What Would Your Church Do?

[Originally posted 12/02/2008]

If you’re a Christian in trouble, who do you reach out to for help? Your church, of course.

Reporter Liz Hayes recently shared the story of “Elizabeth” who did just that after her husband attacked her, throwing her onto the bed so hard her head hit the wall and then proceeding to beat her with his fists. When she screamed for her daughter to call 911, her husband ran to the base and unplugged the phone. She persisted in contacting the authorities and her husband was arrested.

Do you think your church would have reached out to “Elizabeth” with help and encouragement?

Really?

Elizabeth’s church has asked her, “Are you sure he hit you?” (Well, let me think, maybe those weren’t his fists after all. Exactly how can one make a mistake about that?) They have, in fact, persisted in not believing her in spite of the fact that her husband has pleaded guilty to battery and been sentenced to one year of probation and counseling. They have persisted in their disbelief in spite of the fact that she has to have on-going physical therapy as a result of the severity of her injuries (are you sure he hit you?)

Elizabeth has lost her friends, her church and her position. Because she reached out to her church for help in her time of trouble. And because her husband – was a deacon.

Do you think your church would do better? It might be interesting to see if there is a way you can actually find out – for real, not by asking a transparently hypothetical question to which any pastor will give you the answer you want to hear.

Ironically, churches will have hearts of gold when they are focused on “the lost” or the poor and needy outside their doors, but when it comes to people they know inside their doors, they shut down if they have to see one of their own as a perpetrator. They just can’t make that leap, so they leave the poor and needy inside their doors wounded, battered and dying -passing by on the other side, leaving her half dead (Luke 10:30-32).

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8 Responses

  1. Conversely, the church will take action, as in my case. Unfortunately, that action is based upon hearsay, misinterpretations, and unproved allegations.

    An in that way I feel they have created an awful mess, perhaps to the same extent if they turned a blind eye.

    I know the subject here is specifically phyisical abuse but I think this also applies to divorce. Witness the divorce rate within the body. Such things make me think all that I have held to be true is false. Like I fell through the looking glass.

    • It is exactly to the same extent because it is fruit from the same tree – the church operating without understanding and without spiritual discretion; without knowledge of the Word or the Spirit of the Word. The same error can produce opposite effects, like you are experiencing. “Authority” in the hands of people without the spiritual authority to know what they should be doing with it.

      I know exactly what you mean about falling through the looking glass! I call it going “down the rabbit hole with Alice.” 😉 Or – my other favorite is “behind the curtain in Oz.” A third I have said so many times is “am I the only one who can see the emperor is naked?” These analogies are so strong sometimes I feel like banging my head against a concrete wall would be more productive.

      And your situation is a great reminder that action alone is not the answer. Action without discernment is just as dangerous as no action at all.

      — Danni

  2. Yes, commision is as bad as omission.

    I feel sick about the whole thing. The worst part is not for our marriage but that she has further support to stay as she is. Of course things don’t stay the same, in stasis. All things naturally atrophy. Maintenance and nuturing are needed.

    So as for my wife, I think she is more “empowered” by reason of the church’s authority. And she will fall further.

    Such a lack of discernment by myself, and then by the church makes me sick.

    Please pray (harder, louder 🙂 ) for my wife, the church, me.

  3. The GOOD NEWS is a Pastor called me back yesterday. He does provide marriage counseling, he is state licensed as well. There are three others on his staff capable and willing as counselors. They are God-centered in their counseling. Their church is a stone throw from our home in CA. They are firmly and staunchly opposed to divorce.

    I had called to ask IF they would consider calling “our” home church to involve themselves in getting to the bottom of things, IF they would agree to joint counseling, IF they would apply a redemptive discipline as needed, IF they would encourage my wife,

    THEN, I would forego this career change, move back to CA, and make myself subject to discipline and accountability, in order to seek reconciliation in my marriage.

    This is my seeking of accountability. I am weary of the half starts and the false leads. I am tired of the bias and weak effort of those I have asked for help. I am tired of a lack of discernment as I try to seek His will in our marriage. I know I have not been very discerning in things, choosing counselors for one. But I have been consistently trying. It would be so wonderful to feel a cooperative spirit in my wife, my church, others…. A spirit for obedience to Him, with reverence and respect, in humility and boldness.

    I know I need the help of others. Is it just me or does 1Thess 5 (among other verses) not speak of this? I’m not looking for obligation (except where it is obedience to the Lord) but I am looking for accountability. And let it start with me.

    Why am I so malaligned and distrusted in this?

    Anyway, this Pastor said he would do as I asked. He said he will contact the Pastor at my home church and review with his staff. Then he will get back to me. And I did give him my permission to do whatever he feels is required. When I told him of the recent action by the Deacons he responded with a great concern about how that proceeded so I am joyously hopeful.

    Trust in the Lord.

    • I think you have made an excellent move. Of course, there is no telling how it will be received, but you have chosen as wisely as one can choose, and you have also made it obvious you are willing to make significant personal sacrifice to make it work.

      I REALLY think you are maligned and mistrusted because Satan has a territory staked out and he is guarding it ferociously – like a mad guard dog. He is guarding it all the more ferociously because you are trying to do all the right things with a heart turned to do the most right thing possible in spite of issues in the past. Satan hates it when we take back territory he thought was all his. BUT God is bigger than that. GOD IS ALWAYS BIGGER THAN THAT.

      No matter what happens, I always hold to the truth that God works all things together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. You can’t control the choices others make. You can pray, you can do everything you can do. You can enter into spiritual warfare.

      And you can be completely confident that God will take care of you no matter what twists and turns the path takes along the way. That’s the only way we can survive the trip.

      — Danni

  4. Yes, God will take care of you even if the church fails to do so.

    I experienced the same thing with respect to my former wife’s affair. It wasn’t are you sure…, but it was, “What did you to cause her to have an affair?”

    Hello? We all own our own behavior.

    Adultery is handled little different than abuse in the church, poorly.

  5. I feel in my case when I have reached out to the church my husband has always met with the Bishop before I could and has manipulated his verbal, emotional and psychological abuse to them to make it seem as if we are just a married couple having a tough time as was told ‘all marriages do have tough times’.
    It is so true though that churches want to reach out to non members in need but when it is their own somehow they are forgotten and church leaders forget just because we go to church that does not make us immune from Satan and his temptations, it actually makes us a bigger target because Satan already has blinded the drunk on the street or the person addicted to drugs or pornography and so on. So yeah if church leaders won’t rise to their positions in the church then us as members no matter what faith we belong to need to stand strong for what we believe is true and reach out to all.

  6. Responding to one of your comments, Danni, you are definitely not “the only one who can see the emperor is naked”. While I grieve that the Church has hurt so many of its own people, for my own sake I am thankful to know I’m not alone. I’m not alone in the wounds I carry, nor in my quest to advocate for change. Thank you for speaking out in courage.

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