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Church Hurt as a Barrier to Evangelism

Written by Ed Stetzer on . Posted in Ed Stetzer

How do we rebuild trust with those who have been deeply wounded by the church?

Methods of evangelism have changed over the years.

In a culture that is increasingly gospel adverse, I anticipate the ways we evangelize will continue to change to remain effective and faithful to the gospel. As the number of religious nones (i.e., those who have no religious ties) continue to increase, we have started to think through ways to better engage them.

But there remains an often overlooked group of ‘unreached’ people who desperately need the gospel. This group consists of men and women who have experienced deep levels of church hurt.

In recent years, some have pointed out low rates of transfer growth as measurements for effective evangelism. Is that the right approach, though? Is it possible that the absence of at least some transfer growth in evangelical churches points to a deeper issue? Have we ignored a group of men and women whose painful experiences have created barriers to hearing the gospel?

While attending Fuller Seminary, some of the courses I appreciated the most involved pastoral care. Those pastoral care classes, combined with my own experience in pastoral ministry, have taught me one truth: pastors and leaders have to exegete—a fancy theological word meaning to expound or interpret—their people just as much as they have to exegete scripture. And that means dealing with varying levels of church hurt.

Whether a person has had concerns over a church’s poor financial stewardship or experienced spiritually abusive leadership, there’s a cross-section of the dechurched community that suffers not from a lack of faith, but a lack of trust.

How do you rebuild that trust? How do you overcome church hurt as a barrier to evangelism? I think it can be done in three ways. In my opinion, ...

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