The Church I’ve Attended for Years Has Let Me Down. What Should I Do?

Question from a Reader:

The church I’ve attended for decades has really let me down. I would have liked to stay there, but they didn’t try to stay connected. Some of my family members accepted the Lord at that church. Also, I noticed that in October when Israel was attacked, they didn’t pray for the situation or mention it. I know and talk to many people who used to attend this church but no longer do.

Answer from Stephanie Anderson, EPM staff:

I’m sorry to hear about the hurts you have experienced (and it sounds like, are experiencing). Every church is made up of people just like us—messy and imperfect, forgiven but still sinners this side of Heaven. Sometimes, there are big, intentional actions in churches that hurt others, and I believe that grieves the heart of Jesus. But often, there are small, unintentional actions that can hurt, and to some extent, we have all experienced them (and caused them).

Over the course of many years there are probably many things every church has done that we can be offended or even wounded by. That’s why offering grace, choosing forgiveness, and keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2) are so important. He’s the only one who will truly never let us down. Randy writes, “All churches are very imperfect. The old saying is true: if you find a perfect church, don’t join it, because it won’t be perfect anymore.”

Perhaps you already have, but I wondered if you have tried reaching out directly to church leadership and honestly and gently talking about your concerns? This will give them an opportunity to respond and come alongside you. The fact that Israel wasn’t mentioned doesn’t mean their leaders don’t care about what is happening. It could have been an innocent oversight or perhaps you missed another mention of the situation. I would encourage you to give them the benefit of the doubt and the opportunity to respond. (Of course, we should pray for the Israelis, especially the believers, and also the Palestinian believers. It is a horrible thing that is going on and we should be praying for peace and for our brothers and sisters of the faith.)

Our leaders are not infallible, and they will make mistakes. We can love our church leadership by believing the best, and not keeping a record of wrongs as 1 Corinthians 13 calls us to do in loving others. (Of course, this is not an excuse for those preaching heresy or committing church abuse; those issues require an entirely different response.) Hebrews 13:17 says, “Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.”

Randy has experienced many situations at his own church that could be considered unfair, but he hung in there and is so glad he did. He writes, “Nanci and I stuck with church because it was about Jesus, not us, but in the long run we were the beneficiaries. Forgiveness came not because we backed away from people, but because we stuck with them, realizing we were just as imperfect as they were.” (See this article.)

God deeply cares about the unity of believers, and one of the things He says He hates is sowing dissension among His people (Proverbs 6:19), so we want to be very careful that isn’t happening by talking with others about our concerns vs. going to those directly involved and talking with them (Matthew 18:15). "Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing" (1 Thessalonians 5:11).

It sounds like in the past God has used this church in your family’s life, to His glory, and that is worth celebrating and thanking Him for, wherever He might lead you to fellowship in the present.

May your heart be drawn even closer to Jesus in the coming days, and may you find great joy in being part of His body.

Photo: Unsplash

Stephanie Anderson is the communications and graphics specialist at Eternal Perspective Ministries.