If you are part of a church (and you should be), sooner or later you are bound to experience a ‘church hurt.’ Everyday wounded people leave the church never to return because of their woundedness and others’ jerk-face jerkiness. Trust me, I know. I have struggled to not be bitter at big-ego-pastors, manipulative back-stabbers, gossips and dismissive deacons. All too common and par for the course for many churches. I could tell you stories, my own and friend’s stories, about how churches discriminate, dehumanize and destroy people. Clearly there are major problems.
In Stephen Mansfield’s interesting book, he quite intentionally doesn’t address any of the problems we find in church. You could read this book and the circumstances at the First Church of Senior Pastor Overcompensating may actually not change at all. Mansfield’s purpose is a little more basic: he wants to help you heal and fix what you can inside of you, so you could rejoin the fold of God’s people. From his own experience of church hurt and that of others he interviewed, he discovered:
No matter how petty the cause is, every religiously wounded soul I encountered was in danger of a tainted life of smallness and pain, of missed destinies, and the bitter downward spiral. And every soul I encountered had the power to be free, for each of them, no matter how legitmately, was clenching the very offense or rage or self-pity or vision of vengance that was making life a microcosm of hell (10).
So he wrote this book to help people move past their wounds, their pain and anger, their church hurt, to a place of healing, forgiveness and freedom.
Mansfield examines examples of betrayal and hurt from church history, the Bible and his own experience and reflects on how to manage betrayal and wounds without letting it poison your personal and ecclesial life. He offers helpful advice, provides questions to help people sort through how they are handling their wounds, and help them learn from the experience and he attends to possible spiritual dynamics and directs people on how to re-engage the church after experiencing wounds (possibly a different church, but not necessarily).
I wouldn’t say that this is the most insightful book, but I really appreciate Mansfield’s focus on helping people move on and not let their ‘church hurts’ keep them from giving and receive love in the body of Christ. Certainly at different points in my own journey, a guide like this could have been helpful and may have guided me through some difficult circumstances.
Sounds Great James! How Can I Get This Book for Free?
So glad you asked that. As it so happens, I have a voucher for a free book which you can redeem from your local bookstore or directly from Tyndale. I will happily mail this to one of you. In order to get your free copy, please comment below (you have to provide a valid email address so I can contact you, but that won’t post publicly). As I am free to arbitrarily pick the winner, tell me a little bit about why a book like this would be helpful to you.
Regardless if you win this book, my hope is that you will find a way to navigate past your hurts and re-engage in church, feeling the joy of fellowship.
Thank you to Tyndale for providing me (and maybe you) with a copy of this book for the purpose of this review/giveaway.
10 thoughts on “Sometimes Church Don’t Feel Like it Should: Book Review and Book Giveaway!!!”
After being emotionally raped by the church, I was bitter for seven years… or less, or more, I don’t remember. During those years, I continued to place myself in places where the church or rather, stupidity within the church could still hurt me… that was dumb. Even worse so, I encouraged kids that I once discipled (sorta) into more vulnerable places where they too could be emotionally raped and destroyed, and I watched it happen right before my eyes, even after all of us begged God to get us the hell out of there…
For a while after that, we had a home church… one that was filled with really really broken people. One of the best and brightest Bible school students lost his faith and wanted us to read kinda out there books while rejecting the likes of Francis Chan. Others were just so critical of ANY Christian authors. The guy I encouraged was so devastated that he left working for the church entirely and ended up as a bartender.
My goal, within the next few years, is to track down what we call the “homeless” Christians. Christians who no longer have a place that they call “home” within the smaller or even bigger churches. Christians that are deeply wounded and have emotionally nasty scars to prove it. Christians that are still traumatized when walking into a church service… even if it’s in a school cafeteria. Christians that hate Christians, but still wish to love God… but can’t grasp why God allows such arrogance, such stupidity to run HIS church… like seriously God, what were you thinking???
My only course now for helping others to heal (I promise I am no longer bitter… I think), is to listen… that is my only tool in my spiritual first aid pack… at times. There are MANY broken Christians out there, and I would love to find them, and help them to heal through their anger, their pain, their fears, and re-seek God in a way that minmizes the trauma of being in “church”.
Ming, trust me, I know of the pain of which you speak and my heart goes out to you and all those I know who have been worked over by church leaders, bureaucracy, and manipulative people. It really sucks. But I also worry about isolationism. Christains can’t keep their faith without others and relational issues (i.e. betrayal) are best worked out in relationship. I mean the Bible tells us all these wonderful things about the church being a building of believers, a body, an alternative polis, a community, the bride of Christ. It also tells us of a New Testament church which was broken by division, false teachers, power struggles, and immorality of every kind. I think the thing that says to me about church is that it is the best that God has on offer to extend his kingdom, but it also ends up being the worst because its full of people who eff it up.
I share your angst about wishing there was a different way. When we were in Atlanta, I found a church called, “the perfect church.” I wanted to take a picture and send it to every pastor I know that said, “if you find the perfect church, don’t go because you’ll ruin it,” without ever addressing the what was wrong with how they were doing church. However I did hear that the pastor of ‘the perfect church’ went to jail for embezzlement. Figures.
Keep listening brother, people dont experience healing until they feel heard.
Hey James, thanks for the response. I agree that isolationism is probably a very unhealthy way of dealing with the pain and hurts… personally I continued to get involved with various churches (which led to even worse stuff)… but from my perspective, I have been keeping in touch with the Protestant Christian community here in Hawaii. Same with the home church we have… I have been getting members involved with HIM or with other churches or ministries…
Hmmm…. anyhow, I am ready to play once again in the Christian playground…have been for a while. I just need to rebuild a team. Any suggestions?
Well it sounds like your poised to get on board with what Randall is planning. You could hold him to his commitment to ‘a different kind of church’ because sometimes people say that and it is more of the same different day 😉
Sounds like a very helpful book, James. I know quite a few people who have left the church or Christianity altogether after being hurt by their church – and I’m often at a loss what to say. (Perhaps in part because my ecclesiology is too high!)
Well this is a much more popular and pastoral account than your usual fare. If I were a high church Anabaptist I don’t know what I would tell anyone either 😉
I think we all encounter times where church doesn’t live up to our expectations. I tried to remember (personally) that my God can work through the pettiness of mankind and be glorified. I have to focus on my vertical relationship and not let the strifes of man intercept God’s message to me. I would love to read this book! firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks Miss Ruthie! Looking over these and probably will make a decision by the end of the week!
I heard Mansfield at grace Honolulu last year – would be interested to read what he has to say on this topic. I think you were helpful when I was dealing with some of that a while back. 🙂 I’ve had some discussions about this recently. I’m concerned that a friend’s decision to leave a church for the wrong reasons (IMO) may be a missed opportunity for growth and healing, had that person decided to stay and deal with those
Good to hear from you surfchik! Glad you found my blog and commented. 😀
Hope this isn’t a one time visit!