often wounds us deeply

Who hasn’t been let down by the Church? Who hasn’t had expectations of a people that practice 1 Corinthians 13-type love and then been somehow shunned or even worse, abused? It shows up in Barna’s statistics. The Church is hemorrhaging young people and is on its way to oblivion in America whil…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

Who hasn’t been let down by the Church? Who hasn’t had expectations of a
people that practice 1 Corinthians 13-type love and then been somehow shunned
or even worse, abused? It shows up in Barna’s statistics. The Church is
hemorrhaging young people and is on its way to oblivion in America while
leadership’s answer is to rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic.

The Church as an institution will always disappoint – like all institutions,
it is flawed. Worse still, its structures and systems have grown creaky and
antiquated and irrelevant. They desperately need an overhaul. What is
inexcusable is that spiritual authorities should wound people and remain
oblivious to the fact.

Henri Nouwen said these wise, wonderfully insightful words about the Church: “The Church often wounds us deeply. People with religious
authority often wound us by their words, attitudes, and demands.

because our religion brings us in touch with the questions of life and death,
our religious sensibilities can get hurt most easily. Ministers and priests
seldom fully realize how a critical remark, a gesture of rejection, or an act
of impatience can be remembered for life by those to whom it is directed.

“There is such an enormous hunger for meaning in life,
for comfort and consolation, for forgiveness and reconciliation, for
restoration and healing, that anyone who has any authority in the Church should
constantly be reminded that the best word to characterize religious authority
is compassion. Let’s keep looking at Jesus whose authority was expressed in

Comments (6)

  • Today’s blog connects with yesterday’s blog. The Church structure has hindered intimacy, bonding, relationships and the kind of love Jesus told us to have for each other. We cannot keep from being sinned against the rest of our lives. It is in this very context that we have the opportunity for growth and healing. It’d sure be great to see the Body of Christ be the Body, obeying all the “one anothers”. My concern is that while healing of the heart and mind is deeply needed, (because the Church is sick) and some in the Body of Christ seem particularly gifted for this ministry, that we wrongly perpetuate the psychological model (which is no friend to Christianity) of needing the “professionals”. Let us believe the truth that He has made us competent as ministers of the New Covenant and that if we lack wisdom, He will give it to us generously. He does want us to be whole and deeply connected with one another.

  • Good stuff. I just read a beautiful contrast of Father’s heart for relationships versus the institutions that man creates (including religious ones) in “The Shack” by William Young. I had never considered that the Trinity itself points to how we are to function and how we miss the mark when we try to function outside of the context of loving relationships. Continue to enjoy your blog, I’m contending for my kids to go on your mission adventure one day! (we currently have 10 kiddos under the age of 11)

  • Your remarks are always so timely. It is so saddening to see the western Church continuing its plunge into the sea of irrelevance in our society. Unfortunately, the source of the church’s irrelevance is due to miserably failed leadership.

  • The thought occurs to me that the failure is driven by pride, whether the leaders are layman or Pastors. [Neither Pastors or layman are immune from inflecting or receiving the wounds of the church} Churches are bound to fail at times and wound at times as churches operate exclusively through people. However, there is often a failure on the part of church leaders to recognize and make right the failures. Self righteous pride drives the thinking that church leaders are sacrificing for God by their service and thus their actions are above question. This ties in with the pride driven desire for control and authority. While Chistian leaders may be in a God given postion of authority, the resposibity that comes with that to be servants, to not lead under compulsion, to love and care for the flock and so on is often overlooked as the leader focuses on the authority. I have actually had a leader of a Christian orgainzation tell me that she can never admit that either she or any of the leaders did anything wrong because it would weaken their postion of authority. These types of thought processes loose sight of who is really in control, and who put the leader in authority. There is also the prideful thinking that the wrok of the church leader is more important than the people. Programs and activity and doctrine and money too often take priority over people. The truth is that ministry is always about people. If the people are loved first, there is usually forgivenes, instead of deep wounds, when the wrong occurs as love covers a multitude of sins. Finally, many wounds are inflected by legalism, which has its roots in pride. Legalism can only result in leaders being hypocrites when leaders proudly try to hold others to the laws and rules they can follow while ignoring or excusing the ones that they struggle with. While in itself this leads to wounds, it also justifies such things as gossip and lack of forgiveness, which results in more wounds. Legalism also focuses on sin, failure and punishment instead of God’s love, grace and mercy.

  • I agree tremendously with Seth’ post. However, it has sparked some thoughts in me.
    Church leadership does have weaknesses, problems, sin, and is, at times,
    irrelevant. I say that as one of them, and as one trying to turn the boat
    before it hits the iceberg (so-to-speak). My point, though, is to
    encourage all to remember that a)those in leadership – generally – are
    doing the best job they know how, and their hearts aren’t for power or
    authority, but to genuinely care for people. In that caring, they
    sometimes hurt others with the best of intentions (like a surgeon who cuts
    a little too deep and knicks a blood vessel… or cuts off the wrong leg),
    which brings me to b)leaders are human, too, and need both our correction
    and direction, as well as our compassion and prayers. Yes, Jesus chewed
    them out, but He was also patient and compassionate with those trying to
    figure it out and do it right, even in the midst of their doing it wrong.
    Finally, c)ask yourself, “Do I want their job?” People have asked me if I
    ever want to be a senior pastor, and my reply is always the same – short
    of God’s calling, I wouldn’t want any senior pastor’s job for any paycheck
    or benefits package. With those things in mind, please give grace while
    continuing to hold church leadership’s feet to the fire of

  • I love casting crowns music, I think the lead singer/writer has a really good view of the church and I learn from them just about every day

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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