As you know, our church does not accept people who are already Christians as new members. Although most of our church members approve of this policy, some are against it. They argue that the church, as a loving community, should accept believers who have been hurt by other churches and aren’t currently members of any church at all. They frequently quote Jesus’ parable of the shepherd who leaves ninety-nine sheep to find a lost one.
I’m not sure that this parable applies to these people. The lost sheep in the parable refer to people outside the Kingdom – the unsaved. People who have been hurt by the church are usually believers who were disappointed in their churches. Far from being helpless, innocent lambs, they are usually strong-willed and opinionated people with particular ideas about church. They may have been hurt by the church, but they are likely to have hurt the church as well.
These people are usually hurt by church leaders, especially pastors, most typically when they force people who are not even saved to be involved in church ministries or make them church officers when they aren’t spiritually mature.
Hurt people tend to blame everyone but themselves for their hurts. But for them to be truly healed, they need to acknowledge that they are also partially responsible. Otherwise, even if we allow them in our church, they’ll find a reason to get hurt again by our church and leave.
I had this experience when I first came to Seoul Baptist. An old church member who hadn’t attended church for a long time was excited about my coming to Houston, and started coming to church again. But he was soon “hurt” over some small matters and left the church again.
If you have been hurt by the church and want to be healed, you must take responsibility for the part you played. You must acknowledge that you are as much an offender as a victim, because true healing occurs through forgiveness and repentance. When you blame everything on other people, there’s no room for forgiveness and repentance. When people like these are brought into the church, they will inevitably be hurt again somehow.
Many churches are eager to help people like these. Let them. For us, we must focus on reaching people who are not saved, who have never been members of any church.
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