Friday, August 22, 2008

So Call Me Crazy......

To give new readers a little background, I left an abusive, controlling church 3 months ago. I had been in that church for over 20 years and now I can't figure out what in the world I was thinking for all those years! I am not placing the blame on anyone but myself, because I made the decision to stay as long as I did, however there was a lot of manipulation and control going on.

When I made the decision to leave, I went through some of the most emotional days of my entire life. I had given so much of my life, time, and money to this church for many years, only to find out that 2 days after I left, I was now being called "evil." Wow, how did I go from someone they trusted to head up ministries in the church for years, to an "evil, demonic, listening to poison, crazy, goat?" (These were their words about me, not mine.) I am trying my best to move past these things and people say, "just get over it," but I figure that I can't forget about something in one day or even 3 months that took over 20 years to build. My family and I have found a new church that is awesome and I am happier than I have ever been. We are experiencing the love of God and the freedom that Jesus provided for us like never before. BUT I just have these moments when I hear something ridiculous that was said at my former church and I just want to blog away!

Anyone who has ever been in an abusive church knows that the minute you leave, you will be talked about in horrible ways, and of course, you are the one who is wrong. It is never anything that the leaders did that made you leave, it is always because you are "offended" or "hanging around and listening to the wrong people." It is because "the devil is out to steal the Word." It is never because the leaders mistreat people or do unmentionable acts. No, it's because you "let the Word leak out of you" or "you quit honoring your man of God." (Understand that I am presenting this in a totally sarcastic way.)

Something awful happened in our former church, that I will not go into, but it caused hundreds of people to leave the church. It is amazing to me that the people who left were respectable people - successful business men and women, nurses, ministers, policemen, ushers in the church, and even board members, and yet (in the mind of the leaders) it was still all of these people who were wrong and it wasn't anything the church leaders had done. The most recent words (just this week) to be spoken about the group who left (my family included) is - we are crazy! Wow, I wonder what God thinks about His children being called crazy? Anyway, it is being said that there were a couple of hundred youth who were on fire for God, (actually it was less than a hundred, I was there) and in their words, "people went crazy, acted nutty, drug their kids away from the life of God, and stomped out a move of God among the young people." Once again, the leader's spin - it was the parents fault and it wasn't the immorality that had gone on or what the leaders had done. It is always this way in controlling churches, it's always what someone else did, and it's never the fault of the leaders. They won't take responsibility for their actions and they will never admit they were wrong, even when hundreds of people know it's wrong.

In this case it had nothing to do with parents just pulling their kids away from God when they left the church. I know these people and they love their children and would never do anything to intentionally hurt the relationship their children have with God. Leaving had everything to do with following God and doing what was right! It had everything to do with people standing up and saying, "I won't take the abuse any more!"

So they can call me crazy for.......

*Leaving a place that abuses and mistreats people

*Leaving a place where the leaders place the blame on every one around and will never take responsibility for their own actions

*Leaving a place where people are called "idiots" on such a regular basis, that you begin to think that God Himself thinks everyone on the face of the earth is an idiot

*Leaving a place where no one is truly loved for who they are

*Leaving a place where no one ever feels like they can measure up in the eyes of the leaders

*Leaving a place where you are talked down to and never appreciated for all that you give

*Leaving a place where the main focus is money

*Leaving a place where rules are more important than people

*Leaving a place that doesn't reach out to the community and meet the needs of hurting people

*Leaving a place that will turn on you in a second and call you crazy when you haven't even done anything wrong

And they can call me crazy for......

*Wanting to walk in freedom

*Wanting to go to a place where me and my children will experience the love of God in our lives

*Wanting to go to a church that loves and helps people

*Wanting to go to a place where kindness is the norm, instead of the exception

*Wanting to go to a church where people care more about you than your money

*Wanting to go to a church where people don't use you, but they respect you and appreciate you for who you are

*Wanting to make my own decisions

*Wanting to regain my self-esteem that had been jerked out of me for years

*Wanting to be happy and wanting my children to be happy

*Wanting my children to be cared about and treated in a nice way

*Wanting to have fellowship with other Christians

*Wanting to go to a church that is community minded and world minded, instead of a church that is "me" minded

*Wanting to go to a church that will never call me crazy

They can call me crazy if they want to, but I call it being smart. I call it having enough self-respect not to allow myself to be controlled or hurt anymore. I call it following after the heart of God.


Anonymous said...

Amen! Amen! Amen!

S. said...

Thank you for presenting this most accurate infomation. Well said!
I have learned to accept disappointment from the ministers at my former church (now that's a sad, but true statement), the one in leadership and the ones who continue to serve with him.
If I told you I know an individual who "focuses on self, will not ask for forgiveness, beats up on people verbally, expects the best from others (and won't offer the best from himself), does not tell the truth but covers it up, is responsible for separating family members, etc., you would not expect me to be speaking of a Christian much less a minister of the Gospel.
It became necessary for me to find a pastor who I could follow "as he follows Christ". It was said of a wonderful family member of mine "he's a good man, he's just following after an evil spirit", when he spoke w/ the minister and wanted things to be well in our church. Let's see, when you've been there 12 1/2 yrs., helped build the new building with your finances, have several family members in helps, etc....this is how you are treated after the head of the church makes mistakes? All the name calling can be done, but we know who is innocent and who is guilty. The words don't mean a thing.
It might also be noted that we didn't leave the church b/c of the children being fired up - that was a good thing! The pastor should be able to recall 3 major reasons why we left. (Also, many people who left the church do not have youth age children and some have grown children!)
"I am a friend of God". Isn't it good that when He calls us friend, it's forever!!

Anonymous said...

Also no one would be able to make a friend that would, "stick closer than a brother." In a church like this people are not only encouraged and instructed on how to sever all ties with anyone who does not agree 100% with every word that is being taught, people are also no longer able to communicate with family members. You are not only disqualified from fellowshipping with people who are not saved, but you are disqualified from fellowship with people who even attend another church. There are however only 2 qualifications for fellowship in a church like this. 1. Worship your pastor and give him honor. 2. Be a sheep that lays down your life for the pastor. What a twisted version of the Gospel people are getting.

Anonymous said...

Wouldn't it be more beneficial for people to hear the gospel in special meetings than to hear how great these men are?

Anonymous said...

When I hear bits and pieces of the messages from services this week, either directly or second hand, I am amazed where the minds of these ministers are. They are obviously so caught up in a way of thinking about what they think is truth, it has become very abnormal. It was said one time from the pulpit "any time a minister or ministry puts an undo emphasis on money, watch out, they are headed for a fall." This comment was made years ago about a television evangelist who had gone through somewhat of a fall. What a twist. This is exactly where they find themselves - putting an undo emphasis on money. What's next?

Anonymous said...

I was there too and the couple of hundred youth were more like 30 - 50. He also said that he was using the youth to lay hands on the sick and to prophesy. When does a gross exageration become a lie??? I think in this case the lies began years ago.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I think the lies began somewhere around 1982 when a certain ministry was started. From there they just got worse. So sad that it took so long for so many to see the truth.

Aida said...

Hi Set Free,

I just found your blog and had to comment on this post. I see you have my blog on your sidebar so I'm sure you know I spent three and half years in an abusive church. As I read your blog and the comments that were posted, I felt compassion rising up.

I really understand what you've been through since I've been there too. It's a dreadful thing to be abused and deceived by a leader you trust and then to have him turn on you when you ask valid questions.

I can relate to the hurt involved. It took a while for me to be set free but I am free today. It was a difficult journey to freedom but it was well worth it.

I'm glad you and those who have commented have begun that journey. I'll be checking in often and look forward to hearing more about what our Father is doing to bring wholeness into your life.


Set Free said...

Thank you so much for the comment. Your words of kindness and encouragement mean so much to me. God Bless You!

Anonymous said...

You and everyone else who have left are not crazy! You have made the best decision of your lives to leave this place!

Anonymous said...

I think your situation is comparable to a marriage relationship when a husband or wife has been betrayed. You put your heart, soul, money and precious time into something and it all seems like a waste. When we finally get out of the situation, we beat ourselves up wandering why we didn't see things clearly. Why we stayed so long and so on. It takes time to heal.

For a time, we feel better talking to people whose experienced similar situations. It helps us because we feel like we aren't alone and we aren't the only ones whose gone through similar experiences.

However, after a while, if it seems to be the majority of what we think or talk about it, then it becomes unhealthy. If you have ever known anyone who has gone through a divorce, then you can understand what I am saying. You know the person who cannot talk about anything else other than how they were wronged by their spouse. They man/women bash. This ends in bitterness and unforgiveness.

Speaking from experience, we go through a range of emotions, good days, bad days and etc., And as crazy as this may sound, when I actually stopped thinking about how much I was hurt and purposely allowed myself to have compassion on the one who offended me, then I was able to move on and forgive.

Jesus would have died for no one else but our former pastor, if he were the only person to die for. Chances are, we will see our former pastor in Heaven and chances are God still loves him. He is deceived himself. He has fallen into a trap by Satan, our real enemy, himself.

When we continue talking and thinking about things, to the unhealthy level, we are just keeping it alive. If we think on something long enough that hurt us 10 years ago, we can feel the same emotions rise up in us like it just happened.

To truly move on, we need to have the same compassion that Jesus has. We need to pray for him and his family to see things clearly. Sometimes we think, "If so and so would just admit they were wrong or take responsibility." The truth is they may never do that. We may never hear the words we want to hear from that person. But to forgive, we don't need to. The Bible says that all good works together for those who love God. We need to search for something good to hang onto and focus on when all the bad rises up.

Everyone will get there. It just seems like for me, with a similar situation, I finally got over it when I stopped ruminating on everything a particular person ever did that hurt me and forced myself to understand the hold the devil had on him. Compassion for him just came and I was able to let go of all of the pain that the person had caused me. You are in my prayers and I hope this helps.

Anonymous said...

I really appreciate Anonymous 11:00AM for what they said and I agree with them. But, Set Free, I'd like to encourage you too and let you know that your blog doesn't come across as bitter or mean. You ARE helping people, so don't second guess that! What we have to remember is that this situation is still new to many of us. Some are just NOW escaping from that place of bondage! This and other blogs help make sense of it all during a critical time. I am thankful that you share your feelings and open up the way you do. Sometimes it just helps knowing that you aren't alone.

I do believe that one can get bitter if they allow the situation to consume them...but I believe that it IS healthy to find a group of people (like you and the readers) to talk to. You said one time that it's like "free therapy". I think we all agree on that. It helps to have someone walk with you through difficult times...and this is one of the most difficult things I've ever had to deal with.

Set Free said...

To Anonymous,
Thank you for your comment. I understand what you are saying, but I hope I haven't given the impression that I want to stay in an unhealthy situation, because I don't. I am happy and thankful that I am free.

I have been through many things in my life that have been very hard - my parents divorcing, my mom dying when I was a teenager, and other very hard times in my life. In each one of these situations God was with me and helped me walk through them. I was always stronger when I finally got to a place where it didn't consume my thoughts any more. Because of His faithfulness, I am convinced that this situation will be no different. I know He never caused any bad thing in my life, but He was always with me, loving me through. After going through the situation of being in a controlling church for 22 years, experiencing all of the things I have gone through, and then leaving, it's been tough, but I have learned so much too. I have learned so much about loving people, friendship, my relationship with God, God's unconditional love, God's character, true worship, honoring God, and the list could go on. Me and my family are happier than we have ever been and my friendships are precious to me. I have learned what being a true friend really means and I wouldn't take anything for that. I have been experiencing God's love like never before.

In church yesterday, the sermon was on bitterness. I have searched my heart and I know I am not bitter. Every now and then I get angry about certain things I hear, but I know bitterness would hurt me and my family and I don't want to go there. I continually remind my family that we will not allow a root of bitterness to come into our hearts. As human beings, things we go through and hurts we try to get over, affect us differently at different times, but I am certain that God is with me through this and there will come a day (and I hope it's very soon) when I will rarely think on all of these things. I'm not enjoying basking in this, and I'm not inviting the thoughts to stay. They just pop up. This is a new one for me and I am trying to figure it out as I go. If my writings have given the impression that I am bitter, then I need to be more careful about the words I choose. Many of the things I have written have been to share lessons I have learned, in hopes of keeping other Christians from being in the same place. I have chosen not to tell a lot of details because I am not out to bash anyone. The few stories I have told were to help people relate and possibly see that if they remain in controlling churches they could be hurt.

I do pray for my former pastor, his family, and the church. A friend told me recently that praying for them was the best thing I could do to move on. I'll be honest, when I hear that he has called me crazy, I don't even want to pray for him, but I know that it's the right thing to do. I don't do it every day and maybe not even every week, but I have and I will. I have forgiven, but forgiveness does not mean that I have to accept what they do. I think that it's wrong to control people and I want to see people get out from under that control.

I'll be honest in telling you that this is one of the hardest situations I have ever been through. Some people left almost a year ago. I left 3 months ago. Some are just now seeing the truth and I hope they won't have as hard a time as some have had. It's tough. That's why Jeff Von Vonderen called it spiritual abuse. It's because he saw something that was happening to people that no one else understood. I feel for the people who will come out. I've bounced around all kind of ideas in my head of how I could move past this. I have even thought that maybe my blogging days should end, and then I get an email from a person that is just now starting to see. They are crying and asking themselves the same questions I did. I just want to do the right thing. I can tell you this - I will follow God and I will listen to His voice and obey. I am not ashamed to say for one minute that I messed up. I have been honest throughout my entire blog and I hope that everyone can see that I am just trying to get on the other side of this and maybe help someone along the way.

I know that God loves us all so much and His grace is enough to get us through any hard time we face.

I sincerely thank you for your prayers and concern and I'm really glad you are doing well.

Anonymous said...

I didn't mean to come across like I thought you were bitter. I know what you are trying to do and agree with you. I think you are making a difference. I understand that thoughts pop into your head and you don't try to think about things. It took me nearly three years to get over a hurtful situation and I wanted to stop thinking about things, stop letting things bother me that were said and so on. I only meant to be helpful by sharing what helped me get passed a difficult situation. I don't want for it to take you or anyone else years like it did for me. Not only will God bring everyone through it, he will cause good to come from it. You should not stop blogging. Because you are able to help people who came out of your church and who knows who else you can help. This blog is not limited to just those who know who you are. Anyone can access it and God sometimes uses situations like this for us to help others. You are helping others and should keep it up.

Set Free said...

To Anonymous 2:06,
Thank you for your encouragement.

To Anonymous 3:29,
I knew what you meant and that what you were saying was that you didn't want me or others to allow bitterness in our lives, and I sincerely thank you for sharing what you did. It shows that you care. I think what you said will help others. I just wanted to make it clear as to where I am.

GF said...

It seems so easy for some who have been through similar situations to relate their experiences now that they have moved on past the source of the problem. It is like forgetting how bad a broken arm felt three years ago. You can only look back and remember the pain. But, when you are the one experiencing the pain, right now, it hurts. Hearing someone tell you that the pain will go away, and that you need not respond to the pain is not going to bring comfort.

The amazing thing about the love of Jesus is that He has experienced the exact and present pain we are now experiencing. The true compasion of God always looks at the other person and understands their feelings when trying to help.

The situation that you and many others are going through is still inflecting pain on many people and when we see them hurt we are quickly reminded of our past.

Just telling a hurting person to move on will not solve the problem. It is hard to forget when you are reminded daily of the pain that is still being inflicted on so many.

Yes we all will move on and healing will come, but it must take place in the time frame that works best for each individual involved.

Others will never know the problems and hurts that we each walk through. Only God sees what we deal with in private.

Never be pressured by someone else to walk out your situation in any timetable but your own. If we trust Jesus to help us then we will all get there just as He has planned.

I know that many will try to help and do so in genuine love. But they need to understand that although their pains have gone away, yours are still very real every day.

Keep posting, it helps so many.

Anonymous said...

I know I'm not crazy, but I might would have gone crazy if I would have stayed over there in that church any longer. When I was in the middle of things at my old church, the plan God had for me was all muddied up with false doctrine. I sure hope that more people over there see the truth and soon is not soon enough.

Anonymous said...

I just want to tell you that you have no idea how much your blog has helped me. When I first started reading I was still in a church like the one you talk about. Like you, I started seeing things and questioning things and all the things you have said and all the articles you have on your blog helped me to see that I needed to leave. If it weren't for your blog and a few others that I read, I may not have seen the truth like I did. I really mean that and I want to say thank you. I feel like I am out from under a huge load. Please keep on blogging. I want to hear more.