About This Blog

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

"Healing Your Church Hurt" (Stephen Mansfield)

TITLE: Healing Your Church Hurt: What To Do When You Still Love God But Have Been Wounded by His People
AUTHOR: Stephen Mansfield
PUBLISHER: Carol Stream, IL: Barna-Tyndale, 2012, (174 pages).

What does an author who has rubbed shoulders with the bigwigs of society, written extensively about George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Winston Churchill know about Church? Before you diss Stephen Mansfield, my advice is: Don't. There are a lot of valuable lessons and tips that we can learn from the book.

The book begins with a foreword by George Barna urging all of us, especially those concerned for the Church, to remain 'immersed in a community of faith.' After all, the Church is not a group of saints seeking sainthood, but a group of sinners seeking mercy from God and constant forgiveness of one another, as exemplified by the Lord's Prayer to forgive one another's trespasses. Mansfield begins the book through his personal sharing of the pains and hurts he have gone through. Through the example of his experience with a screaming boy, whose arms are stuck at a candy machine simply because the young chap refuses to let go, he affirms throughout the book that while we can be easily hurt for whatever reasons, there is no reason to continue to inflict self-hurts by us refusing to 'let go' of our pains, our bitterness, and any sense of unforgiveness. By letting ourselves wallow in the hurt, we are actually hurting ourselves in the long run. He talks about how many great leaders throughout the centuries who have been hurt, but persevered on in love. Like George Whitefield who remains focused on a higher cause, that he is able to continue to bless his buddy John Wesley despite feeling  hurt by Wesley. Stories of Patrick in the 4th Century, who after serving faithfully for the cause of Christ, gets betrayed by a friend. Then there is the story of Jonathan Edwards who was unceremoniously voted out of his own church!

One of the reasons why people struggle with hurts in Church is because they fail to recognize the reality of man being a combination of 'greatness and grief, of righteous might and disgusting sin.' The author contrasts how some Bible characters have actually dealt with the problems in a redemptive way. Like how Paul and Barnabas patch up their relationships, and how Jesus loves even those people who hated him. Mansfield gently reminds us:

"Christianity is not the absence of stupidity and hurt. Christianity is the message of a God who uses our stupidity and hurt to make us what we are destined to be." (57)

Refusing to acknowledge our hurt and to continue to love people in spite of the hurt is deepening the wounds. Speaking as one who has been badly bruised in the past, Mansfield poses 5 questions to probe any feelings of stubbornness and refusal to let go.If we fail to let go of our own hurts, we end up getting stuck in the journey called life. This leads to one of the best chapters in the book, where Mansfield draws out lessons from the original languages of the Bible. Like the Greek word for 'offense' is 'scandalon' which essentially means a trap. If we allow this offense to linger in our hurts, we are trapping ourselves in an endless cycle of hurt and despair. Two other words describe offense, like pikros for pungent, and miano for defilement by bitterness. Both devour the self. By dealing with forgiveness, one becomes free, like the Greek word 'aphiemi' which is to send away anything that entangles, 'aphesis' which is to release from prison, and 'charizomai' which is to extend mercy or bestow favour. All three words combine to give the various nuances of the face of forgiveness.

Mansfield goes on to share about how each hurt can easily lead to a 'poisoned soul' (10). Three principles are practiced:

  1. The author is playing the role of a 'coach' rather than a counselor or a spiritual guide.
  2. Anyone who is hurt, needs someone to get tough with them first, mainly to prevent any deterioration of the hurt
  3. We cannot wallow in our own vomit of personal hurts, and become hypocrites by refusing to love the Church or her people.
Closing Thoughts

This quote is particularly relevant for those of us hurt in any way in the Church. 
"When we think we are loving Jesus but hating his people, we are actually loving Jesus so little that his people don't matter anymore." (15)

Bingo! Followers of Christ need to remember that Jesus has been hurt real badly, even fatally, and yet he breathes a prayer of love and mercy for all. Can we choose otherwise? I believe this book is essential reading for anyone serving in the Church or planning to be part of Church ministry in any way. The fact of life is that it is only a matter of time before anybody gets hurt, misunderstood, taken for granted, or downright disappointed with Church. Sooner or later, we need to learn to deal with the situation, and most importantly to deal with our self-seeking tendency to wallow over failed relationships. Mansfield has given us at least 5 ways to deal with it, and to set ourselves on the path toward recovery and deeper love for God and for His people.

Firstly, we can learn from the great leaders throughout Christian history who have persevered. Secondly, we can recognize that humans are not perfect, and we need to set our expectations accordingly. Thirdly, we need to seriously work on the word, "Forgiveness," what it means for us. Fourthly, we need to check our own emotions and the condition of our souls, constantly probing and getting ourselves fixed on the larger cause of Christ. Fifth, we need to learn to be whole, and to recognize that on our own, we cannot succeed.

This book is painfully honest and humbly restorative. All of us need an Emmaus experience where we can be free from self-seeking emotions toward God honouring actions. The solution to hurts and pains experienced in the Church is not to fight back at the Church, or to brew poisonous hate within our hearts. The key is perseverance to love God and people through mercy, forgiveness, and grace. Learn to reserve our energies to fight the real enemies. Remember that the enemy is not the Church or her people. This book is soaked with wisdom and tough love. I encourage all people keen on healing and grace in the Church to read this book.

Rating: 4.8 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me free by Tyndale House Publishers without any obligation for a positive review. All opinions are mine unless otherwise stated. 

No comments:

Post a Comment