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How Church Saved My Life, Then Nearly Destroyed It Through Church Hurt

By Nick Brzozowski

At the last minute, a bag of dope was just too tempting! Pregnant with me, my mom, called an audible and spent her last $200 on drugs instead of her planned abortion appointment. Maybe one day, I’ll have the chance to thank the drug dealer.

Growing up in a drug-abuse home, I faced poverty and dysfunctional relationships. Having never even met my dad, I grew up plagued with self-doubt, never thinking I was good enough.

My mom got me into church when I was just four years old and I immediately fell in love with all of it. The music. The preaching. The Bible. The people. The purpose. Since my family might attend for a year and then drop out here and there, the church became my place. And since I was alone, several families gave me extra attention (as the orphan of the church).

It’d be nearly impossible to overstate quite how much church had a role in shaping who I am today. I said the prayer of salvation alone in my room when I was six after one of the pastors came to share the gospel with my mom. To this day, some of the best memories and friendships I have started at the church I grew up in (that’s where I met Hannah!). Practices like studying the Bible, worship, and prayer that I learned as a kid still carry me along each day, giving me strength for whatever I face. And so often, it was Christians who were there for me in my most difficult times.

Yet, the church has also been the most devastating force in my life. There was often fighting, whether over worship wars, power plays, or splits. My church had a big problem with division. Also, my concept of hell and the pressure I felt to save people was too much for a teenager to hold (and now that you mention it, too much for an adult too!).

But, more than anything else, the abuse I experienced from my former pastor was the most traumatic. He had a practice of humiliating, manipulating, and bullying me.

Last year, I met with a counselor. After telling the counselor about what happened to me, the counselor thanked me for still being a Christian. He had seen plenty of people leave their faith for much less.

The counselor’s compliment was encouraging…and confusing. I had never considered leaving Jesus. Like the disciples, I wouldn’t know where to go! I am in Christ and I honestly don’t think I could change that even if I wanted to.

But, why would I want to? Because of my church hurt? Despite the pain I have felt from church, Jesus has never truly let me down.

Through Christ, my marriage is healthier than it’s ever been.

Through Christ, I have life-giving friendships.

Through Christ, I have everything I need.

Through Christ, I am learning to be more than just a pastor and to deal with my deeply rooted self-doubt.

Through Christ, I get the privilege to bless people in ministry and imagine a church that looks more like Jesus.

I'll be honest with you: I’ve got lots of problems with the American church. But, I would never want to do life without Jesus.


Are you looking for a new church in Champaign-Urbana, IL? Anchor is a brand new church that started back in 2021. We'd love for you to jump in. Plan your visit here.

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