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A friend of mine whom I deeply respect told me a few weeks ago that he thinks I speak of the church with contempt. He said he finds it oppressive and ungracious. How wonderful to have friends who can lovingly rebuke me!

But it’s got me thinking about my attitude to the church. We’ve had discussions on here before about the failure of the church. I’ve said that my experiences of ‘the church’ (and several churches) are pretty negative on both structural and interpersonal levels: abuse, hurt, heresy, poor management, slander, etc. Some days I’m amazed I want to be a Christian, let alone in ministry! (But then there’s a reason we don’t want to be church planters / pastors.)

I think being a ministry kid is part of the equation. I never felt angry with my parents for being in ministry but I did feel angry with the church (and people in the church) for how my parents and we as a family were treated. I might have gone ‘into ministry’ in 2007, and been ‘doing ministry’ since 2001, but in reality, my ministry life started much earlier. I’ve got 25 years of hurtful things to come to terms with, not just 5 or 10 years. And it’s not just my pain either. It’s also being powerless to do anything while you see family and friends hurt as well.

The temptation is to say that unforgiveness is justified; that bitterness is inevitable. That there’s just too much stuff to deal with. But that’s not the way of the gospel or of the Great Healer.

Here’s how I usually deal with this sort of pain. I call the church what it is. When things go down hill in a particular situation, I predict what will happen next. Sometimes I’m flippant about a situation that is actually really serious. On one hand it’s a defense mechanism, a refusal to be too optimistic, to be let down again.

But on another level, it’s a deep commitment that I will continue to engage with this deeply flawed and astoundingly inefficient monstrosity. I won’t cover up its inadequacies or its barbs. But I will trust that one day Jesus will heal them. And me.

If I’m contemptuous of the church, it’s a symptom of my own brokenness. I’m trusting that one day I will be able to love the church. And trusting that Jesus is working in me now, by giving me my wonderful rebuking friend.

Ministry kids, how do you process your experiences?

Everyone else, how do you deal with your brokenness?

Categories: Written by Tamie

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Tamie Davis

Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at

6 replies

  1. I am easily irritated when people conflate (a) the Body of Christ and (b) some part thereof with its man-made structures and try to prohibit criticism of the latter!

    I am a “ministry friend” and I am contemptuous of much of the man-made, non-core parts of church, particularly where it has hurt my friends.

  2. I am a “ministry kid,” also training for ministry…

    I guess to answer your question, I process my experiences through my optimism, because I am an optimist, am trying to be the change I want to see in the church.

    Also, I developed an unhealthy sense of cynicism about individuals and their motives. And about denominations and other people in ministry…

    But I also don’t get angsty at a Institutions for being full of sinners, or individuals for being sinful – they is what they is… and I’m not sure I expect that to change substantially this side of heaven, because you’ll always have people at different stages of maturity within a group.

  3. As a ministry kid I’ve experienced some of the hurt that you’ve mentioned. I think processing it and remaining part of the church and even in ministry involves pursuing our own repentance and ability to forgive, as we are called to as Christians anyway (remember the parable of the ungrateful debtor). Hurt and cynicism can become a ‘beam’ in our eye. To be overly censorious of the church or even the ‘man-made’ parts of it forgets that our justification is by grace through faith.

    The church is worse than we hope but not as bad as pain and disappointment make it seem. And as you say it is therapeutic to be realistic about the dark side and foolish things in the church and laugh about them if we can. The only other options seem to be fanaticism or despair.

  4. I’m a wanna-be minister’s kid. My dad grew up plymouth (exclusive) brethren and later completed his first two years of ministry training with Churches of Christ in Sydney. He left to start his own business, but I went through a string of churches growing up.

    The pattern (in hindsight) was “First year honeymoon, second year involved with leadership, third year leave (or be asked to)”. It means that I’ve got a wide experience of the things that various denominations and churches have to offer.

    When I got older, I spent time in music ministry, and eventually burnt out.

    After a while, you stop seeing the people and start seeing the patterns. I’m deeply cynical now, and I really don’t know how to break that cynicism.

    I’m still in church, but I skate around the periphery. The church we’re in now is the first one I’ve been regularly in over a decade that I haven’t felt constantly on the defensive (but there’s more to that as well…)

    Added your blog to my RSS reader.

  5. For me (I’m not a ministry kid), I reckon my engagement with the Church has to come from a place of solidarity with it. And not just solidarity in belonging, but solidarity in brokenness, recognising that the Church is no worse than I am and that I am no better than the Church. The moment I hold the Church at arm’s length in judgement, I’ve forgotten the forgiveness of my own sins.

    And I’m not talking in the abstract: this involves specific denominations, local congregations, leaders, and so on. As Tamie was saying earlier this year, it’s deeply inconvenient

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