I have shared many things over the past couple of weeks. It just keeps bubbling out. I know you may get tired of some of the things I repeat over and over, but my desire has been to help people see the dangers of controlling churches and how they can hurt people. Spiritual abuse is real and it has gone on more than I could have ever even imagined. I want to make it very clear that I am not "dwelling in the past" or "wallowing in offense." I am free from all of that! I am sharing these things to help others relate and see the signs of abuse and control. I can't stand aside and be silent while I see people being hurt. If you are noticing that your church has some of the characteristics I have talked about, I encourage you to read the articles I have links to on the side of my blog. They are very enlightening. Remaining in a controlling, abusive church will eventually hurt you. Just being there can cause you to take on the same attitudes and characteristics of the leaders and eventually it will cause you to harden your heart to the things going on around you. If you have children, you have to think about what attitudes are being formed in them and if they are learning the love of God or just learning how it feels to be controlled. Life is too short to stay in a situation that you are not happy in. I promise you - the freedom you will experience will be better than you could ever imagine. Don't be afraid that something bad will happen to you or your family if you leave. That teaching is so far off base and it is not found in the Bible. Here is what is found in the Bible.....
"God is guarding you and keeping you by His power." (I Peter 1:5)
"My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me, for my Father has given them to me, and He is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father's hand." (John 10:27-29)
"I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God's love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow - not even the powers of hell can separate us from God's love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below - indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:38-39)
These are the things we must base our lives on! These are the things we must teach our children! The teaching that something will happen to you if you leave is just a deception and it makes people afraid. It causes you to take your eyes off of God and put them on the church or a man. It scares children when they hear these things. They may never tell you they are afraid, but in the back of their minds they have the fear that something will happen to them or their family. I have heard that some children have voiced a fear of dying if they left their church. When they hear these things from a pulpit that you have placed them in front of, they will believe it. It will make them think that God is behind it. But He is not! He is our Protector! If you believe what they are saying it's one thing, but if you don't believe it, then why do you have your children there listening to it? As parents we must make sure that the things our children are being taught is pointing them to God and not making them afraid of Him.
Me and my children were sitting in a service where it was mentioned that there would be people who die because they left the church. It seemed that there were some that were happy about that statement. I hope I misread that observation, but I was grieved by it. When we got home I sat my children down and told them that no one should ever want anyone to die. I expressed to them strongly that God is complete love and He is long-suffereing to all of His children. He doesn't want anything bad to happen to anyone and neither do we. I felt terrible that I even had to try to correct something that I had allowed them to sit under. I am staying on this for a minute because I want you to see that what our children hear in a church service carries a lot of weight with them. You can go home and try to correct it, but it would be better if they never heard it in the first place. I have stated before that I know and understand - no church is perfect and no one will teach perfectly all the time, but fear tactics should never be used on Christians who are innocently just trying to do the right thing.
I am glad to have my children in a place of love and freedom instead of fear and control. The things my family have experienced in just the last 3 months have been awesome. My children have met lots of new friends and they are happier than I have ever seen them. They are no longer under a heavy rule that presses them into someone elses mold. Children and teenagers need rules and boundaries, but when there are rules without relationship and love they will eventually see right through it. Now that they are around loving and caring people they have the compassion for the world in their lives once again. When one of my sons was little, he used to cry for the lost in our prayer times. Over the years he lost that after being in a place of just hearing about money and what you can get from God, hearing people being called "idiots," being told to dress right and act right, and not hearing much teaching on the compassion of God for people. I was concerned about these things over the years, but I didn't see what I could do. I could tell him things at home, but in his mind he would think, "Yea, but I was told something different at church by the person you are telling me is speaking on behalf of God."
One year the young people in our church went to camp and came back "fired up" for God. They started going up to the front of the church during worship time on Sunday mornings. It used to really bless me to see them run up there as soon as the music started. They would jump during the fast songs and lift their hands during the slow songs. Usually the fire would die down a few weeks after camp, but this time it didn't. They kept it going for months. Something terrible happened that devastated the youth and even after that, they still kept going up to the front. I was really proud of them for that. One morning they were jumping up and down to a fast song and the song was stopped in the middle and they were told that jumping was not "dancing in the Spirit." They were told that if they were dancing in the Spirit there had to be a shuffle in their step. I could not believe it. I thought, "You have young people who are coming up to the front to worship, they have kept the fire going in their lives even after all they have been through, and you're about to put out the little fire they had left." My heart was so grieved. They were jumping because they loved God and wanted to praise Him. They were expressing their hearts in an action. Why would anyone want to stop them? They could be out in the world doing other things - they could be dancing in bars, they could be doing drugs, but you want to take the one thing they enjoy doing in church away from them? This is my opinion and if I'm wrong I trust God will show me, but I think that God didn't care if they jumped or had a shuffle in their step. I think He was thrilled that these teenagers wanted to praise Him and they were using their energy towards Him and I don't think He was offended by it in the least. I think He is a Father who loves His children and He was just proud that they wanted to worship Him. Why do people want to attach so many rules to everything - even to the ways people show their love for God?
My greatest desire in life has been to see my children have a real, true, everyday, heartfelt relationship with God. Not a "going through the motions because you have to" relationship. They were saved when they were little and they have walked with God, but I always wondered if they really knew the heart and character of God. I taught them at home all the time, but I didn't think it was being modeled before them at church. What was I thinking? Why did I keep them there so long? I have wised up a lot lately. The other day we were sitting in our new church and the pastor was talking about the love of God and reaching out to the world, and I whispered to my husband, "This is what I have always wanted for my children." Yes they need to hear about faith, but they have to experience the love of God too. Faith won't work without love. They have been diving into their Bibles like never before. They run downstairs with their Bibles and say, "You've got to hear this." They are learning about their relationship with God and they finally see it is more than just a set of rules that they are supposed to follow.
If you have children, especially teenagers, consider carefully what church you go to. I heard a statistic the other day that was frightening - 86% of young people will leave the church at age 18 and never come back. This tells me that churches better be thinking about these young people. They should never be an after thought. The most important thing a church can do is love these young people! They don't need someone else to tell them that they don't fit into their mold. Just love them! These things are so much more important than some of the things being taught. These things are eternal. You can have all the big houses in the world, but if young souls are being lost - what does that matter? I want so bad for young people to know the heart of God. I don't want them to get the wrong impression of who He is and not want to serve Him. I want them to know the true nature of God and that He loves them for who they are. These are the things that really matter.