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Blessing the Bruised Generation…

A few weeks ago I had a wonderful lunch appointment with a fantastic young couple. They don’t attend our church and aren’t planning to, but we were thankful to spend time together. During the course of the conversation we were sharing our stories—our journey of faith and growth in local church life.

At one point, I looked at the young husband and said, “What was your ‘church experience’ growing up?” To give my question a context, both of these adults grew up in what claimed to be “Bible-believing” churches. All four of us have seen some unhealthy models of church life, pastoral leadership, and unbiblical pulpit ministry.

His answer broke my heart. He paused, thought for a moment, and then responded…

“In a word… negative.”

I indicated that I wanted him to continue explaining, which he did—something like this…

“Nearly every time I went to church it was to hear how horribly bad I was and how angry God was. It was an experience of angry preaching, no encouragement, and no real caring relationships. On top of that, to see sin covered up, hypocrisy, judgmental spirits… to be honest, it’s been very hard for me to get past…”

In that moment I felt so badly for this young man. This is a guy with more potential than he realizes. He has a fantastic heart. He has unbelievable strengths and intelligence. He is gracious, kind, and loving. He and his wife have the hearts of true Christians.

I immediately thought through my church experiences over the past 36 years. I was blessed. The majority of those years were in churches that were very healthy. There was balanced, biblical preaching. There was a pastor of integrity who served faithfully, didn’t cover sin, didn’t misuse money, didn’t abuse authority, didn’t lead with manipulative tactics, didn’t throw temper tantrums, didn’t beat people up publicly. I was blessed!

But this young man’s experiences were the polar opposite. In his approximate 30 years of life, he has yet to see a healthy church with biblical balance and a Christ-like Spirit of grace.

Sadly, I’ve heard this story FAR too often. It may not be common with you… but it is VERY common. There is a generation of Christians that are discouraged. They are bruised. They’ve been handed a warped, man-centered, skewed version of Christianity—and over time, they became beat-up and discouraged by it. The “bruised generation” loves Jesus and believes His Word, but they’ve been disappointed by fleshly models of spiritual leadership.

I personally believe the bruised generation is RIPE for a revival of real relationship with God—walking with Him and helping others know Him intimately. I believe they are ready to produce healthy church life for another generation!

How can we, as pastors and spiritual leaders, minister to this “bruised generation?” Here are seven thoughts that come to mind if we’re going to see the “bruised generation” come back to the Lord and His body…

1. Let’s not beat up on Jesus’ sheep. I don’t know the details of this young man’s experiences, but I know the attitudes and personality-type that create them. It’s not a shepherding attitude. It’s not an attitude of acceptance. It’s a kingly attitude. It’s a controlling attitude. Sovereign and subjects rather than shepherd and sheep. Fear rather than grace. If you are a spiritual leader or pastor, you are NOT a Sovereign. You are a servant. And they’re not even YOUR sheep. You serve the good shepherd. Don’t beat up His heritage. (See 1 Peter 5:3) The sovereign and subjects mentality of ministry needs to die. We need a revival of shepherd and sheep relationships. With the bruised generation, you MUST begin by accepting them exactly as they are, where they are—with their baggage. After all, Jesus accepted you with yours.

2. Let’s get real about who we are. There was a generation that believed and taught a kind of pastoral, “power-trippy-ness” that, frankly, isn’t in scripture. Spiritual leaders are commanded to be clothed in humility—a realistic perspective of who we are, who Jesus is, and what our calling is—a call to serve and lead with grace. Young Christians are repelled and repulsed by arrogant, abrasive, angry, and disrespectful spiritual authority. And they should be. We all should be. We ALL need grace. We ALL are undeserving. We ALL fall short. Let’s not pretend otherwise. There’s a difference between healthy, biblical authority, and fleshly authoritarianism. Only God’s Spirit can produce the first, and it will always be expressed with humility and grace.

3. Let’s use the pulpit biblically. I’ve seen men throw fleshly temper tantrums while standing in the pulpit. They take frustration out on people who should be living differently. They take financial pressure out on a people who are trying to be faithful. They take political power-struggles to the pulpit. They use the pulpit for thinly veiled confrontations of people sitting in the pews (rather than going personally and privately to those people.) They use the pulpit for manipulation—guilt, shame, crisis, “feel-sorry-for-me” games. They use the pulpit to shoot from the hip on whatever personal issues are irritating them in the moment. They use the pulpit to promote personal preferences and traditions as though they were commandments of God. To a thinking, discerning, “Berean” Christian—a Christian who is hungry for the WORD—all of this is repulsive. It’s a misuse of a sacred responsibility. And in the end, the single thing that should be happening, isn’t—the flock of God isn’t being FED! Disciples aren’t being developed.

4. Let’s use the Word faithfully. Thinking people know when a preacher is misusing, misappropriating, and misapplying scripture. It’s tragic when a spiritual leader tries to make the Bible say what it doesn’t say. It’s tragic because the Word is powerful for what it says! When God’s people truly hear what it says, lives are transformed. Shotgun preaching or teaching that rips scripture from context is dangerous. The habit of making the Bible say what it doesn’t say, or not allowing to say what it does, is massively presumptuous—it over-estimates self and under-estimates God. Mature and secure leaders let the Bible speak for itself. Leader, let it be. If it’s clear, say it clearly. It’s ambiguous or gray, say so. Where you aren’t sure—say so. Intelligent Christians don’t play games. They know when God’s Word is being misused or stretched. There are two ways you can try to develop people—first, you can trust your own power and badger them through your flesh. This doesn’t work. It humiliates people into behavior modification, but it doesn’t humble them toward grace transformation. Second, you can trust the power of the living Word, and preach and teach it clearly, practically, accurately, and truthfully. Only the Word produces lasting life-change.

5. Let’s believe in individual soul liberty and priesthood of the believer. Spiritual leaders can make the mistake of trying to be another person’s conscience. I wrote about that here. God didn’t give me control of another’s decisions or preferences. He simply gave me influence through His Word and through loving relationships. The sheep don’t account to me, they account to God—and I account to God for how I loved and cared for their souls. If they disagree with my preference or personal standard, I’m not to reject them. I’m to accept them, love them, comfort them, encourage them, and feed them. I’m especially NOT to despise them, Lord over them, or beat them up. As a pastor, I’m not another person’s decision-maker. And if I try to be, I will only sow seeds of eventual resentment in their heart. If I can’t persuade and influence them to my position, I am to still love them as Jesus does, and I’m to allow them the liberty that Christ gave them as they directly account to HIM.

6. Let’s love and lead by influence and example. When I see someone living in a way that hurts them or living in a way that limits God’s reality and blessing in their lives, I have two potential responses—anger or sorrow. My flesh wants to take it personally and get angry. My spirit hurts for them and becomes burdened. The spiritual response is not wrath or personal frustration. The spiritual response asks, “how can I love that person? What can I teach them? How can I show them a different example? How can I help them see who they are in Christ? How can I help them love God enough to forsake their sin? How can I gently unmask Satan’s lies in their heart? How can my life make a difference in theirs?” These are healthy questions. They focus not the control of another, but rather influence toward another—and only unconditional love and acceptance will produce an environment or culture where I may be able to influence someone else.

7. Let’s believe in authentic relationships and friendship once again. The “big shot” mentality of some ministry models really stinks. It’s phony. It’s fake. It’s aloof, untouchable, and unbiblical. Pastors and spiritual leaders are just as broken as the people they lead. We’re all a mess. We’re all struggling to walk in love with Jesus and toward each other. And we all need each other! What the “bruised generation” needs is not another “big shot”. The “bruised generation” needs a friend. They need someone to show them Jesus up close. Think Paul and Timothy, “thou hast fully known my… manner of life…” Think praying together, laughing together, weeping together. This is a spiritual leader that isn’t afraid to “be known.” This is a spiritual leader that isn’t afraid to have friends and to show an imperfect but passionate Christian walk. This is a spiritual leader that isn’t trying to project an untouchable Christian walk. This is a spiritual leader that sometimes forgets to pray, sometimes oversleeps, sometimes has family fights, sometimes jumps to conclusions, sometimes focuses on self, sometimes wrestles with pride, sometimes has to apologize. This is spiritual leadership that is sometimes wrong and must repent, apologize, and make things right. (…pause… shudder… gasp… hold for lighting strike.) 🙂
The bruised generation needs real friendships with spiritual leaders who model authenticity—struggling spirituality, inconsistent consistency, regular repentance, and steadfast love for Jesus through it all.

There’s a generation of young adults out there that were raised on dogmatic declaration of good doctrine (good stuff) mixed with a lot of negative, abrasive, and angry-spirited delivery and personality (bad stuff). They haven’t rejected the faith, but they do reject the attitude. They reject the culture, not the doctrine. It’s not a doctrinal thing. It’s a behavioral, attitudinal thing. They take issue with a style of leadership that was, in some ways, hurtful towards them and disconnected from them. They know this leadership style isn’t like Jesus. They read the gospels. They know who Jesus was and how He treated people. Jesus was touchable, approachable, down-to-earth (literally). He invites us to call Him by first name. He hung out with very messy people. He revealed a Heavenly Father of extravagant love. The “bruised generation” just wants to see Him in His body and in pastoral leadership. They should.

Love the bruised generation. For the most part, they aren’t rebellious. Some are. Some were. Most are just disappointed to the point of disbelief. They’ve had the spiritual wind knocked out of their gut—and they desperately want it back! When they are touched with real love and grace, they respond—hesitantly at first, but they respond none-the-less. It’s exciting to see them emerge from their bruised experiences into the fresh light of love and grace.

One final thought. The bruised generation make great Christians and great churches—because they cherish grace, they give grace, and they still know that grace is truly AMAZING!

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  • AWESOME!!! 🙂

  • This is SO true!!! Adam and I visited a man after he attended one of our services. His heart was heavy and discouraged. He told my husband,”It seems as though when searching for a church people have to choose between truth or love. It’s hard to find a church that has both!” My heart broke listening to him talk and I though how that must make our Savior’s heart break too! People shouldn’t have to choose between a Pastor that is full of love or one that preaches the truth, they should be able to have both!!! Thank you for your encouraging article!!

  • We came from an abusive church background. I often wondered if we had to choose between truth and love. A dear friend of mine in another denomination kept encouraging us to leave, but we were growing and learning more about doctrinal truths. Realizing the harm being done to us and our children, we left. God led us on a ten year journey of faith, bringing amazing people into our lives, teaching us about His love, mercy, grace, and eventually moving us to where we never dreamed we’d be.
    In the front of my Bible I have written a line from a song. This song, especially this one line, has been such a source of strength to me throughout our journey! I only learned the author of the song three years ago when we moved to CA. Thank you, Brother Schmidt.
    **We cannot lift the fallen if our hand still holds a stone**

  • I’ve seen the same and have heard the same stories. Thanks for the encouragement to engage in authentic ministry.

  • Cary,

    This was your best blog post I’ve ever read. Spot on.

    Thanks for being bold enough to say what needs to be said.


  • Very well written and very much needed article. Thank you for your clear biblical leadership. Great stuff!

  • A good post and something I know hits home to many people. I’d also like to see this addressed from a church staff perspective. We are losing a generation of church staff and those who have gone into full time ministry, and we are losing them because of out of control, narcissistic pastors who put on a good show from the pulpit but treat people differently behind the scenes. We are losing people who want nothing to do with the ministry anymore. I know this because I’m one of them and know others who share the same thoughts. The church I was at in Virginia is in a downward spiral with staff getting fired and forced out and church members leaving week after week – all because of a pastor who has the sovereign/servant complex.

    Thankfully, I found another pastor who provided help, and healing, and preaching that encouraged my heart. Yes, there’s a bruised generation of people who grew up sitting in pews because they were forced to and never experienced the joy of going to church and being encouraged by their pastor, but there’s a current generation of church workers who are struggling, hurting, and ready to throw in the towel. We need to take a hard look at our churches and make sure that what’s being preached is Biblical and being practiced behind the scenes as well.

  • Cary,

    Thank you so much for this article. Coming from the background that some of us did, it’s so refreshing to see someone being REAL and transparent and showing how it’s really supposed to be.

  • This is a very true problem in the mind’s of people. You are the only Bible most people will ever read, when you abuse the reader, you are taking them down for years to come.

  • Thanks Bro. Schmidt. I think this was your best blog yet. It helped me and encouraged me so thank you. i desire to be this kind of pastor.

  • It is so refreshing to see someone in leadership finally tell it the way it should be! Unfortunately the conversation and experience of the young man is way too common! The authoritarian style of Pastoring is sad on so many levels! First it assumes that those who are following really lack the desire or unction to get it for themselves! Secondly it assumes that one person has the answers for every aspect of the lives of countless people! Impossible! Ultimately this type of situation ends up damaging, discouraging, and disappointing everyone involved including the Pastor!

    It’s time to get real about who God intends for us to be as Pastors and its time to allow our people the freedom to find their way to who God intends for them to be! The best Pastoral leadership is one of example! How are we doing with that one? Let’s lead by example and let God be God! HE can still get the job done!

  • Dear Pastor Schmidt,
    I just wanted to thank you for your article. It is unbelievably important for the male spiritual leaders to stand up and point out the truths of the Gospel and where those truths are being avoided, misused, and discarded in today’s churches. You will notice that you have quite a few comments by women–there is a very real reason for this. You are saying what many of us wish we could say. We know however, that our observations, even if they are biblically based, are not wanted nor appreciated by the male leadership in our churches (a classic misuse of Scripture. Just because we don’t “speak in the church” doesn’t mean we can’t speak at all, especially when it comes to standing up for what is right). Please keep telling the truth even if it makes your fellow pastors “shudder, gasp” and wish for a lighting strike in your direction. You will have my support and my prayers. May God be your lightning rod. 🙂

  • Excellent, thanks Pastor Schmidt. I am also extremely thankful that you pointed out the positives of potential grace motivated ministries such as the one you just came from. (LBC)

    I think it is ALWAYS important to point out the positives, for the reasons of people potentially thinking that EVERYTHING about church is negative. I think that we at times can walk away from negative ministries and at the same time “broad brush” an entire movement. (Which in reality is being just as guilty as the people we are running from.)

    For nearly 13 years, as a young Christian I have been listening to your audios (mainly through the Spiritual leadership sessions platform) and have always prayed to God… Lord please let me someday replicate my ministry after that type of grace motivated disposition.

    I am so thankful that there are sound, grace motivated, Independent Baptists, like Paul Chappell, yourself , and others who are training others worldwide to do ministry the Bible way!

    Thanks for the article Pastor.

  • I really appreciate this article. I have had the “spiritual wind” knocked out of me at times by people that I cared about and respected. I didn’t understand it at the time, but this articled nails it on the head as to why it’s such a struggle to grow spiritually in such a hostile movement of angry spiritedness.

  • Thank you so much for this article, it speaks to our current situation more than you know. I’ve gone over this article with my husband, and we’re looking to make some changes. It’s time to focus on grace. 🙂

  • I’m hesitant to even post this, since as a Christian I don’t meet the mark. But God has given those of us who have been bruised by a Pastor’s sin a great opportunity. We know how it feels to thrist for a glimpse of grace and love from the pulpit without finding it. But we have an opportunity to fill that graceless gap. Afterall God’s grace is so amazing through it we receive the joy of everlasting life and we receive countless blessings in that God has given us the opportunity to extend it to others.

    • Keith, you are right on target! Often, those who are bruised, leave church to never return… when in actuality, bruised people make the best GRACE-GIVERS and can help a pastor and church from going down the wrong road in this regard! I love the fact that previously bruised people are coming to EBC, because they “get it!” They can help me give grace, be gracious, and continue in a healthy ministry model!

  • This richly blessed my heart today. May I be this kind of pastor, and may God forgive me whenever I fail to do so! Our land needs this. Many disenchanted Christians can be reclaimed if this was the mindset of more pastors.

    How refreshing! This resonates deeply, and I thank you for writing it!

  • I could not read this without crying. My husband and I have been SO hurt by a baptist preacher. We are deeply hurting and trying so hard to find our way without forsaking church. We are trying to find one that is loving and full of grace without having to compromise what we believe. I have been reading your book “Off Script” and it has so blessed my heart and has been so helpful. Thank you!
    Thank you also for writing this article, I hope it helps pastors see what is needed. I hope it helps bring about change. I hope it is the beginning of healing for a lot of people.
    May the Lord bless you!

  • I’ve just finished reading your post and it brought tears to my eyes. A friend of mine gave me a copy of your book, Off Script to read after we’d left our home church of 28 years and it was a source of encouragement during an incredibly emotionally draining experience. I only realized today that you’re the new Pastor at Emmanuel that we’ve heard such good things about. We’ve come to know scores of Christians who are searching for a deeper, more meaningful church experience. We’ve settled into a small body of believers with a Pastor that shares your philosophy. I personally believe that the Lord is working among his people to bring us to a true knowledge of what it means to be in Christ. No doubt we are seeing prophesies fulfilled and the “church” as we’ve known it appears to be going through an awakening. Thank you for sharing your views and encouraging the countless number of bruised and battered Christians. I pray you will continue on this path for I believe it to be what the Lord would have all Pastor’s do.

  • Pastor Schmidt,

    This was just wonderful and it’s transformational when we begin to look to Jesus for our model of ministry and not men.

    Thank you for your service to our Lord. I’ve been trying to get out that way to meet you seeing you’re so close, and I want you to know you have been a mentor and influence to me even from a distance. Thank you.


  • Great article. I, like you, never experienced a Pastor like those that some refer to. But since becoming a pastor, I’ve met many who have the same testimony as that young man. Lord help us to serve and love our generation.


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