Answers Please

Lately when I have sat down to write it feels like the words just pour from my heart.  Maybe it’s from years of just wishing I had a place like this to visit.  To be able to read about someone elses journey.  Reassurance that I wasn’t alone in the things I faced as a minster and minster’s wife.  I would sit in my bed at night and journal, praying that one day I could relate some of my experiences to others.

Lately I’ve been amazed at the feedback from my blog.  I’ve had some heart wrenching emails, phone calls and comments.  All things that lead me to believe that a number of people are suffering from hurt in the church, but even more than that they have been victims of spiritual abuse.  This a new term in my vocabulary.  After all, even when I was in the midst of situations where leaders mis-used their authority…I had no clue.  I thought it was part of the process…part of the sacrifice.  But I remember feeling as though something was wrong and I could never feel fully alive or at peace while I served under those leaders.  Now that I am far removed…my heart is heavy for the scores of people all echoing my same experiences.

As you know, Barry and I can relate to feeling controlled.  It wasn’t an easy thing to escape…I don’t think it ever is.  But, after hearing the stories of others, it has left me questioning why so many churches around the world are dealing with these same issues.  I wholeheartedly agree that we must have a healthy respect for those in leadership… not just pastors but government, teachers, etc.  But in many cases the idea and teaching of “Authority” has been so mishandled it has caused an enormous amount of damage.

So this leads me to my question for you…

Many people in leadership positions are reading my blog right now…people that are searching to understand where their church may have taken a wrong turn.  People that are wanting to make changes for the better…but in some ways they don’t know where to start…they don’t understand the real issues at hand.

So, I’m asking for your comments on this post.  I would love it if people would chime in and leave some feedback for people to read.  Can you give me some examples of how you knew that you were in an abusive church?

You can leave your comments as anonymous if you would prefer.  Remember, your input may be exactly what someone needs to read in order to see the truth of what is happening.

Your voice may help bring the change that is needed…

15 thoughts on “Answers Please

  1. I think a common theme for those in abusive churches is that it took us awhile to realize what we were in! The deception runs deep. Here are a few things I would like to point out about the spiritually abusive church I was in…many points are similar to what’s already been stated.

    1. We felt like we had no choice – to leave our church would be against God’s will – we would be out of line with His purpose, we would be away from His protection and safety.

    2. Along with #1, those who left the church were spoken negatively about by the pastor – they were seen as deserters, ungodly, going against the pastor, misguided and misled.

    3. We were expected to give…and give…and give to the extreme (both time and money). If we didn’t give enough money we were not having enough faith. If we didn’t show up to every event – fundraiser, prayer meeting, special event…we were seen as rebellious and selfish. A lot of damage was done here – my husband would be gone for literally 20+ hours, and for a time in our lives, I only saw him when I got up in the morning to get ready for work (when he was passed out asleep) and on Sunday afternoons IF the pastor didn’t have special after-church meetings. And, most former members of our church are in financial ruin – or have a lot of debt.

    4. The “Jezebel spirit” or “spirit of rebellion” was featured a lot in sermons. It geared us to believe if we thought or did anything opposite of the pastor or ministry, it was this evil, rebellious spirit within us that we needed to get rid of.

    5. There was A LOT of emphasis on “The Pastor.” He’s so this, he’s so that; there’s no one else like him; no one can preach like him, sing like him, cook like him, HEAR GOD LIKE HIM, etc. And even though he’d say out of the pulpit, “I’m just a man, it’s not about me.” everything else that took place around him emphasized the opposite. For example, he would get very angry and frustrated at his “servants” (which he called Armorbearers and used scripture to back it up) when they didn’t bring him what he wanted, when he wanted, during services, and before and after services.

    All of these points did not show up at once. They were woven in and out of “good things” that happened at church. I felt very loved and accepted when I first started attending. I felt like this was where I “belonged.” It was over time that these issues were brought to light.

  2. The beginning was glorious – or so it seemed. I was 20 years old, a new convert, literally born again into my Word of Faith, independent church. The pastor was a charismatic, no-nonsense kind of guy who, by his own estimation, preached only the “uncompromised Word of God” and nothing else. I thought he was amazing. Looking back, I idolized him. He set himself up as the voice of God in my life and continually spoke of the ideal Christian life and led us all to believe that he and his family were actually living it. In reality, this was all pulpit talk. He was fiercely protective over his private life and the people were really cut off from him – so we really didn’t know him as a person. We only knew his pulpit persona. We were taught that it was more important for us to know him (from the pulpit) than for him to know us. He was God’s “set-man” and was answerable only to Jesus. The rest of us were answerable to him. It sounded so reasonable at the time.

    The journey was long and slow, so slow, in fact, that I didn’t realize that my “normal” was slowly being altered to that of a group mentality.

    I left temporarily on a missions stint, only to return shortly thereafter with my new husband and baby. I really couldn’t survive outside the system. I couldn’t accept any other Christian experience anywhere else or under any other doctrine as being valid and was able to convince my husband that this was the place we needed to be. After all, my home church and pastor were the only ones in my life saying things like, “We can teach you how to live an overcoming, victorious-in-all-things, Godly kind of life. We will teach you how to train up children who will NEVER turn away from God.” Now who wouldn’t want that? Sounded like a pretty good guarantee to me. I think I was probably pre-disposed to that kind of black and white thinking – – I wanted there to be a formula for life, one that would make it simpler and easier. Less hurtful that way I thought. Just tell me what to do and how to do it, and I will do it. I guess I was always geared to be a pleaser and perform for acceptance. This seemed very normal to me.

    It took years for things to heat up to the point where I began to realize that things weren’t right, but by then, I had been so broken down in my thinking and brainwashed, that I did not trust my own instincts. I was ever the pleaser, while my husband, was ever the s&*t disturber. He didn’t just accept everything that came down the pipe, which by now was the pastor and four appointed elders. My husband terrified me when he began to express his doubts about the church and the leadership. At this point, I was truly more in love with my leaders than with my own husband. I didn’t respect him – he wasn’t spiritual enough. After all, if he was the spiritual man he should be, wouldn’t he lead his home the way he was supposed to? He wasn’t up at 5:30 every morning having devotions and Bible Study and then leading the kids and I in devotions before breakfast. Then he was supposed to work all day to support his family, and be at every scheduled church meeting (in our life, that was at the very least, 5 meetings a week – not including “special meetings” and not including all of the school activities we were “required” to be at for the private church-school our children attended), as well as be at the beck and call of the leaders to run personal errands for them and basically do whatever they required of him.

    He was so torn – – he so wanted their approval, but at the same time, would have moments of clarity when he would think that something was not right. I could see him becoming depressed and withdrawn. He would finally share with me his feelings, and in my desperation not to upset the status quo, would begin preaching the Word (the Word according to our leaders), and would eventually convince him that we had to just keep going. Nowhere was perfect, I reasoned, and these men did not have bad intentions, I insisted. We just had to keep serving God and he would honor and bless us for it. On top of that, the leaders would know when he was pulling away, so they would have a meeting and dangle a nice carrot in front of him that would get him excited about serving God again for awhile.

    And so it went. Year after year after year after year. We saw people leave. We never once bothered to contact them to find out their stories. We just knew that there had to have been something terribly wrong with them. After all, why would anyone leave this Christian shangi-la? There was nowhere else on earth as incredible as this church. We were special . . . weren’t we? We were going to do amazing things for God . . . weren’t we? We had the most amazing leaders in Christendom (self-professed.) We were the most well-taught Christians on the face of the earth . . . weren’t we?

    We heard people who left be disparaged from the pulpit. They were nay-sayers, rebellious, strife-mongers, divisive. Why? We really didn’t know. The leaders couldn’t tell us how terrible their sin was – – it was for our own good and to also protect those who had left (their words). Of course it left us all to think the worst . . . which was unthinkable. We couldn’t even imagine what these people must have been involved in . . . but it had to be terrible because our leaders would not lie to us. They were above reproach . . . weren’t they?

    When we saw these people on the street, (if they hadn’t fled the area), we pretended we didn’t see them. We suddenly were very engrossed in looking in our pockets or our purses for something until the moment passed. After all, their sin might contaminate us. We heard enough messages about how to avoid these kind of people, so by all means, we must obey. I can remember feeling so very uncomfortable about it all. But even if I had spoken with any of them, what would I say? They were no longer a part of my world. And I really didn’t want to know what was going on in their lives, and I didn’t want to hear anything negative about my church or leaders. I wouldn’t have listened anyways.

    Fast forward 25 years. Yes, I was in this church for a total of 27 years, including the couple of years I was away. My husband was in it for 20. We raised our children there. Long story short, in the early days of 2008, my husband was called into a meeting and told that our boys, who were 4 months away from their Grade 12 graduation from high school, were being kicked out of school. No explanation except for, “Your oldest son is not the kind of influence we want in our school.” When asked what he had done, there was no answer except that one.

    In reality, my husband and I had reached a point where we knew it was over and we were trying to wait until after Graduation to slip away and never come back. Of course, they knew us pretty well – – considering that they had managed to manipulate us for the better part of 20 years and we had effectively given them our entire lives. Our time, our energy, our talents, huge amounts of our money, our devotion, our loyalty, and our children. This final act was to punish us and to let us know that they were in control.

    Even though we knew we were going to leave, the experience was devastating to our entire family. The only life my children had ever known, and the only adult life I had ever known came crashing down. And what made it worse was the fear of knowing what we were in for. We had seen the shunning for years and had participated in it . . . when it was someone else. We knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that this was now going to happen to us. It was terrifying.

    And because my husband didn’t take it laying down, the situation escalated and became even worse. You see, we were supposed to shut-up and leave town. That is how most people leave this church. The idea of trying to live in the same community after leaving is almost unthinkable. We were told for years that there is a “right” way to leave, but we know now that isn’t true. There is no right way to leave. Whether people think they’re leaving on good terms or not, they quickly find out that they are lumped in with the ones who left wrong. The sin isn’t in how you leave – – i’ts in leaving, period. That is the ultimate disloyalty to this pastor. Because you see, we were called to that church and to that pastor . . . FOREVER. God doesn’t call you somewhere and then change his mind. (their words)

    Lifelong friendships destroyed in one day. People we had raised our children with, loved with, laughed with, fellowshipped with – – – all cut out of our lives in an instant.

    I haven’t even scratched the surface of how this system operates. But it pretty much fits the bill of everything you’ve ever read about spirtual abuse. 10/10. 100%.
    – pastor is the king and his family are the royal family
    – submission to authority is more important than anything else and your entire walk with God hinges on your submission to the pastor’s authority
    – all are assigned personal counselors (hand-picked by pastor and elders) to whom they are expected to reveal personal and intimate details of personal lives and to whom you would report all major decisions BEFORE making them (so you could be told whether or not you “heard” God)
    – incidentally, no one but the leaders hear accurately from God (what a surprise!)
    – no-talk rule is firmly in place – to violate it is to be called into a “meeting” and have your thinking straightened out
    – even though you are told that you are the authority in your home, it is not true in practice – your children really belong to them
    – full two years of post-secondary bible school (I use that term loosely) is MANDATORY for all children of members to complete the indoctrination as young adults (wasn’t 13 years of the church school enough??? – apparently not)
    – marriages arranged (subtly but surely)
    – issues of concern over the way people are treated or doctrinal concerns are not taken seriously and are written off as invalid
    – the average churchgoer has no AUTHORITY to question the pastor or the leaders – they are there by God’s decree not man’s, so we have no RIGHT to question them – about anything!
    – people who raise issues of concern become THE problem
    – people who raise issues of concern are told that they cannot judge the heart motives of the leaders – it is not their place, but the leaders can, and do ALL THE TIME, judge the heart motives of the people
    – spiritual elitism is rampant in the leaders and of course, filters down into the people, i.e. WE only have the correct doctrine, WE only are the ones doing anything worthwhile for God (still haven’t figured out exactly what that was!), WE are the only church in this city worth going to and WE only have the revelation of what God wants to do in these end times
    -proof texting is the only method of preaching – I don’t remember a single message in 27 years that had any historical or contextual relevance
    – and the list goes on and on and on and on and on

    I cried for almost 2 years. I became depressed and ended up taking medication. We tried to go to church, but after about 6 months gave up on the idea altogether. Everything we ever believed came into question, not so much about the existence or reality of God, but about the structure and the system of the modern day church as we know it and the very existence of a paid, full-time professional ministry.

    Do we have trust issues? You know it. I can hardly sit through a church service anywhere. I hear words, cliches, phrases that trigger the voice of my old pastor in my head. And I have an anxiety attack and have to get up and leave. So I don’t go anymore. Will I ever go back to church? I don’t know. I don’t know if church is what it is supposed to be or what God ever intended it to be. I can tell you one thing though – it makes other Christians REALLY nervous that we don’t go to church. We’ve been told all manner of things. “You need to forgive and forget.” “You can’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.” “You have to go to church – God commands it in the Bible.” “Can’t you just put all this stuff behind you and move on? Get over it already.”

    We usually just smile and nod. I do feel a little rebellious in that I will NEVER, EVER again give myself away with unconditional trust to another man or institution ever again.

    But I know God is not threatened by this journey we’re on and I don’t know if he really cares, at this point, if we’re in church or not.

    Almost 3 years after the devastatingly painful exit, I would say that I’ve definitely gone through the stages of grief. It could be possible that I’m stuck in anger right now. I’m angry. I’m pissed. I gave the best years of my life to these men . . . and I thought I was building the kingdom of God while doing it. Rather, I was building a man’s kingdom – a kingdom he is in the process now of handing down to his sons. And he used me and my family to make it happen. And a couple hundred other families as well. And we trained up our children to be his son’s servants – the same way we served their father. It’s sickening.

    I’m angry that my husband and I will be 50 next year and we have no retirement – we gave it all away in tithes, offerings and school tuition, all the while living on a shoestring ourselves – sacrificing our own home and family life and vacations for the “greater good” of serving the church. I’m angry that I feel my relationship with God is irrepairably damaged. I’m angry that my children (now adults) may never be able to completely trust God or his church ever again. I’m angry that I almost lost my marriage due to my insane loyalty to these guys. I’m angry at myself for being so gullible and so stupid as to have done all of this. OK – I’m just angry. Not at God. Just angry.

    These days it doesn’t hurt so much anymore – – I’ve stopped crying. I can now talk about our experience without feeling sick to my stomach, or having a panic attack, or crying uncontrollably. I guess I have more hope in time healing the wounds than in the Christian platitudes that are so easily thrown about by people who really have no idea of what this experience has meant to our family and others who have had similar experiences.

    But I admit that I haven’t picked up the Bible for a very long time. That still instills a lot of panic. I just can’t do it.

    But our family is close. We have some close friends, many of whom trickled out of the church after we did, due to the outrageous behaviour of the leaders in the wake of our leaving. In fact, it was so outrageous that in the 6 months following our departure, approx. 150 people left the church. While we think that is great, guess who is credited with their leaving? Right – we are. We are so evil that we were able to convince 150 people to walk out of the church – without ever contacting them or saying a single word to them about why we left or what happened to us. (We were still very influenced by the thinking and doctrine we had been taught there, so we were still following the no-talk rule – even though we weren’t there anymore!)

    We do not feel that way anymore and feel quite free to talk about our experience, but it still doesn’t get great reception from many Christians, who feel we are wrong for voicing ANYTHING negative about our experiences in our church or with our church leaders. Apparently we are supposed be quiet and let God deal with them . . . never mind that they are abusing the sheep and have been doing so in this city for almost 30 years. It’s still a taboo subject amongst Christians in general.

    Long post, I know. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if most gave up and didn’t read the whole thing but for those who did, thanks for listening and bearing with me – this is very therapeutic.

    All I can say is that I’m so sorry for anyone who has ever experienced any form of abuse and I would say to those who have had the good fortune not to, that it is a very complex issue that cannot be wiped away by oversimplifications – something the evangelical and maybe moreso, the charismatic/pentecostal Christian world has been so good at.

    I know there needs to be a balance (is there such a thing??) in everything, but it would do some Christians a lot of good to get some education about the psychology and the nature of abuse/abusers before expressing an opinion on the subject or spouting Bible or doctrine about how hurting people should be handling their issues.

    1. Thank you so much for writing. I read every single word and the truth of what you shared echoed in my heart. So many people are telling their stories and speaking up because this type of behavior/abuse is on the rise. The “no talk” rule is sickening and causes so much damage. That’s why hearing what you shared is very powerful…it opens up dialogue and let’s people know they are not alone. The abuse they have encountered needs to be spoken about…it’s important…it brings healing and it helps others.

      I am very thankful that you gave so many details, instances and explanations…it is extremely helpful. I too have struggled with loving the Bible and wanting to read it…I fear that I won’t interpret it correctly. Knowing that others have felt this way too…well that means a lot to me. Again…Thank you!

    2. Pennythoughts, thank you for sharing. I too read every word and it brought back many memories of my own story.

      I agree with Jana that the “no talk” rule is damaging and unhealthy. Personally I am still trying to figure out how and where to share, but it is important for our own healing and for others who feel alone and as if they are the only one. The things you are struggling with are not uncommon in the face of the abuse you went through. I pray the Lord will bring you to the right time and place to heal and find healthy community again.

      You are absolutely right that abuse is complex, and spiritual abuse may be the most complex of all types. Few leaders know how to help because they have not walked the path themselves. That is why I and others are trying to speak up to train, educate, and engage in conversations to help them learn. It is a long journey, but I pray things are changing.

    3. Pennythoughts,

      Man oh man oh man!!!!! Thank you for sharing your story. It is just too scary how similar these abusive churches are! I appreciate you telling so much, and being so honest. Thank you. I have to say I was relieved to read your family has stayed close and you have friends to turn to. I don’t think I could be where I am now without that support!

      I have an experience of my own to share – 6 years we were apart of the ministry, but still so much damage done. I would like to think about what I’ll write first, but I just had to comment after this story.

      Thanks again!

  3. Jana! I’m so proud of you. After knowing you most of your life, and reading what you’ve posted and experienced, I have to let you know that I’m glad you and Barry are experiencing new life!

    As far as your blog goes, I wanted to give an MC Staff/Director’s perspective. Having led an MC program for years, and also being a full supporter since before the inception of MCIN, the difficulty of leading young people to their full potential can be overwhelming. However, when students face high demands on their lives, and are controlled to the 10th degree, it’s the leader’s way of making life easier for themselves. It is much harder to walk a group of disciples through the day to day of life than what people think. However, in a world where bigger is better, and bigger ministries means more respect, the art of true one on one discipleship is lost. For that reason, a Senior Pastor has to be involved and keep Directors and MC Staff accountable. I was fortunate to have that as a Director, and to consistently be reminded of what my call was…to disciple, train, love and RELEASE our students into full lives in Christ!!

    I’ve only been a part of one controlling church, and the moment I couldn’t protect our students from it, Libby and I left and encouraged our students to do the same.

    I’ve been tempted to be more controlling over the years, especially when I see a student who is making destructive decisions. Yet, instead of giving over to that temptation, I choose to sit down, talk, encourage, love and raise the level of expectation for them. My desire is for them to feel supported in their endeavors, and not manipulated to do what is “right”.

    I know I’ve made mistakes as a Pastor/MC Director, but it can never be said that I controlled people’s lives!


  4. Everyone, thank you so much for contributing! I know it takes time to write such heartfelt and in-depth responses and I so appreciate you taking the time to respond…it means a lot!!

    Melody, our old church was started out of one of the ministries listed in that book. Our former pastor still goes to those leaders for accountability and has them teaching the Master’s Commission students on a regular basis. The fact that they are referenced in a published book should be a red flag for some…but they continue to ignore the signs. Thanks for so much for sharing. Your heart is beautiful and it is so evident!!

  5. Oh, Jana and Barry:
    Every time I read of human to human injustice it brings me to tears.
    Mankind can be so cruel in thinking they are doing right by or for some one or God. It causes me to look deep inside myself and keeps me tempered in my tone and words.
    To all of you I am so sorry.
    This is one pastors wife who will do her absolute best at bringing out the best in every man, woman and child I meet.
    In 33 years of ministry I have been in three church settings.
    1. 10 years in a small church with a pastor and a have your hand in everything wife who every day made me feel like the “doesn’t have a lick of talent youth pastors wife”
    2. 25 years in a mega church with leadership that allow you to dream and accomplish it only if it fits their dream. When time came to pursue your dream they appear to give their blessing and behind the scenes block every move you make.
    3. 2 1/2 years as senior pastors. The freedom to do things the way you felt you were always bent to do is breath taking. Helping ones in all walks of life feel relevant each day presents the best feeling at night when you put your head on the pillow.

  6. Basically everything mentioned above is absolutely correct. I just wanted to show support for this blog and the progress and change that is happening because of it.
    To all who are reading, i too was in this same church as jana, and an MC student, who left there feeling as though I could do NOTHING right and i was never good enough. I was not one of the “elite.” i wasn’t in the inner circle.
    what I’ve come to realize is this was due to the fact that I am not, and never was, a “yes man.” I asked questions politely, but was literally told i was rebellious for doing so. We were always told we could appeal anything- what a joke. Seriously. I think that was thrown out there as a mockery.
    I was called a “Jezebel” by an MC staff member, who knew nothing about me besides gossip and had never held one single conversation with me. When my mom overheard him say it on the phone, she was quite upset.
    I was rebuked daily for not being what the staff wanted me to be. So much of it was just plain UNBIBLICAL. The senior pastor definitely has his own agenda but i wonder if the little work horses he has beneath him are actually worse than him! They take the control and manipulation, and run with it!
    When i realized that the senior “pastor” was no longer someone i could consider a spiritual father was when he, never holding more than a 30 second conversation with me, proceeded to tell the woman who was to be my future mother-in-law that I was stubborn, prideful, and that her son was gonna have a “heck of a time” trying to GET me to submit to him. I don’t need to explain how jacked up that statement is in the first place. But needless to say, from that day forward her years of adoration for me turned to hostility and dissention between us. The rest of his family also jumped on the bandwagon to split us up. “if pastor said they don’t belong together then that’s what goes!”
    I am no longer dating that gentleman but I can honestly say that because of that senior pastors gossipy ways, I had zero chance of ever having a good relationship with my in-laws again.
    This was supposed to be man I trusted WITHOUT question. Yet he speaks harshly and ungraciously of those whom he is supposed to be shepherding.
    How unjust.

  7. Had lunch with a woman last week whose experience in a church would be what I would term spiritual abuse as well. She said they realized something wasn’t right when the leaders said in a “restoration meeting” (?) where the women met all with the pastor’s wife and the men with the pastor….that if any of the three things applied to you then you needed to leave the church:
    1) you had a problem with the church movement
    2) you were planning to move
    3) …..I can’t remember what the third was (oops)

    They both came out of the meeting knowing things weren’t right. So they called a friend couple who invited them to church in the first place and asked if the could come over for dinner and they said the only way they could do that is if they came with the pastor and his wife. They were hurt by that and felt totally shunned by the church….they were shunned. I asked this woman, a dr’s wife, if she felt like her friends had just succomed to that faulty thinking of “well, if the pastor said it, it must be right.” And she said, “Melody, I don’t know what it was…..most of the people in the church were either attorneys or doctors so you’re talking intelligent people able to think for themselves.”
    I asked her if this skewed her picture of church and was it hard for them to get involved in another church after that experience and she said, “We never associated that leadership with Christ and how he responds to us so it really wasn’t hard to get involved in another church. ” I thought that was interesting and said a lot about their maturity in Christ. I have to say though, that reading your blog gave that whole conversation a brand new light for me. I would not have been able to relate to anything she was saying had I not been reading your story. This friend of mine got a book at the book store called Church Abuse or something to that effect and their old church movement was in there…a whole chapter…she said it was kind of freaky to read about it. Anyways, I say all that to say your story has given me much insight into things I had NO clue existed. I have lived a sheltered church life and I’m appauled at what the church has done to some of her people. It is a great reminder to me of the accountability I will face before the Lord as a leader and teacher in His church.

  8. 1. The focus was not on bringing God glory and resolving things. Instead it was about secrecy, silence, control, justifying behavior, and promoting others while undermining me.
    2. I was not allowed a voice, and questions were not answered.
    3. When I asked to have decisions and actions explained in light of the Gospel they refused.
    4. Others were not allowed into the process.
    5. There was great contradiction between words and actions and scripture.
    6. I was told to lie to protect the image of leaders.
    7. Grace, forgiveness and second chances were not available.
    8. I needed to “prove” my repentance, but leaders refused to explain what proof was needed…..the mark seemed to keep moving.
    9. I was the only one that did anything wrong.
    10. I was okay for leaders to speak behind my back in ways that were hurtful toward me and share confidential things about me with others.

    Jana, had never heard of spiritual abuse before I experienced it either. It was so hard for me to accept. I notice many people are trying to soften the term to “church hurt” now. This probably is the correct term for pain that come happen in churches due to broken and selfish ways, but stories like your story truly deserve the name “abuse”.

  9. Jana,
    I think this is a great point to make. I, like you, was completely clueless while i was in the middle of it all. Even when we left there i blamed myself and decided that I just wasnt good enough to have a relationship with God. It was a mess! When you are there you cant see it! I think one thing that can mark the characteristics of an abusive situation is not being allowed to question anything. Not being allowed to make our own decisions for our lives. We were never allowed to question our leaders or the decisions they made for us. It was as if the leaders of the church believed that they were the only ones who could hear the voice of God for our lives, like we couldnt be trusted to listen to God on our own. That concept was so ingrained in my head that it took me years to even think that it was ok for me to look back on that time in our lives and see what was wrong there. Instead I blamed myself and that got me into all kinds of trouble. Now, more than five years later, I am beginning see the situation for what it was, and as a result I am finding my faith and place in ministry again.

  10. As I have looked back on my hurt and when I began to feel it I reflected on what was happening at the time. Key words for me were “anointing” “God spoke to me about you “. As I pondered my situation I realized manipulation that went along with “I see this anointing in you but not that and this gifting and not that.” “God spoke to my heart and said you should be involved in this job or that ministry in the church.” When I moved on I could see that God can speak to me and I needed to trust myself in what I heard. I did not need stuff filtered through any one. God can and does speak to me. There are those that are wise in the Lord but that does not make me stupid. There are those who hear but that does not make me deaf. God can anoint who he wishes and when he wishes with out any say so from any one. Just because a volunteer was needed I suddenly had an anointing for that task. Hummm I do not think it works that way. Trust in Lord with all your heart you will know your gifts and anointing and I remember that all good gifts come from Him.

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