by Peggy Hahn, LEAD Executive Director
We have all had our feelings hurt from time to time or occasionally felt a bruised ego. That’s not what I am talking about today. I want to offer a moment for us to pause for those (including ourselves?) whom have been truly beaten up by the church.
When people are abused in the very places they expect to be protected and loved, the pain can cut so deep that healing is slow, if ever. I have seen the wind knocked out of some of the finest people serving in leadership of their church: on church council, as pastors, youth ministers, grandparents, parents, youth and children. This abuse is across generations, leadership positions, ethnicities, culture, gender and sexuality. The casualties of Christian community are everywhere. In the name of Jesus.
I’m writing this today because I am carrying the pain of an ocean of leaders who have trusted me with their stories. I feel an anger growing in me that may not be healthy but is defiantly fed by truth.
Friends, why are we putting up with this? Why don’t the healthy leaders stand up against bullies? I have wondered, for over twenty years, what will it take for the Christian community to say to certain people: ”We don’t act like that here.” Here’s what I think is at stake along with at least two steps towards healing:
The stakes are higher than we want to admit. Young people don’t want to be pastors because they see how their leaders are treated – why would anyone want to sign up for that? People don’t want to get into leadership because they want more for their life of faith than defending a few dollars, an aging building and endless meetings quarreling about crazy stuff.
Here is what I know will matter:
- Reclaim our prophetic voice as faith shapers – leaders who will pay attention to their own faith formation, recognize they are influencing others, and be a loving, generous witness to a God who created and cares for the whole universe. That is to say, a God who is already way ahead of us, loving people in ways that the church will never catch up with, but could surely try.
- Identify the core values that will hold your church together – through the hurricanes of bad behavior, the discouragement of the budget and the decisions that will lean into the future. I am not kidding here. If you want your leadership to have a backbone that feels more like the church the Apostle Paul was striving for (read Philippians 4:1-17), then we have to name what holds us as an anchor in the storm.
We hear your pain. We love you and join you in asking for forgiveness when the people at church crush our souls. We believe we can and will do better, in the name of the Lord.