I had a bad experience at a church and ended up leaving, but I wonder if leaving was the right thing to do. It was a very small church, only about 6 or 7 persons who met at the pastor's house. I had been very close friends with the pastor and his wife, and they said I was like their daughter, so I wanted so much to keep the friendship. However, the church had a lot of issues that were either glossed over or ignored. It was nothing blatantly sinful, though. For example, we started 20-30 minutes late every single week, but some of the things were personal. There was a woman in the church who made fun of things I liked. She once asked me what book I was reading before service, and when I told her she immediately sneered, "Oh, why would you want to read about that?" I was hurt but I didn't say anything because this woman had lost her husband and son in recent years and she was basically viewed as a pillar of Christian faith. However, everything I said, from making a joke to expressing an opinion, was seen as critical by the pastor. I was constantly being scolded about being critical and he frequently told me to get over myself and stop having the critical spirit.
The pastor and his wife got a dog. They knew I didn't care for the dog, so they attempted to train the dog to leave me alone. They would say to the dog, "Leave it! Leave it! Leave it!" I hated being called "it" and being used as a training tool. They eventually got another dog and treated the dogs as their children. I was disgusted by the dog hair covering the meeting room, the filthy dog toys everywhere, and the "cute" dogs' constant interruption during service, but if I said anything, it would have been seen as selfish and critical. I didn’t like dogs, but everyone else did.
I shared some of my private struggles with the pastor in an email, and he shared it with the church without even asking me if it would be okay. I was terribly hurt. Eventually things got so bad that I cried every time I arrived at church because I felt so hurt inside. Finally, the pastor decided we needed a talk, but the talk was him blaming me for everything and scolding my critical attitude, giving me a guilt trip, then telling me I would not fit in anywhere else. Then I made him mad and he grabbed my arm and shoved me across the driveway to my car before basically insulting me in front of his wife. I have not been back since.
I still feel terrible about what happened. We were all supposed to be close-knit, but I had not fit in there for a long time. Getting made fun of by the woman mentioned earlier did not help matters. I begged God for months and months to change me so I would like dogs, among other things, but He did not. I feel as if I didn't do enough to salvage the relationship. You are only hearing my side of the story, but those I have talked to have mostly said that my old pastor was controlling and mean and that it was good I got out. What is your opinion?
Dear Confused Woman,
To continue to attend a church where you feel that level of hurt and you cry at the thought of being there takes a lot of strength and dedication to the Lord. It sounds as if you struggled a lot to fit into that church and did what you could to make it better. I am sure that God saw your efforts and understands your struggles. I have observed that sometimes when we have done all that we can do to make the best of our current church (or job), leaving is often the best solution. When we look back later we are able to see that God used the problems associated with that church (or job) because He had a better plan for us—another church or job where He wants us to be. You need not feel bad about leaving that church, for leaving may have been what God intended for you to do. I hope that you have found another church where you feel edified and accepted. Some of the scriptures that deal with how Christians are to treat one another are found in Romans chapter 12, Galatians chapter 5, Ephesians chapter 4, Philippians chapter 2, Colossians chapter 3, 1 Peter chapter 3, and 1 John chapters 3 and 4.
By the way, had the spirit of love been in that church, the pastor and his wife would not have persistently used the dog to harass you. Furthermore, allowing the dog to interrupt church services was disrespectful toward God.
God bless,Aunt Dara