An Apology Letter for the Way You Were Hurt at My Church

Dear Friend,

It seems like it was just yesterday.

My younger brother was in trouble – again.

Almost nightly, it seemed, he was getting a spanking or having to atone for something he had done that particular day.

I think I was about 10 years old, and he was about 7.

This post has been reposted and shared as much as almost anything I've written this year. And, I've received more comments and feedback about this article than any other article I've ever written. If you've been greatly hurt at church (or by church people), this article is for you. Or, if you have a friend who's been deeply wounded, you might want to share this post with that friend.

I don’t remember what prompted me, but I did something rather crazy on that night: I offered to stand in and take his punishment for him.

My parents looked at me in disbelief, but they allowed me to substitute for him and take his place.

(We lived in a day when children were expected to do as they were told. If you disobeyed, you were punished.)

If you did something really bad, you got three spankings from my dad – with his belt.

I think my dad eased off on the pressure that night, but I got spanked none the less.

There were some tears, there were some hugs and there was one very grateful younger brother.

He’d been graced with a “proxy” – someone to stand in for him and be his substitute.

Like that night so long ago, I’d like to offer today to stand in as a “proxy” in another area.

A proxy is merely a substitute, a person who represents another in a certain situation.

Over the past few days, weeks and months, I’ve heard stories from men and women across the country who have been deeply wounded by their churches, their pastors, their ministers, their priests, their fellow congregants, their Bible study leaders or someone else in a church or religious setting.

I’ve talked to some of you who’ve been out of church for just a few weeks and others of you who haven’t darkened a church door in 20 years.

I’ve talked to some who will never go to church again and others who have been more open to going back in the future.

I’d like to ask a special favor of you today, especially of my friends who have been deeply wounded by, in or in association with a church – can I act as a proxy today, a stand-in for that church or that person who hurt you so much?

This post has been reposted and shared as much as almost anything I've written this year. And, I've received more comments and feedback about this article than any other article I've ever written. If you've been greatly hurt at church (or by church people), this article is for you. Or, if you have a friend who's been deeply wounded, you might want to share this post with that friend.

I know I’m not your former pastor, but I’m a pastor’s wife.

I’m likely not the minister or staff member who hurt you, but I’ve been on staff at 3 churches.

I’m probably not that teacher or Bible study leader that wounded you, but I have been in both of those roles, and I am certain I’ve wounded people.

Your pain might not have come from something I’ve said or done, but I’ve certainly said and done plenty to wound and to cause pain.

So, I’d like to appropriate myself as your “proxy” pastor, proxy minister, proxy fellow church member, proxy teacher, proxy leader or proxy whoever hurt you.

And, I’d like to apologize to you today.

~ I’m sorry that we let you down.

~ I’m sorry that we hurt you when you were already in so much pain.

~ I’m sorry that we didn’t call when you had your surgery.

~ I’m sorry that we misunderstood your actions and treated you with such harshness.

~ I’m sorry that we ignored you and didn’t notice your need.

~ I’m really sorry that we left you out and stayed in our own little clique.

~ I’m sorry that we didn’t check up on you when you missed week after week.

~ I’m sorry that we didn’t call your teenager when he or she started pulling away from church.

~ I’m sorry that we judged you unfairly.

~ I’m sorry that we weren’t there for you when you were going through your divorce.

~ I’m sorry that we didn’t even talk to you when you came to the party.

~ I’m sorry that we didn’t help you when you moved.

~ I’m sorry that we didn’t walk through your cancer treatments with you.

~ I’m sorry that we didn’t come to visit you when you were in the hospital.

~ I’m sorry that we didn’t invite you to join us for lunch or for any other function.

~ I’m sorry that we didn’t show you hospitality.

~ I’m sorry that we all talked to each other and never turned to engage you in conversation.

~ I’m sorry that we didn’t involve you or invite you to use your gifts.

~ I’m sorry that our teenagers hurt your teenagers.

~ I’m just sorry that we hurt you and wounded you.

~ I’m sorry that we were rude and unkind and inconsiderate.

~ I’m sorry that we were so sarcastic in the way that we spoke to you.

~ I’m sorry that we didn’t show you love and compassion as we should have.

~ I’m sorry for the cruel comments that we made to you and to each other.

~ I’m sorry that we didn’t show you the love and grace of our Lord.

It wasn’t necessarily intentional or purposeful. But, we know that we let you down.

We blew it, and we are sincerely sorry.

And, we want to ask you to forgive us.

Would you please forgive us?

Because this is likely the ONLY apology most of you will ever receive from any pastor, any minister, any church, or any church person – would you please accept it from me?

And, would you do me a couple of other favors?

Would you forgive us?

Would you open up that huge “bag” of hurt that you’ve held onto and just dump it out?

For you see, those pastors, ministers, church members, churches and people have moved on with their lives.

They will not likely come seeking you out.

They may not even realize that they hurt you, and they certainly are not going to come looking for you to make amends.

But, I have good news for you today – you can get okay with this painful situation.

You can let it go.

You can yank it out by the root and let God heal this broken place in your heart.

It’s time.

You’ve carried it long enough.

Won’t you let God take it?

How

1} Start by praying and pouring out your heart to the Lord. 

Tell God how you feel, how you hurt and about all about all of these offenses and slights that have been dealt you.

Just talk to your loving Father about what has happened to you.

Psalm 62:8 simply says:

“O my people, trust in him at all times.
    Pour out your heart to him,
    for God is our refuge.”

2} Ask God to drain the anger from your heart.

Just like you drain the dirty water from a bathtub, allow your loving Heavenly Father to drain that anger, fury, doubt and disappointment from your heart.

Invite God to take away your heavy burden and to give you REST for your soul.

Matthew 11:28-31 puts it this way:

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 

 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 

For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

3} Let God avenge you!

If someone needs to be dealt with, God is incredibly capable of doing the dealing.

My pastor growing up used to say, “If someone does you wrong, tell God on them!”

It may not feel like it now, but we all eventually reap what we sow.

That person who hurt you will be dealt with. God is never fooled, and He is always just!

4} Get on with living – with greater freedom and joy.

Let this go so that you can be better, happier, more joy-filled and healthier. 

Get on with living!

And, could I ask you to do one more thing?

Would you pray about giving God's church one more chance? Click To Tweet

You can go to a different church, sit under a different pastor and take your kids to a different youth group.

But, would you go and simply force your foot across a church threshold?

Because we need you!

You have gifts, abilities, talents and so much more to offer to a church. Click To Tweet

And, God created us to need to be around other believers.

We were made to fellowship with each other. We are part of the same body and function best together.

God made us with a DNA that wants to assemble together regularly with other Christ-followers. Click To Tweet

In Hebrews 10:24-25, the writer addresses corporate worship:

“And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works,  not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.”

Somewhere out there is a church that really does want you and need you as a part of their community.

So, I implore and invite and dare you to give church one more try. Click To Tweet

That’s it!

My job as a proxy is now complete.

I’ve made my appeal.

Now, the choice is up to you.

What will you do?

I pray you will forgive, let the pain go, trust God with those who’ve offended you and give His church one more try.

Who knows?

It might be the best thing you do for yourself and your family this year!

~ This is a repost of an article I first shared on April 29, 2015.


**And, would you do me a favor — if this article has encouraged you today — would you share it with someone else? 

Maybe you can send it to a friend or family member?

This blog occasionally uses affiliate links and may contain affiliate links.  Melanie Redd is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. For more on my disclosure policy, click HERE.

~ I regularly link to these AMAZING SITES~

© Melanie Redd and Ministry of Hope, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner are strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Melanie Redd and Ministry of Hope with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

About helloredds@gmail.com

Blessed wife of Randy for over 25 years, mom to two great college students, blogger, women's ministry coach, speaker and author who is amazed by God's grace-

62 thoughts on “An Apology Letter for the Way You Were Hurt at My Church

  1. Melanie–this is beautifully said! Thank you for standing in for those of us who may have hurt someone else in church–usually, unintentional!! Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone realized we are all human and do make mistakes! Love you for your insight and for your sharing Christian wisdom!

    1. Thank you, Susan!

      Appreciate you stopping by and leaving a comment today! You always encourage me with your words!

      Praying that our churches will be much more grace-filled in the days to come.

      You are a blessing to my life~
      Melanie

  2. Melanie, That was absolutely one of the most beautiful and sweetest things I have ever read. The Holy Spirit has definitely moved. Thanks for sharing your sweet heart. xo

  3. What an incredible article. I know so many people in this situation and that hurt has caused them doubts in their faith and fear into even looking for a new church. This letter was so encouraging and heartfelt, and truly gives people that hope to return despite the hurt. Thank you for sharing this.

    1. Thank you for stopping by and leaving such encouraging words today! I love visits from new friends, and I am blessed by your words.

      Maybe you have a friend that you can pass this apology letter on to. It seems that hurting church folks are everywhere!

      And, I look forward to reading some more of your posts soon. I liked the 50 States article that I read earlier this week.

      Blessings,
      Melanie

  4. As a PK and now music director at my church, I appreciate your willingness to put what I’m sure many of us would like to say into words. Most church members don’t intend to hurt others, but I think we all need to grow in learning to be sensitive to the needs of others and put them above ourselves.
    Thanks for a good post!

    1. Thanks, Hannah!

      I really appreciate you stopping by and leaving a kind word. I always love meeting new friends and getting visits from them!

      As a PK and being in ministry, I’m sure you understand my perspective. My heart wasn’t to fix it all but to offer that “apology” that so many hurt church members seem to need to hear! Praying that God will use my simple efforts~

      Hope to visit again soon~
      Blessings,
      Melanie

  5. In our almost 23 years of moving every two years of so, we have attended many churches. Many get it right, some do not. We have to remind ourselves they are all full of sinners, forgiven by God- just like us! Thank you for your beautiful post!

    1. Wow. 23 years of moves is a lot of moves. I’ll bet you have seen it all!

      And, thanks for stopping by and leaving a kind word. I appreciate your visit and your encouragement today!

      Blessings to you,
      Melanie

    1. Thanks, Kelsie!

      I appreciate you stopping by and leaving an encouraging comment today! I love hearing from friends!

      And we all do struggle with feeling left out or hurt by church folks at times, don’t we.

      You have blessed me today
      Melanie

  6. Beautiful, beautiful post! It takes an open, loving heart to stand in as a proxy. Many blessings to you! Thanks for linking up with Thursday Favorite Things!

  7. Oh my, the story of you standing in your brother’s place for punishment… that just broke my heart. So lovely.

    I’ve been hearing stories of lots of hurts from the church too. We have to remember that the church isn’t God. Hopefully He’s working through the church but humans err – and hurts/mistakes will happen.

    I love your words here. Fellowship is critical to the body of Christ. It concerns me when people leave the church swearing never to return.

    Thanks for sharing and for linking up to the #SHINEbloghop.

    Wishing you a lovely day.
    xoxo

    1. Thanks for stopping by and leaving such an encouraging word today, Jennifer!

      And there are so many stories of hurt out there. I guess that is why I wrote the letter.

      I have had some “hurt” folks thank me for the letter and tell me that it helped. I do pray that God will help us to unselfishly reach out as a church to those around us!

      I enjoyed linking up today, and I plan to be back again

      Blessings to you,
      Melanie

  8. Wonderful, wonderful post. I have been to many, many different churches in the past 30 years….and have not one friend in any of them. Many people who were friendly but not one friend. Your post is very timely, Christian churches and people who affiliate themselves with Christianity are one of the largest groups of Americans. They are not raising children who will go to church. Here in New England to say you are Christian is almost the same as saying you are a bigoted, hate-filled racist. I hear about Christians picketing
    funerals of gay soldiers and targeting homosexuals regarding marriage. I see different denominations of Christian churches bickering and criticizing one another. Each saying only their church preaches the real word of God and no one else is getting into heaven. On a given day I can have Mormons, Jehovah’s witnesses, and Christians all knocking on my door saying their way is the only way.
    And yet, after attending differing churches for 30 years I have had only 1 person ever even call me or want to get together for coffee…and she was the pastor’s wife.
    I accept your apology, though I was never deeply hurt and there was never any one thing that turned me away from churches. I applaud you, and your proxy has truly touched me.
    Honestly though, and I think we need to speak of this issue frankly and honestly if we are to change the trend of closing churches, my entire thought process about churches has changed and though there may come a time in my life when I will attend a church again, I will never feel the same way about Christians.
    Even here on my blog I have noticed that “Christian” bloggers almost never return comments I have posted and very, very rarely comment at all.
    So, speaking as one of the ex-church goers that you are proxying for, I appreciate your apology…it really did make my eyes water. But, if you drop a plate on the floor and break it, it is still broken after you apologize.
    We have to find a way to be accepting of one another.

    1. Wow! Thanks for reading my letter. I’m kind of new to link ups and not sure what to post sometimes. I’m grateful that you clicked on and read my post and responded to it.

      I know that churches in the New England area are much different from churches in the deep south, where I live. And, I’m sorry that you have met only with some who were rather harsh and unloving. I’m also sorry that you’ve been turned off from church and from attending. That makes me very sad.

      I do hope that you will come across more Christians who are loving and kind and who will treat you with respect and compassion – in the blogging world and in your community.

      For what it’s worth, I care about you and what has happened to you. And, I am going to pray for you and ask God to bless you life with some sincere and gracious people who also happen to be Christ-followers.

      I look forward to connecting with you through future posts, and I also look forward to reading your articles.
      Thanks again for sharing your heart with me today.
      Your words have touched me~
      Melanie

    1. Hey Again,

      I just went over to your blog and commented. I think it will be really interesting to see how your readers and friends respond. I’d love to hear the feedback you get – good or bad.

      I think open and honest dialogue is refreshing!

      And, I pray that you will consider trying church once again. I pray you’ll find a really sweet one~

      Melanie

  9. This, a healing stream. What a sacred offering for wounded souls. As a ministry leader and co-founder of a house church, I applaud your gentle strength.

    There is grace here.

    I’m glad I came to call from ‘a spirit of simplicity’ …

    1. Thanks, Linda!

      I think it’s great that you are part of a house church. I really believe we are going to see more and more house churches and smaller fellowships start all over the place. What a great way to reach people.

      And, thanks for stopping by to leave a kind word today. I appreciate your visit and your encouragement.
      I’ll look forward to connecting again with you in future days!
      Blessings,
      Melanie

  10. I have been feeling hurt at church a lot lately. This post is very timely. I plan to follow these steps. thanks for writing from the heart.

    1. Hey Mary,

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. I really do appreciate your visit.

      And, I’m glad my post was timely for you. So sorry that you were hurt and have been hurt at church. There is no pain quite like this pain.

      I do hope you will take the steps toward healing – for your own health and joy. I pray that God will minister to your heart and restore all that is wounded and broken deep inside.

      Blessings to you,
      Melanie

  11. Rarely heard and deeply needed message. May your words heal hearts and renew courage in those who have been casualties of misguided or careless actions of faith.

    1. Hey Lisa,

      Thanks for stopping by today to leave a kind comment. I really appreciate your visit.

      And, thank you for your kind words and encouragement today.

      I look forward to connecting with you again soon~
      Blessings,
      Melanie

  12. Love this… I remember reading it last year when it was posted – so powerful! Thank you for reposting it! We are neighbors today – glad I stopped by!

  13. Lovely post, Melanie. 🙂
    Life has its share of disappointments, but it seems like the hurts that we carry from the church/other Christians are the ones that seem to cut more deeply.
    I suppose it’s because we have higher expectations of each other as a body of believers, linked by Christ.
    Praise God there is grace enough for healing.
    Thanks for sharing. 🙂
    ~ Best to you – from a neighbor at the #RaRaLinkup today. 🙂

    1. Hey Brenda,

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving a kind comment. I love visits from friends, especially new ones!

      And, I do agree that those church hurts may cut the deepest. Maybe we do carry higher expectations. I know sometimes that I do. And, I am very grateful for grace~

      I look forward to reading your posts and connecting again on the linkup.
      Blessings to you,
      Melanie

  14. Oh, Melanie – how needed are your words, your proxy for the hurting heart. I’ve been on both sides of this – one craving an apology and one having to give it. I’m not sure which is harder. It truly is a shame that such words have to be written – that we’ve fallen so far from the love and grace that our Father intended to lavish on those that enter His house. I can think of a few people who could use this letter – I can think of a few who should have written it. More than that, I’m grateful for the Father who heals, restores, and redeems every broken heart, every binded wound. Forgiven people forgive people and so I pray your words reach the hearts that need them today. Blessings to you for sharing your love and His grace so generously.

    1. Hey Tiffany,

      Thanks for stopping by to leave a comment today. I really appreciate you and your visit.

      And, aren’t you grateful that we have a Heavenly Father how perfectly relates, loves, heals and forgives. He does restore and redeem broken hearts. I’m so thankful!

      Your kinds words have blessed me today, and I appreciate you sharing your heart.
      I look very forward to connecting again~
      Blessings,
      Melanie

  15. Melanie,
    Great post. There are so many that have been hurt by the church and have turned away from the Lord. It is my prayer that the Lord would impact their hearts and cause them to want to enter into fellowship with His people again.

    But, I think it’s important that we all realize that we’re all sinful, fallen people in need of a Savior and sometimes we don’t get it right. But, God. He’s perfect in love and worthy of our praise – no matter what the world or the church body have done to hurt us!

    Thanks for sharing at Grace&Truth! I hope you’ll join us again this week!

    1. Thanks, Christie,

      I appreciate you stopping by today to leave a kind word. It was nice of your to visit.

      And, there are many who have been hurt and many who have been restored. So glad that God is perfect in the way He relates to and deals with us!

      It’s been fun to meet friends on the Grace & Truth link up, and I hope to join in again.
      Hope you have a blessed week~
      Melanie

  16. I love your heart and what you’re doing here…have felt these same things so many times, for people I know and love who do not want to give the church another chance. Praying the reach from this is far and wide! Blessings! #RaRaLinkup

    1. Hey Angela,

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving a kind word today. I appreciate you and your visit!

      Grateful for your encouragement words which have blessed me today.

      Looking forward to connecting again in the future on the RaRa Linkup.

      Blessings to you,
      Melanie

  17. Melanie –

    Thank you for your post today. I am a Pastor and a Pastors wife. In the years I’ve been in ministry it saddens me to hear stories of people leaving the church and being hurt by others. Thank you for your boldness, courage, thoroughness, and thoughtfulness, as you stood in proxy. My prayer is that many will read and accept the apology you so beautifully wrote and move forward in their healing. I found you over at Women with Intention

    1. Hey Debbie,

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving a kind and thoughtful word today. I appreciate you and your visit.

      And, I am sure you can relate since you in the ministry. It is a challenge sometimes to really hear why people have left, but so many seem to be leaving over personal relationships (or lack of them).

      I pray we will get better and wiser at dealing with people~

      And, I look forward to connecting with you again~
      Blessings,
      Melanie

  18. Great, great post! I think so many people get turned off from church by just one person’s thoughtless actions. Thank you for standing in as a proxy – we should all follow your lead! Thank you for sharing at Waiting on…Wednesday! Hope to see you back tomorrow!

  19. I’ve heard the saying that goes something like being offended is like drinking poison and hope that the other person will die. Your apology letter is so touching. I hope that someone who has been hurt or offended can find peace from your words.

    Thanks for sharing on my Grandma Ideas Sharing Time link party.

    Nina

    1. Hey Nina,

      Thanks for another visit today~

      And, yes, those offended brothers are hard to win back over. I am praying that many will be encouraged back into the fellowship!

      Hope you have a blessed day today,
      Melanie

  20. Dear Melanie,

    I’ve never seen your blog before but came across it through a linkup. I am glad I did. I am a Christian, but don’t go to church because I am gay.

    Both my partner and I grew up in loving Christian homes, with parents who adore us and showed us Godly examples to the best of their abilities, and who support us and our relationship. We plan on marrying as soon as we are financially able, and having or adopting children soon thereafter. We believe children are a blessing and both long to be parents. We do our best to walk with God in all things, just as all other believers do.

    She and I have been shunned and turned away by many churches throughout our relationship. People say we’re perverts, sick, ‘confused’, broken…but we are just believing Christians like everyone else. We don’t have an agenda, we don’t want trouble. We just want to worship freely with other believers and not have to hide or lie about who we are. We are so emotionally exhausted from it all that we are tempted to give up on the faith completely, but we both love the Lord and want to raise children that love the Lord, and we want them to have a church home with older, Godly people to look up to – people who won’t shun them or demean them because they have two mommies.

    All of that being said, I don’t know if your apology was directed at someone like me, but I appreciate it all the same. From the looks of it, you are a kind and thoughtful woman who serves Jesus with all your heart. Your husband and children are very lucky, and I hope they know that.

    Be well and take care,
    Sydney

    1. Hey Sydney,

      Thanks for taking the time to write me a note and share your life and situation with me today. It sounds like you and your family have gone through some great church hurt.

      And, my letter is to you! It’s to anyone and everyone who has been rejected, hurt, or mistreated in a church or by church people.

      I don’t pretend to have all of the answers to everything going on in churches, but I do absolutely believe we serve a God who NEVER, NEVER stops loving us. No matter what others do, He remains faithful.

      One of my favorite verses is found in Romans 8:38-39 in the Message:
      “None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.”

      I pray that you and your family will not give up on your faith.

      Keep praying and seeking out a place to worship. And, keep trusting that there is a God who loves you dearly.

      Melanie

  21. I want to like this. I want the words to wash over me with healing. Unfortunately, I feel like it just falls short and misses the mark. If you (general you, not only aimed at the author) truly care, instead of urging those of us that have been hurt to crawl back into the den of lions, DO SOMETHING about the problem. Actions speak louder than words.

    I will never be a member of a traditional church again. Not only have I been burned over and over and over, but I have searched the scriptures and am convinced that we are doing it wrong. The Western Evangelical Church system is so broken. This is not what God intended for his people.

    1. Hey Laura,

      Thanks for your honesty. I really do appreciate your feedback. And, I know the words fall short. I wrote them to a hurting friend and then turned them into a post. This was my best attempt at a “shotgun” apology.

      Can I ask? What can we do about the problem? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

      Honestly, sometimes I don’t think we know what to do to fix things. But, I, for one, desire to.

      You can email me if you’d prefer at “helloredds@gmail.com.”
      I look forward to talking further with you,
      Melanie

    2. I felt the same way. Keep searching that is what I did. I searched until I found something that fit. I feel at home now. Please know that in the new testament it says that the savior went to Synagogue every week as was his habit. A church has so many wonderful attributes. I kept searching until I found a place I loved. People of course will always let you down, but the Savior never will. Continue to read your scriptures, continue to pray and then believe with all your heart there is a place…..He is so aware of you….your hearts desires will be answered

  22. I wonder if this counts….I love all people, I have friends wherever I go in every religion, nationality, sexuality, line of work etc. I take the Savior at His word to love everyone, to forgive everyone. it makes my heart sing to know the first person He testified to that He was the son of God was the woman at the well, a sinner. I am heartened that the Savior’s genealogy printed in Matthew included adulterers and harlots…to make sure we know we are all worth everything. The only people who have taken the time to try and take my happiness away as far as my Savior goes have been evangelical Christians. They have made a production about not allowing their children on our school volleyball team to practice in our church when there wasn’t another place to go…they have told me to my face I do not believe in Jesus…they have written articles, pastors have preached this over their pulpits….some evangelical churches teach classes against us. it breaks my heart….I am serious, it breaks my heart when someone tells me I am not a Christian…just because I am Mormon. I read your blog today because it said ministries….I love that.

    1. Hey Donna,
      Thank you for leaving your comments today!
      I really am glad that you came by and felt comfortable sharing your story.
      I hope we get to connect more in the future!
      And, what do you cater – by the way? Do you have a specialty?
      Blessings to you,
      Melanie

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