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."