My friend Elizabeth writes a very provocative blog. She muses on things like relationships, parenting and religion. Her thoughts on religion come from a background that unfortunately is not too foreign to many people. An upbringing in a “fundamentalist cult,” as she puts it, has caused her much grief and anxiety to say the very least.

Elizabeth is not alone.

Many people whether coming from cults or even legitimate churches have experienced wounds from poor leadership, misused doctrine and practices that are not consistent with scripture.

In the 9 years I’ve been on staff at our church I’ve watched as we have become a triage for many who are like Elizabeth.  We haven’t done this on purpose, but I’m thankful people feel they can come to our church for refuge and healing.  Not to say we are perfect either.  Unfortunately, there are people who have left us feeling wounded as well.  Like every other organization, King’s Harbor is full of people.  People who are imperfect, human, and sinful.  Yet I believe our leadership, flawed as we may be, desire to lead with a commitment to the Gospel speaking for itself and for people to come in as they are while trusting in a great God who will not leave them there.

The thing about Elizabeth is although right now she doesn’t want to go to church any more, she still loves God. She still desires healing. She wants to hear the word of God without anxiety because I think she still believes it’s true.  Many people with good reason, have given up on the Church. Given up on the possibility that there can be a “good” church. One where they can be who they are and still feel safe enough to trust the people there, trust what is being taught and allow God to work in them through a body of believers.

Because of this, I have become a contender.

I love the Church.  The Church is what Jesus had in mind when He was talking to Peter that day on the beach (John 21). It’s what He intended to bring hope and joy to a lost a dying world after He ascended to the Father.  The Church ought to be a place where people can worship God, serve others, and hear and understand scripture without having panic attacks because those very words were once used to bring them shame and condemnation.

When I read stories like my friend Elizabeth’s my heart breaks. I mourn for what has been robbed from loving and gracious people like her.  I’m saddened for what some local church is missing out on by having someone like her be a part of them.

Jesus did not come to condemn. He came to love. He left behind generations of disciples who are to do the same so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known (Ephesians 3:10).

This is why I contend.

10 thoughts on “Contending

  1. Thank you for posting this. I read her blog too and was saddened to hear about her experience. I have been on the receiving end of crazy hurtful teaching and have also had the church hold my hand through some very tough times. I’m praying for her healing and restoration and too many others like her. I’m also asking God to help me be the hands that build up and not tear down.

  2. Could you post the blog where that piece from Elizabeth can be seen? My husband is in that same position of not trusting churches but lovng God.

  3. i found you thru a twitter of elizabeth esther’s. i wish that i had good things to say and feel about the church body but i don’t. maybe i put too much faith into the body. i learned the hard way that church is not a place to seek help for cults, spiritual abuse or recovery.

    • Ezekiel 34 gives some strong words to shepherds… It’s kind of a list of things they’ve been doing terribly wrong. One of those things is “binding up the injured.” The church SHOULD be a place to seek help for cults, spiritual abuse and recovery. But as you see from this chapter, from the beginning of time, many shepherds and leaders have failed those who have come into their care. I’m sorry this happened to you and unfortunately your situation is not unique. I feel your pain and pray God will lead you to a place where you CAN find refuge and healing with truth and love.

  4. Hi Suzie!
    Thanks for sharing your heart ~ you are an encouraging writer.
    Kristen keeps me updated on your sweet family, but I just wanted to pass on a personal congratulations on the little one! We’ve found four to be a wonderful number. :O)
    Elizabeth Esther is a favorite of mine and I identify with her writings more than I want to ~ unfortunately, we’ve been there, but are slowly healing and actually back meeting with the Church pretty regularly.
    Take care and His best to you,
    Julie Gerhart

  5. Great to hear from you Julie. Thanks so much. I’m glad to hear you guys are moving in a good direction. You sure have been through a lot! Blessings to you and your family as well!

  6. I agree with you, Suz. So many days I find myself on the “defensive” about the church because so many have been hurt. We also find ourselves being a refuge for many who have been hurt, but then we lose people, too. Some people are comfortable staying hurt. All we can do is keep our eyes on Jesus, instead of his broken people. Otherwise we, too, will become bitter and scarred.

  7. I can think of several people who have been hurt in the church and it is really sad. But, God is still sovereign and I have no doubt that a person who is truly saved such as Elizabeth and others like her will hear from Him when the time is right. He will right the wrongs of others through people like you and bring them back into fellowship and ministry with a church body that reflects Him. And we all know it is absolutely in His character to take a bad situation and turn it around for good… her testimony one day when she’s back(and I say when because He doesn’t ever really let us go and will draw her in again)will be so valuable and glorifying to Him. So glad I stopped by here today 🙂 great post!

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