I was listening to a #RadioDude recently who was addressing the issue of people leaving the local church (his especially). He said, and I paraphrase, “I know a lot of people are leaving the church because they’ve had their feelings hurt. Hey, people get hurt all the time. Get over it and move on. It could be you needed to go through that pain to build your faith in God and the church. I haven’t been hurt by the church because I plow through the stuff that attacks my vision for this church. Everybody gets hurt, so get over it.” (Immediately there was cheering and clapping in the background from his congregation)
If you feel or believe this way I may have to question your ability to discern, show grace and express love. Listen, it’s easy to tell someone to “get over it” without truly knowing their story. This is especially true of those who have been hurt by church leadership. It’s easier to say “You need to submit to the pastor’s authority.” Of course, there are those who have left the institutional church because of a hurt and then returned to defend the very treatment they experienced. Two things come to mind: Stockholm Syndrome and Proverbs 26.11 where a “dog returns to its vomit like a fool repeats his foolishness.” That’s a discussion for another time.
Over the past 30+ years of following Jesus I’ve encountered one too many people who have been hurt or abused by church leadership, structure, and doctrine. I’m one of them. Some have been hurt so deeply it’s taking a bit longer to heal. For example, a deep, physical cut can take a while to heal. The same applies to emotional and spiritual hurts/abuse. It’s not that they believe God doesn’t love them, or that He can’t heal them. They are human beings dealing with life as it comes the way they know best and often times it’s a flood of chaos. To take an approach that comes across as abrasive and abusive is no way to promote reconciliation and healing. They won’t “get over it” like you would hope.
Pastors (and all Christians) consider your approach to teaching, preaching and most importantly serving others. Is it all centered on Christ being Lord and the gospel of his kingdom? Be a humble servant and not a drill instructor. Offer grace and not ridicule. Be a vessel of peace and hope poured out for those who seek godly counsel. Consider why people are leaving your local church. Own up to your failures and issues as the Dones learn to do the same. Open yourself up to a full and deep examination by the Holy Spirit. Allow yourself to hear the voice of the Shepherd. Expect to be transformed.
Finally, keep in mind most of those who are Dones, Nones and other Ones don’t usually leave because they’ve given up on Christ or the Church. Many have given up on the leadership structures, methodologies and doctrines that hinder the movement of the Spirit in the local church, their personal lives and surrounding contexts.
In the end it’s about the reign of King Jesus and the good news about His kingdom to reconcile and redeem humanity to himself.