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When Church is Imperfect and Feels Unsafe

Sunday, my husband, the pastor, was talking about how we are the living stones of the church, built on the cornerstone. Part of being that living wall of believers, of being the church, is discovering how we fit together through relationship. I was getting slightly uncomfortable. And then it happened. A line in a song or maybe my husband said it, about church being a safe place.

My hackles went up. Honestly, as a pastor’s wife, I haven’t found the church to be the safest place. Not by a long shot. And as a pastor’s wife, should I really be admitting that?

In reality, there are a lot of people who have not found the church to be a safe haven. Both those in ministry and those who attend services have been wounded.

I think what makes it worse, we’re blindsided by it. We think that all Christians are good people who always behave like Jesus did. That’s a very unrealistic expectation on our part since no one is perfect. Including pastoral staff, board members and Sunday school teachers. But because we slap the label Christian on everyone and everything in a ten mile radius of a church, when people are rude, unkind, and downright malicious, the cut is even deeper and bloodier. It hurts. A.Lot.


We need to ask ourselves, why are we surprised? In a perfect world, the church should be very different. People should behave a lot better! The church should stand out from the crowd, and the world. It should be a refuge for all. Don’t get me wrong. There are churches out there who do it well. But no place is perfect. Every church has it’s faults as well as its silver linings. I’ve been and served in enough of them, to know.

You don’t have to look very far into the New Testament, to see that the ancient church wasn’t much different. Jesus dealt firsthand with pharisees, religious rulers who felt they belonged in an elite crowd, those who doubted His calling or His God-given vision. Even one of his own inner circle betrayed him. Ouch. Betrayal is one bitter pill that cuts all the way down. Jesus understands. As the apostles went out and built the New Testament church, they also encountered difficult people, issues and problems.  So why are we surprised by what goes down in the church today?

The church will never be the perfect place we long for it to be. It cannot meet all our needs. Can it do better? Um, yes. It absolutely can. Every church has room for improvement. Some more than others.

I believe in the local church. We served under a pastor who instilled in us that the local church was God’s plan to bring redemption to the world. Period. I’m a believer. I just don’t always want to engage. But it’s to my detriment. If its God’s will but I’m refusing to be a part of it, then I lose out. I know this but I still struggle with it. This is a conversation God has been having with me for a better part of I’m not sure how long. Some days I choose to walk away from said conversation. He hasn’t let it go. I don’t think He will until I choose to engage.

What about you? Is this something you are struggling with, thinking about? If it is, know you are not the only one.

The only place that will be perfect is Heaven. And only Jesus can meet all our needs. He is the cornerstone. The one we need to keep our lives lined up with as my husband reminded us on the weekend. Maybe, just maybe, if all of us who set foot in a church, both staff and congregants alike, focused only on Christ, and following His example and His call on our lives, the church could move forward and become the place of His love, His care, His peace, His refuge. It is His House after all. No one else can lay claim to it, no matter how much they put in the offering plate or how many years they’ve served there. Maybe instead of being His House in theory, it could be His House in practice. Because the people who make up the church are committed to only Jesus, His teachings and His commandments.


It might be time to engage in that conversation…and if that’s too hard at the moment, at least to open our minds and hearts to the possibility of having that conversation in the near future.