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Friday, June 20, 2014

Help For Church-Hurts (and Abuse by Clergy)

Spiritual Abuse And How to Overcome 
-rory moore
 You would think churches would be safe havens from the dog-eat-dog world around us but the truth is many are very unsafe places. (-That is unless you just go to service, toss in your offering, leave without any real interaction with the assembly, and give unquestioning loyalty to the leadership..   )
 In 24 years of "church" life, we could fill a book with not only our own personal stories, but also from a multitude of church workers and friends from other assemblies. 

In the institutionalized, church world, "Touch not mine anointed" and"obey them that have the rule over you" are two of the most mis-used verses in the Bible. They are used to create an environment where the pastor/priest/Bishop is right, even when he is wrong, and woe be to those who become a perceived threat to their authority .

Personally witnessed  Examples of church abuse:
  • members marginalized, falsely accused, slandered, and falsely labeled by their pastor.
  • a pastor micro-managing his leaders lives in every church service. They demand leaders sit in a certain place, dress a certain way, always smile and act happy, and controls who, where, and how they fellowship. He controls the books they read and requires strict attendance to every meeting.
  • financial abuse and manipulation of scripture used to support a self-serving ministry and clergy lifestyle.
  • the rampant use of fear as a tactic to control, "lord over", and dominate people in the pews.
  • what you $$gave determined whether or not you got the pastors attention and/or a position in leadership.  Legalistic tithing required for leadership.
  • a brother rebuked for arriving late to a prayer service when his wife was going into labor contractions.
  • an adulterous pastor committing MURDER, refusing to relinquish his position and control of church business management, and members who continued to submit to him while the affair continued.
  • pastors managing a church like it was a family business (which it was), with questionable and possibly illegal financial practices that were never questioned by the elders.
  • pastors often getting a free pass when it came to people abuse, financial mis-management, and teaching error.

-So often people are in unspoken fear of the leader. People are to question or challenge them scripturally even when they are in obvious error or misconduct
These and similar are all too often found among churches both institutional and independent. We are among many witnesses!

 Paul also wrote the Corinth church mentioning some of these abusers!
2Corinthians 11: 18 And since others boast about their human achievements, I will, too. 
19 After all, you think you are so wise, but you enjoy putting up with fools
20 You put up with it when someone enslaves you, devours you (takes your identity in Christ), takes advantage of you, takes control of everything, and slaps you in the face. 
21 I’m ashamed to say that we’ve been too “weak” to do that! (Paul never took from them nor sought to “own” them as “his church”.)

This site might be meaningful to some and helpful to others caught in an abusive church:
 Spiritual abuse website and testimonies. When we came out from the church system, we found countless others who were jaded or suffered from the "deeds of the Nicolaitanes" (clergy ruling laity)..

 "The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse"  by  David Johnson & Jeff Van Vonderen A book for many who have been hurt.  Here are a few excerpts: 

Unspoken Rules
“… we must never disagree with the pastor on his sermons—and if you do, you will never be trusted and never be allowed to minister in any capacity in this church.”
In this case, the unspoken rule is: Do not disagree with the church authorities —especially the pastor—or your loyalty will be suspect.
Rules like this remain unspoken, because examining them in the light of mature dialogue would instantly reveal how illogical, unhealthy and anti-Christian they are. 

... silence becomes the fortress wall of protection, shielding the pastor’s power position from scrutiny or challenge.” (p.67)
If you speak about the problem out loud, you are the problem.” The truth is, when people talk about problems out loud, they don't cause them, they simply expose them.” (p.68)

“Too many churches communicate this kind of shaming message: ‘The problem is not that your boundaries were crossed and violated, the problem is that you talked. If you would not have made such a big deal, everything would still be fine.

4.  Lack of Balance
“This approach to spirituality creates a system in which authority is based upon the level of education (Bible college, DD's, etc) and intellectual capacity alone, (= i.e.carnal authority –rm=)   rather than intimacy with God, obedience and sensitivity to his Spirit.” (p.70)
They tie up heavy loads, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger (Matt. 23:4).     (We saw this with so many fundraisers where a pastor sent out church people to sell or market various merchandise and multi-level businesses ‘for the church’

5. Paranoia:  In a place where authority is grasped and legislated, not simply demonstrated, persecution sensitivity builds a case for keeping everything within the system.
 Why? Because of the evil, dangerous, or unspiritual people outside of the system who are trying to weaken or destroy ‘us’. This mentality builds a strong wall or bunker around the abusive system, isolates the abusers from scrutiny and accountability, and makes it more difficult for people to leave—because they will be outsiders, too.” (p.73)
 Ironically, Jesus and Paul both warned that one of the worst dangers to the flock was from in-house wolves (Matthew 10:16; Acts 20:29-30).” (p.74)

6. Misplaced Loyalty
“The next characteristic of spiritually abusive systems is that a misplaced sense of loyalty is fostered and even demanded. We’re not talking about loyalty to Christ, but about loyalty to a given organization, church, or leader.” (p.76) 

 “A common way this is accomplished is by setting up a system where disloyalty to or disagreement with the leadership is construed as the same thing as disobeying God. Questioning leaders is equal to questioning God. After all, the leader is the authority, and authority is always right. 

This causes people to misplace their loyalty in a leader, a church or an organization.” (p.76)  
 “There are three factors that come into play here, adding up to misplaced loyalty. First, leadership projects a ‘we alone are right’ mentality, which permeates the system. Members must remain in the system if they want to be ‘safe,’ or to stay ‘on good terms’ with God, or not to be viewed as wrong or ‘backslidden.’     (or under "spiritual covering", for which there is no scripture in the NT).

The second factor that brings about misplaced loyalty is the use of ‘scare tactics.’ For example:
God is going to withdraw His Spirit from you and your family.
God will destroy your business.
Without our protection, Satan will get your children.  You and your family will come under a curse.
 The third method of calling forth misplaced loyalty is the threat of humiliation. This is done by publicly shaming, exposing, or threatening to remove people from the group.   

 In the abusive system, it is the fear of being exposed, humiliated or removed that insures your proper allegiance, and insulates those in authority. (The pastor was protected by the group and loyalty to him was promoted)  You can be ‘exposed’ for asking too many questionsfor disobeying the unspoken rules, or for disagreeing with authority.

People are made public examples in order to send a message to those who remain. Others have phone campaigns launched against them, to warn their friends and others in the group about how ‘dangerous’ they are.” (p.76,77)
(end of quote)

Given the fact that hired pastors have a paycheck and career , is there any wonder that any real or perceived threat to their "ministry" must be dealt with quickly.  In our past, a policy called "The 24 Hour Rule" in which any "discord" must to be reported within 24 hours

So it was, after 24 years of committed loyalty to the system at our old church we finally found ourselves in the position of marginalization and "discord sowing". - (as we mentioning and questioned the lack of scripture for money  tithing).

Thankfully, we now realize this was what God used in our lives to deliver us from bondage to a manmade system.  We left.
Someone is going to read this and begin to recognize they are caught in a church system.
Others will recognize the abusiveness of the church group they left behind.

One thing is certain, no matter what your experience may have been, Jesus taught to forgive "70 times 7".   We are tempted with the thoughts of the hurts far more than actual incidents.

 Forgiveness may be a cross to bear, but we are given no choice:
"Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man would come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me."

 "And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And bring us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. (whose voice do you think reminds you of those hurts?)
For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 
But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."

Please,  this does not justify evil abuse of position by church leaders, but it does mean we can overcome as we “exercise” forgiveness in committing these to the Lord, “casting our care upon Him..” and “forgetting those thing which are behind we press on the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus”.

In doing, we must “cast down imaginations (thoughts) and >> every thought << which exalts itself above God’s knowledge” (His knowledge as revealed in His Word).
It is hard to walk forward while dragging the past like a ball and chain on our ankle..

1Corinthians 10:5  (NASB) renders this as:
 We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ..

The BIG Picture.
Where was Jesus persecuted and His disciples afterward? Was it not among His own people and the religious establishment that were counted as God’s people? Who did Saul persecute in Acts 7 and 8?
When we realize the author of our salvation suffered at the hands of the Pharisees and rulers of God’s people, and we are called to walk in His steps, we can thank Him for those things as we trust Him in all we have been through and will go through.

The NLT says this so well:
Romans 8:17 New Living Translation
17 And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering.

In the “Big Picture” we see God using them to perfect and refine through suffering, help us die to self, to learn and practice forgiveness.
 Therefore we are to give thanks to the Father and rejoice to be counted worthy to suffer as it is Christ working in us for our good.
And that is how we overcome spiritual abuse God’s Way.