Monday, December 29, 2008

There's No Right Way (In Their Eyes)

If you are thinking about leaving a controlling church, save yourself the trouble of trying to do it the "right" way.

Here is a portion of a comment that a friend named Charley left on my last post......

"After dedicating approx. 2.5 years of my faithfulness, talents, abilities, loyalty, tithes and offerings to a church. I came to realize that "The Apostle" in charge of the place is a victim of "Al-Capone-Pastor-Syndrome" times 10. Of course I have fled from the presence of the "The Apostle's" face. He has prophesied to me that I am under a curse of a 7-year barren wilderness and tells others that I have broken covenant. Now I sit back in dismay and amazement taking solace in blogs such as this one."

I love Charley's touch of humor, but I too stand in amazement that a pastor would treat someone like this and think he can pronounce 7-year curses on people. First of all, it's ridiculous and second it's just plain mean! I have come to realize that no matter how much you have given or how much you try to do things right, there is no right way to leave a church in the eyes of a controlling leader. You can try to walk in love and leave the "right" way, but go ahead and give up trying. Brace yourself because it will be hard, you will be talked about, and it will hurt. I wish someone would have impressed this upon us ahead of time, but I just thought it would go differently because we tried to do the right thing. So I'm telling you now - you can never do it right in their eyes.

We struggled with the "when and how to" of leaving for weeks. My husband and I knew we were leaving, but we tried to introduce the idea slowly to our children because this church was all they had ever known. They were born and raised there. The week before we left, we were getting ready to go to church and everyone was already in the car. I was walking toward the door and I felt as if my feet were embedded in cement. I was standing in my dining room and my husband came to find me. I said, "I just can't do it! I can't go!" The thought of walking in those church doors was more than I wanted to bare that day, but I mustered up the strength and did it because of my children. (A side note - after they learned the whole truth they were ready to leave too.) It was tough sitting through that service and my daughter elbowed me in the arm several times because my sighs were a bit too loud.

The next Saturday, after much agony and much pacing, we made the decision to make the call. Over the years we were taught that if you are going to leave a church, the right thing to do is go to the pastor and tell him. (Most of the time that's so he can talk you out of it or tell you how wrong you are.) My husband made the call, and much to our surprise, he didn't have much to say. Could it be that it was going to be easier than we thought? No!

We began to hear a couple of days later that we were being called "evil" (among other things) because we had called the pastor on Saturday - "the day before he had to preach." (If you are planning on leaving, just let me tell you from personal experience - that's not right in their eyes.) BUT what if we had called on Monday, or how about Tuesday? That would have been the day before he had to preach also. If we had called on Friday, it would have been 2 days before he had to preach. What was the right day to call? Is there a right answer? It doesn't matter what day we would have called - it wouldn't have been right in their eyes. Looking back, my husband said he would not have called at all. But then we would have been evil and bad for not calling and "leaving the proper way."

We saw people who had given so much of themselves for years and it was basically spat on when they left, so why would I think leaving the right way would have been accepted and respected. Controlling people are only concerned about what is best for them and even though they say they care about you, when you leave you will find out they really don't. I thought we owed the leaders something, but we didn't. And you don't owe them anything either. No matter how many ways you try to leave a controlling church, it's going to take some time to get over how you will be treated. Even when you get to new place you will still be reminded of the things you left, but it gets better with each passing day and the freedom is better than words can describe.

I know this is not a cheery New Year's message, but I wanted to tell you these things hoping it would save you some disappointment or pain. I know there are people out there thinking of leaving a controlling church, and if you decide to take that step it will be one of the best decisions you have ever made. Don't let the control they have continue on. Start off the new year walking in the freedom, joy, and peace that Jesus so graciously provided for you!

Charley, keep reading, keep writing things out, and keep the humor flowing!

8 comments :

Anonymous said...

To anyone who is in a controlling church they should get out as soon as possible. The "loving leaders" will turn on them so quick it will make their head spin. No matter how much they have given in money or time and no matter what sacrifices they have made for that church or the leaders once it is discovered that they are not brainwashed anymore they become obselete and an object to be smeared.

Anonymous said...

Setfree,

I would like to add this to what you said: It's not only the way you leave that isn't good enough for the pastor. It's also, just about anything you might do at the church while you are there. No matter if it’s your work at the church or how you conduct your life, it is never good enough for him. Sure, you might get a pat on the back every once in a while, but most of the time he's never satisfied, i.e., eye-rolling, sighing, embarrassing you in front of others, or chewing you out. So, why did any of us think it would be any different when we left "his majesty"?

His lack of dissatisfaction and disgust are a way of controlling people. That's just one way he keeps his staff and church people running around like chickens with their heads cut off, working like mad to please him.

Can I get an "Amen"?

-Amos M.

Anonymous said...

If we were dealing with honest people, there could be a polite way to leave a controlling church. But there's not.

Speaking of Al Capone: In the church I left the controlling pastor once said he loved the Godfather movies. He said it after a visiting minister had been in who had once had mob ties. This pastor said it dressed in mob fashion, back suit, white tie.

It said more about him than he realized at the time. -CH

Cassie said...

They use you and use you to make themselves look good. They don't care about you at all. But then they make it sound like God is on their side when they dog you and talk ugly about you. I think that's one reason some people have such a hard time getting over this type of thing.

Set Free said...

Cassie,
I think you are absolutely right. I think it's hard when you wake up and realize that you were only used instead of geniunely loved and appreciated. I've even heard pastors use the phrase "God is promoting you" when they are finished using you. They try to put it off on God instead of just being truthful.

Anonymous said...

Where are you? I need a post!

Anonymous said...

I have decided to leave my church and I think I've finally realized that what you have said here is true. I kept looking for the "right way" to leave, but after listening to some that have left and their experiences I think I will just slip out quietly. I just can't stay any longer and listen to the nonense coming forth.

Anonymous said...

Just want you all to know you are not alone. I left a controlling a church after being raised in there for 26 years. I worked, sacrificed, helped out and did everything I could. As far as paying tithes, it is in God's word to do that so I look to Him when it comes to that aspect for everything I need. My church was so controlling that the people who are still there want to leave but are scared they will hurt the pastor's feelings. The problem is that the pastor and his wife both have control issues. They love to use people and get people to do things for them. They never let anyone know who they have doing things for them and to what degree. That way when they dropped you, if you had any complaints or issues, it would be easier for them to deny. Unfortunately, the people who have no discernment can't see pass the air they breathe which makes you look as though you have the problem. I agree with the one who said that you really do feel free once you leave. Truth be told, the people that remain are more than likely jealous because they don't have the strength or sense to make the same move.