Healing Your Church Hurt (Tyndale/Barna, 2013)
Author and former pastor Stephen Mansfield bases this book on the loss of his ten-year pastorate “amidst conflict and uproar”, chronicling and modeling his journey from woundedness to subsequent healing with refreshing candor. Mr. Mansfield compares church hurt to a splinter in our souls working its way to the surface. In order for that splinter to be removed, during that wounded season of darkness we must loosen our death grip on what we should have left alone in the first place- bitterness, pride, self-pity, and the need for revenge. Furthermore, attempting to justify our church hurt by getting our version of the facts validated never will set us free. Carrying inner hope that we will be justified is instead a sign that we haven’t forgiven.
The author emphasizes that our calling is not lost despite being chewed up and spit out by the church: “We are not called despite our wounding and betrayal; we are wounded and betrayed because we are called.” This knowledge enables us to live safely and effectively in a fallen world. When we know people as they are, we can love them as Jesus does. As we examine our woundedness to determine what we need to know in order to heal and restore, we can redeem our pain through ministry to other hurting people.
There is life to be found in our desert seasons, but we have to dig for it in ways we haven’t yet tried. To accomplish this we must patiently and persistently seek permanent answers, not short-term solutions. For nothing that happened in our wounding experience is worth taking the bait of bitterness and offense. Forgiveness is a crucial ingredient in this healing process. Mr. Mansfield believes the essential key to forgiveness is what he terms “the hook of compassion”- finding the compassionate narrative behind the harmful actions against us. Through the process of forgiving, Jesus is cleansing the surface of our lives, positioning us to welcome a much deeper work of God and enabling us to come home again.