Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Symptoms Of An Abusive Group

Are you still wondering if your church is showing symptoms of being an abusive group? Are you talking yourself out of leaving because your church may have virtues that seem to compensate for its possible abuses? You may not be able to see right now how being in a controlling, abusive system is affecting you, but it will damage the central core of who you are. And I can assure you it will affect your children at some point. To help you make a clear assessment, here is a review of the symptoms of an abusive religious group according to Jesus in Matthew 23:

1. Abusive leaders base their spiritual authority on their position or office rather than on their service to the group. Their style of leadership is authoritarian.

2. Leaders in abusive churches often say one thing but do another. Their words and deeds do not match.

3. They manipulate people by making them feel guilty for not measuring up spiritually. They lay heavy religious loads on people and make no effort to lift those loads. You know that you are in an abusive church if the loads just keep getting heavier.

4. Abusive leaders are preoccupied with looking good. They labor to keep up appearance. They stifle any criticism that puts them in a bad light.

5, They seek honorific titles and special privileges that elevate them above the group. They promote a class system with themselves at the top. They desire to be number one and they require everyone to refer to them as "Pastor" or "Dr."

6. Their communication is not straight. their speech becomes especially vague and confusing when they are defending themselves.

7. They major on minor issues to the neglect of the truly important ones. They are conscientious about religious details but neglect God's larger agendas.

I encourage you to read Matthew 23 in the New Living Translation. Jesus felt very strongly about religious leaders who abuse their power and use it over innocent people. He told us not to follow these "blind guides." He also pointed out in Matthew 23 that this "greatism" these leaders seek is false faith. Christianity is not about one man trying to build himself up and promote his own agenda. It is about reaching out and making a difference in many lives by sharing His love, grace, and mercy. Can you really go on giving your time, energy, and money to support something you know is destructive? Can you go on placing your family at risk by continually exposing them to the toxins of spiritual abuse? Sometimes the best thing we can do for abusive leaders is to leave them. Sometimes the most human act is to let an abusive church die. Stephen Arterburn says, "We must have the courage to follow Christ's example and overturn the system if the system is wrong. Silent submission in the face of violence, dishonesty, and abuse will only enable that abuse to be passed on to generations."

This information was found in Ken Blue's book, "Healing Spiritual Abuse."


Anonymous said...

I really enjoy reading your blog. I left a spiritually abusive non-denominational Christian church and was seperating/divorcing at the same time my emotionally/verbally abusive ex-husband.

The healing process from that ordeal is still in progress. It is good to know that there's someone out there like you and the people who read your blog that understand this is a REAL thing and that it does occur.

The Cult Next Door said...

Great blog-
It never ceases to amaze me how you don't really realize you were abused until you walk away from the abuse.

Anonymous said...

Being able to look "back" is a wonderful thing! Bless God we can!
We recently joined friends for dinner. These people were "acquaintances" at our old church, but we are "true friends" at our new one. There was never an atmosphere of true friendliness at the old church - there's an amazing feeling of love that smacks you in the face at my new one.
There was a pastor at my old church who said he appreciated us; there's a pastor at my church now who says it and shows it.
At the old church the pastor and his family didn't show up at some important events (and they were not out of town). I see my pastor participating and mingling in a much larger crowd.
Someone else was always taking care of tasks at the old church. My pastor participates w/ his family even in helping reset the sanctuary after events.
At my new church 48 people gave their heart to Christ last weekend. I was so pleased when someone did at my old church, but it didn't happen enough.
Too much focus on money (and not getting ahead) at the former church vs. no focus on money (but tithing is shared) and we are prospering.
Pastor and family too afraid to let you see their real selves (how could you accept they were not perfect?!) vs. a pastor and family not afraid to share the truth. (Since they do, I know to pray for them and their family when they are under attack.)
Great thing to face the truth and move on! Yes, it can be hard to face that the leader is NOT who they should be or who you thought they were, but you can work through it and come out SO blessed. I did. I only wish my eyes had been opened sooner.

Anonymous said...

Hey Anon. 12:44, I can honestly say that for the first time in years I feel like I understand what true friendship is all about. It's sad that a pastor would try to stiffle it in his church so he could keep the control over people.

HELP! said...

This definitely describes to a "t" the pastor that I'm under right now! We have been under her ministry for a few years and actually left once before bc we thought we were under a jezebel spirit! However, the devil worked overtime on our minds and when we were financially lacking for period of time..we believed the lies she had told us about "leaving the glory, going broke, getting sick ect" were ...all results of leaving her church. As a result we returned to the church. however, I have no idea what to do about leaving again..it was hard enough the first time! I'm scared. How should I go about it? When people leave this church..she will stand in front of the congregation and openly bash them, Telling lies about them..

Set Free said...

Dear Help!,
I've been there! These manipulative, controlling pastors will tell you that if you leave your family will fall apart and you will go broke. They will even go as far to say that if you leave you will die. It is all a lie! It is a scare tactic to get you to stay and it's not found in the Bible anywhere! I know it's you are scared, but you have to go. It is sucking the very life out of you and you need to run as fast as you can! They will say bad things about you. Just be ready for it. You know in your heart who you really are and it's not who they say you are. We had served in our church for over 20 years and given our lives for those people, but when we left they called us evil, goats, and all kind of ridiculous things. I promise it gets easier as time goes by. There will be days that you will cry, there will be days that you will be mad, but it's all a part of the process of leaving a "cult." I hope the best for you and if you want to talk further you can email me.