During her recent appearance on the DL Hughley Show, professing Christian and actress Meagan Good opened up about why she often skips church. No..it’s not because of her busy work schedule or a debilitating illness. It’s because of….you guessed it: “CHURCH FOLK”.
“Church folk”, a pejorative for Christians, is often hurled in response to a Christian or Christians one might perceive as judgmental (condemning) or hypocritical. In fairness to Meagan, she does share in the interview that she loves Christians, the church and her Lord and Savior. Yet, she immediately undermines her proclamation when she conversely notes her decision to “love” us from a distance to protect her spirit, which she says is too sensitive.
Thanks to Meagan’s now viral commentary, the topic of “church hurt” has been thrust back into the spotlight for mainstream fodder. As can be expected, the general public fully sides with Meagan and even encourages her to continue to forsake the assembling of the saints (Hebrews 10:25). In response, however, I felt compelled to dissect the concept of “church hurt” and discuss whether Meagan’s sentiments hold any merit.
WHAT CHURCH HURT IS
“Church Hurt” is the term used to describe someone’s negative experience with either church members, church leaders or church policy. This hurt can cause the person to either resent Christians and church or leave church fellowship all together. Of course, oftentimes, the person who experiences church hurt believes there was some wrongdoing or unwarranted offense on the church’s part. In some cases, that can very well be true.
At the height of the #metoo movement, I wrote a piece called What the Church MUST Do to Address #ChurchToo to discuss the occurrence of sexual abuse is the church setting. As I delve into what the church should do to address cases of sexual abuse, harassment and misconduct, I also discuss why such are even capable of occurring. Essentially, it boils down to hypocrisy - knowing the truth and not practicing it; false teachings - twisting and suppressing the truth of the Scriptures; and willful ignorance - a failure of church leaders and members to study God’s Word to show themselves approved.
Church Hurt isn’t merely limited to sexual abuse, however. Unduly harsh or graceless criticism, gossip, and slander are just a few other examples of ways some have been hurt by church members or in a church setting. Everything in Scripture utterly condemns abuse in the church - and it especially condemns the act of covering evil (1 Peter 2:16; Proverbs 10:18; Ephesians 5:11), as such actions totally counter Christ’s commandment that we “love one another“ (John 13:34-35). But that’s just it. These abuses and offenses occur not because Christ’s word (the Bible) is of no effect or because His Church fosters evil and unhealthy practices. It occurs when local churches are filled with sinners who love their sin and the world more than they love Christ and, in effect, their brother/sister. The fleshly, the carnal, and the unrepentant commit these abuses. Such are those who masquerade as angels of light but are pawns of Satan (2 Corinthians 11:14).
And there’s more…
Even if someone is never touched, hit, cursed at, lied on or talked about at church, sadly, if they attend a church where the Gospel isn’t preached, the full counsel of God isn’t faithfully taught and Christ isn’t exalted, they’re still a victim of so “church hurt”. In this case, however, they’re being abused spiritually, which is ultimately the worst kind as it has temporal and eternal consequences.
Before anyone is physically molested, abused or lied on at church, they were spiritually molested, abused and lied to from the pulpit. Each week, churches that don’t share the Gospel according to the Scriptures spiritually rape their congregants. Men like TD Jakes, Joel Osteen, Kenneth Copeland, John Gray, Creflo Dollar, the late Eddie Long, Meagan Good’s own husband, Devon Franklin and countless others are guilty of such an offense. Every time they take to the podium to “preach” anything but that which is according to Christ - anytime they make the Scriptures man-centric or the Gospel about anything but the saving work of Christ, they spiritually molest their hearers. They rob them of the truth that leads them to saving faith and regeneration in Christ (Colossians 2:8). Such men are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts,” (2 Timothy 3:6). These men, who are supposed to be shepherds of the souls under their care and faithful teachers of those in their hearing are instead pimping and abusing their people.
To such shepherds, thus says the Lord:
“Woe to the shepherds of Israel who feed themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flocks? You eat the fat and clothe yourselves with the wool; you slaughter the fatlings, but you do not feed the flock. The weak you have not strengthened, nor have you healed those who were sick, nor bound up the broken, nor brought back what was driven away, nor sought what was lost; but with force and cruelty you have ruled them. So they were scattered because there was no shepherd; and they became food for all the beasts of the field when they were scattered. My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and on every high hill; yes, My flock was scattered over the whole face of the earth, and no one was seeking or searching for them.”
‘Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: “As I live,” says the Lord God, “surely because My flock became a prey, and My flock became food for every beast of the field, because there was no shepherd, nor did My shepherds search for My flock, but the shepherds fed themselves and did not feed My flock”— therefore, O shepherds, hear the word of the Lord! Thus says the Lord God: “Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I will require My flock at their hand; I will cause them to cease feeding the sheep, and the shepherds shall feed themselves no more; for I will deliver My flock from their mouths, that they may no longer be food for them.” Ezekiel 34:2-10
If Meagan wants to know what church hurt really is and who’s truly perpetrating it, she’d only need to truly examine her husband’s teachings. (I welcome her to read “Something in the Milk Ain’t Clean: Avoid Devon Franklin in 2018” for specific examples.) She can certainly avoid “church folks” that she “protect” herself from their perceived abuses if she chooses. But she’s presently married to a man whose preaching only helps perpetuate the very hypocrisy and spiritual immaturity by which “church folks” are created.
WHAT CHURCH HURT IS NOT
Church hurt isn’t correction. Church hurt isn’t the truth.
Even as individuals can indeed experience abuse and undue offense in the (unhealthy) church or by (immature) church members, there are also cases of claimed church hurt which are simply someone’s hurt pride after receiving correction. Our flesh HATES the truth (John 3:20). Our pride HATES instruction (Proverbs 1:7; 12:1). Certainly, someone’s delivery of the truth can be a stumbling block to our initial hearing. But the ultimate decision to reject the truth is because of the wickedness in us, not the messenger. The truth hurts because it convicts us and challenges us to let go of sin or worldly desires we absolutely love. The truth hurts because God’s Word is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).
The truth cuts and it exposes, and that is indeed a painful experience. For those set on evil, that pain can turn to indignation, contempt or rage. Was not Stephen stoned to death simply for preaching the truth? The Jewish mob didn’t react to Stephen’s “tone and delivery” but the content of what was being delivered (Acts 7).
Yet, God chastens whom He loves. As He says in His word: “If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:6-11).
If one does find themselves hurt by the church, may it be because someone told them God’s truth...may it be because they were being rebuked for sin, as such “hurt” is actually a kindness to the hearer. Even if the messenger’s tone leaves much to be desired, if the truth is being delivered, “faithful are the wounds of a friend” (Proverbs 27:6). If one humbles himself, any resulting pain is merely godly sorrow, which leads to repentance, which leads to salvation, which entails an eternal right standing with God (2 Corinthians 7:10).
Why the Church Ain’t Good to Meagan Good
But, let me be clear: Offenses do and WILL come even in healthy churches and amongst born again Believers. We’re being perfected, but we’re not yet perfect...our foot can still slip (Philippians 3:14; Proverbs 24:16)! Yet, God is faithful to to lift us up again. He’s equipped us to quickly dead any issue per Christ’s directives (Matthew 18; John 13:34) and the Holy Spirit working in us. More often than not, you should see reconciliation, forgiveness and moving on, for Jesus says we are to forgive a brother of offenses 70 times 7 (Matthew 18:21-22). This means there’s a good chance your brother will be doing a lot of offending...but he’ll also do a lot of repenting and you should be prepared to do a lot of forgiving (and vice versa).
Offenses also come from Christians and in church settings not because of some ill intent but out of genuine love and concern. Such correction should come to you in gentleness, indeed (Galatians 6:1). But tone and delivery isn’t an excuse to reject the truth and the best delivery won’t guarantee that feelings won’t be hurt.
So, if Meagan and others are hoping to be Christians who never experience pain or offense, they may as well renounce Christ right now for He’s guaranteed that we shall have tribulation in this life (John 16:33). Surely that “trouble” entails conflict with other human beings, including those in the church (see Paul and Barnabas, Acts 15:36-41; Paul and Peter, Galatians 2:11-14; Eudodias and Syntyche, Philippians 4:2, for example). But Christ has overcome the world and has given us what we need to love one another through and after the hurt and offenses. If your profession of faith be true, I trust you won’t proudly forsake the assembling of the saints to “protect your spirit” for the entire point of being in the Body is to help protect your spirit from the evil one. The Body is a source of encouragement, support, accountability and, of course, the truth of God. The devil desires not to merely offend or hurt you, but he seeks to devour you (1 Peter 5:8)! One of his more successful devices, dear Christian, is to lure you from true Christian fellowship.
If Meagan sincerely finds that she’s often abused at church, one would wonder why her husband would continue attending church without her or why they wouldn’t just altogether go to another church (if the abuse is occurring at a specific place of worship). But if she’s “always attacked” no matter what church she attends or no matter what “church folks” she encounters, she may want to consider how she might be the common factor. Her spirit may be sensitive, but she’s not been wholly innocent in her experience. While I could say all she has to do is “cover up”, ultimately modesty isn’t merely outward, but is first a posture of heart (1 Peter 3:3); Matthew 7:16-20, 23:25-28). As long as her husband fails to provide for her a solid spiritual covering (Ephesians 5:23), doesn’t wash her with the water of the Word (Ephesians 5:26), and encourages her in error (see their fruit)...until she comes to hear and/or mature in the Gospel, she’ll still be “naked” no matter what she chooses to wear, and she’ll still be hurt no matter what she does to “protect” herself (Revelation 3:17).