Another characteristic of a controlling church is being "secretive." This is the "can't talk" rule in a reverse role. This is the leaders not sharing any information with the church members. Jeff Van Vonderen says, "When you see people in a religious system being secretive - watch out. People don't hide what is appropriate; they hide what is inappropriate." I was watching a talk show one day on cults and a psychologist said that the number one thing that raises a red flag with him in churches is when people are secretive.
People give of their lives, their time, and their money faithfully week after week. It just doesn't seem to be right when these hard working people are told, "You have no say in any church matters." How can a church stay in unity when only a handful of people know what is going on? It's not asking too much when people want to know how the board members are selected, how the board functions, how the money is spent, or how much money goes to missions. Asking questions like this does not show disrespect to the leaders. It shows that you have an interest in the place you give so much of your life to. There are so many smart, trustworthy church members who really just want to help make the church a better place. It's not abnormal to ask questions, it's abnormal for people to sit back and let someone take control without knowing what's going on behind the scenes. Leaders should be glad when they have men and women of God who care enough to ask - it shows strength and character.
I recently went to a meeting at a church where anyone interested in knowing more about the church could come and ask questions. All of the questions I mentioned above were talked about openly. I didn't ask any questions because they covered it all up front, but I sat there and smiled through the whole meeting thinking, "So this is the way it's supposed to be." I felt like these people respected me enough to give me a voice. I always want to have a servant's heart, show respect, and be kind to all people. I want to teach my children respect and good manners, but I want them to have enough self-respect not to allow themselves to be controlled or manipulated by anyone.
If you see things that you question, don't just blindly go and give yourself fully. If you can't get your questions answered, you should be asking, "Why are you keeping secrets?"