Open your eyes. Step out of the Unhealthy Church you are envolved in ..start or join a House Church


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Does your church have a Leader with constant problems?
Private forum.

We are adding a private forum should you have questions or problems you wish to share.
Completely private.

Healing of a broken spirit out of a church is no easy matter to deal with.
Let us know what happened, share your
comments .

A poor performance leader passes down to the congregation which can cause depressing spiritual effects.
Caution yourself and try to not let this happen to you.

Second chances with a leader does not mean letting them serve the people in the same church.
Vote them out and let the problem leader straighten themselves out somewhere else.
Vote in a new humble spirit filled leader to keep your spiritual growth fresh and moving forward.

Fictional Leprechaun
Some leaders are shifted and shuffled to a church they are sometimes unhappy with.
And they seem to take on the impression of an ugly fictional leprechaun outside of the pulpit.
Inside of the pulpit they play church with smiles and enthusiasm.
At that point they are just a paid actor.
and this happens more than often
Get rid of them. Vote them out.
Vote someone in with a humble spirit no matter in the pulpit or out of the pulpit, they should project the same loving spirit of a humble man of God.
I use the term fictional leprechaun , as some of us here viewed a fictional leprechaun picture at a store and we all at the same time were reminded of a leader we know who seems to always be mad at the world outside of the church and seems to be in a rage like the leprechaun picture projected.
And no! we don't believe in leprechauns.
Just using it as a term of expression.

Attention getter
This site is not going to be real popular when someone hands out a card directing people to view the signs of an unhealthy church.
In fact you will see some wicked heads starting to pop out at your church.
Do not back down if you know something is wrong inside the church.
Standup for what you believe in.
Get them voted out.
Never do anything that would not be peaceful method.
We never do and never will encourage any harm come to anyone.
Do it diplomatically through the churches governmental channels.
If no one heeds to your concern then leave that church and wipe the dust off your feet.
And go somewhere else.
Always try and have two or more people who see the same problem address the church with the concern.
If all fails, start up a group of your own.

Congregations can also be a problem in the Church.
Not only can the leaders be a problem in an unhealthy church, but the congregation can as well.
Many many reasons which we will touch on in this section under more.
More >>

 

Do not be afraid to voice your concerns in the Church:

You might say "I just cannot stand up to a congregation or a leader in the church. I'm to afraid to voice my concerns."
Jesus showed strength and passion in his quest to keep the belief clean of sin and filth of the world, when He went into the synagogue and turned over the tables and shouted out His distaste for what was going on in the church.
You have a voice!
Strength is in each and everyone of us God wouldn't have made you in the image of a woman or man without the ability to be strong and compassionate in the same form.


Things To Consider:

Caution: try not to let a leader make you feel small or guilty for not bringing your spouse to church. That reason being given as justification for adultry. You should not be held accountable for another persons actions. When it comes to your personal relationship with God, you are only accountable for yourself. You are not to be held responsible for your spouses salvation.

Caution: try not to let a leader tell you that you are to bring a spouse to church whether they want to or not. No one can force religion on anyone else and try not to let someone force religion on you.

Caution: A leader shouldn't try to convince someone of their sin. Speak up. Unless the leader has nail holes in their hands and feet, then you are in the presence of the Lord. Then you should follow the advise given. Otherwise, do not let any mortal man pass judgement as the nature of man is sinful and their judgement on your sins lacks God.

People, most of the time, trust and want to open up and share their pain and guilt with another human being. But take caution with the advice given as that person may wish to inflict their own guilt and heartachs upon another's life. Especially if they are simple and weak minded. Do what God tells you to do.

Caution: try not to allow a leader to "work you". Most leaders who have been in the Ministry for any length of time know how to "schmooze" their congregation by letting you hear what you want to hear and not what's right for you."This happens more often than people take the time to realize or even care to believe."

God will never let you wonder if He is in something. You will know right then and there. Use caution if a leader has to convince you that God was in something and you don't feel it.

If you feel God's presence in your life and your leader tells you otherwise, put that leader in there place and believe. As you know how God relates to you and no one else does.

If someone questions you on a scripture and demands to know the chapter, page and verse, never fear should you not know. It is you who has it in your heart and not in your head. You do not need to know chapter, page and verse. Don't allow anyone to demand this task. Just say: Your take on the non critical details is in your head, my knowledge is in my heart.

Use caution before going into a church as a blind sheep or you could come out as a meal for the wolves.

Don't place your faith in man alone. Your faith belongs to God. Only He can bring you to salvation.

When your conscience bothers you and you hear that small, nudging voice in your head, that is the whisper of God talking to you. Listen to what it tells you.

Congregation opinions:
If sister who or Brother what try's to guide you with a personal problem in your house hold or with a loved one. "Run as fast and as far away from that person or persons as possible" make your own decisions about your personal life yourself, as a church member or leader more than often fails to give you solid advise.
More often than people realize relationships and family matters end up a catastrophe because of someone in the church plays the problem solver."and beleive you me many in church think they are the problem solver" Never Ever Ever get advise on life altering problems from your church.
"Your relationship at home of all things, Never allow advise given you as your church will fail you and destroy your relationship every time." Do what God tells you to do in your heart, He gives the best advise and direction.
How can someone who does not live with you know your relationship as close as God and yourself.
Do not give up on your partner just because your bored. "its so easy this day and time to just throw away a relationship because the world has made it easy by convinceing you to leave and find another. STOP THE NONSENSE.
"No one deserves to be a throw away"

 

 

What makes a Church Healthy or Unhealthy?
By Dr. Richard J. Krejcir

This comes from a big problem we have in most churches today, that is the tendency of leaders not effectually growing in the Lord and thus do not practice their faith and this dispenses down to the congregation. And the outcome is a church that has missed its point and reason for being; as its people, who Christ has brought in, go without being taught or discipled because the pastors and leaders are not being taught or discipled. Being mature means you know not just Who Christ is, but His impact has gone deep and has occupied all aspects of our life and faith. Life is all about Him and not about selfish ideas or perceptions. We have gone to His throne and His priestly duty has been received, our Milk, and then the meat is feasted upon, His wondrous precepts and Truth. So our faith is real, personal, fully transformed and becoming fully engaged followers of Christ seen by a life well lived. If we want to be an impacting Christian pastor or lay leader in a church that impacts its community and world, we have to be eating the meat of God?s precepts with passion and conviction, in love and in truth and then sharing it with others.

Research Conducted between 1998 and 2007:

Churches that are healthy have leadership that surrenders to the Lordship of Christ and builds their church on His foundation.

Unhealthy churches tend to have leadership that are prideful and build their church on the foundation of their legacy or personality.

Churches that are healthy tend to be focused on prayer and seeking what God has for them; they are interested in what God intends and the opportunities that are at hand.

Unhealthy churches tend not to be focused on prayer, and they seek what they want, ignoring what God and His Word has for them.

Churches that are healthy are in line with and in touch with Jesus Christ as Savior and LORD. The leaders and the people have an effectual sense of God?s presence and seek Him out of gratitude for who he is and what He has done. Their growing faith and their joyful attitude in life evidences this.

Unhealthy churches tend not to be interested or centered upon the Lordship and centrality of Christ. They are places of personality, leadership in control for personal agendas, and/or seeking trends contrary to the agenda or call of God?s Word.

Churches that are healthy have pastor(s) and leaders who are humble, exhibit patience and the Fruit of the Spirit, and have a strong sense of indebtedness to God and others.

Unhealthy churches tend to have pastor(s) and leaders who are not humble, but rather seek formulas, trends, and do not feel indebtedness to God and/or others.

Churches that are healthy have a mindset that spiritual formation and group and individual maturity are not achieved from programs or facilities, but rather from the knowledge and passion of our Lord working.

Unhealthy churches tend to place their focus on programs over people.

Churches that are healthy place God?s priorities first.

Unhealthy churches only desire to produce what the leaders want.

Churches that are healthy see worship as a lifestyle and not just an experience.

Unhealthy churches tend to see worship just as an experience and not an attitude or lifestyle.

Churches that are healthy have leaders who do personal devotions, and for whom the study of God?s Word is the foundation of their faith and practice.

Unhealthy churches tend to have leaders who do not or do very little personal devotions, and negate the study of God?s Word. Who they are in society, education, or pride are the foundations of management of their church.

Churches that are healthy perceive Christ to be an active presence in their church and thus have pleasant conversations and activities in their halls and courtyard.

Unhealthy churches tend not to seek Christ first in their church and thus have conversations filled with conflict and activities that are unhealthy or purposeless.

Churches that are healthy have a strong sense of biblical value for faith in the practice of church and personal life. The Bible is real and relevant in the life of the leaders, so it is taught as well as caught from one another.

Unhealthy churches tend to have a weak sense of biblical worth and see faith as just personal, not practiced in the life of the church. The Bible is seen as unrelated to church leadership and thus they seek substitutes from non-biblical or psychological/cultural sources.

Churches that are healthy are pursuing the purpose for which God has created and called them to.

Unhealthy churches tend to pursue the purpose the leaders want, personal agendas that are usually contrary to God?s will and precepts or are unrealistic or ineffective.

Churches that are healthy allow its people to know and exercise their spiritual gifts, and the strongest churches mentor their people further in them.

Unhealthy churches tend to ignore its people?s gifting and talents.

Churches that are healthy have a sense of allowing God to work in and through their people to build a healthy, loving community.

Unhealthy churches tend to coerce and manipulate or micromanage their people, which does not build a healthy community.

Churches that are healthy are making disciples for the transformation of the whole person, both faith and personal life.

Unhealthy churches tend not to be interested in making disciples and thus its people experience little or no renovation of faith in their church or personal life.

Churches that are healthy have pastors and leaders who are equipping others to serve, doing so with care and kindness; they see their people as participants in the ministry of the church.

Unhealthy churches tend to see their people as consumers, not participants.

Churches that are healthy are centered around and led by biblical principles and solid doctrine.

Unhealthy churches tend to be led from an attitude of church sociological trends and pragmatism that ignores classic Christian theology.

Churches that are healthy are filled with people who live in the Fruit of the Spirit.

Unhealthy churches tend to have its people self-focused and who only want to be heard; they either do not want to listen to others or have a conceited attitude or see those who are mature as threats.

Churches that are healthy have leaders who are trained and are involved in the life of the church.

Unhealthy churches tend to have leaders who are not involved in the people?s lives or the life of the church?unless it is centered on them.

Churches that are healthy have leadership who are spiritually passionate and have a love for the Lord that is obviously sincere. They are also motivated to empower others.

Unhealthy churches tend to have leadership who are not interested in the people?s spiritual growth, and rationalize they are better for their lack of Bible and faith.

Churches that are healthy have leaders who do the teaching with care and in truth; they are concerned for the people?s personal and spiritual growth and are not there for pride?s sake.

Unhealthy churches tend to have leaders who do the teaching carelessly and with disregard for truth; they are not concerned for their people?s personal and spiritual growth, but are there for pride?reasons of the self.

Churches that are healthy have leaders who are supported by their pastor(s) in whatever committee or ministry they are a part of?such as worship, teaching, and/or making disciples.

Unhealthy churches tend to have leaders who feel they are not supported by their pastor(s).

Churches that are healthy are focused on the spiritual journey of their people, and do not see it as just an emotional experience or an academic quest. They have balance between real effectual faith and Bible truth.

Unhealthy churches tend not to be interested or focused on the spiritual journey of their people, or else they see it as just an emotional experience or an academic quest. The balance between real effectual faith and Bible truth is null in these churches.

Churches that are healthy see all their ministries and committees as meaningful and important, and the people in them feel supported, encouraged, and equipped.

Unhealthy churches tend to see a pecking order in ministries where one or two get all the attention and the rest are ignored. The people in these ministries do not feel important, supported, encouraged, or equipped.

Churches that are healthy see their people on a journey and desire to encourage and equip them in it.

Unhealthy churches tend not to have a place in mindset or function for the spiritual learning and growth of its people.

Churches that are healthy have leaders who have energy and are emotionally mature.

Unhealthy churches tend to have leaders who are apathetic and are emotionally unstable or conceited.

Churches that are healthy have leaders who are inclusive of others and who encourage and appreciate their co-leaders, pastor(s), and congregation.

Unhealthy churches tend to have leaders who are exclusive with a ?we-they? mindset and do not encourage; rather, they are biased to only their wants and needs.

Churches that are healthy have a collective mindset of being a place of faithful character and the practice of joyful fellowship.

Unhealthy churches tend to have a collective mindset of being a place where there is a lack of intention of warmth, of learning, of being faithful, and the practice of joyful fellowship is absent.

Churches that are healthy have and emphasize small groups and/or Bible studies, equip and train their leaders, and offer quality curriculum fitting the spiritual developmental level of the participants.

Unhealthy churches tend not to emphasize small groups or Bible studies, and if they do have them, they do not equip and train their leaders, nor do they offer quality curriculum for the spiritual developmental of the participants.

Churches that are healthy have worship services where God?s presence is sought and felt, and is alive with energy. The congregation feels inspired and fed. Also, there is a strong sense of God as the audience, the people as the performers, and the pastor or leader the facilitators to worship. (Style and tradition were not significant factors; passion and prayer were.)

Unhealthy churches tend to have a worship service that is perfunctory, where God?s presence is not felt, and is dull and dry. There is a strong sense that the leader is performing to the audience of the church members. (Style and tradition were not significant factors; being performance-driven with a lack of authentic spirituality was.)

Churches that are healthy have leadership who are grateful to God and others; they are modeling the precepts of Christ as servants first, and are leading others to where they have been.

Unhealthy churches tend to have leaders who are petty, and who lead others who are hypocritical, immature, complaining, and ungrateful for Christ and others.

Churches that are healthy have clarity of vision and mission and/or purpose, and who are also able to live it and communicate it to their church people. The people in the pew know what their church is about and feel a part of and connected in it.

Unhealthy churches tend not to have clarity of vision or purpose and if they do, do not follow it (or only a few do) or communicate it to their church people. The people in the pew have no idea what their church?s function is about and do not feel a part of or connected in it.

Churches that are healthy are making disciples and serving their community and the world. Those who go into missions or ministry come from being mentored and discipled.

Unhealthy churches tend not to make disciples and thus have few to none serving or preparing to serve their community and the world.

Churches that are healthy have a system, and are on the watch for problems, both personal and interpersonal; they deal with and resolve conflict fast and with tact, love, and care.

Unhealthy churches tend to ignore conflict or just placate the big givers and power brokers.

Churches that are healthy are forgiving and see people in need of love and care; they have a sense of the other person as God?s child too.

Unhealthy churches tend not to recognize other people as God?s children, and are unforgiving. (Most people leave a church because of conflict.)

Churches that are healthy are stewardship focused, teaching and encouraging its people to give out of their time, talents, and treasures. They are not forced or manipulated; rather, they feely give out of gratitude to the Lord for the mission of the church.

Unhealthy churches tend to skew what stewardship is about and either ignore it or manipulate their people to give. (Real giving is always out of a grateful and generous heart?not out of obligation or manipulation.)

Churches that are healthy are ?outward focused? and are outreach and mission minded. They seek ways to reach out to people, and train their people to do so both locally and globally. They see the world as the mission.

Unhealthy churches tend to be ?inward focused? and do not have an outreach and/or missions program, or else just a few know about it and are involved in it. They see their church as only reaching out to ?our own kind? and rarely or just superficially go beyond their own church membership. They see themselves as the mission.

Churches that are healthy care about their people and programs and seek how they can improve what they are there to learn and do, and do not compare themselves to other churches.

Unhealthy churches tend not to care about their people, nor do they seek how they can improve; there is a disregard for what they are there for and they love to compare themselves to other churches.

Churches that are healthy are concerned with strategic planning and being good stewards with their resources. They realize real marketing is not about programs but about being a good model and witness.

Unhealthy churches tend to do little strategic planning and/or have overconfidence concerning marketing techniques and trends; they also do not do a good job with their resources.

Churches that are healthy measure success by how it?s impacting a life change in others? personal and faith lives; it is quality over quantity.

Unhealthy churches tend to measure success solely by numbers, and seek quantity over quality.

Churches that are healthy have facilities that are well cared for, clean, and usable. They see their church as a gathering point and tool for use by God and His people. The churches that rent treat their rented building with respect, and keep it maintained and clean, seeing it as a form of evangelism.

Unhealthy churches tend to also have facilities that are well cared for and clean. But they tend not to be usable; they see their church as a ministry to itself and not to be messed up; thus, it is not used. Churches where the facilities are dilapidated, dirty, and unsanitary tend to also be that way in worship and ministry. The churches that rent do not treat their rented building with respect; they have an ?us versus them? mentality.

These healthy churches also have 20-40 percent of their church members in a Bible study or in small groups. In these small groups, the main curriculum has the leader teaching the Bible as the prime program, such as a Bible study or discussion on biblical precepts, and the Word is delved into. Churches that are unhealthy have little to no active participation in small groups, and/or the groups are using weak curriculum that does not teach or inform about biblical principles, and the Bible is used very little.

Healthy churches have a deep love and gratitude to Christ and desire to equip and empower the people He brings them. They seek to serve in humbleness and effectual faith. They value people and do not depend on their programs, rather on Christ; they allow Him to produce what He wants, when He wants. They grow from the inside of their faithful journey before it is exercised outward. Inward faith is formed before outward faith is expressed. The average healthy church is where people feel good about God and others; they display personal, spiritual, and relational maturity and have hope and life in Christ, all because they are growing in the Word and Spirit. Gossip is absent and conflict is dealt with; spiritual growth is glorifying our Lord, and the Fruit of the Spirit is at hand. The pastors and leaders model to the people a faith that endures as they look to Christ.

2008, Research from 1998- 2007, R. J. Krejcir, Ph.D., Francis A. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership Development

 

 

 

Abusive Churches: Leaving Them Behind
Written by Patrick Zukeran

Painful Exit Process

In a previous article called Abusive Churches, I discussed the characteristics of abusive churches.{1} As a result of the questions and feedback I have received, I felt it might be helpful to share some positive steps to recovery from an abusive church experience.

Leaving an unhealthy church situation can leave some very deep scars. One example of the collateral damage is a very painful exit process. Those who leave an unhealthy church situation suffer isolation, bitterness, embarrassment, grief, and anger. This is coupled with confusion and wondering how God could let this happen. They also chide themselves for getting into such a group and staying in the organization as long as they did.

One man who left an unhealthy situation stated, "I am confused over the emotions I feel. At times, I am glad to have left the organization. I enjoy the new freedoms I have in Christ and relief from the burdens I was carrying for many years. At other times I suffer the pain over the lost years and lost friendships. It's like experiencing a death in the family." The Ryans, who left an abusive situation, state, "Spiritual abuse is a kind of abuse which damages the central core of who you are. It leaves us spiritually disorganized and emotionally cut off from the healing love of God."{2}

Since so much of their identity was based on their status and relationships in the church, many exiting members have difficulty readjusting to daily life in society. Many suffer from what sociologists label "role exit." Their purpose was so connected to the church that many suffer from the anxiety of not knowing where they fit in or what their future will be. They are in a "vacuum." In severe cases, former members were so dependent on the church that they even had to relearn daily tasks like opening and managing their own bank accounts.

Many end up forsaking the church or religion. One ex-member wrote, "I know that when people finally decide on their own to leave, they are so beaten down and confused that they don't know what is true to hold on to versus what is false to discard. Many quit seeking God and give up on the church all together."{3}

In his book, Recovering from Churches that Abuse, Dr. Ronald Enroth states that victims of church abuse suffer post-traumatic stress disorder.{4} Many are unable to trust anyone--including God--which complicates the process, since developing healthy relationships is essential to the recovery process.
Although exiting is difficult, recovery is not impossible. There is hope! Keep in mind the healing process is not the same for each person. For some, healing may take years; for others it may happen in a few months. Some will be able to recover through the help of a mature Christian community while others may need professional Christian counseling.

Discerning Good from Abusive

How do we discern a healthy church from an abusive church? Unfortunately, abusive churches can exist in evangelical and mainline denominations. They are not just fringe churches on the outer circle of evangelicalism. Churches that can be labeled "spiritually abusive" range from mildly abusive--churches with sporadic abusive practices--to the severe cases of being manipulative and controlling. Here are some questions that can help show if you are in an unhealthy situation.

First, does the leadership invite dialogue, advice, evaluation, and questions from outside its immediate circle? Authoritarian pastors are threatened by any diverse opinions whether from inside or outside the group. Group members are discouraged from asking hard questions. The rule is, don't ask questions and don't make waves. A healthy pastor welcomes even tough questions, whereas in an unhealthy church disagreement with the pastor is considered disloyalty and is virtually equal to disobeying God. Spiritual language is used to disguise the manipulation that is going on. Questioners are labeled rebellious, insubordinate, and disruptive to the harmony of the body. Attempts are made to shut them down. The only way to succeed is to go along with the agenda, support the leaders, scorn those who disagree.

Second, is there a system of accountability or does the pastor keep full control? Authoritarian pastors do not desire a system of accountability. They may have a board but it consists of yes-men whom he ultimately selects.

Third, does a member's personality generally become stronger, happier, and more confident as a result of being with the group? The use of guilt, fear, and intimidation is likely to produce members with low self-esteem. Many are beaten down by legalism, while assertiveness is a sign that one is not teachable and therefore not spiritual.

Fourth, are family commitments strengthened? Church obligations are valued more than family ones. Although many may verbally acknowledge the family as a priority, in practice they do not act like it. My colleagues at Probe, Don and Deanne, know of a mother who needed to gain special permission from her church to attend her son's wedding because it conflicted with a church event. The church made her feel guilty because she was choosing family over God. In another case, I know of women who missed their son and daughter's prom night to attend a church meeting which was held twenty minutes from their homes. The mindset is loyalty to God means loyalty to his church. One's spiritual quality is determined by one's allegiance to the church.

Fifth, does the group encourage independent thinking, developing discernment skills, and creation of new ideas? Abusive churches resort to using pressure to have followers conform, and there is a low tolerance for any kind of difference in belief (of a non-essential nature) and behavior. There is a legalistic emphasis on keeping the rules, and a need to stay within set boundaries. Unity is defined as conformity. These leaders evaluate all forms of Christian spirituality according to their own prescribed system.
Sixth, is the group preoccupied with maintaining a good public image that does not match the inner circle experience?

Seventh, does the leadership encourage members to foster relations and connections with the larger society that are more than self-serving? Abusive churches thrive on tactics that create total dependence on the church while protecting and isolating themselves from the "sinful" world.

Finally, is there a high rate of burnout among the members? In order to gain approval or prove you are a "true disciple," abusive churches require levels of service that are very taxing.

If these are character traits of the group you are attending, you may be in an abusive church and should consider leaving the organization.

Profile of an Abusive Leader

Philip Keller gave us a stern warning in his book, Predators in Our Pulpits: "The greatest threat to the church today is not from without but from our own leadership within."{5} Often an abusive church is built around the leader who practices some unhealthy forms of shepherding. Many such leaders come from churches that were abusive or have an unmet need for significance. Many may have begun with noble intentions, but their unresolved personal issues cause them to become dependent on their ministry to meet their needs. In his book, Healing Spiritual Abuse, Ken Blue does an outstanding job identifying unhealthy leadership. Here are a few characteristics of an abusive leader.

Abusive leaders use their position to demand loyalty and submission. Ken Blue states, "I have heard many pastors say to their congregations, 'Because I am the pastor, you must follow me.' Their demand was not based on truth or the God-directedness of their leadership but on their title. That is a false basis of authority . . . any appeal to authority based on position, title, degree or office is false. The only authority God recognizes and to which we should submit to is truth." {6} Other leaders use titles such as "God's man" or "the Lord's anointed" so that others will treat them with special reverence and keep themselves above accountability that others in the congregation are held to. "If by appealing to position, unique claims or special anointings, leaders succeed in creating a hierarchy in the church, they can more easily control those beneath them. They can also defend themselves against any who might challenge them."{7}

One of the lessons from the Bible is that all men and women are fallible. Therefore, all people, especially leaders, need some form of accountability. Although pastors are called to lead their congregations, they are under the authority of God's Word. When they act in a manner contrary to Scripture they need to be confronted, and improper behavior needs to be corrected. In 2 Samuel 22, the prophet Nathan confronted King David about his sin. In Galatians 2, Paul confronted Peter, the leader of the Apostles, for not acting in line with the truth. "Paul declared by this action that the truth always outranks position or title in the church. Truth and its authority are not rooted in personality or office. It is derived from the word of God and the truth it proclaims."{8} Blue continues: "Paul taught that the body of Christ is a nonhierarchical living organism."{9}

Instead of feeding and caring for the flock, these pastors feed off the flock and use them to meet their needs for significance. Ken Blue gives an example of a "pastor whose church has not grown numerically in twelve years. Frustrated by his manifest lack of success, he turned to the congregation to meet his need. He has laid on them a building program in hopes that a new, larger, more attractive facility will draw more people. The congregation has split over this issue. Many have left the church, and those who remain are saddled with the debt."{10}

I know of other pastors who have chastised their staff and congregation when they did not show up at a church function. Many members were busy with family commitments, work, and needed personal time for rest, but were pressured to attend the numerous church events. These leaders saw their success in the numbers that attended their functions and needed their turnout to satisfy their sense of worth.
True spiritual leaders are defined by Christ's example. "Whoever wants to be great among you must become the servant of all" (Matt. 20:26). Christ-like leadership is servanthood.

True leaders gain the loyalty of the sheep because of the quality of their character and their attitude of servanthood. The members freely submit to Christ-like leadership and do not have to be coerced to follow. Good shepherds lighten the load of the sheep while false leaders add to the load on the sheep.

Should you find yourself in such a situation, the first thing to do is pray for the leader. Second, in a loving and graceful way confront the leader, addressing what you see as unhealthy practices in his leadership. It may take a while for your words to sink in, so be patient. However, as in many cases, the leader may get defensive and reject your advice and in turn make accusations against you. In such cases realize you were obedient to God, and now you must let the Lord work on the leader's heart. James 3:1, Ezekiel 34, and other passages bring stern warnings that God will judge shepherds who use the sheep to fulfill their needs and not shepherd God's flock as a steward. It is best to leave the situation and let God deal in His way with the leader and his organization.

The Road to Recovery

As we discussed earlier, exiting an abusive or unhealthy church situation is a very painful process, but recovery and healing is possible. Dr. Ronald Enroth in his book, Recovering from Churches that Abuse, and Stephen Arterburn and Jack Felton in their book, Toxic Faith, provide some very helpful steps to recovery.

When you realize you are in an authoritarian church, it is best to leave and make a complete break. Many members remain, thinking their presence will help change the situation, but this is highly unlikely. In fact, remaining may perpetuate the existence of the organization.

Acknowledge that abuse has taken place. Denying this will only stall the recovery.

Next, develop relationships with mature Christians who will listen to your story and support you in the healing process. In a safe and supporting environment you will be able to share your feelings, experiences, hopes, and struggles. Although it may be difficult, understand that recovery rarely happens in isolation. You must learn to trust again, even if it is in small, tentative stages.

Expect to wrestle with some difficult emotions. Recognize that you will go through a grieving process–-grief for lost years, lost friends, and the loss of innocence. You may also feel guilt, shame, and fear. It is natural to feel foolish and experience self-doubt. These are actually healthy emotions that should not be bottled up inside. Regret over poor decisions is a sign of growth, and you will eventually leave those emotions behind. Therefore, it is crucial to find people who will be supportive and help you address hard feelings. For some people, professional Christian counseling is necessary. Seek out a counselor who understands the dynamics of abusive systems and can provide the care and warmth needed.

Renew your walk with God again. Admit that you acquired a distorted picture of Him, and focus on regaining the proper biblical understanding of His attributes and character. Don't give up on the true church despite its imperfections. In fact, I encourage you to visit numerous healthy churches. It is refreshing to see how diverse the body of Christ is, and that there are many different ways to express our love and commitment to Christ.

Then, relax! Enjoy your new-found freedoms. Take time for physical recreation, art, music, and just plain fun. After leaving, ex-members may feel guilty for not serving God in a church but this is incorrect. The Lord knows that we need time to grieve, reflect, and heal from our loss.

Finally, remember forgiveness is crucial to recovery. Forgiveness is often more for the benefit of the one giving it than for the one receiving it. Healing takes time, so be patient with the process you are going through.

Becoming Stronger Through the Experience

Although exiting an abusive church can leave us scarred mentally and emotionally, there is hope for recovery and wholeness. In fact, this fiery process can strengthen our faith and understanding of God and what it means to walk with Him. Here is some counsel that may help you overcome the past experience of spiritual abuse.

One of the ways we can grow from this experience has to do with a proper understanding of God's character. While in an authoritarian organization, our view of God becomes distorted. God becomes viewed as one who loves us because of what we are doing for Him. Anytime we miss a Bible study or fail to win converts, God somehow becomes displeased and we must work harder to regain His approval.

In contrast to this false image, 1 John 4:8 states that "God is love." In other words, God accepts us unconditionally. He only asks that we receive the gift of grace He has provided for us, His Son Jesus Christ. Once we receive His Son, our acceptance is never based on our works but on our position as His sons and daughters. For many who have lived under a false image of God, coming to grips with God's grace and love can be a renewing experience.

Related to this is the addiction to church activities. Many equate business at church with spiritual maturity. However, this business actually keeps us from dealing with the pain and real issues in our lives. Our addiction to religious activity becomes a barrier to an authentic relationship with God.

Another valuable lesson to learn is that our identity is in Christ, not the organization or relationships in the group. Many of us find our significance in our ministry, our church status, the dependence others have on us, or the respect we gain from others we minister to. Once these are taken away, we feel empty, even without purpose. This is an opportune time to realize that our value and self-worth is secure because of our relationship with Christ. This helps us become more dependent on Christ and less on others.
Finally, the Bible teaches that God can bring good out of a bad situation. Romans 8:28 states that "in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." This promise applies even for those who have been spiritually abused. Through the pain and healing process, God can mold us to become more like Him. In Genesis 50, despite all the evil that Joseph's brothers did to him, he is able to say in the end, "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good." If we draw closer to God in our time of need, we can be healed and overcome our painful past.

Can Abusive Churches Change?

Those who find themselves in authoritarian churches often remain despite the difficulties because there is an underlying hope that the church can change. Even after they leave they often remain keenly interested in the affairs of the former church because they hope restoration will still occur.

Can abusive churches change? Although with God all things are possible, it is my opinion that it is highly unlikely that this will happen. Although a few have, they are the exceptions.

Why is change in these organizations so difficult? One reason is that change usually begins in the leadership. However, the leadership structure is designed so that the leader has control over the personnel. Although there may be a board, the individuals on the board are ultimately selected by the authoritarian leader. He selects men and women loyal to him, who do not question him, or hold him accountable. Therefore, he insulates himself from dealing with difficult issues or addressing his unhealthy practices.

Dysfunctional leaders also resist change because it is an admission of failure. In order for a genuine change of heart, leaders must first acknowledge a problem and repent. However, a leader who considers himself "God's man" or the spokesman for God will rarely humble himself to confess his shortcomings. Spiritual wholeness and renewal cannot be achieved until unhealthy behavior is recognized and dealt with. Unless this behavior is confronted, the likelihood of real change is diminished.{11}

In most cases, the leadership focuses the blame on others. Those who left the church were not committed, were church hoppers, etc. Stephen Arterburn writes, "Anyone who rebels against the system must be personally attacked so people will think the problem is with the person, not the system."{12} It is often useless to point out flaws because an abusive church lives in a world of denial. Many of the leaders are themselves deceived. Although sincere in their efforts, they may have no idea their leadership style is unhealthy and harmful. They are usually so narcissistic or so focused on some great thing they are doing for God that they don't notice the wounds they are inflicting on their followers.{13} These leaders often twist Scripture to justify their unhealthy behavior. Most members will go along with this because they assume their pastors know the Bible better than they do.

Lastly, authoritarian churches make every effort to ensure that a good name and image is preserved. Therefore, the leadership often functions in secrecy. Disagreeing members are threatened and told to remain silent or are quietly dismissed.

For these reasons, it is my opinion that it is best to leave an abusive or unhealthy church. Learn to let go and let God deal with that group. Only He can bring people to repentance. Although painful, leaving an unhealthy church and joining a healthy body of believers will begin the healing process and open new doors of fellowship, worship, and service for you.

Notes
1. Pat Zukeran, "Abusive Churches," 1993, Probe Ministries.
2. Ken Blue, Healing Spiritual Abuse, (Downer's Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1993), 15.
3. Ronald Enroth, Recovering From Churches that Abuse, (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan Publishing, 1994), 26.
4. Ibid., 39.
5. Philip Keller, Predators in our Pulpits, (Eugene, Ore.: Harvest House, 1988), 12.
6. Blue, 27-28.
7. Ibid., 29.
8. Ibid., 30.
9. Ibid., 34.
10. Ibid., 65.
11. Enroth, 152.
12. Arteburn, Stephen. Toxic Faith (Nashville, Tenn.: Oliver Nelson Publishing, 1991), 260.
13. Blue, 13-14.
Bibliography
1. Arterburn, Stephen and Felton, Jack. Toxic Faith. Nashville, TN: Oliver-Nelson Books, 1991.
2. Blue, Ken. Healing Spiritual Abuse. Downer's Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993.
3. Enroth, Ronald. Recovering From Churches that Abuse. Grand Rapids, MI.: Zondervan Publishing, 1994.
4. Enroth, Ronald. Churches That Abuse. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing, 1992.
5. Johnson, David and Vanvonderen, Jeff. The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany Publishers, 1991.
6. Yeakley, Flavil. The Discipling Dilemma. Nashville, TN: Gospel Advocate Co., 1988.
7. Zukeran, Patrick. A Critique of the International Church of Christ. Master's Thesis, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1995
©2004 Probe Ministries.

About the Author
Patrick Zukeran is an associate speaker for Probe Ministries. He has a BA in Religion from Point Loma Nazarene University and a Master of Theology from Dallas Theological Seminary, and is a doctoral student at Southern Evangelical Seminary. He is an author, radio talk show host, and a national and international speaker on apologetics, cults, world religions, Bible, theology, and current issues. His radio talk show "Evidence and Answers" airs weekly on KWORD 100.7FM in Dallas, Texas. Before joining Probe, Pat served for twelve years as an Associate Pastor. He can be reached at pzukeran@probe.org.


Probe Ministries
Copyright 2005 Probe Ministries
www.probe.org
Written by Probe Ministries Administrator
Copyright/Reproduction LimitationsThis document is the sole property of Probe Ministries. It may not be altered or edited in any way. Permission is granted to use in digital or printed form so long as it is circulated without charge, and in its entirety. This document may not be repackaged in any form for sale or resale. All reproductions of this document must contain the copyright notice (i.e., Copyright 2005 Probe Ministries) and this Copyright/Limitations notice.
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Books to read:

 

Philip Keller gives a stern warning in his book, Predators in Our Pulpits: "The greatest threat to the church today is not from without but from our own leadership within."
Philip Keller, Predators in our Pulpits, (Eugene, Ore.: Harvest House, 1988)

Stephen Arterburn Writes,"Anyone who rebels against the system must be personally attacked so people will think the problem is with the person, not the system." Leaders often times pass the blame onto other. Saying any congregational member who left or leaves the Church were not committed,They were just church hoppers, Saying any kind of nonsense just to point the blame on the people not the system.
Arteburn, Stephen. Toxic Faith (Nashville, Tenn.: Oliver Nelson Publishing, 1991)

Ken Blue. Healing Spiritual Abuse. (Downer's Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993)

Ronald, Enroth. Recovering From Churches that Abuse. (Grand Rapids, MI.: Zondervan Publishing, 1994)
Ronald, Enroth. Churches That Abuse. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing, 1992)

David Johnson and Jeff VanVonderen, The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse. (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany Publishers, 1991)

Flavil, Yeakley. The Discipling Dilemma. (Nashville, TN: Gospel Advocate Co., 1988)

Pat Zukeran, "Abusive Churches," 1993, Probe Ministries.

 

NOTE:



Don't lose sight:
Never lose sight of the fact your leaders will never get you into Heaven. Only your trust and belief will do that.
Use caution with leaders who think they are above what there purpose is. "They are just like you and I." Make them teach you as a humble servant of God is suppose to.
An honest and humble servant of God never puffs himself up, or comments about other peoples issues in the pulpit or out of the pulpit.
Leaders should preach the biblical values and never deviate from it.
Use caution with a leader who tries to counsel with you about your life's problems without proper credentials.
Leaders will almost always lend you their own opinions,when your own ideas of dealing with your life are the best for you."Even if it is a learning process." Deal with your issues yourself through prayer. With Gods help, you will get though them.
Use caution when discussing home and pleasure problems with your leader in conversation.
I f you must, go to someone outside the church who is professional in that field to seek help. Be careful trusting in a leader to help you with your problems by mixing their ideas with your family issues, as they are usually not qualified.
"Put your family first and loved ones close to you, and share your feelings with them. This is the reason most families are in the shape they are today. People have moved away from speaking with their loved ones about personal issues."
If you take the advise of an unqualified leader, you are setting yourself up for disaster.
Leaders tend to draw the attention of the very weak in their congregations who tend to believe they cannot manage their own life.
Be strong in God and you will draw your own conclusions with Gods help.
And you will be a better person for it.

 

Star struck Leaders:
Dominance and numbers:
Organized religion:
Mega Churches:

 

A leader who must drive the best car.
Jesus never had the best mule.

A leader who dwells constantly on eating at the finest restaurants.
Jesus ate meagerly.

A Leader who has the elite crowd that hangs around all the time.
A Leader who also never mingles with the underclass, underprivileged.
Jesus was part of the underclass, and focused on the lesser than privileged.

A leader who always preaches wealth and prosperity.
Jesus only needed what got Him through the day and for his followers.

Remember: There were the elite back in Jesus' day and there were prominent people who had fine animals and ate at fine places and lived in great homes for the time.
But what was Jesus doing?
Living for the day, also the disciples were doing the same.
They could have had all the bells and whistles back then and lived like the elitists.
Vote these pastors out who are not following the simple rules of Jesus's life.
And if you're in a mega church? Get personal in a smaller group.
It's nonsense to say "Well, with a popular leader and a prosperous leader we can reach out and touch a larger,wider group of the population"
Jesus used 12 disciples.
Keep it simple, Keep it personal.
It's your spirit you are concerned with not some large organized religious group who pushes prosperity and dominance in size with their larger than life agenda they push on the people.
No wonder we have bad leaders.
Just some one to fill the spot.
It's all about numbers and money.
Remember it only took 12 disciples with nothing but the trust and faith to keep the good news going some 2000 years later.


Cut out the nonsense.
Times might have changed the past 2000 years, but the message is the same.
Do not allow the foolishness that has creeped into the church for so long.
It is a simple formula.
Get feed the truth and grow in the spirit. Everything else is vanity.




Print out a: " you are attending an unhealthy church if. " card to pass out.

Print out a card unhealthy church

This estimate was established from the Barna Group

 

 

 

 
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