Sunday, December 2, 2012

Cult Or Healthy Church? Questionaire To Help You Know

I began talking about the subject of abusive churches and controlling pastors a little over 4 years ago when I left my church (cult) of 22 years.  If you go back to the first post on my blog, you’ll see that I could not use the word “cult,” but after being away from that environment and seeing the horrible effects it has had on countless people, I can unmistakably call my former church a full blown cult.
If you have left a controlling pastor/cult, chances are you are having a difficult time even thinking about attending church again. You probably feel bad for not going and you tell yourself, "I need to raise my children in church." There are situations where people leave a cult and find a new church right away, but for most people it's hard for them to trust again after being so hurt, betrayed and lied to by a "man of God."
Here's a reminder of what you need to look at when choosing a healthy church. If you are attending a church and keep feeling like something just isn't right, asking yourself these questions may help you make the right decision.

1.  Does your church tightly control the flow of information within its ranks? Does it seem like the pastor, his family, and those closest to him are extremely secretive?

2.  Does your spiritual leader use public shaming as a method to gain the compliance of followers? Does he give enough information so that everyone knows who he's talking about and yet he never uses a name?

3.  Is your spiritual leader intolerant of questions or critical inquiry? Are you supposed to be a submissive member and just go with whatever the leadership says?

4.  Is your spiritual leader the exclusive means of knowing “truth” or receiving validation? Does he discredit other churches in the area and make it sound like his church is the only one doing it right?

5.  Does your spiritual leader have unreasonable fears about the outside world such as evil conspiracies or persecutions? Does he use phrases like, "God will set ambushments against our enemies" or "God beats down our foes" all the while referring to the people who have left the church?

6.  Are you discouraged to associate with former members, being warned that they are “evil” or “defiling”? Are the people you thought were your good friends refusing to allow their children to remain friends with your children?

7.  Is leaving your group to join another church equal to leaving God? Have you been convinced that leaving will be your downfall?

8.  Does the surrounding community view your church as a cult? Are you embarrased to say where you attend church?

9.  Does your spiritual leader consider it evil persecution when criticized or questioned? Does he point out "bad" things that happen to those who have left the church and insinuate that it's because they left, but when the same thing happens to him or his family, does he call it an attack?

10.  Do the goals of your spiritual leader seem to supercede any personal goals or individual interests? Does he require you to serve him even to the point of neglecting your own family?

11.  Do you fear being rebuked, shunned, or ignored for expressing a different opinion? If you are a man, do you feel like you've been emasculated and that you must accept what comes your way? Have you allowed your family to be mistreated, all the while saying nothing?

12.  Do former members often relate the same stories of abuse and reflect a similar pattern of grievances?

“If you answered “no” to all of the above questions, your church is very healthy. If you answered “yes” to three or more, your church is showing signs of being unhealthy. If you answered “yes” to six or more, your church is very unhealthy. If you answered “yes” to eight or more, your church is a full-blown authoritarian cult.”


Donna Edgar said...

Huston,...We have a problem! I awnsered yes to 6 of the 12 questions asked about healthy vs. unhealthy church. My husband and I joined our new church in July. The pastor there was brought in in March of this year. (2012) At frist he was very nice and flattering, (we have a music ministry) and desireous for us to use our talents to help the congragation grow. Which of course is what we willing did and which we were called by and give the credit to only God. Then we started to notice he had a short fuse, would become angry with anyone who questioned him or did not do what he commanded. He threatens to quit, and then says if he quits the doors to the church will be chained and locked shut and every one in it will be scattered like sheep. He began attacking one of the deacons who disagreed with him from the pulpit, and although not saying any names, we figured out who he was talking about. He also made it clear that he did not want any of the women saying anything, asking questions or being over anything such as the kitchen or decidision matters concerning the mantainance of the church building. He also keeps telling us he has plans for "this" church which will be reveiled in due time. Then one day about a month ago during a phone conversation, he told us we needed to be in the service at church rather than singing for other churches that called us to come. That Sunday we were called at the last minute to a church whose pastor found out he had cancer and forgot to book a group for a speacial Sunday they were having. So we went to help that pastor in his need. When we returned to our own church the following Sunday, our pastor would not even look us in the eye, shake our hand and when he did look at us it seemed to be with disgust. Last Sunday night he made the announcement that If we didn't straighten up he was leaving at the end of March and the doors to the church would be chained shut. Then he opened his bible as if no questions should be asked. A few of us questioned him. Some were afraid too. Some who he had gathered to himself praised him and also threatened to leave if he went. The ones of us who are out of his grace, so to speak, know he is wrong, but we don't know what to do about it, how to act around him or what to say. It would be easy for my husband and me to leave and go eles where, but the few who see him for what he is would be left defensless and we have come to love them dearly. My husband also says he does not feel the Lord urging us to leave. Please help us and advise us.

Set Free said...

Donna, Having been where you are I can honestly say that my opinion is get out now. Tell the people you care for exactly why you are leaving and even point them to these blog posts and the articles in my side column. There is not much you can go when you have a controlling, narcissist pastor in charge. It's almost like they have a play book they go by because they all act and do the same thing. When a pastor is not loving to people and doesn't have the heart of a servant, he's not a real pastor. The Bible tells us to stay clear of these type of false preachers. Sounds like your pastor acts like he's in 5th grade if he won't even look at you or shake your hand...truly not actions backed by the Holy Spirit.

Set Free said...

P.S. Donna... I think it would be great if he left and chained the doors. Then the people could go find a real pastor who loves and cares for them.

Tammy Carter said...

I have been SO afraid to go back to church and trust ANY church at this point. It has been over a year and I am reaching out. I was blessed to find Barb Orlowskis book and blog...then, yours and others. Thank you for sharing. I don't know what my steps look like in getting back to a "live" church. But, the Echurch on The Wartburg Watch has been very helpful. It feels like a safe way to take small steps towards healing from spiritual abuse. Anyway, thank you again for writing and if you don't mind, pray that I can overcome, heal and become part of a healthy community.
God bless,

Tammy Carter said...

I left a church that was spiritually abusive over a year ago. And, yes, it has been hard to even THINK about returning. This past summer I did visit a few churches, but left before it was over. I even got to church parking lots before thinking that I was going, then, I just turned my care around and went home. I have found some great help when I got Barb Orlowskis book on Spiritual abuse and have "ran into" other blogs like yours that are encouraging and help me know that I am not alone. I have really enjoyed watching Echurch on The Wartburg Watch and it just feels like a safe place to start. Thank you for sharing your insight. God bless, Tammy