To Those Who Have Been Hurt In A Church, I’m Sorry

This week I wrote about some fears I have about finishing ministry strong. The post resonated with a lot of people. More people than I had ever imagined. As of today that one post has been seen by more people than my total posts from last year.

Because of that there are a lot of comments. Many of the comments are from people I don’t know. One comment stood out to me especially.

One of the comments from the post was from the Rock.


I love the Rock!

The Rock has a home in Virginia, so I’m 13.5% sure the comment was from the former WWE superstar, and current Hollywood superstar.

I kid, I kid.

This post is incredibly serious. It’s such a serious matter I was trying to ease into by using some humor.

The comment, however, is no laughing matter.



The truth is there are a lot of people who have been hurt or disillusioned by pastors in the local church.

To anyone who reads this who has been hurt I am saying, “I’m sorry.”

  • If you gave their all only to be dismissed quickly as if they no longer matter, I’m sorry.
  • If you were lied to by pastors, I’m sorry.
  • If you are still struggling with wounds caused by church staff, I’m sorry.
  • If you didn’t have your needs met, I’m sorry.
  • If you felt you were only a number, I’m sorry.
  • If you felt your needs didn’t matter, I’m sorry.
  • If you felt you only mattered because you had money, I’m sorry.
  • If you felt no one was there for you in your greatest time of need, I’m sorry.
  • If you are hurt because you feel the pastor and staff moved on quickly after you left, I’m sorry.
  • If you gave, and gave, and gave, and never received a thank you, I’m sorry.
  • If your pastor wasn’t who you thought he was, I’m sorry.
  • If your pastor took advantage of you, I’m sorry.
  • If you grew up in a fundamental church and were told if you believe differently you are going to Hell, I’m sorry.
  • If you had guilt or pressure “In the name of Jesus” put on you to stay in a church, I’m sorry.
  • If you feel like you had to pretend to be better than you were in order to belong in the church, I’m sorry.
  • If you only get texts from a pastor because he needs something, I’m sorry.
  • If you felt you had to pretend to be okay in order to help others, I’m sorry.
  • If you have been sexually abused by someone in spiritual authority, I’m so sorry.
  • If you feel you were shut out by a church, I’m sorry.
  • If you were misunderstood in the church, I’m sorry.
  • If you love Jesus, but just can’t take any more hurt from church leaders, I’m sorry.
  • If you walked away from the faith because of judgmental pastors or staff, I’m sorry.
  • If your hurt was met by trite answers and a quick Bible verse, but no empathy, I’m sorry.
  • If you are carrying around the wounds from a pastor or church staff, I’m sorry.
  • If I’m the pastor who hurt you, I’m sorry.
  • If your pastor never says, “I’m sorry,” I’m sorry.

Maybe my “Sorry” won’t help you. I hope it will.

If anything please know, you are not alone. Every relationship opens up the door for love and hurt. When hurt happens in the church it can lead to feeling disillusioned with God.

God’s plan is for His bride, the local church, to be the light of the world. That’s a giant risk because each church is made up of imperfect leaders. Sometimes the leaders don’t mean to cause any pain. Sometimes it’s because they are simply a bad leader.

Sometimes the hurt is caused because the pastor hasn’t dealt with his own demons, insecurity, or pain.

Sometimes the hurt is caused because we allow pain to get in the way of relationships. It can be difficult to talk to someone in spiritual leadership about your feelings of hurt.

If you are hurt, I’m sorry.

If you are healing, but still feel fragile, I’m sorry.

Please know, the pain caused by someone is never bigger than the love of God.

Whether the pain you feel was caused intentionally or intentionally there is healing in the name of Jesus.

And maybe your healing can start with, I’m sorry.


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Rob Shepherd

I am the full-time husband of a wonderful woman! I love being married! We are proud parents to twins, Hayden and Reese. In my spare time I am the pastor of Next Level Church. I have a relationship with God and it is an adventure. Oh and I wrote a book. It's called Even If You Were Perfect Someone Would Crucify You.


  1. Connie
    September 15, 2016

    I have only really been to two churches as a regular attendee. I consider myself very blessed. I found 2 amazing places that opened my mind and made me want to learn more about God’s word. It broke my heart to leave my last church because I found people who were willing to guide me. I will be very sad when I have to leave NLC some time between Jan and March because you are very open and authentic. You have made me realize no matter how much I mess up God still loves me.

    • September 15, 2016

      Connie, thank you for taking the time to encourage! You are full of awesome! God does love you fiercely. We can’t mess up bigger than the love of God.

  2. Sam
    September 15, 2016

    I think a lot of time being hurt by the church becomes an excuse to do what we want. I don’t want to victim-blame but sometimes people are toxic and there is a reason their needs weren’t met or the pastor didn’t have them over for dinner…etc. Dont let a fleshly desire for attention or a flawed human church leader keep you from experiencing God’s grace and goodness.

    • September 15, 2016

      Sam, I think in a lot of cases you are right. I also know from friends who are disenfranchised with the church. They are hurting.

  3. Vernae
    September 15, 2016

    Thank you! Thank you for saying you’re sorry, thank you for assuming blame you have nothing to do be blamed for. Sometimes people just need to hear “I hear what you are saying and I’m sorry.”

    • September 19, 2016

      Verne, thank you for taking the time to comment!

  4. Shay
    September 15, 2016

    Hey Rob, it has been awhile since I posted in response to one of your blogs. They normally “rock the house”, but I just didn’t reply, my bad. However, I could not let this one go.
    Speaking from experience, (I can go down your list and count at least six that apply) It took a lot, and I mean A LOT of grace, tears, prayer but the same rule applies when Pastors hurt us, as when anyone else hurts us. Jesus died to forgive us all, from the lowest slave, to the most successful pastor, of the most prominent church in the world. And if we believe, as Peter did, ( and I do) Acts 10:34,” So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality,” (ESV) As hard as it is, we must, MUST forgive. Pastors, or whomever. (Whoever?) To not, is to let whatever it is that was done, take control and rule our lives, instead of letting Jesus rule. Pastors are people, and they can hurt us just like everyone else. They can stumble, they are not perfect. Just called. (Man, I just know I went and blew someone’s theology out of the water) . I don’t mean to be a hard nose about this, I know the hurt and damage can be VERY REAL. But I also know, that whatever was done, Jesus can undo. It takes time, grace, and the willingness to let. it. go. And I must say, although I cannot imagine you EVER intentionally hurting anyone, the apologies sure do make a good starting point. Way to go!

    • September 19, 2016

      Shay, thank you for taking the time to share a part of your story. I think your “theology” is right on! Forgiveness needs to be the centerpiece of our relationships, and yet so often it’s something Christians avoid. In some instances I think we would rather hurt than forgive.

  5. Rock
    September 15, 2016

    I read your other post about leaving the church. I could have very well been her asking for the right way to leave. The difference is I had no where to run to but the Bible. I felt guilty for leaving. It has been a year and I am not healed yet. At the end of the day you go to church for Jesus…But tell me where do I find Him? But anyway, thank you for your post and for just listening. I think it hit me by surprise that someone at least heard my heart.

    • September 19, 2016

      Rock, I’m truly sorry for your experience. It takes a lot of time and multiple doses of forgiveness to get over the hurt someone has caused you. Sometimes it takes years. Sometimes it takes months. The key is to keep forgiving. Say it out loud. Choose forgiveness.

      The Bible promises that God is found when we seek Him with all our heart. I’m not sure what that looks like for everyone, but I know it’s true. Keep seeking God and you’ll find Him. Thanks for taking time to comment. I’m pulling for you.

  6. Lauren Cory
    September 16, 2016

    Thanks for this post. I shared it with some of my friends again. There is a lot of hurt out there. I’m trying to both acknowledge it, admit the church and its people are imperfect, and look for ways to bring Jesus’ light and love out of it!

    • September 19, 2016

      Lauren, good for you. It’s not easy. Especially when our identity gets wrapped up in the church. When that happens the hurt is deeper. It’s easy to find your identity in a church, position, or even another person. When things don’t go your way it wrecks a person who has their identity in someone or something other than Jesus. Keep being Jesus to your friends! You are a great person!

  7. September 16, 2016

    I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately.
    I love the church. I love, love, love it. I think it is a beautiful expression of the love of Jesus. I love to serve in church, I love corporate worship, I love learning with fellow believers. I love doing life with others. Churches have been there for me through a hard marriage, Hurricane Isabel when I lost 85% of my belongings and my house, miscarriage, divorce, remarriage, crazy pregnancy complications that almost killed me and brought me a daughter who was eleven weeks early. Church friends have been my family and have done life with me every day. There have been some hits and some misses, some wins and some big WTF things. By and large, the church is a positive thing in my life.
    But my most recent church hurt cut to the core and I find myself tired. Tired of “churchianity” instead of Christianity…tired of trying to fit a mold and tired of a body (not a specific body, but the church on the whole) caring more about the color of the carpet or when to turn the lights on than world hunger, sex trafficking, the orphan crisis…
    In our international adoption journey, we have seen some true colors. And it makes me angry but more than that it makes me sad…In many ways the church does not get it. We are so far from the Biblical church. (Again, the collective we, not a specific church body.)
    So…I am processing grief. I am processing anger. I am taking responsibility. Because, in all MY church hurts…the common denominator is me. I am asking hard questions and I am praying. I am reading, “When You Love Jesus But Don’t Love the Church” and I am figuring stuff out.
    But I still love the local church. And I don’t want to give up on something I love. And I don’t want to give up on something that Jesus loves. And I want to look in the mirror and GROW instead of becoming bitter. This is hard and painful. But I don’t want to point fingers. I want to acknowledge the pain, work through it, take it to Jesus, grow and be part of the solution.
    Church hurts cut deeply and you have to deal with the wound so that it doesn’t fester.

    • September 19, 2016

      Chris, I’m so proud of you! Thank you for not giving up. Thank you for reflecting on what you bring to the table. Thank you for fighting through the pain. I’m very proud of you. How is the book, “When You Love Jesus, But Don’t Love the Church?”

      • September 19, 2016

        The book is good. It is challenging…it challenges you to look at your own responsibilities and take ownership of wrong thinking and expectations and that type of thing. Ultimately, it encourages all to find a healthy church body to be part of. But it also validates church hurts and speaks straight to the heart. I think it’s a really good resource for anyone who just finds themselves frustrated and tired.
        Thank you for your encouragement. I don’t want to miss out on anything God has for me…and I know that He has plans for me, a hope and a future…and HE loves the church. So I want to love it too.

  8. September 16, 2016

    Forgiveness is freedom.Thank you for this attempt to restore and opening healing. But there is no where to find peace but in GOD. NO one can take our salvation away. That’s where I find peace. though they stone me yet will I serve Him. .Jesus is my hidding place. I run to Him and is safe. Most people who wound others don’t even know they have done it. I never expect an apology ,but it would be nice.But that not going to stop me loving and serving GOD. I just pray for the body of Christ as a whole. We are not perfect and we are not GOD.

    • September 19, 2016

      Renia, that’s a great perspective! We desperately need God. We are not Him. We are imperfect, wounded, and broken. Together we can find healing in Jesus’ name.


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