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Michael Ruttlen: Church hurt: Cause, effect and restoration

Michael Ruttlen • Updated Aug 25, 2017 at 5:00 PM

The greatest response from a survey I wrote about last week came from the question, “How have you been hurt?” After reading and completing the graph, I paused in a tearing moment.

The defining topics, according to Wikipedia, include:

• 59 percent said hypocrisy – “the practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one’s own behavior does not conform; pretense.”

• 23 percent said pastoral misconduct – “unacceptable or improper behavior, mismanagement, especially culpable neglect of duties.”

• 10 percent said nepotism – “the practice among those with power or influence of favoring relatives or friends, especially by giving them jobs.”

• 9 percent said sexual immorality – “the evil ascribed to sexual acts that violate social conventions.”

Fifty-nine percent of the surveys reviewed reflected the hurt of hypocrisy. Here are a few anonymous quotes:

• “When I went to church, I expected to find the love of Christ, but instead, I was talked about and judged for what I was not. It was very hurtful and made me never want to go to church again.”

• “Church people say one thing then do another. I was visiting this one church off and on, which I really enjoyed. They were praising, shouting, laying hands, and the experience gave me a good feeling, and I began to trust again. One night, I decided to go to the club with my girls, and low and behold the same lady who was jumping, shouting and laying hands was in the club doing some ungodly stuff. That’s when I said to myself, “church folks ain’t no different than the people in the streets; they are just hypocrites.”

• “I went to church because I felt like I needed to be forgiven for some of things that I did in the past that I knew were wrong. I was greeted with a smile, and the people seemed to be very friendly until they found out about my past. At first I didn’t understand the sudden change in attitude. I just figured some of the people were going through a few things like myself, so I continued to go to church with hopes of becoming a part of the ministry. I asked the choir director if I could sing in the choir. He told me to ask the pastor. Well, I did, and I was told no by the pastor. I asked why, and he told me because of my past. I was devastated. I have since left that church, but the hurt still has not left me. It has made me bitter and distrustful. The very people who I thought wouldn’t judge me for my past sins where the ones who hurt me the most. They were hypocrites.”

These individuals asked that their names be kept anonymous so they could speak freely.

Twenty-three percent of the surveys reviewed reflected the hurt of pastoral misconduct. Here are a few quotes:

• “I was raised in a Pentecostal church all of my life; I was so faithful to the cause that I would never even consider visiting another church 

Throughout the years, I sang in the choir and participated in as many activities as possible, excited to do so. Before long, I had grown into an adult, still didn’t have a job, still living with my mom but still going to church. As an adult, I noticed the pastor showing a lot of favoritism to those who had money, even to the point he would barely speak to anyone who was not giving a lot of money. I thought, maybe I’m just thinking too much, until he began to preach about the givers and those who he felt were not giving enough. He preached what I felt and thought. After all the years of dedication and participation, my pastor made me feel like I was lower than a dog. I was heartbroken and never wanted to go to church again. That was 20 years ago, and I still do not like pastors. The effect that experience had on my life was traumatic to the point that it has caused me to hinder my own blessings. I now go to church sporadically, trying my best to recover from my personal experience with church hurt.”

This will be continued in next week’s faith column. Keep watch…

Michael Ruttlen Sr. is senior pastor of Pickett-Rucker United Methodist Church in Lebanon. Preacher’s Corner features a new local preacher each month writing a column. 


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