By Robin Mullins Senger
More than likely, at some point in your life, you have been wounded by a pastor.
I want to bring up a subject that will hit close to home for many of you. This one issue is the reason why many of you have never allowed yourself to get to know God in the first place, or have turned away from Him. More than likely, at some point in your life, you have been wounded by a pastor.
I have also been very hurt by church leadership. I would like to tell you the beginning of my experiences with the church, so that you will know I don’t say lightly that God is not to blame for it, and forgiveness is crucial. Truly, I have lived this.
I grew up hearing my parents talk about the hypocrisy of the churches in our small town. My first impressions of organized religion were of hypocrisy and bad times for my parents, whom I knew to love God and try to live out their faith.
At times, they stood against corruption in the church, and would be told to leave or simply frozen out. So mostly we were unchurched.
But as a restless teen, my parents reluctantly decided to start attending church again.
There was a new pastor in town, who was doing exciting things with the youth group.
Mom and dad thought it might provide me with some needed socialization (since I was home-schooled). All it did was introduce me to my own personal experiences with pastoral corruption, but they couldn’t know that. They meant well.
I started attending the youth group, and my mom became the new pastor’s secretary before long. I will call this pastor “Chris.” Chris took a special interest in me and one other teenage girl in the youth group. He told my mom that I needed to get private counseling from him for all my inner problems. Though I was restless and unhappy at 16, I certainly was not rebelling and full of inner problems he needed to fix. But mom and dad thought it might be beneficial, so I was encouraged to go.
Alone in his closed door office, Chris would talk to me and suggest problems I was having. If I denied it, he would say that I was suppressing deep issues, was deeply wounded, and needed more counseling. Before long he talked my parents into taking me to another city to see some psychological expert. He wanted to prove to my doubtful parents that I was indeed deeply troubled and needed to continue counseling with him.
So we drove a few hours away to this respected expert and talked. The expert’s report to Chris and my parents was this: Robin is a lovely young lady. I feel that aside from typical teenage growing pains, she is normal and emotionally healthy. If I had a daughter, I would want her to be like Robin.
Chris’s response? Suddenly his expert was a dummy: Obviously Robin lied to him and fooled him. This proves how conniving and deceitful Robin is.
I had to attend more counseling sessions.
Chris would wear sweat pants and come around to “comfort” me, placing his aroused groin against my cheek as he “soothed my pain.”
He would pull out of his locked desk drawer girlie magazines, and make me promise not to tell anyone. After a while, he decided I was so traumatized and wounded by the so called “abuse” by my parents, that I needed to go to Child Services and report the abuse.
He said he had already spoken to them, and if I would confirm the abuse, I would be removed from my parents house, and Child Services would release me to Chris’ care. I would live at his house and he would provide me safety and therapy. I’m sure you can imagine the “therapy” he had in mind.
I refused to do what the pastor demanded. I had passively tolerated enough of what I considered idiocy.
I knew I wasn’t abused, and I wasn’t about to turn my parents in for something they did not do. Chris was also telling the other girl to turn her parents in for abuse and come live with him. Sadly, she complied.
Her parents were devastated by the false accusations. She went to live with Chris, and her family suffered tremendously under the injustice. Her path in life went on a downward spiral, and it was many years before I heard of any healing and restoration taking place with her estranged family.
At the same time, my mother, working in the office was growing suspicious about Chris’ activity.
Not willing to turn a blind eye to it, she quietly started investigating Chris’ past by calling previous churches and questioning members. What was exposed was that he had left a trail of wounded and destroyed families, and churches behind him. His MO was the same everywhere he went. Evidence appeared of drug dealing and theft. People in our church started questioning his odd behavior.
The last time I was alone with him, he demanded once again that I turn in my parents and come live with him. I was very frightened as I shook my head no, but tried hard not to show it. He was extremely intimidating. He sat behind his massive heavy oak desk glaring at me.
Finally he hissed at me:
“If you EVER tell anyone what has gone on in this office between you and me, I will break every bone in your body. Do you see this [oak] desk? I had one like this at the last church, and a teenage girl in my youth group made me angry. I broke the desk in half with my fist. I will do the same thing to you. I will break both your arms, and both your legs if you ever say anything. Do you understand that clearly?”
I nodded yes. He stared hard at me and then I was excused with a wave of his hand, never invited back for any more “counseling” sessions.
A few weeks later, he hastily packed and disappeared without a word one Sunday morning before the service, leaving the congregation hanging without a pastor to preach the sermon. He merely left behind a brief note on his desk to be found and read to the congregation.
For the next several years, I drifted in and out of churches. At one point I was briefly married to a pastor. He was eventually exposed for molesting little boys before preaching the sermon.
I watched many come into church, hopeful and joyous in a new faith, or hesitating but wanting to give church another chance. Repeatedly, these beautiful people and families drifted back out, wounded, and blaming God. It broke my heart to see them become bitter toward God. I knew God’s heart broke for them and their pain.
But God was not the one hurting them! Would you like to be blamed and rejected for someone else's wrongdoing? Perhaps you also feel wounded and betrayed by God, and have put up a wall between the two of you.
God wants you to know He did NOT cause that pain.
He grieves for you, and longs for you to see Him for who He is: your loving Heavenly Daddy who would never do anything to cause you harm. Regardless of your confusion and anger, He continues to watch over you and your loved ones, because He loves you with an everlasting love that just won’t quit.
He longs for you to return to Him and embrace that love, and allow Him to heal your pain.
Sinful mankind from the beginning of time have done great evil in the name of God. God did not make Chris act the way he did. That is the behavior of someone who serves himself, not God. God will deal with Chris. I was thankful to the Lord for helping me to see the truth and not get sucked into his trail of devastation. My parents and I were in that mess, but we were protected through it.
God used my mom to expose the truth, and helped me to be strong in the face of his intimidation. He watched over others too, and to the best of my knowledge, helped unite the other girl with her family in time.
God can turn around what has happened to you in the church, and turn it for good if you will let Him. Run TO Him, not away from Him! Look beyond people and to God who forever remains good and true and absolutely trustworthy. He alone is our hope and safety and help in times of trouble.
Jeremiah 23:1 - "What sorrow awaits the leaders of my people--the shepherds of my sheep--for they have destroyed and scattered the very ones they were expected to care for," says the LORD.
"But make His Kingdom the object of your pursuit, and these things shall be given you in addition. Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom." Luke 12:31-32