A number of years ago we attended a church where we were asked (TOLD actually) not to speak to a teenage girl who had been kicked out of the church. My daughters, who were teenagers at the time, were threatened with expulsion from the church school if they had anything to do with her. We were left with a dilemma, because we did not believe that this was the Christian thing to do. Brenda was insistent that if she saw her, she was going to speak to her and treat her with grace. The day came in front of Target that the girls all ran into this “evil” girl. They not only spoke to her but they treated her with love and grace. The girl was shocked because most of the lemmings…er, I mean members shunned her hatefully. She was genuinely moved by the love they showed to her.
I am convinced that some churches are taught to hate, by a pastor who is insecure or who has forgotten the role of the church. This girl was not living in open sin, in fact had the pastor not told everyone how wicked she was, no one would have known anything. She had done some rebellious things for which she was remorseful and for which God had forgiven her, but the church would not forgive her.
We would later experience the same thing at the hand of the same pastor and church. The pastor NEVER spoke to us and that all the people knew, is what he told them. People would see us and turn the other way to avoid us. For almost ten years we lived with this treatment. When we attended other churches they would send someone to that church and accuse us. Remember, the pastor had not once confronted me over these accusations he was making. I was never treated with justice. Truth be known we knew this was coming (not as bad as it did) because we were beginning to quietly refrain from the abusive agenda of that church. Interestingly, we met dozens of others who had been subjected to similar treatment. Ours was different because it set us back. This same pastor slandered us nationwide. One staff man was assigned to go on the internet (he later left and was attacked by the same church) to post unsubstantiated accusations against us which we had never even been confronted with. Why would he not confront us? He knew (or thought) he could destroy us permanently and he did not care about justice.
This led to the biggest shunning of us that we have ever experienced. To this day, there are pastors who refuse to allow us in their church based on the lies of that pastor. I know that we are not the only ones who have experienced unfair and unjust treatment after a fall. The feeling of rejection is one that is very difficult to deal, with especially when it comes from the church and people that you loved and trusted. Here are some things I want to share from our experience that I hope will be helpful to others.
1. You will find a church if you can stay strong. Imagine having someone follow you around everywhere you attend and spreading the garbage. That is what happened to us. We were churchless and no one cared. Finally, we visited a Southern Baptist Church that we had heard good things about. One of the assistant pastors had graduated from Hyles Anderson and was a very gracious friend. The service was wonderful. The music and the message were sound and rang true to what we believe.
After the service we reluctantly stood in line to shake hands with the pastor. We were so beaten up from past experiences that we had become suspicious about everyone and everything. When we reached the front of the line this veteran pastor shook hands with each of the girls and spoke warmly to them. I thought, “If he knew who we were he wouldn’t be that gracious.” Then it was my turn. He looked me in the eyes as he shook my hand. He said, “David I am so glad to have you and your family here today.” Then he leaned closer to me and with a tear in his eye he said, “I loved your daddy. He taught me how to love souls.” That was it. My heart knit to his and his to mine. I knew he really loved me.
Hear me dear friend, you will find a church that will love you. It may take some time but do not give up. I thank God we didn’t, or my girls would have not had the Christian influence they received there. It was the right place at the right time for us.
2. You can overcome the continued attacks. Little did I know that the battle was not over. My former pastor and his minions tried to wreak havoc to prevent us from being welcome in our new church. No one knew us, as we stayed hidden. The girls got involved in a soul winning youth ministry and they were so happy, but the attacks against me were still raging. They finally got the ear of a man on staff at our new church who happened to be a former Independent Baptist pastor. He decided to attack me. I was no longer welcome as far as he was concerned, and he was going to do his best to rid the church of me.
Thankfully, the youth pastor had come to know and love our girls and he was thrilled at their Christian testimony and showed them Christian grace. By the providence of God, we met a couple in the church who loved and befriended us. They did not know David Hyles from John Doe. They loved the Lord and they loved us. I guess I was a bit shocked that there were also real Christians in places other than where I had grown up.
One day, I received a call from this friend. I will never forget his words. He said, “I know who you are. I have been on the internet and read it all. We need to talk.” Those words were the kiss of death, or so I thought. Little did we know that we had met some real Christians.
One night they drove out by our home to meet us at a restaurant and for over an hour they loved on us and encouraged us. We all wept as they promised that they were going to stick by us. I will never forget what he said that night. He said, “We are judging you by what we have seen in your lives and in the lives of your daughters, not by what others are saying.” I could not believe it, but that night proved to be a turning point in our story. Remember, the only preacher in America who remained my friend was in Tennessee and we were in Florida. No one else called to see if they could help. I was scum to most people. The pastor who slandered us had a track record of doing the same to others, yet in my case everyone just took his word as truth. One area pastor (Independent Baptist, of course) sent word to us that if we attempted to attend his church, he would have me bodily thrown out. Now, here is this couple reaching out to us in love and grace and accepting us at face value.
They went to battle for us. He went to the church and stood outside the pastor’s office until he could see him. He told the secretary he wasn’t leaving until he spoke to the pastor. He told the pastor the story, and the pastor told him he would look into it. The next day my phone rang and that Godly and gracious gentleman said, “David, this is Pastor ___________. Would you meet me for lunch on Wednesday at 1:15 at Luby’s Cafeteria?” I told him I would.
That Wednesday, I drove to meet him with a lump of fear in my throat. I fully expected to be told that it would be best if I not attend there, but that he loved me. (It is funny how how many men have told me they love me just before or after they shun or reject me.) We went through the line and got our food and sat down to eat. He prayed and when he did so, he prayed for me by name, then he called out the name of Brenda, Amy, and Bethany in intercessory prayer. I almost began to weep. As we ate, he asked me all about my job and the girls and we had a nice conversation together. He truly seemed interested in my and in my family.
I will never forget the next part which was just before lunch was over. He said, “David, I understand you are having some trouble with a few people at the church?” I said, Yes, sir.” He said, “Well, David as long as I am the pastor of this church you and your family are welcome. If we run into any problems we will deal with them as they come along.” Then, I did weep. Men who went to Hyles Anderson College and called my dad their hero and friend wanted nothing to do with me, but this pastor cared about the man who was sitting in front of him and that man’s family. To this day, I love that man like a second father. I was a human being to him, not a monster.
We weathered the storm and it got better. It was never perfect for me, but for the girls it was worth it. They learned more about walking with God in those years there, than they had learned their entire life at other churches. God was so good to us. You can weather the storms that come; if not for yourself, for your family. God will see you through. Just trust in Him and God will show Himself true.
3. God will use it in your favor. Have you ever seen God work something out that seemed insurmountable? We did. As difficult and hurtful as it was I am glad that we experienced what we did or we would have missed out on it. Seeing Christian friends run to our sides was worth it. We had another couple who also became our friends and invited us to their Sunday school class. They loved us dearly and became like an aunt and uncle to our girls. One day, we walked into Sunday school and we sensed that something was different with the teacher. Previously he had been warm to us but not today. It was confirmed, when his wife called me Jack. Somehow, the week before they had discovered who we were and that changed the game.
It was Christmas season, so the next Saturday night there was a Christmas party at the home of one of the class members. We went with our friends. Other than a cold greeting from a few members, no one spoke to us the entire evening except that couple who never left our side. They had no idea what was going on. (or maybe they did and they weren’t going to be drawn in.) It was very difficult for Brenda and me. We decided to leave the class and go elsewhere. It happened again. Eventually we gave up on Sunday school. Instead we dropped the girls off for Sunday school and we went to Starbucks down the street and just enjoyed our own class. Then we went to church and were blessed.
Brenda decided to join the choir. The choir director was a special man of God. He really ministered to the people. One day he told Brenda that he had really been burdened for me and that he wanted her and I to know that he was glad we were there and that he was praying for us. It was a blessing. We found God working in so many ways. Most importantly was what God did in the lives of our girls. I cannot begin to tell you all God did for them while we were there.
4. Rejoice! Every time we went anywhere we would see members of the hating church. At first it hurt so bad that we wanted to hide and not deal with it. Eventually, we began to make it a game. We would speak to them with a smile and watch them scamper away or grunt back. We smiled even bigger when they turned in the grocery aisle and went the other way merely to avoid us. Yes, churches really do behave this way. We celebrated the day we left the church annually. We took every rejection as an opportunity to rejoice that we had been delivered. Please do not take this as we were condemning them. We just decided not to live in their ignorance. They could only hurt us if we let them. That leads me to this:
5. Don’t judge them. None of us know what is in the hearts of people. Many good people mistreated us. A few eventually apologized and because we were not angry at them we were able to easily forgive them. Why do people behave this way? I don’t know, but we must leave it to God to deal with them, and not become the judge. How people treat me does not determine whether or not they are good people. I am only the issue if I let them make me the issue. That is what Satan wants us to do and it is the natural thing to do, but you can’t. Even the pastors who have mistreated us are probably good men who have erred in the area of restoration, but if not, and they are bad men, let God be God and deal with them.
6. Don’t judge a group. I have lived my life as an independent Baptist, but the independent Baptists rejected me. I still love that group and God has allowed me to meet some men who are not like these others. I am convinced that there are good men who believe in restoration and in loving sinners. They even put their necks out for me like the Southern Baptist pastor was willing to do. Yes I do believe that many of them have lost their way in this regard. Far too many think they love souls even though they don’t love the people with those souls. That said, I still believe that you make a mistake when you judge the whole by the actions of some.
I feel the same thing is often done towards the Southern Baptist and even some who are not Baptist. We judge a group rather than believing that there are exceptions. That is NOT how my dad lived. He never condemned all Southern Baptists because one association voted him out. He stayed friends with RG Lee until his death. In fact, there were many within that association who voted for him. He fought some of their error, but he did not condemn all, as being in that error. Far too many have become hatemongers. Do not assume a group is bad just because they rejected you. My SBC pastor once told me, “David I almost became an Independent Baptist but decided against it when I watched how so many of them behaved.” Yet, he loved and respected dad and believed the same grace in which we believe.
Some people have criticized my mom for teaching Sunday school in and attending a Southern Baptist church. I have sat with her in her church. I cannot tell you how many people came up to me and said things like, “Your dad was my favorite preacher.” Some of the most loving and Godly people attend there, yet some would castigate them as evil. Trust me, my dad and my family have been attacked by far more independent Baptists than Southern. Mom wanted to attend a church where she felt her children and grandchildren would be welcomed. We were not welcome by many Independent Baptists. Suffice it to say that mom is more of a real Christian than her critics will ever be.
7. Do not get bitter. I wish I could say that I am a perfect example in this, but unfortunately I cannot. I eventually got very bitter. The pastor who had accepted me retired and the man who came in, had no time for me. In fact, I sought some spiritual guidance from him and he would not give it to me. I got tired of being hated and rejected and it drove me into despair. I gave up church, for business. I became angry at the entire Christian world. Only my one pastor friend in Tennessee, Pastor Baker, stayed as true as ever. He tried to keep me believing that God was not through with me, and no matter what, he was my friend. He spoke to me many times a week when I was as bitter and angry as I could be. Satan had just worn me down. I had no defense. Every day my legend as a sinner grew bigger and bigger and I could not face it any longer. I wanted out.
My friend, please do not allow this to happen to you. It almost destroyed me. Christians began to attack my business and my clients. I was fighting to survive and in my mind “Christians” were to blame. One pastor, who despised me went on a campaign to destroy me. Only recently have some come forward who were involved and confessed it to me and asked for forgiveness. I can speak of bitterness because I have tasted its bitter dregs. Let me make a point. Bitterness is not without reason, but it is without merit or excuse. I had reasons to be bitter, but reasons do not make something right. The man who kills another man, may have had a reason but that does not justify it.
Bitterness comes when we stop being willing to accept the things we cannot change. Look at that again. Think of anything or anyone who led to your bitterness in life and you will see that when you finally quit accepting the pain, the hurt, the attacks, the attitudes or whatever it was, you became bitter. Why did you quit accepting what you could not change? It is because you never made peace with the possibility that it may never change. You avoided bitterness, not by accepting that, but by hoping it would. Stop it. Let it go. The hatred and attacks on me are not going to end. I finally accepted that, and that is when the bitterness began to go away.
8. Don’t fight for yourself. Do you want to get bitter? Defend yourself with people who are already unprincipled. There is a local pastor who would not let me step foot in his church. He has a secret. He went through a divorce long ago and he is trying to keep it hidden. That is fine with me but his reason for rejecting me is not principled, logical or Biblical. So, how am I going to defend myself if principle, logic or Scripture don’t work? Those are my only tools. That is why we are not to answer a fool in his folly. I do not argue truth with people who didn’t check out if it was true in the first place. You cannot argue with people who want to be in error. Stop it. Just move on. If they wanted justice they would have reacted justly in the beginning. They didn’t, so don’t waste your time on them.
9. Keep it to yourself unless it can edify another. Hitherto, I have not told my side in many situations because it would not have edified other believers. I plan to keep it that way in the future. This article is being written not in self defense, but to edify others. If I wanted to defend myself, I would have done it long ago and I would have named names and attacked others. If I do that, I would become like them in my actions. I have done my fair share of sinning, that I feel I have no right to be an accuser of anyone. Many of those who hurt me the most, have fallen or had tragedy befall their family. I do not feel vindicated, because I was not seeking for vindication. To accept it as vindication would mean that I had a vindictive spirit. It is what it is. I am sorry for the evil that has befallen them, but it does nothing to change my life. In fact, God may be testing me to see if I am willing to offer the grace to them that they withheld from me. Now, there is a sobering thought.
This has been a very personal article. I have been very open and transparent. I do not wish for you to use the things about which I have spoken to defend me, but to help and encourage you or others who need it. God will sort out all things in Heaven and I think we will all be in for some monumental surprises. Please allow these things to help you. If others can be helped then share them with them as well. We can recover from rejection itf we always remember that our Lord was rejected, so that He would NEVER have to reject us.