Friday, August 8, 2008

Think About The Children

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.


Anonymous said...

I sat in a service where the young people praised as you commented on. I was also blessed by their excitment and expression. They were told by the senior pastor in the service, as he bent his arm from his elbow and lowered his hand toward them, "I am your pastor". At the time, I thought that was a good thing to remind them - that not only is their youth pastor their pastor, but he, too, is their pastor.
I soon had a revelation of that moment. A sad thing was about to be exposed regarding their youth pastor. The sr. pastor, in knowing that, could have said it to remind them that they had him to come to in time of need - the upcoming time of need they were about to experience, but NO.
When the sad thing regarding the youth minister was revealed, the pastor turned his back on the youth. He would not reach out to them. He didn't even want his fellow ministers or youth workers to discuss anything with them.
Why did the sr. minister even offer the children his "hollow" words? Bless God, loving parents (like us) wrapped their arms around their own children and discussed the truths they were faced with. We were the good shepherds.
May those who fill God's pulpits and all of us who bear the name Christian remember that "God is love". May we act Christ-like.
Was it right for these young people to be told not to jump? Was it right for the sr. minister to turn his back on these same children?
Some questions have answers that speak clearly for themselves. If you are currently asking questions with obvious answers, run! You will find you will be "set free" and in being set free you will experience a renewed focus on Jesus that will bless you and yours!
By the way, you can jump at my new church, and my family is as healthy as ever and has sincerely never been happier! Thank you for pointing out good things in the scriptures! Our God is an awesome God ever watching over His Word to perform it.

Anonymous said...

Where did the doctorine come from that said jumping was bad and there must be a shuffle in their step? Is there chapter and verse for this?

Anonymous said...

First of all, I'd like to say that if anyone takes the time to read your posts, they will know for a fact that you are not dwelling in the past, but merely reaching out to help others with a heart of love and compassion. Your posts are true and heartfelt and full of the pure Word of God. Thank you for this ministry that you have so diligently yielded yourself to!

Secondly, I know what you mean about staying too long and asking yourself, "what was I thinking?". I cringe at the thought of some of the things I let get past me when I was in that controlling church. I was so "brainwashed", I didn't even question the obvious! I was like a little puppet on a string and I did as I was told and never gave a moment's trouble. I called this being submitted...or simply not being rebellious. I wanted to stay faithful to the pastor and his "vision". It dawned on me, little by little, that the vision only included he and his family. It didn't include the hurting people in the city of Birmingham. It was a selfish vision.

I was confused when the youth didn't get the help they so desperately needed during the time when they needed it the most! Instead, THEY got scolded for "gossiping" about what had happened. Did anyone ever think that they might just need someone to talk to? Some of these young people are still hurting as a result. We should continue to pray for them as they seek answers.

I'll say one more thing: It doesn't matter if you hop, shuffle, or stand still...GOD SIMPLY WANTS YOUR HEART! He wants you to give Him your heart during worship~ and that will look different for each person. We shouldn't be spectators during praise and worship,but we should all go after God with ALL that is in us! And if someone is looking around judging the way others are doing it, that just means that they aren't worshipping.

Anonymous said...

My friend these things should not be so. I too had my child in church everytime the doors were opened and at every event. Little did I know the horrendous events and practices that were going on behind the scenes. I placed my family under the direction of those that would only use them. I thought I was being a good mom having my children in church all the time. What a mistake I made listening to someone other than God. I find that I have a lot of regret. I wonder how all of our lives would have been different and better had we not gotten mixed up in such a deceptive situation.

Set Free said...

I can see that you all had the same feelings that I did about how the youth were never reached out to. I never understood that. I wanted so bad to see the leadership get down in the middle of them when they came to the front. I wanted to see the youth hugged and prayed with. I wanted somone to say, "I'm sorry this has happened." I wanted someone to explain why all of a sudden - life as they knew it had drastically changed. That didn't happen and they were left hanging trying to figure things out on their own. Parents tried their best to explain, but the church should have been there and they weren't. It's hard to tell your youth that they still need to support the church when the church wasn't supporting them.

I find it so interesting that you (the 3rd commenter) used the words "scolded for gossiping" because I felt the exact same way. My family wasn't gossiping, but every time it came up we were fussed at for something we weren't doing. Every time I came to church I felt like I was the one in trouble, when I hadn't done anything wrong!

It is hard to use the word and admit to it, but we were
"brainwashed" weren't we. Isn't it great to have our brains back!

My prayer for the youth is that they will experience the love of God and know that He will never forsake them.

Anonymous said...

Yes, somehow when prideful people get "caught" doing something bad, they find a way to blame it on the very people who have stood by them for years. Before we left, we heard "they are gossipping, they should know better", "it's all lies", and the BIG one: "Leaders fall because their people FAIL to pray!"

It is so hurtful to get blamed for someone elses mistakes. Especially when you are simply trying to support and be faithful.

Prideful, controlling people just want to end up "winning". They don't care how many homes they have broken up, how many people they leave confused and hurting, or even how many people are still serving God. They simply want to end up on top. It's unfortunate that the very people who are close to them now would be discarded in a heartbeat if they make one wrong move or ask the wrong question. I know, I've been there...

Anonymous said...

Has it ever occured to anyone that those who isntantly accuse a multitude of lying about an incident that has actually taken place are practiced liers themselves?

Anonymous said...

I remember that day where the pastor scolded the youth for jumping. I also remember him calling another adult up on stage to help him. I stood there watching in absolute horror. It broke my heart. That was one of the last straws for me. After all that they have been through, and all the pastor can do is continue to kick them in the side. It was just another way to try to brainwash those kids. So sad!

I grew up in that church, and to be quite honest I knew a lot about God... But now I realize that I didn't know Him very well at all. Growing up, reading my Bible or praying felt more like a chore than anything else. Now as an adult, for the first time in my life, I enjoy spending time with God. I am amazed reading the Gospels and seeing who Jesus is, as I was never taught.

I am so happy that your children are soaking in the Word of God now. My prayer is that everyone, past and present, who has been at our former church would not fall away; but rather fall into the arms of a loving God.


Set Free said...

Thank you so much for sharing. I am so glad you are now enjoying a real relationship with God. I am the same way - I just bought a new Bible and I am so excited about diving into it. I too hope that people will fall into the arms of a loving God, because that's who He really is. God bless you!