If you have ever been part of what the Greeks knew as the ecclesia, or “the called out ones”, better known today as the New Testament church, then it is likely that you have witnessed or been involved in a church hurt. As a result, either you or someone you know, made a decision to walk away from the “church”. George Barna says this “decision to permanently withdraw from a congregation” can be called “ecclesia exitus” or church dropout. In Stephen Mansfield’s new book “Healing Your Church Hurt; What To Do When You Still Love God But Have Been Wounded By His People”, he dives in to this issue and epidemic of hurt, offense, and discouragement within the body of Christ. Having been the pastor of a church who experienced a devastating church hurt himself, Mansfield is able to speak to this topic successfully.
Mansfield did not write this book to simply tell the reader that people get hurt in church. Instead, he writes to assure those who were hurt that it is possible for them to reconnect with the body of Christ. Mansfield begins by giving the root of the problem of offense and hurt: human nature and sin. He then takes a look at how we tend to look at others. He believes that how we look at others may determine our willingness to mend a relationship and length of time it might take. This chapter brings out these types of questions: Have our expectations of others that didn’t prove to be true given weight to our hurt? Are we guilty of forgetting how ugly the human nature can be?
Chapters four and five are the best chapters in the book and are very powerful. Chapter four entitled, “Lessons From a Season in Hell”, Mansfield asks the reader to do something. He asks, “I want you to take the most agonizing season of your life and examine it piece by piece.” He does this by asking five pointed and probing questions. They are:
1. Of the things your critics said, what do you know to be true?
2. How did you try to medicate your wounded soul?
3. Were you clinging to anything that contributed to your church hurt?
4. What did those closest to you do when you went through the fire?
5. During the bruising season, what fed your inspirations and your dreams?
In Chapter five, “The Throne Room of Your Mind”, Mansfield deals with how our minds process the hurt and how we tend to play the hurtful act over and over, rehearsing all the “should-have, could-have, and would-haves”. He demonstrates this by sharing a recurring dream that he has. As he sits on a grand throne, everyone who has wounded him becomes aware of their offense and they line up and come before him to make amends and tell him how sorry they are. As he enjoys having them in the palm of his hand, he touches them with his scepter and declares them forgiven. They exit thanking him for forgiving them, promising never to offend again. Of course, this is a fantasy. He says that we all have in our own minds a similar throne-room experience. Mansfield goes on to say that being hurt is about being offended, or suffering an offense. It is in this chapter that he gives to us a piercing word study demonstrating how devastating an offense can be. He concludes the book by dealing with forgiveness and restoration. He suggests that God may have a divine purpose for our hurt.
Stephen Mansfield has written a powerful book. It is efficient and to the point. His advice is practical and immediately helpful. Healing Your Church Hurt is a must read for those who have been wounded by the body of Christ. He sums up his reason for writing, “There is a myth that we need to knock in the head – and we need to knock it in the head now. When we’ve been hurt by the church we often tell ourselves that we are going to keep loving Jesus but that we no longer want anything to do with his people. The Bible makes it clear that we cannot love Jesus and hate his people.”
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Tyndale House Publishers as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”