Even after seeing the truth, some people still find themselves in an abusive, controlling church. For some, it's because their spouse doesn't want to leave. For some, it's because they are employed at the church or their spouse is employed there. And for some, they are afraid to leave because they have been told bad things will happen to them. But no matter what the reason is, everyone needs to make sure they are protecting themselves and guarding their hearts.
Everyone suffers in these types of situations, and my heart really goes out to staff members of controlling churches, because no one knows the mistreatment they endure. I came across a web site several months ago called Shattered Trust, a site for wounded staff associates. John Setser, the author of the site, has also written a book entitled, "Broken Hearts, Shattered Trust." In his book, John addresses people who are still in these types of situations and gives a list of survival skills. His focus is on staff associates, but anyone can learn and benefit from his information. Here's the list......
1. Do not accept abusive treatment as normal. Resist cruelty, coercion, threats, inequity, constraint, and competition.
2. Recognize wounding agents for who they are. They are self-centered bullies who use physical, verbal, sexual, or psychological strategies to get what they want.
3. Be alert to being "set up." Do not let senior pastors indoctrinate or psychologically coerce you into compliance.
4. Seek out a lateral support system. If you are being mistreated, chances are you are not alone. Ignore the "don't talk" rule and share your experiences with others.
5. Watch your heart. Do not give into self-pity, rage, or a judgmental attitude.
6. Don't stay too long. It is never God's will for you to remain in a wounding church. Exit as soon as possible and tell people why you are leaving.
I hope you find these survival skills to be helpful if you are still in a controlling situation, but even more I hope, when you are able, you will leave. Staying too long will only bring hurt to you and your family. Don't be afraid to tell people the truth as to why you are leaving. When we first left we wouldn't talk about it. We just told people we felt like we were "doing what was best for our family," but I realized that the reason so many of us were in these hurtful situations is because we never talked. When someone is mistreating people and there is wounding potential for others in the future, the truth should be told.