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 http://www.spiritualabuse.com/ 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.