8 Scars of Wounded Church Members

I start with this caveat: we’re called to be obedient to God, which includes being a part of His local church body, and we can’t let scars keep us from being obedient to Him. On the other hand, I’ve seen people bear scars of church life for many years. Here are sources of some of those scars – and I encourage you to use this list to see if you have any of the scars. 

  1. Betrayed confidence. I’ve written previously about my personal reticence to offer confidentiality, but I nevertheless recognize this issue. It takes only one broken confidence to make you distrust others for some time.
  2. Fallen leadership. This scar is especially painful if you were close to the one who has fallen. When our friends and heroes fall, it’s sometimes tough to ever get close to anyone again.
  3. Church conflict. I’ve met people who still remember with pain a congregational conflict that occurred years ago. Decades even. The wounds can be deep, and the scars are obvious.
  4. Member hypocrisy. I know it’s an excuse (“The church is full of hypocrites”), and it’s often an exaggerated one – but the problem is real. If you’ve known only a few apparently genuine Christians in a church, it’s easy to get jaded against “believers.”
  5. Family hurt. It’s one thing when somebody in the church attacks you in some way; it’s another matter when somebody goes after your family. Forgiving an offender feels like you somehow have chosen not to defend your family—so it’s easier to stay angry.
  6. Ministry neglect. The deeper your pain is, the more it hurts if your church somehow fails to minister to you in your time of need. And, the more it happens, the deeper the scars become.
  7. Spiritual warfare. We often open the door for the enemy to build up our scars, but we’re foolish to ignore the reality of Satan and his forces. They delight when our hearts get calloused, regardless of the cause.
  8. Personal sin. This cause is a bit different from the others. In this case, the “scar” is a heart hardened by ongoing sin—including some hearts that attend church every Sunday. Blaming the church for something is easier than taking responsibility for our sin.

What about you? Do you bear any of these scars? Any others that come to mind for you? If you know you have scars, ask God to soften your heart for Him and others.



  • Mark says:

    I want to add another:
    The second-class Christian. It is the constant reminder that some people are less than Christian. They might be liberal, single, female, young, or a combination of some that results in their being relegated to the status of allowed to come and donate but nothing else. They are not allowed to serve on committees no matter their expertise, receive pastoral care, know what it is going on, etc. I have been and still am one of these people.

  • David Kinnon says:

    These “scars” are the result of deep hurts, not pettiness or preciousness. Numbers (5) and (6) go hand in hand when an elder family member never receives a visit from the pastor or leader representing a ministry served faithfully for many years. Fallen leadership, leader hypocrisy, member hypocrisy and betrayal are often found together in a clutch. On two occasions I have supported an embattled leader only to have confidences betrayed as part of that leader’s self-justification efforts. There will not be a third time when agreements reached in the interests of the fellowship are ditched in the self-interest of the embattled pastor. Only the exercise of the fruit of the Spirit bring relief in such circumstances. May those pastors and fellowship members who are suffering be granted the grace made perfect in our weakness/vulnerability.

  • Robin G Jordan says:

    I was involved with a United Methodist church plant for roughly two years in which the pastor had a strict policy of providing pastoral care to church members only. He sent a get-well card to the parents of a child who was bitten by an ant at a church picnic because they were members of the church but ignored my grandnephew and his family when my grandnephew was diagnosed with leukemia. My grandnephew and his older brother regular attended the church with me and were known to him. However, I had not transferred my membership to the church and my niece was not a member of the church. When my grandnephew was first diagnosed with leukemia, I asked the pastor to include him and his family in the pastoral prayer. When he did not mention them in the pastoral prayer, I asked the congregation to pray for them when the pastor called for further announcements at the end of the service. The pastor was incensed. Following the service he angrily accused me of disrupting the service. Now I come from a Church of England background and in the Anglican tradition the parish minister is not just the pastor of his congregation but the whole community. I have also known Southern Baptist pastors who have ministered to families in a crisis who were not members of their church. One of the outcomes is that some of these families have began to attend the church of the pastor and eventually became members of the church. When asked why, a not uncommon response was that the pastor cared about people. What made matters worse was that pastor of the United Methodist church plant was always talking about how loving the church was.

  • Neil Norheim says:

    I want to suggest that one other may be added:
    “Taking Up An Offense”

    Having ministered in congregations that have had a history of moral failure in the life of the Senior Minister, I have discovered that some people, without knowing all the sordid details, thought that the person who was dismissed was treated unfairly. So without knowing the whole story, they took up what they thought was an offense to the dismissed leader and accepted it as their own. They considered that they had been personally offended by the actions of elected leaders in the church. They concluded that this offense was against themselves and decided to leave the church fellowship and their offense reasoned: “If that’s they way they treat people, I don’t want anything to do with that church.”

    I have also discovered that a wound like this requires very intensive and disciplined study of forgiveness being given to the “offenders” whether or not they ask for it.

  • Neil Norheim says:

    Well, OK, I’ll add one more scar and this comes as an observation from my dear wife.

    People are also wounded when church leaders fail to teach the whole truth of Scripture. If Bible truth is avoided in order not to offend, and priority is not given to the Word, both written and in-fleshed, people are spiritually malnourished and stunted in their Christian growth. The pressures of this world press in to force us to accept their aberrant life-styles and behavior patterns. We get mislead. Because we’re weak and unprepared with the truth, we often get lead astray. And, we are vulnerable to the pressure of pleasing the world instead of pleasing God. We need to know what He has to say, as our primary influence. We will not know what His truth is, if we haven’t been taught to read, meditate, listen to and apply His word.

  • Russ says:

    I was asked to share my testimony many years ago and when I revealed some past sin that I had repented of and the Lord forgave, people in the church prevented me from serving in any type of leadership capacity for over a decade. It’s bad when what is happening to you causes other people to experience church pain.

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