Divorced Christians often find themselves ostracized by the very churches that once gave them love. That invisible "No Longer Welcome Sign" tears at the heart and leaves an already hurting person with deeper pain.
Why do so many Christian churches shame and shun their own people? A false interpretation of the bible may be one reason. Sometimes there is also fear that the "divorce germ" may spread, influencing others to leave their spouses.
Whatever the reason, the victims of this behavior often leave church, never to return. I've been in those shoes. One pastor told me straight out that since I'd been the one to choose divorce, I could never be a full participant in his church. "Why don't you go to the church down the road?" he suggested.
I decided to "kick the dust off" of his church and follow his advice. Here's what I know about finding and loving the church where you belong:
1. Ask questions
Is the church a place where you will hear God's word? Does it adhere to Biblical principles? Is it a place where you will find encouragement? A chance to fellowship with other believers? A place where you can use your gifts and talents? What programs does the church offer? If your newly divorced, does it have a divorce care ministry?
2. Conduct interviews
Conduct interviews with the pastor and/or church leaders in person or on the phone. Talk with members you know. Study any literature they have about the denomination. Look at their website.
3. Be wise
Look for possible areas that would make you stumble: the position of women in the church, a personality cult around the pastor, the amount of authority the church exercises in its members' lives, etc.
4. Attend a membership class
Continue to ask questions of, and become acquainted with, its leaders and members. Read Paul's letters to the Corinthians for specifics on what a church ought and ought not be. Also read Peter's warnings. II Peter 2:1-3
Did the "church down the road" meet my needs? Yes, for a time, mostly because it had a large singles ministry where I found my "tribe," and I liked the preaching. However, because I disagreed with it's position on women's role in the church, I did not join.
Have you found yourself unwelcome in your church? Don't despair; keep looking. There's a fellowship out there that's going to nurture you with truth and Godly love.
Linda M. Kurth is a writer and a divorced and remarried Christian. In going through the divorce, she experienced a dichotomy of responses from the Christian community. After sharing some of those experiences in her upcoming memoir, God, the Devil, and Divorce, she's heard many stories of divorced Christians who have struggled with the same issues. This blog invites divorced Christians to tell their stories with the goal of encouraging churches to resist condemnation and become a source of healing and grace.
Do you have a divorce experience to share? Have you been shamed by a church because of your divorce? Or encouraged? There are hurting people who would like to hear your story, who need to know they are not alone, and who need to be encouraged. If you are interested in sharing your story, email Linda for guidelines: Linda@LindaMKurth.com