Monday, October 27, 2008

Characteristics of a Controlling Church

My Former Church was a very controlling church. In fact, I would call it an abusive environment. For someone who is in a different type of abusive environment then anyone outside the situation would tell them to run for their life. Growing up at this church I did not really know that any other church was different. Staying in a situation like this will wear you down.

It can be hard when you leave an abusive church, because you have lost trust in the pastor of the church. While you were there, you had built up the pastor in your mind and could have even gotten to the point that thinking a word from the pastor is as good as a word from God. So that lost of trust can easily leak over into your trust in God. Detoxing can be incredibly painful and involve many tears. If you are not careful then you can turn away from God altogether because it may seem like it will hurt less. If a person needs time away from church then they should not feel any condemnation from it. For myself I wanted to see what some other churches were like and I have seen good and bad churches. But I wanted to see how other places portrayed Christ. I also dove into the gospels. I used to read almost exclusively KJV, so I tried another, easier to read version. Turns out if you didn't know, there are many wonderful versions of the Bible out there. The reason I went to the Gospels was to really just pour over who Jesus was and how he lived. He didn't live like my former pastor at all. And many of the things that Jesus taught ran counter to the teachings of MFC.

Jeff VanVonderen wrote a wonderful article at that I would like to share an excerpt with you. This is from his article called “When You Are Ready To Try Again: Going Back to Church

In hurtful churches you find the following seven characteristics:

1. Power-posturing. Those in leadership positions spend a lot of time and energy reminding others of their authority. Authority is used to boss and control members of God’s family.

2. Performance preoccupation. How people act is more important than what’s really going on in their lives. People aren’t what is loved and accepted. Behavior is the most important thing.

3. Unspoken rules. How relationships function is governed by rules that aren’t said out loud, but in many cases these unspoken rules have more weight than the out-loud rules or even Scripture. The most powerful and damaging of all the unspoken rules is the “can’t talk” rule. This rule keeps the truth quiet because the problem itself isn’t treated as the problem; talking about it is treated as the problem. People who notice problems and confront them are labeled divisive and disloyal. People shut up and call it unity.

4. Lack of balance. There are disproportionate focuses and values placed on certain areas of the Christian life. For instance, you must agree that certain gifts of the Spirit aren’t for today or you’re labeled “unstable” or “deceived.” In other churches, if you lack certain spiritual gifts or don’t exercise the gifts in ways accepted by the group, you are considered a second-class Christian.

5. Spiritual paranoia. There is a sense that people, resources, and relationships outside the system are unsafe.

6. Misplaced loyalty. A sense of loyalty is built toward programs, things, and people, rather than toward Jesus.

7. Secretiveness. Certain information is deemed suitable only for those within the church or only for certain people within the church.

These 7 characteristics do not look anything like what Jesus taught. So if your church looks like this description I encourage you to run for your life. A healthy "grace-full" church is going to show the opposite characteristics. Jeff's article goes on to describe what to look for in your next church.

Friday, October 24, 2008


I believe that right now is a time of reckoning for the church. I believe that we have been letting in too much of religion and not keeping our focus on our first love, Jesus Christ. There is only one thing that we should be focusing on, “How can I best follow Christ?” Is that by trying to obtain things? Is that by trying to become powerful? Is that by tearing down others?

Think about how many of the disciples were focusing on those 3 things. Judas Iscariot? In the first few centuries of Christianity when the Roman Empire was so large, think about the Christians that you know of that were focused on getting bigger and better things. I can only think about the martyrs. During the Middle Ages, think about those Christians that were focusing on getting more stuff. Wasn’t that the corrupt Catholic/Anglican system that levied taxes upon people and killed people for owning a Bible? Think about the Renaissance, name those great Christians that focused on expanding their kingdom. I know that Martin Luther, William Tyndale, and Walter Milne did not. Think about America’s historical past and think about the Christians that have sought to become rich and powerful. Those circuit riders were not living it up.

Now think about today, think about the Christians that are focusing on getting more power and more respect. Think about the Christians that are tearing each other down, saying “You are wrong because you are not at my church or in my denomination.” Or “Evil will happen to you because you have left the covering of this pastor.” Think about all of the prosperity preachers.

Does this sound like the Christianity that has flourished through the ages? I would say no. On the contrary, I would say that I see a lot more of the Pharisees and the Sadducees in these things than I see Christ. We are fortunate to not live in a country that imprisons Christians for proclaiming Jesus. But that does not mean that we can forget the blood that was shed. There is no higher revelation than the revelation of yours and my salvation by faith alone in Christ. Now that we have that revelation we should be resolute in seeing that others are offered that revelation. If you have been attending any kind of prosperity church for any amount of time, then I recommend that you go back and look at the martyrs through the ages and get your feet back on earth. Do not keep your head in the clouds; there is not enough oxygen up there to sustain human life.

There was a time in my own life when I thought how misguided all the martyrs though history were, because God wanted them to be “over comers”. They could have had their best life then. It is through the difficult parts of life that we can prove we are a true follower of Jesus Christ. It was through the difficult times that Job proved he would follow God no matter what. Does God want you blessed? Yes, but not for you. Look at your neighbor that has been facing the hard reality of life in a fallen world. If we want to truly follow Christ, then we should give what God has blessed us with to those that really NEED it.

People of this world are hurting and dying without Christ. God doesn’t want you to kick back on easy street with your church friends, never venturing out to meet the people that God wants you to impact. Your church should not be an internal place. Jesus gave of his time, his knowledge, and his life to those who needed help. Jesus went to those that the Pharisees felt too important to go to, the hurting and the needy.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Who am I and Why Do I Hate K-Mart?

Over at Set Free there was a recent post about this topic and it is incredibly well written, I would recommend reading it before continuing with this post.

I have been thinking along this line for a couple weeks now. When I left MFC (my former church) I immediately quit dressing up for church. I always hated dressing up anyways. That just isn't who I am. But I did it because that was required at my church. As I stated in my first post I have started over in my beliefs in Christ. I am taking nothing that I have learned in the past couple decades about God from here forward. I learned before MFC that God loved me enough to send Jesus, his son, to die for me. So I am building from that foundation. For a bit of back ground MFC is a Word of Faith church, read that as a prosperity church... also, read that as a charismatic church.

I have begun to notice that I seem to have a whole lot more questions than answers. Which makes me think, "have I ever really paid any attention to what I believe or why I believe those things?" And I don't think I have. For years, I bought the company line - hook, line, and sinker. Someone recently told me about how years ago Former Pastor told the congregation to not shop at K-Mart because the clothes were not good enough. I guess everyone should only shop at Jos. A. Banks or Harold's or Saks. I don't remember this "sermon" as it happened while I was still a child, but that explains why I felt like I was doing something wrong when I bought my Christmas tree from there a couple years ago. Subconsciously, I believed that K-Mart was taboo. On a side note: To all of the K-Mart exec's reading this blog, I am sorry for that, and I have come to realize that I can change things I have a K-Mart not too far away. I will give you guys a second chance. Now I feel bad for thinking about how terrible it was for Sears to have been bought out by you.

This one example has helped me to see just how deeply my entire life was impacted by MFC, not just my religious beliefs. So maybe while some people can just sort the good from the bad, I am left standing here considering myself fortunate that I am not just walking away from God altogether. And believe me when I say the thought has crossed my mind several times. I feel great empathy for those who like me grew up in a church that was abusive like mine and choose to walk away from God. I believe Jesus put things pretty plain about his view of this in Matthew 18:2-6.
2He called a little child and had him stand among them. 3And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
5"And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me. 6But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.

Monday, October 20, 2008

More Questions

Here are some more questions that I had written around April about MFC. I hope to be able to discuss these questions somewhat individually in the near future. There are a couple of questions that I had that should have been huge red flags to anyone but a lot of these questions have just kind of built a case by sheer volume. My goal in this is that maybe, just maybe, one day, I can work through all of the torment that I have been through. And who knows maybe this will be a help to someone else. I also plan on putting some links to some very helpful articles and blogs that I have found. On to the questions:

Why have we always done things to "honor" former pastor? And most of the time these things are just so extremely extravagant.

Lately I have looked at former pastor's stuff and asked, "Is that necessary?" Is it right for the pastor of a church to live multiple times better of a lifestyle than 95% of his church? His living is made by their giving after all.

Not really a question more of an observation: The auction... Now that really grieved my spirit. Did they really need to hire a professional auctioneer to run an auction IN PLACE OF a Sunday morning service? Especially since they announced that it would not take place during the service or in the main sanctuary? For my personal thought on this see Matt. 21:12-13.

Now as far as counseling goes... When my wife and I went for premarital counseling it consisted of one question, "Why do you want to get married?" and one other requirement "Read this book". Others I have known who have gone for counseling about problems were told simply "get over it." Those unfortunate enough to be sick were told it was because of "secret sin". WHAT? Where is the counsel in that? Seemed like former pastor just wanted to get us in and out as quickly as possible.

People whom I have known and trusted for years as upstanding men with good moral character just disappeared without a word. Just cast aside like yesterday's paper. If they were leaving on good terms the pastor would have made a big fanfare for them, but instead these people are just disappearing.

We were in a building program, having recently moved into our new building, and shortly afterward letters went out to everyone to verify what they had paid in the pledge program. Former pastor told us these letters were not sent out begging for more but to verify what was paid because they had lost track. LOST TRACK! former pastor's family was in charge of that money. Where is that money?

I did not bring anyone to church with me for years, because I never knew what embarrassing thing would happen. For instance someone I know brought a guest to church with him. He was greeted at the front door not with a welcome but a comment about how his clothes were not appropriate. He never returned. Why have I been going to a church where I don't feel comfortable bringing someone?

Former pastor publicly chastised the youth recently on how to "correctly" "dance in the spirit". Those kids were still reeling from other recent events in the church. How could he ridicule them like that? They just wanted to worship God, but he had to kick them in their side while they were down.

These questions I had just helped to reveal a pattern that this church was not a healthy environment and I can tell you for sure that I had not been fed very much there for quite some time.

Questions I Had About my Former Church

I had a lot of things that I disagreed with about MFC (my former church). And while there is no perfect church, I began to think that these problems were common to all churches. Eventually things came to a climax and it was necessary for me to leave. At that time, around April, I decided to jot down questions I had asked about the church. Here are some of those questions:

Where are we helping the community, the region, the nation, the world?

Where is the accountability? Shouldn't ALL Christians have people they are held accountable too, especially if they are in full-time ministry?

Where in the Bible does it demand how I dress?

Former pastor demanded that people call him Pastor Doe (a pseudonym), even people that didn't go to the church. Where did God ever "require" that? What is so offensive about anything else? You know, Brother, Mister, etc.

Pulling an invisible lever made me feel stupid, and I refuse to scramble for a Pay Day candy bar.

Why are things so cliquish?

Why can we not continue a relationship with someone who has left our church to attend another? Are we not ALL the children of God? Are we not all ONE body?

Former pastor has recently been talking down about seeker friendly churches. Why? What is wrong about a church doing everything that they can to present the good news of Jesus Christ to everyone?

Do we really need a “tithe” sermon EVERY time before the tithes and offering are taken up?

Why is it more honorable to be the usher that opens a door for former pastor than to go help minister at a nursing home or prison?

Why are there no Bible studies? Could it be that they might lead to accountability? Could it be that former pastor can't completely control them?

Why does it seem that the stuff around former pastor's son seemed like a cover up? Is former pastor wanting to bring him back?

Why the nepotism? I understand it for a small church, but a church as big as MFC could have had much more qualified people working in these areas.

What on earth do they mean by "the Anointing"? I know Jesus was anointed (See Luke 4:16-21). For the sake of argument I will assume that former pastor is anointed, how does that seem to automatically be transferred to all of former pastor's family? If they are really anointed, why can't they be anointed elsewhere involved in other ministries?

More to come...

Sunday, October 19, 2008


After having spent nearly 22 years in a controlling and abusive church I began to think that I was going crazy. Turns out I might not have been. But I did realize that it was high time to leave. So my family and I did. Now that we have left what do we do? I don't know, I didn't plan that far. Well okay, let's see what I can do to get my sanity back, or my now shaky walk with God.

So that is basically what happened in April of this year. I decided to get a new Bible and "start over" with my walk with Christ. I was a young child when I started going to MFC (My Former Church) and all I knew then was God loved me enough to send his Son to die in my place. Okay, so I guess starting over means, right back at John 3:16. I fairly quickly found that Jesus didn't look like the representation I saw from my former pastor. I also found that I actually enjoy reading my Bible unlike just a few weeks before. So this is going to be my journey of re-gaining myself and a long lost walk with Christ (even though I went to church all the time and did and said the right things).