10 Reasons People are Hurting Silently in Our Pews

It happens every weekend. Our congregations gather for worship, and in our pews or chairs are members who are filled with anguish but aren’t talking to many people. My research is anecdotal, but I’ve learned several reasons that explain this reality:

  1. Some folks are embarrassed by their problems. Whatever the issue is, they’d rather hurt alone than risk anyone knowing what’s going on. Too often, they assume that others will look down on them if they knew the details.
  2. Some are simply loners who fight their battles alone. They may not even let their own family help them—much less their church family. They don’t need anyone else, they think.
  3. Some are hurting too badly to talk to anyone. Maybe they’ll talk at some point, but not now. Only tears come now, especially when the heartache is fresh.
  4. Some don’t trust us as pastors. I don’t like to admit this reality, but I can’t ignore it. It takes getting burned only once before you hesitate to ever again be honest with a church leader.
  5. Some view pastors as too busy to bother. Some members think this way out of respect – “My pastor has so many burdens. I don’t want to be another one.” Others assume they simply won’t get any of their pastor’s time.
  6. Some are still non-believers trying to figure out life. They’re looking for answers, but they haven’t come to the place to trust Christ with their life. Nor are they yet ready to talk to a church leader.
  7. Some are hanging on to sin that’s destroying them on the inside. In a strange way, they’re clinging to idols that bring them nothing but secret shame.
  8. Some are just overwhelmed by life. If you ask them to tell you what’s bothering them, they don’t even know where to start. It’s so complicated that it’s just easier to keep it to themselves.
  9. Some are leaders who don’t want others to know their weakness. Few people have ever seen them struggle, and they’re not about to be that vulnerable now. Their church reputation is at stake.
  10. Sometimes we’re the hurting one. And, we bear burdens alone rather than invite anyone in to help share the weight. Somehow, we don’t do what we tell others to do: let our brothers and sisters walk with us. Our self-protection thus often borders on hypocrisy. 

What other reasons would you add? 


  • Mark says:

    Given enough people, someone will be dealing with chronically ill parent, spouse, child, or hurting from any other cause. Thus, it is hard to sing, put on a good face, and be happy when you go to church knowing that a loved one will probably not see the sun come up tomorrow and there is nothing you can do about it. (All I could do was pronounce the Nicene creed, receive communion and light a candle.) Now there was a priest who would have listened and prayed for/with me at a separate communion rail but I did not opt to do that. There is often little caring about the lesser people by good church-going people in the inner circle. Now some do not feel they can trust the church leadership because they aren’t sure who is sworn to secrecy. People in churches can’t always keep their mouths shut. If you have all male church leadership, you will not completely understand the issues faced by females. (Look at Sovereign Grace Ministries and just who is taking who’s side.) There needs to be some change in how evangelical churches handle talking with people where full confidentiality (seal of the confessional) is requested and who is covered by it (pastor, deacons, elders, elders’ wives, etc.). When I really needed to talk a member of the clergy, I found a blog where I could ask anonymously. Now I am not Catholic but the real Catholic confessional box has its appeal.

  • I believe we all need filled with the Holy Spirit. Sometimes the tendency to humanize the Gospel eliminates God’s role in building His Church.

  • Gena McCown says:

    Some have been hurt by the church and are just clinging to Jesus as they heal. Being hurt by the church, they don’t trust the church in the process. This hurt could be from church leadership, or people they trusted in the church as friends.

    Some are hurting for the church, but have been admonished by leadership for questioning or challenging and no longer feel that they can speak up. Instead they hurt in the pews, and pray from their knees for the church they love.

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