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.”