/ / When Your Church Splits and Your Heart Breaks

When Your Church Splits and Your Heart Breaks

Our response when our church is broken is crucial. Here's how should Christians respond when their church splits and breaks their heart. #WomenLivingWell #church #grace #Christiangrowth

It was 1995.  I was away at college when my mom said on the other end of the line – “there’s trouble at church.  We might be leaving.”

WHAT?

My beloved church? The one where I had spent all my Jr. High and Sr.High Years learning and growing in Christ. Basically – my most profound years of growth in my spiritual walk that led me to to Bible college. Leaving???

My safe haven away from public school.

The place where I sang songs of worship with my best friends, went on missions trips yearly and learned how to share my faith. The place where I sat in the pew and learned the Word of God preached boldly.  The place where my brother-in-law was the Jr. High Youth Pastor.  The place where both of my sister’s married.  The place where I learned to serve in the nursery, memorize verses, performed skits, played games – my safe haven.

My home away from home…was crumbling.

I was away at college and some of my friends from my youth group were also attending the Moody Bible Institute. We all were in shock.  We loved our home church. There was a meeting being held on a weeknight regarding the issues, so we piled into a friends car and drove 7 hours to get to this meeting.  It was sad. Very sad.

That night, I walked out through those double glass doors for the last time – never to return…and we drove through the night to get back to classes at school – but my heart was back in my old church.

I longed for what was…and was no longer there.

Hundreds of people left the church including my family – and friendships were torn in two – those who stayed and those who left.

I lost close friends that day.

I had always worshiped with my entire family and even within our family – we were not all headed to the same church following the split.  My brother-in-law was without a job. My other sister’s husband was feeling led to return to his old church…and our family was split.

A few weeks later about 500 of us would gather at a local public school and start a new church – the church I now attend.  It is beautiful. A God-fearing – Bible preaching church.

But it hurt and our family still suffers at times when I miss my middle sister sharing a pew with us.

It’s funny, even though this happened 20 years ago – the tears flow easily when I remember back to what was…the hurt never leaves. The loss is real. The consequences of sin, pride and quarreling rippled down through friendships and family and still hurts today.

Oh church. Beautiful broken church.  I love you.

We are all just sinners – saved by grace – nothing more.

Sometimes the church wounds…and those wounds leave scars.

Over the years, I have had my fair share of squabbles, confrontations, hurt feelings, rude remarks and judgmental looks. It’s not fun. I’ve wrestled through how to be kind, hold my tongue, stay and not run away and keep on loving and sometimes I failed miserably to do those things.

I understand the feelings of being a victim of someone else’s gossip, slander and betrayal.  Trusted friendships – broken.

Oh church. Beautiful broken church. I love you.

We are all just sinners – saved by grace – nothing more.

I could post a bunch of verses about love and how the world will know we are Christians by our love but I really don’t think we need to read another verse about love. We KNOW God commands us to love one another – it becomes a mere veneer to talk and talk about it.  

Sure we can talk about loving the widow, the orphan, the poor, our enemy, each other, our community — but doing it – letting God’s love fill the hard spaces between sisters in Christ – that is what’s real.

And it took years for the truth to come out.  Years for reconciliation between church members to take place. Years for forgiveness to take place.

And for some… it never came.

Love.

God is love.

And the greatest commandment is that we love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.

And the second greatest commandment is that we would love one another.

Love.

Grace.

We are all just sinners – saved by grace – nothing more.

Beautiful Broken Church.  I love you.

Walk with the King,

Courtney

{This post is also available in Dutch —> here.}

27 Comments

  1. I hear you, Courtney. My husband and I felt like we had no choice but to leave the place where we had made our home for almost 25 years. It was one of the hardest things we’ve ever had to do. It was a like a great big horrific divorce. I wept for years.

    15 years later, God has healed. Praise His name. We were able to reconcile with the pastor, and the relationships that we had treasured continue even though we worship elsewhere.

    And if we hadn’t moved on 15 years ago? I probably wouldn’t be in the counseling ministry I am today. All things work together for good when we love God.

    Blessings …

    1. Oh Linda – you know the pain. I’m so sorry. It’s amazing to see the good that came from it —your counseling ministry! Beautiful! Thank you for sharing that!

      Lots of Love,
      Courtney

    2. Really great to hear your testimony. Hubby and I decided to leave as well as my parents. And you’re right it does feel like a divorce from the church.

  2. I appreciate the sensitivity with which you wrote about this. I was part of Mars Hill church, and you may have heard of the turmoil that happened there last year. It’s heartbreaking. I identify with everything you described here. I love the beautiful broken church too.

    1. OH Dawn – yes, I’m aware of your church and have read the things on-line and my heart breaks for what your body of believers have gone through. I am so very sorry.

      I am encouraged to hear you are not giving up on church as a result (so many do and they never recover from this) but rather you love her even though she’s broken. We are all just sinners saved by grace.

      Thank you for sharing this.
      Courtney

  3. We went through this a few years back. We tried to attend the Churches where all our friends branched off to but sadly none of them felt the same. It hurts to this day to think about my childhood Church separating. Some of my family still attend there. But without the whole family and without all the familiar faces it just did not feel the same. Ultimately my husband and I found a Church to fall in love with. But that little Church still holds a special place in my heart.

  4. Our family left our church in the fall because of changes nationally in that Protestant sect. We have since joined a new church in our area and it has made all the difference.

  5. just went thru being church home-less last year my little church that I poured my entire heart and soul into, including all of my family, had decided to close its doors… My heart shattered and I thought we would never find another church that I would be comfortable again in… Just a few short months after we found our other church home and it’s amazing! When one door closes God can open up doors I’d never dream of!! I now go to a large church here and not only that but I don’t HAVE. To volunteer if I don’t want to.. I do tho, I’m on the praise and worship team (yup a whole team), and it is a dream come true for me!!!

    God can heal those wounds that I thought were broken forever!

    Praise God!!!!

  6. I remember.

    Sweet friend, and I am crying with you this morning. Praise God for his faithfulness to his broken children! He certainly made (and continues to make) beauty from ashes.

  7. Courtney thank you for sharing that today…..my husband and I went through a horrible church split and we ended up leaving…..not because we wanted to. It has been a struggle to trust again but God has done amazing things since that time in us and our family. I so appreciate you and your love for Jesus and sharing openly your life and your families lives with us. Walking with you as we walk with the KIng together.

  8. Hi Courtney.
    Thanks for this. I’ve not only been there once but twice. I we actually youth pastor at one but also gossiped about. The other one finally drove my husband away completely. Though I have forgiven them and moved on. I pray for them. My children, mother and I now attend a beautiful little country church that sits across from my parents house. I feel God just resonate from the walls. I’m always praying for my husband to return to church and hoping the guys will help pull him back in. He was very hurt with the last church. I have found God stronger here and have felt him leading me to work with youth again just maybe not in the church but the community as a whole. Thank you for writing about this. Sometimes it nice to know that you’re not the only one who’s been through this.

  9. I know of the pain of leaving a dear church home all too well. My husband and I attended a small cowboy church that would reach 100 people a week, completely filling up our small sanctuary. We devoted countless hours a week to our small loved body of believers. I taught the pk-6th Sunday school class and everyone talked about finally starting a youth group which my husband would have led. Then in a short 3 month time period the pastor retired and our worship leader moved his family to Africa for missions and it felt as if everyone had lost their minds. It only lasted 6 months all together after the Sunday the pastor announced his retirement. All of a sudden the most important thing in people’s minds was the cowboy decor and hay rides (which had slowly dissappeared over the previous years). People were angry and blaming those who weren’t even there for all the problems. My heart breaks for the small church every time I think about it because after that last business meeting those who were and could have been spiritual leaders for the church left because of the blatant idol worship that took place in that meeting over decor and a prideful church founder. I had never felt more hurt than that day I was yelled at for trying to point out that the meeting had just turned in to praise and worship session of a man. Apparently it is was a bad idea reminding people that God is the only one who can truly build a church and that this man didn’t do it, but God through him. Only 3 of us even mentioned scripture or even God in that meeting and each attempt was blatantly shot down and ignored. An elderly woman, who was the unofficial spiritual leader of the church after the pastor, told me over lunch a couple weeks later that she can handle the anger, the name blame, the miss guided intentions, and the turmoil… but the obvious disinterest in following God was the one thing she could not ignore and so she and her husband had to leave.

    It was the hardest thing I’ve ever been through. Some days I know we made the right decision, but other days I feel like I had abandoned them and left a helpless flock to be eaten by wolves. I love them all so dearly and I cry on the inside every time my husband shows me pictures of those who stayed on our Facebook account. I pray often for God to help them but when you see pictures of the new church leadership red faced at bars on the weekend on facebook, you can’t help but feel bad for leaving and thus leaving those positions open for those people to fill. I don’t understand how one can post scriptures one day and then talk about getting drunk the next? This has been one of the saddest things I’ve ever been through, especially since we still have not found a church home, but i know in the end it will all work out as God intends.

  10. This article couldn’t have come at a better time! My family and I just experienced this, having it been built up for a while, and had to walk away from a place that had been our home and family for many years. We could no longer submit to teachings or authority from a man who was abusing the pulpit and his position as pastor. We have been the subject of slander and gossip because of him, so it makes it even more painful, but my family and I rest assured that our conscience is eased, we can sleep peacefully at night, and God has already relocated us to a wonderful church where we are ALL getting fed and equipped. All the problems at the old one are fixed at the new one and we are all much better off. God is in everything and already working things out for a greater good before we even realize sometimes what is going on. Thank you for this post and the encouragement!

  11. Yes, the pain hurts; I know all to well…But I love the fact that God heals and restores through it. His grace and mercy reach down and guide us on a new path. I love that. We are just sinners saved by grace! Thank you for sharing your heart in the post. Blessings, Tammy

  12. Just wondering if anyone can give their perspective on healing as one who stayed? I am one of the people that stayed at our church after a split. I am having a hard time letting go of hurt and rejection. The people I was closest to are gone. Feeling very alone and it has been a good year and a half since the split. Part of my hurt is because I feel like so many left without trying to help correct problems, this was in the three years leading up to the split. Very much feels like a divorce.

    1. I am also one who stayed after the split and it’s been about 2 years now. I’m still very heart broken but feel like I’m the only one. My husband is an elder/pastor and doesn’t feel the same as I do. I don’t trust the head pastor anymore and find myself very agitated every time he preaches. I don’t want to feel this way anymore!! I want to be healed!!

  13. I once heard someone say that there is no such thing as the perfect church, and when you step inside a new church you’ve just added one more imperfect person to the bunch.

    It’s so difficult, to watch the church who are to proclaim God’s truth in love, crumbling apart, broken friendships, & hurting people…all too often.
    I agree, that all this talk of love, is sadly not always being backed up by actions and just becomes merely a veneer.

    We as the body of believers are the true church though, not just a building of bricks and mortar… We need to be caring and considerate to others by demonstrating the love of Christ. We need and crave the fellowship with other like minded believers. ( we’re not to forsake the assembling of God’s people. (Makes it very difficult sometimes, it can be so tempting to not meet the standard.) We have to accept that we’re not always going to see eye to eye with each other, that where we have other humans, we will have problems, and sometimes we have to leave others to it, to save our own sanity.

    We need to be praying for Gods church to be built up spiritually, and that we would all show grace, kindness and love to one another. (brotherly and sisterly love)

    Yes we’re just sinners saved by grace, and that’s where we need His grace, mercy, and love, to help aid and support us in our doing & responding well with difficult people and situations.

  14. I too made the heartbreaking decision to leave the only church home I’ve ever known due to changes made at the national level of our protestant denomination . As an elder, much prayer went into the matter. Ultimately resting in God’s will, with my dear husbands support. Now praying for a new church home.
    My church left me.
    Your sister in Christ

  15. We went through a church split also. It effected so many people and many just never looked for a new church because of the hurt and disillusionment I guess. Thank The Lord our family, after at least a year of searching, found a wonderful Bible believing church and still attend there today. Praise The Lord for being faithful through it all!

  16. I’ve been there as well. It is beautiful. It is broken. It is ours. When we own the brokenness and embrace that the Church needs Christ as much as we each do individually great things can happen. Prayers for our Church, for God’s Church that we might be empowered to move boldly in the direction the great restorer would have us move and serve.

  17. Thank you for this. I have gone through this at a distance, my parents have left through one and stayed through another, and it is hard even if you are quite young or “old” (I was out of the house and married for the second but still attend there when we visit them). Thank you for your thoughtful and prayerful words. It is just hard all around.

  18. This happened to me when I was 17. Our church had been having internal conflict, then the church burned down, and within weeks, our pastor was asked to resign. There was a massive split and I learned my youth pastor had been part of the group who ousted our pastor and I felt betrayed and lied to. I left friends who I never saw again. We began meeting in a house with 50 people on Wednesday nights and now the church has its own building and has over 250 members. My family has moved on from that church as well but we maintain bonds with families who we started that church with and He has continued to do great work through that body of people. I know that pain and that feeling of healing.

  19. Timely post my church split in Januray and I am still reeling from it…I was there for 10 years and I feel like why? My issue was the pastor was not doing he was supposed to and basically it’s classified as spiritual abuse. We were forced to do things and made to believe that was Gods will. I am now wary as my trust was broken but I Still believe in GOD, I just don’t want to be led astray. I guess church splits are more frequent than we think..

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