Healing from Hurts in the Church
from The Culture of Empowerment by Steve Backlund
Many Christians have had negative experiences with church leaders. Instead of being empowered, they were not honored for who they were. These situations cover the spectrum of small irritations to major abuses. Whatever the situation may be, God’s love and power can “heal the brokenhearted” (Isaiah 61:1) to experience hope again, and His love can “restore our soul” (Psalm 23:3) to emotional wholeness.
If this has been the case for you, I would like to repent before you on behalf of any hurt you have experienced from church leaders. I have written a brief letter to you representing your past church leaders, expressing this repentance, and then asking for your forgiveness. I believe God will use it to bring healing to the hearts of many.
Before I share this letter, I want to clarify that some of the hurts that people believe leaders caused them actually could have resulted from their own wrong perceptions of what was actually happening. I have been a church leader for many years, and I have had various situations where people accused me of being unloving or controlling, but it was actually not the case at all. These perceptions of me resulted from the person’s own unresolved issues, and often from a lack of understanding concerning the many factors church leaders have to consider in making decisions or creating policies. With that said, in other situations, I realize that I was insensitive to the people around me.
Also, this letter is not meant to be a substitute for any needed personal interaction in dealing with offense and conflict, but for cases where that’s not possible, it can provide a powerful step in internal healing and give freedom from past hurts. Even if you’re able to meet in person with a leader who has hurt you, going through this forgiveness process will be very beneficial.
I am so sorry that I hurt you. Please forgive me for not believing in you more, for being insensitive to your needs and feelings, for saying hurtful things, for not apologizing when I was wrong, for sending you the message that you were a failure, for making you not feel valued, for not trusting you, for not hearing your story, for being abusive in any way, for focusing more on what you could do for the church than on how I could help you thrive in every area of life, and for letting my fears and insecurities affect how I treated you. I’m sorry if any of these things caused you to live a life of feeling unsafe under leadership, caused you to believe you must perform well to be loved, caused fear in you, or caused you to be restricted in anyway from being fully you. I regret these things very much. Again, please forgive me.
Now it is your turn. We recommend taking some time with the Lord as you read through this letter. It is a powerful thing to acknowledge your pain with God in remembering the situation, the people involved, and how you felt. Let the words of the letter impact your heart as you read it. If there is forgiveness to release on your part, use the prayer of forgiveness below to help you release it. If you would like to, you can choose to imagine the person standing in front of you to assist in engaging your heart with the process.
Here is a prayer of forgiveness for you to pray concerning past leaders:
__________________ (Say the name of the leader you believe has hurt you in any way), I forgive you for hurts I experienced under your leadership. I release you from my judgments concerning this. I pray that you will be blessed in your relationship with God, in your family, and in your ministry.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.
After you have completed this forgiveness process, ask God to fill you with His love for this leader. Ask God to reveal to you how He sees that person. Then release a prayer of blessing over them. We are also aware that one of the prevalent mindsets that can be established under apparent disempowering leadership is the victim mindset. This mindset believes we are the victims of another’s leadership, a victim of their choices, and that our future and destiny is determined by them. We can break free of victim thinking by renewing our minds with the truth. One way to do this is to make Biblically-based faith declarations.
We are so thankful when healing takes place through forgiveness. And we also rejoice that God not only heals, but also He powerfully turns all things for good in our lives. We are believing that for you on your journey to greater wholeness and increased influence.
ABOUT STEVE BACKLUND
Steve Backlund was a senior pastor for seventeen years before joining the team at Bethel Church in Redding, CA in 2008. Steve is a leader developer, joy activist, a revivalist teacher, and as Senior Associate Director, is a key part of the Global Legacy (a ministry of Bethel Church) leadership team. He travels extensively throughout the world encouraging churches and leaders and has authored a number of books.