I find it interesting that when we become vulnerable enough to “confess” to something we’ve done, all kinds of people come out of the woodwork to confess the same thing. I find that:
REAL connection with others comes when we become REAL about who we are. Click To Tweet
Lately I’ve been surprised to hear how many people have been kicked out of, or more politely stated, “disfellowshipped,” from church. I can understand a person’s hesitancy to share this detail about their lives as there is usually some reason for this practice. It is something I myself was ashamed of for many years.
Welcome to FREEDOM FRIDAY – A devotional, emotional, spiritual and sometimes hysterical series that I will be sharing on occasional Fridays, in addition to my regular Old Things New posts. Why? Because though once bound in chains Christ has set me free – FREE to live, to love, to dance, to sing, to be who God created me to be!
It was twenty-five years ago that I was disfellowshipped from my church. After the action I was given an audio tape to listen to the church meeting where they discussed the reason for my oust and told the congregation that if they ran into me they could say, “Hello,” but they could no longer be my friends. As I further listened I felt crushed to hear church members being told things about me that weren’t true, but the manufacture of the one and only person who ever came to speak to me about the situation. When I later tried to get church leadership to hear my story, my request was met with silence. I willingly admit my part in making bad choices, but the lies and the refusal to be heard hurt deeply.
Over the next couple of years I tried to find a different church, but everywhere I went I ran into someone who knew, or thought they knew, my story. At one church we visited I saw a couple I was acquainted with, and when the husband saw me all he had to say was, “I know who YOU are!”
Then there was the church that I thought might be the one, except for this one woman (someone from my old church) who felt it her duty to say to me every Sunday, “I’m still trying to forgive you.”
Really? Forgive me for what? What did I ever do to her?
I longed for someone to hear my side of the story, but the 1 or 2 church people I shared with chose to keep me at a distance. I longed for truth yet who was I, the guilty one, to be believed?
It is no surprise then that I became church-shy. So afraid of being called out and so hurt by the lies that people believed that I stopped going to church altogether, along with my husband and two daughters. I’m sad to say that I stayed away for several years. And my daughters? I still wait for their return.
When my hubby and I eventually did settle back into a church it was a place that accepted me (us) just as we were, even knowing our full story. They had a huge part in our healing and, boy-oh-boy, did I need healing!
With healing came a call to share our hope with others and we started directing a ministry called Freedom Session. With my own forgiveness toward the church I eventually came to a place where it didn’t really matter who heard that part of my story or even that they believed me. It still amazes me that: When we share our faults with one another, the devil's power to shame us is shattered into a million pieces. Click To Tweet
So, by now you must be wondering at my title! The Day the Church Asked for my Forgiveness Click To Tweet
It was a couple of months ago when we took a trip back to Seattle. Hubby and I were sitting in a restaurant with two other couples, both Pastors of churches.
Somehow the grand subject of the time I was disfellowshipped came up in the conversation. Haha! I can’t tell you how a subject like that might have come to be, but I remember that as I spoke Pastor Nathan, who was sitting a couple of seats down from me, leaned in, eyes locked on mine, and asked, “Has the church ever asked for your forgiveness?”
I may have given a slight laugh of disbelief before replying, “Oh no! They would never ask for forgiveness from me!”
Everyone around the table was listening now, as people tend to do when Nathan speaks.
“Tell me, WHO is the church?,” he questioned.
A light began to dawn in my head and shine right down into the farthest reaches of my heart.
“We are. We are the church,” I answered.
Nodding, Nathan asked my permission to speak on behalf of the church who hurt me.
With compassion in his eyes he began, “Patti, on behalf of the church I want to say that I am sorry for the ways in which we wronged you. I’m sorry for the pain we caused you and the pain we’ve caused your children. We. Were. Wrong.”
Simple words yes, but words that caused long neglected places of my heart to push tears to my eyes and wash away the final remnants of hurt. In this asking of forgiveness on behalf of the church I believe that chains were broken in spiritual places that not only benefit me but will also touch my wounded daughters, not to mention the very church that wronged me. I sincerely pray that this is so.
I’m writing this post today because I know that there are those of you who have been wounded by the church and who use that as a reason to stay away from fellowship. I don’t judge you for that. You’ve suffered hurt, fear, maybe even shame. You may also experience feelings of rejection or, as was once the case with me, the feeling that you will never be good enough.
I promise you this: If you are staying away from church fellowship we miss you and we need you. Click To Tweet We may be a messed up and imperfect people yet we ARE the church and if you are a Christ follower, so are you.
Maybe you’ve been waiting for an apology from those who wounded you. Then I, as a part of those who make up “the church,” want to say to you right now that I am deeply sorry for the things we did to hurt you. God calls us to restore those who have fallen with love. Maybe you haven’t felt that from us. Again, I’m sorry.
I sincerely hope and pray that when you are ready you will find it in your heart to forgive us. There are many of us here who have been broken just like you and we will be here waiting, arms wide open, to welcome you back.
With utmost love and affection,
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I just want to let you know I really enjoy your blog. You have a wonderful way of putting your feelings into words that are so deeply felt. Thank you for sharing.
Thank you so much Tracy. It means so much to me to hear words like yours, especially when I tackle a subject that is a little harder than a simple home decor post. Bless you!
Patti, I feel like I am a good Christian but I am not a good Church goer. Unfortunately I think a majority of people that go to church, go to be seen. I think if you collapsed in front of them, they would walk over you. I used to work with a very, very, VERY Religious man who made snide comments about my Religion not being allowed to eat meat on Fridays during Lent. I told him I didn’t know a lot of Bible verses but the one that stuck in my mind was “Judge not lest ye be judged.” He apologized to me after that. I never close my eyes at night without saying my prayers and I talk to God all the time. If someone is sick, I bring a meal and I try to help everyone I meet. I do appreciate you sharing your story. Thank you.
Thank you for commenting on my post Patty. Nice name! I hope you know that I don’t judge you for not going to church and I believe that you do have a relationship with God. My concern for you and others who don’t have fellowship with other Christ followers is the loneliness of doing life all alone. Though I was wounded in relationship (by church people) I also found my healing in relationship. After being hurt I’ll admit that I was careful to choose trustworthy and mature people to share my heart with and the love I was shown meant everything to me. As for your belief that the majority of people go to church to be seen, I don’t know what is in people’s hearts and that may indeed be the case for some people. My thought is that if they are going to be seen maybe they’ll pick up on some good Bible teaching along the way and have a heart change. After years of living apart from other Christ followers, I am blessed to have the most amazing friends. Friends who have been with me when I’ve been on top of the mountain and who go right along with me when I slide down into deep valleys. They go with me to take my arms and hold me up until I can stand on my own again. I can’t imagine now doing life with my praying friends and my concern for you is that you may miss out on these types of friendships. Again, thank you for writing and expressing your opinion Patty. I pray God’s richest blessings over you. Hugs, Patti
Trisha Flaherty says
I have found that all the “Christians” are Catholic haters —- not very Christian like now is it? I am a born and raised Catholic, I love my faith, and I LOVE JESUS, GOD AND THE HOLY SPIRIT, and THE BLESSED MOTHER MARY. I don’t care that all these “Christians” aren’t Catholic and believe the same things I do, however, I cannot understand why they are raised to be Catholic haters. I seriously don’t get it.
Oh my goodness Trisha, I am so sad you feel this way. I myself go to a non-denominational Christian church and I don’t feel this way at all about Catholics. I know there are many sects of Christianity (Protestant and Catholic), and that the teachings within them vary, but I’m also pretty sure that in the end, when we stand before God, we will find out that we were all wrong about in some of the ways we interpreted Scripture! Our doctrines and religious practices are not what will get us into Heaven. Thankfully, it all about relationship with Him. Just last night we had a dinner in our home with Baptists, Methodists, and Non-denominational people and hubby and I shared about our friend (who just became a Catholic priest) and how beautiful it was to see him do his first mass last weekend. We may worship in a very different ways but a heart dedicated to loving and serving God what HE desires. Thank you for writing and God’s riches blessings upon you dear Trisha.
Liz Rigby says
Although I am Baptist, one of the women who practically raised me, who put a lot of time into teaching me everything from reading to making my bed to folding laundry, was Catholic. I believe as long as we’re reading the Bible and being guided by its truths, we will find the right way, regardless of what that way is called.
Yes Liz! It is all about the heart!
Susan Shipe says
Oh this is rich.
Haha! I hope that’s a good thing Susan. Hugs friend 🙂
I can certainly understand why people leave the church. I went through a season when I refused to go because the church was full of “hypocrites”. When I finally returned, I realized I was not saved. It was when I understood the difference between a relationship and a religion that I truly understood how messed up and broken we all are and that we all need a Savior. Unfortunately, there are plenty of church people who still think that we must be good to get into Heaven. They are the ones that are extremely judgmental. I know because I was one of those. And I was married to a PK!
Ah yes Mei, the difference between relationship and religion makes all the difference in how we treat others and ourselves. The Pharisees were the “religious folk” of the Bible and look what they did to Jesus. All in God’s plan though as He laid down His life to cover our sin and took away the need to strive for perfectionism. Maybe some of the religious folk of today haven’t taken that to heart. 🙂 I didn’t know you were married to a PK. Seems we have a lot more talkin’ to do my friend.
Joanie McLaughlin says
Thank you for sharing your heart. I’m glad you are finding healing for the hurts of your younger days. I pray your daughters will find their peace with God and the Church also.
Thank you Joanie. Healing took time but most of pain was directed more toward myself (shame) than at the church, most of whom I knew were good people. I do appreciate your prayers.
Beautifully written my sweet friend. Out of brokenness comes healing. I need your freedom sessions! Love you much
Thank you Elaine. I do hope you can do Freedom Session one day when you move back to the Pacific N.W. Good things are happening in our old church and in the community because of it. It blesses me so much to know that it is still going strong and bringing healing to many. God bless you in your current place. I know it far from children and the grands but sometimes a place of quiet, and more time with the Lord, can be good. Preparation for future things to come. Love you too!
Thank you for sharing. It made me think of john8:1-11. We don’t know what Jesus wrote in the sand but whatever it was made the church leaders silent. It really makes one think of forgiveness and mercy.
Thank you Caryn. Again, I’m not saying I was innocent but the fact that I had no voice, and that people believed lies, was the most hurtful thing. Sadly churches make a lot of mistakes.
I loved your post. And if you helped just ONE person (I’m sure you did), it was worth having to go through.
People don’t realize how hurtful they can be. The “church” is made up of sinners. We NEED the fellowship and the teaching. When the majority run somebody out….well. I have to think that despite the hurt, you might just be better off without that specific group. God used your situation to help you grow, so that you could help others.
I heard Perry Stone using a line that I always use when he was preaching. I was like, “Hey! You stole my line!” LOL But I am glad he did!!! He said that if a mechanic takes advantage of you do you never take your car in for service again? (That is the one I say!!!) Or if you get food poisoning at a restaurant do you never eat out again? NO! You take your business elsewhere! You move on!
It isn’t always easy. But it’s worth it in the end.
Yes Robin, and I can honestly say that every hard and hurtful thing I’ve been through God has been able to turn around for His good! I like the illustrations you shared from Perry Stone, even if he stole your words. LOL! My husband always says, “I’m thankful for everything . . . eventually.” God is GOOD!
Debbie Kitterman says
Oh Patti – Your writing and story is so powerful… in fact, I think, this is one of your strongest, rawest, Freedom Friday post to date. I am so very grateful for the light being shined into the depths of your being and the chains falling off! Hallelujah praise Jesus and I am so very grateful for the wisdom and tenderness with which Pastor Nathan spoke to you that day! There is power in the truth of the Word being spoken. Love you my friend.
Thank you Debbie. Of course you were there to witness the event and Nathan’s amazing way of ministering to people. I started writing this shortly after we arrived home but didn’t feel like it was a post for the Christmas season. LOL! Anyway, thank you for your words of encouragement. I appreciate having in you in my life so very much. Iron sharpening iron you know! I hope and pray that we’ll be together again soon 🙂 Love you <3
Patti, your blogs so often touch me deeply. This one was extra touching. I’ve been “in the church” all my life, being a PK. I have experienced a few hurts myself because of people in church, mostly since being an adult and not under my own dad’s ministry. Unfortunately, some of those were even church leaders. At one point a few years ago, my husband and I stopped attending church for a time. I missed it terribly. But healing came! We are now in ministry ourselves. Not one person goes out the door on Sunday morning without knowing they are loved.
Wow Janet! It surprises me how many Pastors I know who’ve been hurt (even disfellowshipped) by the churches in their pasts! I’m thankful for the healing God brought into your life and for the love you show the people of your current church. As Ann Voskamp says in her latest book, “Our most meaningful purpose can be found exactly in our most painful brokenness.”
You are the type of ministers we need! Praise God for you and may He bless your ministry richly! LOVE!
Liz Rigby says
I’ve never understood churches that do this…I have only once in my entire life seen someone “unchurched” and her story was well proven and she was clearly rebelliously unrepentant. Your story is astounding, not only in the way you were treated, but also in your gracious heart allowing God to heal you instead of turning your back on Him forever because of some Pharisees. He is so good! And I appreciate that pastor’s heart of apology and love.
Thank you for this Liz. As I’ve said to other’s comments (and in my post) there was reason for the church’s “concern” but the way in which it was handled turned into something so very wrong. I’m thankful though that what the enemy meant for evil in my life God eventually turned to good.
~ linda says
Powerful and beautiful! The truth of forgiveness is desperately needed in the family of God and many do not even realize it, understand it, nor be willing to give it. Such a blessing from Pastor Nathan. Hearts are touched and healed when we follow God’s will.
Thank you Linda. Pastor Jack Hayford (my personal hero) says that, “Forgiveness is the key to everything,” and I wholeheartedly agree. There are so many people walking around with unforgiveness in their hearts and wondering why they have no victory in their lives. And yes, Pastor Nathan is a blessing.
This is a beautiful piece, very touching.
I think that it is in our immaturity that we think ourselves the most mature; thinking of ourselves more highly than we ought grieves the heart of God, and yes, it brings division.
As Christians we live in a world where the prince of the power of the air does everything he can to discourage us and drag us down. It is very sad that he uses other believers.
But I’m finding that it is not my job to correct them; I am not called to control them and make them see where they are wrong to have hurt me. It is my job to humble myself under the mighty hand of God and forgive them. But I agree with Robin that it is okay to distance ourselves from those people and look for a church where God has brought together mature believers who encourage instead of discouraging. God does have those precious oases where His Spirit reigns, and we can go there and find refreshment for our parched souls. I join with Nathan in his apology.
I praise God that He is healing you and your family. Thank you for sharing this.
Thank you for writing Ruth. I agree wholeheartedly with you that it is not my job to make others see where they’ve hurt me. As I’ve said to others in reply to their comments, I had MY part in the situation that resulted in my being disfellowshipped so the church’s concern was not totally without merit. It just ended up being SO wrong in the way it was handled. That mean old “prince” tried to steal, kill, and destroy my life, and he did a pretty good job for awhile, but God had another plan and chose to use everything for His own purpose and glory. Forgiveness is the key to everything and my life has been changed because of it.
Mary Geisen says
Thank you for sharing so transparently. I love the second part of the story that I didn’t know. I’m trying to imagine the scenario when Pastor Nathan asked you who is the church and then spoke on behalf to ask for forgiveness. I would have been a puddle on the floor from the simple act of someone caring that much. Blessings and love friend!
Thank you Mary. It was an amazing and eye opening moment in time. I didn’t end up in a puddle on the floor right then but certainly had a lot to ponder and thank God for as I went away from that dinner meeting. My friend Pastor Nathan is such an insightful man, as are all my Pastor friends who were around the table that night 😉
jodie filogomo says
This post rings so true to my life, Patti!
I have found it makes my life so much less stressful to realize I’m not perfect and never will be!
Yes! That is such a relief! By the way, what fun that your blog is 50’s Plus style!
Wow, what a powerful story of Nathan stepping in and being part of your healing! May you continue to share your story so many can be encouraged! And I pray your daughters can find healing, too.
Thank you Dolly. I believe in the power of testimony and LOVE to share. God is good.
I am still walking through so much hurt and pain over my layoff from the church a few years ago. A church I helped plant along with my husband, but there has been no regard for my presence since. So much has been done to the old staff members who were laid off. So much wrong. I am hurt over it still and am looking for a new church. I wish my pastor would come and ask for forgiveness. I am looking for a new church that is a safe place to heal and grow.
Oh Barbie, I am so sorry that you are still in pain. It can take a long time to stop feeling the hurt but as we continue to say, “I forgive,” the hurt eventually becomes only a memory. It would be great if your old pastor would ask your forgiveness but, unfortunately, it probably will not happen. I, on behalf of the church, ask for your forgiveness though, and pray God’s complete healing for you. I also pray that God will bring you to a fellowship where you can feel safe in sharing your heart. The enemy would like to keep you right where you are (hurt and out of fellowship) but God has something better in store for you. His desire is to turn this all around for His glory. Believe it my friend. Love & hugs sent your way <3
Dr. Michelle Bengtson says
This was painful, powerful, and impactful. Hurt people hurt people, but as you so beautifully demonstrate, freed people free people!
Love you and your beautiful heart, my sweet friend!
Thank you my dear, DEAR friend. God is so amazing isn’t He? Every single hurt is eventually used for His good when we are faithful to follow Him. Love you and miss you bunches 🙂
Heather Hart says
Wow, Patti. This is such a touching story, I don’t even have words to adequately respond. Beautifully written and so much needed truth. Thank you for sharing this.
That is a huge compliment coming from you Heather. I’m glad my story touched your heart. Blessings to you 🙂
Valerie Sisco says
I appreciate your honest words! I’m so glad you were in a place of healing to receive your pastor friend’s words and I hope your daughters eventually find their way back into a church community. Being hurt by a place where you expect to find God’s love and acceptance is painful, but I love how you shared your healing journey with us here, friend! xo
Forgiveness and healing is so important to our spiritual walk and the ability to move forward Valerie! I’m thankful that God allowed the healing to come over this situation years ago. It was icing on cake that He worked a bit more love into my heart. Blessings friend.
Rebecca Jones says
I think that is great for the pastor to apologize on the church’s behalf. But sorry isn’t enough sometimes to ease the pain. I didn’t go to some churches because I wasn’t a jump up and downer, but I don’t like stiff either. I read a post the other day that God lets you find your voice, He will also help you find your praise and worship place as well. We need His peace to heal and mend these old wounds.
He longs to heal all of our wounds Rebecca. Sometimes it takes a long time for the pain to go away but with forgiveness it will. God’s peace to you <3
Christine Duncan says
You can immediately tell that this post comes from the heart of someone sensitive to welcoming others into fellowship… such a needed thing around this wounded ol’ world right now. Praying this gives encouragement to so many. So glad we were neighbours at #HeartEncouragement Thursday, Patti!
Thank you Christine. The core of our pain is the core of our purpose. I’m so thankful for the things the Lord has taken me through and I pray that my sensitivity to others stays right there on the surface. You are right. There are SO many wounded people in our world today. Blessings to you as you offer precepts and life preservers to your own readers.
Kathy Erickson says
What a powerful story. Thank God for that pastor was willing to ask for forgiveness on behalf of the church. I’m ashamed of the ways the church has treated people. It is an important story for us to hear from your perspective. Thanks for sharing!
Thank you Kathy. There are so many people who’ve been hurt and forgiveness on BOTH sides is the key to freedom. What a blessing that Pastor Nathan has an ear to listen to God’s voice in his ministry to people.
Pam Ecrement says
Powerfully and beautifully written, Patti. Thanks so much for sharing this witness and testimony! I have not experienced the level of wounding you have, but I have known wounding from the body of Christ in the church as well. I also was a professional Christian counselor for nearly 30 years and heard it from so very many. I think the Lord’s heart must grieve at how poorly we can sometimes love each other. What Nathan did for you is such a gift and his words so on target. We all are the church. I pray your daughters will one day find a better representation of Him in a body of believers. I continue to connect with the daughter of a senior pastor where I worked on staff for a period of time who was so wounded by her father and the church when she was called up front and disciplined when she got pregnant out of wedlock as a teenager. (That happened before we became a part of that body.) He was more concerned about that than how she was first molested as a child by a church member. Blessings on you and your courage! Happy to be your neighbor at Moments of Hope.
It is so good to hear from you Pam. I find it surprising how many church people have been wounded by the church in some manner. It saddens me when they make the choice to leave church altogether and I can’t even imagine what a bad light it shines on Christianity. How sad about the pastor’s daughter that you keep in touch with but I’m glad she has you in her life. Her situation is a whole “nuther” story I could write on. Anyway, thank you for writing and blessings to you! I thoroughly enjoy your blog by the way!
Gina Kelly says
What a powerful story of hope and healing you shared! Thank you for being brave enough to tell your story. I, too, thank God for sending Pastor Nathan to you at just that perfect moment to speak words of life and love into your heart and family. How amazing is the healing that comes when we extend grace to each other! Your story touched me today. I am sharing this post because I believe many others will benefit from it as well.
Thank you so much Gina. Pastor Nathan has a rare gift of insight and speaking healing into people’s lives and we are blessed to call him our friend. And you, my dear, are also amazing. Prayer warrior, exhorter, world changer.
Crystal Twaddell says
Patti, you have captured the true essence of what church should be, a place of hope and genuine forgivenss, and it is beautiful! Thank you for sharing and touching a deep place for many of us.
Thank YOU Crystal for taking the time to comment. I pray that the blessing Pastor Nathan gave me will be passed on to many!
Lori Schumaker says
So very touching and beautifully presented. From the heart, to the words, to the images – breathtaking. It’s so tragic that church is where many have experienced their deepest hurts. It’s the story of way too many. I’m so thankful you eventually found your way back into a community of believers and I will add your children to my prayers. The brokenness within the church is not the Church or all churches. There is hope and community, love and encouragement still there. I pray your message reaches many! Thank you so much for sharing this beautiful hope-filled post at #MomentsofHope!
Blessings and smiles,
Thank you Lori for your taking the time to comment on this post and to share it as a feature on your website. I am truly honored. There is indeed hope and we are God’s hope-bearers! How great is that? Blessings friend 😉
Patti, This was just beautiful. The way the pastor asked for forgiveness because WE are the church. Oh my! That concept had just never crossed my mind. Thank you for sharing your painful experience. It most certainly will bring healing to others. Leslie #MomentsofHope
Thank you for commenting on this post Leslie. And, “Oh my!,” is right! What a great encouragement Pastor Nathan is to me and others.
Visiting from moments of hope. I grew up in a brethren church (google it) and I always disliked, no hated when people were read out of fellowship. The thing is they were “read out” but many never came back. It struck me as missing the whole point of Christianity. So I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for people that were in this position. Thanks for sharing.
Thank you so much for commenting on your own experience on people being “read out” of fellowship by the church. It is SO sad that many people never return. God simply wouldn’t let me go and for that I am forever grateful. God bless 🙂
I enjoyed this post! I’m so glad you received forgiveness and are on the journey to healing!
This touched my heart in so many ways. I don’t know your story but I have heard your story far too many times. I maybe don’t have the same details but were were asked to leave a church, in not so many words, too, and I am still waiting for loves I love to make their way back. In all honesty, though I attend, I am always there at a distance. And I have said those same words that Pastor said to people I have listened to as they share their hurts, reminding them that God is full of so much more mercy than we unloving creations of his heart can often be.
Thanks for sharing this at Lori’s Moments of Hope link up. I am blessed to have stopped by.
Aw, thank you Dawn for taking the time to stop by and leave such a sweet comment. I am so sorry you’ve had a similar experience and pray that your heart is finding healing from the hurt. Blessings to you and your loved ones.