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Why has the Church caused so much pain?

all-souls-sign-3I've been asked to write brief answers to six thorny questions:

Hasn't science disproved God?

Is God homophobic?

Why does God appear so violent in the Old Testament?

Are the gospel accounts trustworthy?

Why isn't God more obvious?

Why has the Church caused so much pain?

I've got to keep these under 600 words. I'd love if you could help. What have I missed? What have I got wrong?


Why has the Church caused so much pain?

Not a Liability!

The church is not a liability in mission. The church is God’s mission strategy for the world (Psalm 14:5; Matthew 28:16-20; Acts 2:41-47; Ephesians 3:10-11; 1 Timothy 3:15). Certainly, we can denounce many of the church’s actions, but only because they betray her true nature as Jesus’ bride.

In evangelism training I encourage Christians to consider the statement “That’s what I love about my church...” We need to be able to finish that sentence with genuine enthusiasm and drop it into conversation. We need to invite people into communities that don’t just have the answer to this complaint but who are the answer.

Macro or Micro?

People ask this question in two ways. On the macro level, it’s about crusades, inquisitions and conquistadors. On the micro level, it’s personal: “those people hurt me and they call themselves Christians.” We must figure out which version of the question is being asked.


David Bentley-Hart’s book “Atheist Delusions” does a wonderful job of outlining the Christian revolution from the first century onwards. Church, the world’s largest sociological phenomenon, has also been the champion of the greatest social improvements (e.g. equality, human rights, philanthropy, hospitals, hospices, schools, science, etc). Its failures (e.g. the crusades) occurred precisely when it forsook the teaching of its Lord (Matthew 5:38-48; 26:52-54; John 18:36).

Against this, atheist claims – like Christopher Hitchens’ – that “religion poisons everything” are lazy caricatures. For Hitchens to make his case he had to place Stalin into the religious (and therefore evil) category and Martin Luther King into the non-religious (and therefore benevolent) category. Such intellectual dishonesty is rife in these debates. It surfaces often as the charge that “religion is the cause of all wars”. The briefest glance at 20th century history tells you that God is not the common denominator in war – man is.


When the complaint is closer to home, we, and our local church, should be an exception that disproves their rule. Alongside that, we must point them to the true nature of church...

The Father and His adopted children

Evangelist, Michael Ots tells the story of meeting a family with a very unruly child. Michael was tempted to think poorly of the parents until he learnt the boy was adopted from a difficult background. That one fact transformed his outlook. When you realise God the Father is adopting children out of the most difficult environments you expect different things from the children and you infer different things about the Father.

The Doctor and His Hospital

Many think of Jesus as the Rewarder of the moral, therefore they expect His church to be a society of the superior. Actually Jesus is the Doctor for the spiritually sick (Mark 2:13-17) and His church is a hospital for sinners. No-one criticizes a hospital for attracting the sick!

The Spirit and His ‘works in progress’

Of course the faults of Christians are more evident, the Spirit leads us into a unity and transparency where sins are exposed. Of course our hopes for Christians are dashed more frequently, we expect more from them. But Christians do not claim moral superiority, which is why Christians are not “hypocrites” when we fail. Admission of failure is the very atmosphere of Christianity.

On the other hand, Jesus tells his most famous story about an elder brother who was too good to sit next to his younger brother at the family feast (Luke 15). If we find ourselves unable to join a church with those kinds of people in it – it’s not the church that’s being judgemental.

2 thoughts on “Why has the Church caused so much pain?

  1. the Old Adam

    We're (the church) full of sinners who much things up now and then.

    And too many of us have turned the whole focus onto the believer and made a 'how-to' book out of the Bible. When that happens people either fall into despair...or pride. and that causes a lot of damage. All with the best of intentions by people who are absolutely ignorant of the purposes of the law and the gospel.

    What a shame.

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