I am very invested in the spiritual future of the next generation. I love my two boys and our teens at Northside and I want to see them carry on the work of the church as they get older. Because of my vested interest in the next generation, I do a lot of research on their spiritual health and how they view the church. There are a lot of great things about the next generation, but one of the huge roadblocks between them and regular church attendance is the growing trend and topic of “church hurt.”
The body of believers is an amazing thing, and the Bible is clear that within that body we all have a part to play and talents we must use. The upcoming generation is just as talented as any before, and I have seen their desire to love and serve those around them. But what happens when one part of the body harms another part? What happens when we are slandered, ridiculed, traumatized, or emotionally hurt by Christians who claim to love us? Many young people who belong to “Gen Z” respond by pursuing a relationship with Jesus without attending church. There are thousands of young people who have decided to abandon church and instead grow spiritually by themselves where no one can harm them. This doesn’t bode well for the future of the church. So how do we respond to young Christians who love Jesus but reject the church for fear of hurt?
As, usual the answer lies in God’s Word. Many of us would go straight to Hebrews 10:25 and warn them of “forsaking the assembly,” and that’s a good point, but I think we can win more hearts by pointing to the life of Christ and what he did when he was hurt by those he loved. Church hurt has been around since the beginning of the church, even as far back as Christ’s disciples. These men spent years listening to his teaching and knowing him on a personal level. They saw him perform miracles and wonders and were witnesses to his compassion for the lost. Unfortunately, one of these close friends betrayed Jesus and another denied he even knew him. There is no doubt these actions hurt Jesus, and if we can see what he did in response to that hurt, then we can take action from his perfect example.
When we are inevitably hurt by the failing humans around us, or even when we inadvertently hurt others, it is best to take some time and meditate on the love and forgiveness of Christ and his selfless example. Jesus took the hurt of being betrayed and denied all the way to the cross to save humans he knew would continue to fail and hurt each other. When we consider that example, it motivates us to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow him.
In this world we will continue to have imperfect relationships. There will never be a perfect church on earth or a perfect Christian, but we are called to be set apart as a royal priesthood and holy nation. With Christ as our example, we can joyfully follow his commands and become working, selfless, forgiving, loving, members of the body. What a privilege!