Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Leah Remini Series On A&E

I highly recommend the Leah Remini series on A&E. She is exposing Scientology, but it will be helpful to anyone who has been in a cult or controlling church. She has guests on the show who have left the church and found freedom. It amazes me how all of these types of  "churches" use the same tactics to control people. She finished the final show tonight, but you can find the series online here.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Controlling, Narcissist Leader/Pastor

*I am bringing back this post that I originally wrote on September 16, 2009. Based upon the comments I've received lately, I believe there's a need to bring this subject back to the forefront.

The Controlling, Narcissist Leader/Pastor

Ungodly, controlling pastors have hurt many people. The phrase "ungodly pastors" seems to be an oxymoron. These two words shouldn't go together in the same sentence, but the sad truth is there are pastors and leaders who are only in the position for their own lustful desires.

These dictating leaders can be described by many words - controllers, manipulators, narcissists, psychopaths, cult leaders, false pastors, false prophets, and dictators, to name a few. There are varying degrees of this type of leadership and some are more damaging than others, but I have seen the negative effects these type of leaders can have on people. Some pastors are just strong leaders, while others are narcissistic psychopaths. If you haven't ever been around a person like this it may be hard for you to imagine that there are people who go to these extreme measures. But for those who have suffered under this type of heartless leadership, you know all too well how deep the wounds go.

Here are some signs and characteristics of a narcissist, unscriptural leader.....

*Resembles the same attitude Diotrephes had in III John verse 9. He is proud, carnal, demanding, overbearing, impatient, uncompassionate, "loving" only toward those who submit to him, but mean-spirited toward those who do not agree with him.

*He develops doctrines from pet verses that appear to support his view.

*He makes people feel that they cannot make important decisions and know God's will without him.

*He exalts himself before the people.

*He ridicules his associates, making them look small in the eyes of the church members, thus increasing his own prestige and authority and decreasing theirs.

*He treats people who leave as fools and evil men. All kindness and friendship is withdrawn by the leaders. People are only treated kindly when they submit to his doctrines and "authority."

*He contradicts himself a lot.

*He is accountable to no one.

*He provokes and intimidates people to get what he wants.

*He demands respect instead of trying to earn respect.

*He wears a phony grin and acts like everything is all right even when things are falling apart in his church.

*He acts as if he knows everything, but he really doesn't know how to handle problems he has caused.

*He is a captive storyteller and exaggerates the truth all the time. He is able to spin a web that intrigues others and pulls them into his life.

*He has the capacity to destroy his critics verbally and disarm them emotionally.

*He does not recognize the individuality or rights of others.

*He is extremely self-serving and thinks he deserves royal treatment.

*He has no checks on his behavior - anything goes.

*He has tremendous feelings of entitlement. He believes everything is owed to him as a right.

*He presents himself as a genius.

*He has an insatiable need for adoration. When others aren't praising him, he will praise himself.

*He gives the perception that he lives a grandiose life, but paranoia rules him. He creates an us vs. them mentality because of his perceived hostile environment.

*He lies coolly and easily, even when it is obvious he is being untruthful. It is almost impossible for him to be consistently truthful about either a major or minor issue.

*He is a plagiarist and a thief. He seldom gives credit to the true originators of ideas.

*He is extremely convincing and could more than likely pass a lie detector test.

*He does not have friends.

*He doesn't not have feelings of remorse, shame, or guilt. He feels justified in all his actions because he considers himself the ultimate moral arbiter. Nothing gets in his way.

*He is unmoved by things that would unset the normal person, while outraged by insignificant matters.

*He is cold, with shallow emotions, living in a dark world of his own.

*He can witness or order acts of utter brutality without experiencing a shred of emotion.

*He casts himself in a role of total control, which he plays to the hilt.

*He is tragically flawed in being able to either give or receive love.

*He despises community and emotional intimacy, and so he is profoundly lonely. On the one hand, though, there is something about his loneliness that he likes; for he can attribute it to his unique and superior nature.

*He constantly tests the beliefs of his followers, often with bizarre behaviors.

*He readily takes advantage of others, expressing utter contempt for anyone else's feelings. Someone in distress is not important to him. Although intelligent, perceptive, and quite good at sizing people up, he makes no real connections with others. He uses his "people skills" to exploit, abuse, and wield power.

*He will favor and offer help to people who are down as long as he thinks they will be useful to him later on down the road. Such favors might include offering employment, loaning money, or offering personal counseling. He may call in his favor if he sees you slipping away. Also, such opportunities help the narcissist persuade himself that he is good, despite the gnawing awareness of the dark cellar at heart.

*He has an inflated sense of superiority which propels him to recklessness; for he is subject to fantasies of omnipotence and unequalled brilliance, and he feels that he is above the law. And it is this sense of superiority that allows him to underestimate the intelligence and determination of his adversaries.

*He is indifferent to injustice and it's victims, but he rages against the person who is a threat to his charade and/or who refuses to cooperate with his underhanded schemes. 
It sounds like you have been following my former Pastor/Apostle/Prophet around for a couple of years while taking notes. I generally refer to the man as my former Narcissist or more simply, the Sweaty Screaming Baboon (SSB for short).

A few other of this guy's machinations included nepotism and the tactical use of the ability to become "offended". I always thought that for a big, tuff-guy, man-of-god, spiritual  warrior, apostle that he claims to be...this dude sure gets "offended" a lot.

Speaking of being above the law, this "Apostle" actually committed so many traffic violations that he lost his driver's license in the state of Pennsylvania and had to go to driver's school and re-take all the original tests that we did as teenagers in order to get it back.

He also lost a primo job and a Victorian house (details from his sermons are sketchy) before becoming a "Pastor" declaring himself an "Apostle" and making a living out of convincing other people to give him their money through guilt, manipulation, and the perversion of Scripture.

I could go on with these kinds of examples but suffice to say that Christian International "Apostle Brian" is about as much of an apostle as he is a Cy Young award-winning major league baseball player. That would be NOT AT ALL!

Now that somehow I have escaped from this monstrosity, I find myself marveling at the level of contempt, repulsion and revulsion that I feel for him and his personality disorder. It's like nothing I have ever felt for anyone else anywhere at anytime in my life (including the Navy) and it happened of all places in "the church".

I'm guessing it's just a standard by-product of the residue leftover from 2.5 years of foolishly committing myself and my money to a control freak/manipulation monster.

BTW, he definitely thinks he's a genius.
searching said...
This is an excellent post! It describes my former pastor/manipulator perfectly.
Set Free said...
I know exactly what you mean!

My former pastor failed at several jobs before becoming a pastor. I have come to the conclusion that he figured out manipulating trusting people would be easy money. He has lived the high life for years while others struggled. He preached that his faith got him all he had, but it really came because of his countless pleas for people to tithe and give to their "man of God."

I don't know of another man who is disliked as much as this man. He has hurt so many people you couldn't even count them. Every person I run into has a story about something he did. And yet when people start standing up to him he calls it an attack of the devil. He says all of these people are evil and snakes and wolves. In his eyes he will never be wrong. He will never see that he is the common denominator in every situation.

My former pastor thinks he is a genius too. He is the only one who is right - and he will let you know you are an "idiot" if you try to tell him different. (Idiot is his favorite word.) He learns big words and uses them to look big. He tells everyone they should go get a college degree, but he doesn't have one himself.

We got preached to over and over about not getting offended and walking in love. AND yet it didn't apply to him. He would treat someone ugly and then talk about how we all had to walk in love. I was always scratching my head over that one. He just wanted us to overlook what him and some of his family members were doing.

I could go on and on!
Thanks for the comment!
Set Free said...
Thanks for the comment, Searching. It's great to hear from you!
Aida said...
Unfortunately, now that we've entered the world of online groups, these types of individuals have also shown up on some online groups. If there’s no one actively watching, they’ll sneak in and take over . . . abusing, name calling and manipulating until they drive the serious believers away. In the end, all that’s left of the group is them and their followers.

As I read your list, the characteristics are surprisingly similar. I bring this up to warn people that abusers aren’t just in churches. They’ll go wherever they can find a group that is open to manipulation and control.

Thanks for sharing this list and for your blog. People need to be warned and I’m thankful for blogs like yours that are speaking truth to those who are still bound.
Set Free said...
Thanks for pointing out that we need to be aware of this type of abuse in many different situations.

I want to continue to post things that may help those who are still bound see the truth. I only wish I had read things like this years ago.

Thanks for the comment!
Barbara said...
Thanks for continuing to share information like this. It helps to know that what I was thinking all along is really the truth.
Anonymous said...
I just read the article you have a link to here and it was incredible. I encourage anyone who thinks they may be under a pastor like this to read this article and hopefully see the truth. This person described here is my former pastor! I know there are many men out there like this fooling people, but when I read this information it is so close to what I was under it's very sobering. No one human being deserves to be under the control of a man like this and the people still left in my former church need to see this man for who he is and get out! If you know anyone still left at WOL and may be questioning, encourage them to read this article and try to see the truth. This man is causing damage to individuals and some don't even realize it. I found that the article seems hard to get into, but goes into great detail towards the end so keep reading. Thanks for sharing this. It is an eye opener.
Justin said...
This blog post is nearing a year old, so I apologize for bringing it back to life, ha.

I appreciate the post, and I am sitting under a man like this. What did you guys do to handle men like this? Did you just leave the church, or did you try to fight it?

I believe there are times when men like this are a judgment on the people. This is the second man our leadership has chosen that acts like this. I believe it is a mix up in the fundamental values of the leadership, but that still does not nullify my love for the people here.

How are we to handle these harmful, uncompassionate, unloving "pastors"?(I hate to even call them that, as they do no actual pastoring)
Set Free said...
There is nothing you can do when dealing with men like this. They NEVER think they are wrong and the only way to handle this type of situation is to leave. Trying to fight it will only hurt you and your family. These type of men will say and do almost anything, so I would just go quietly and move on to a place where the real love of God is practiced.

I know it's hard to leave the people you have grown to love in the church. I had friends at my former church who I had known for many years. But I can tell you to expect some of them to shun you when you leave. Some people will be loyal followers these "pastors" no matter what because he has them fooled/brainwashed.

The pastor I was under was extremely unloving and uncompassionate. I don't know why I didn't realize sooner that the Bible says if a man doesn't love people, then he doesn't love/know God. Love is the sign of a true man of God. Serving others is a sign of a true man of God. When pastors are only looking for people to serve them, then are they really a true man of God? The Bible answers that question very clearly. We cannot judge a man's spiritual condition - only God knows that, but the Bible does tell us to look at the fruit. If there is no good fruit - love, compassion, service, etc., being modeled, then my opinion is to run as fast as you can away from a place like that and find the real thing.

Thanks for commenting. I hope that helps and if you ever have any other questions please feel free to ask.
Aida said...
Justin, I agree with Set Free. There really is no way to fight leadership. They’ve got everything on their side. Also, it makes me wonder why the leadership picks men like that. Obviously, there’s something wrong there. Only you can know when it’s time to leave, however, if the only reason you’re staying is because of the people, then I believe that’s doing them a disservice. Your being there, even though you don’t agree, will validate that pastor’s behavior in their eyes but, if you try to fight, you’ll only get hurt ant hurt them as well.

In a battle with leadership, I believe the deck is stacked against you and you’ll always end up the loser.
Terry Stanley said...
All men are fallible. When one man is given this kind of power it ruins him.
Biblical Pastors
Larry Schoonover said...
I was doing some research on crime in the Puyallup area when I cam across your articles. After reading your articles I thought I might suggest a short eBook I wrote. It was motivated by the element you describe as “The need for control” in religious leaders. Or in any leader for that matter. Of course we all know that true leaders need NO control, for their influence is communicated by their life. Others might be compelled to follow a GOOD leader. However there are those who seek to control their families, their employees and any other circle they are a part of. If you are interested, the short eBook I mentioned is on They have apps for Kindle to view eBooks on any device, i.e. Kindle, iPhone, computers, etc. Abdicating The Throne speaks about relinquishing the position of sovereign controller for the sake of growth and development of others..
The last thing a pastor would ever want to admit; was how he acted as supreme ruler over his immediate local kingdom, he might frequently refer to as, “My Church”. It may stem from upbringing or just the way he manages his own household. The kind of leader I am talking about, reads 1 Timothy 3:5 and sees himself as commander in chief of the home; and takes on the approach of a military officer commanding the troops. Sitting at the helm he has the final say in all matters. His words might come across like, “Wife and kids, you don’t have to think; just ask me and I will tell you.” However these approaches rarely produce any kind of respect, but rather fear. At the very least, it produces a family who will not think for themselves. They will become overly dependent on others to make their decisions for them. This dominating leader likes it when his followers become totally reliant.
Anonymous said...
Please pray for me and my family. We started going to this church last year and were amazed at how the church was like "family". Every couple of weeks we were invited over to someone's house for a meal or coffee. The pastor went away for a couple of weeks and then came back and after the assistant pastor spoke he got up in front of the church and said "what was that?". Then he began to tell everyone very loudly that he very upset with the church and that God would not give him a sermon until the appropriate time. He went on about his "ministry" that he wanted to start and said "if you don't like it, there's the door". He told us he already picked those who can help with his ministry and it would only be 3% of the church. He tells us that you should never get up to go to the washroom during his sermon and if you do you are giving in to the spirits that are squeezing your bladder. Did I mention he often speaks for 2 hours! He wants to take the sign off the church and not be Baptist anymore and the people all say "God made the leaders head over the church and we are to obey them".

Last month the pastor spoke and said that for the last 9 months we have not had communion because when they had it last he looked around and saw people's faces and decided that the church people were not being genuine. My husband and I have been asking for months when they will do communion again and the church leaders kept telling us that they wanted to wait to find out how they could make it more meaningful. My husband is being totally blinded and says "they must have their reason". My husband loves it there because he now has friends and the men really stick together. I like my friends too, but I am really scared of not obeying God. I am praying that my husband will see that this control is not healthy and that God will give us Christian friends again when we go to another church. We have a 5yr old and a 3yr old and we need prayer of where to go.
Anonymous said...
Great post. Just as others have said, it sounds like a church that I used to go to. The narcissist traits are not only in the pastors but also in the member/parishioners of the church. People in churches often try to push their friends into going to and joining the church just to be pressured into making sacrifices for the church-nonstop. The word God was always used when they would use tactics to manipulate you.

The church that I used to go seemed to only care about you when they wanted something from you, and as soon as they get it-the appreciation is only temporary. Heaven forbid if you dare ask anyone for anything because you shouldn't be needy, only giving; or if you make a living and don't tithe what is expected every week. Apparently, to some churches, wage earners aren't entitled to keeping much of their earnings for anything materialistic.

Since when are pastors entitled to larger stipends for their service? Shouldn't they be setting an example by living by a simple means and not more? I realize that not all are like that, but their are some who are very greedy and have expensive homes and cars, while members of their church are barely getting by.

Another thing that I have noticed about church groups is they will often make excuses for other people's behavior and you are supposed to just forgive and all will be well. To me that is the biggest load of crap because there is no accountability for actions.

I also have realized that over time even after spending a significant amount of time with peers (the youth group, bible study, or other outings) that most of the relationships formed in those groups were superficial.

There are so many things that can be pointed out and could go on. I hope that I am not long-winded.
Anonymous said...
This is our current pastor. Unfortunately for us, my husband is on staff here and we can't just up and leave until he finds himself a new job. Our pastor is trying to control what my husband does outside of his job, in his personal time. The last two years, my husband has gotten approval from the Pastor and elders, but not without considerable resistance. This year as my husband has submitted his request to continue his "extracurricular" activities, it has blown up and my husband is now being assaulted by the pastor and accused of not performing his job adequately as a direct result of his "extracurricular" activities. He is now manipulating others and rallying support for his lies. It has become quite clear to us over the last year or two that our pastor has some issues. Now we know there is nothing we can do to change it. Just get out as quickly as possible.
Anonymous said...
This is SPOT ON! My former church had a pastor for about 9 months who exhibited EVERY single behavior you have listed. Strangely enough, about 2/3 of the church couldn't see him or his behavior for who he really was. Ultimately he was fired. The church board then brought in a new guy who was identical to the above, except he did everything with a smile, so people assume "he's a nice guy".

I'm sharing this article with anyone who will listen. I'm hoping it will open some eyes, hearts, and minds.
Anonymous said...
I am in a difficult situation, my daughter is first lady, son in law pastor. he controls everything in the church. we sit and watch, we are hard working members, but not allowed to do anything. please help me before I move on
Heartbroken said...
I am not sure you are still here, but I was so glad to find that I am not just "asinine and crazy". I have wanted to find another church since the first Sunday we went to this church. My pastor has taught so much on the scripture "touch not my anointed and do my prophets no harm that I think everyone including myself is afraid to speak up. My husband is convinced we will be cursed if we leave this church. Yet, we give and give and they build bigger homes and drive finer cars, employ their family members and we struggle. I am a musician but I am not allowed to operate in the church because I don't agree with things. We are even taught to turn away from anyone who speaks against the church, avoid these church members in "Wal-Mart" and literally not associate with people. It is very hard because I am miserable and my husband will not leave.
Anonymous said...
Thank you for posting this! This describes our current pastor well. I knew there was something wrong from early on, but didn't want to believe that he could be this kind of person. If you support him, he is really nice to you but if you question him, he either acts hurt or strikes back at you. either directly or in a sneaky way . I have felt hurt by him and have watched him hurt drive out and divide people. I know that pastors are human, but for a supposed man of God, It's disgusting. Am thinking that leaving is probably my best option, but I keep thinking about all the people that he will still be hurting after I leave and I'm really close to some of the people there. Thanks for writing this and helping people to see this problem clearly. wish more people in my church either saw this clearly or knew what to do about it. -
Anonymous said...
This describes my recently former pastor. I never had a problem with him until I told him that I couldn't lead worship twice a week. I had already committed to once a week and have a lot on my plate. Plus, it would be taking away the other worship leaders weeks to lead worship and that would just cause problems. He said okay and that everything was fine between us. He then quit communicating with me and wouldn't answer my phone calls. He used to call me three times a day and then nothing. (I also used to create the overheads for the song sets). He ended up telling my sister that I had yelled and cussed at him and that she needs to not be so co-dependent on me and figure out how to live her life without me and my son (who was just diagnosed with a chronic disease. She asked him if he cared about us and what my son is going through. She asked him if he loved my son and he told her he was not sure if he really knew how to love because of his childhood. How in tarnation can a pastor love God and teach people to love God and each other if he can't love people? Because my sister defended me, he decided to give her the cold shoulder like he did me and had his wife call to tell her that they had made the decision to have us step down from leadership, but that we could come to services on a trial basis. She told my sister that if I wanted to come back I had to work out my issue with her husband. Ummm, I tried and he didn't respond and told his wife to tell me not to call. She also told us not to join any other church because they were going to need our talent down the road and not to hang out with our friends we had before we joined their church. At that point I had already decided to quit attending. My sister did too. He has never called to work things out even though we have tried to reach out to him. And he has now demonized us as I saw him do publically (form the pulpit) to other people who have left. Most church members won't talk to us, but some still are. The lesson I learned is not to say no to a sociopath. The six months I was there, I saw him oust anyone who questioned him or didn't do what he wanted. He talked bad and named other churches in town form the pulpit. He even thought he had the right to tell people not go out of town. He always referred to himself as "we" (meaning him and God) when he wanted people to obey him. He owns his own church, so has no check and balance whatsoever and only surrounds himself with yes men. From what I understand, his church grows and then splits over and over. He only has about 20 people now, but they are all good little submissive sheep. He complains that people don't tithe enough, and dared to criticized a lady who spent money on her "new pearly whites." She had no teeth and had to buy dentures! For the first three months I knew her, she had to gum down her food. He also criticized other church members for buying necessities like clothing, fire wood or fixing up their properties instead of giving him all the money. He constantly pit people against each other and didn't like church members talking to each other about things and never wanted to have a group meeting when there was issues and preferred to talk individually to each person. This caused a lot of tension. He created division in order to better control and manipulate people. One night, before I left, he told me that he isn't really a pastor to people unless they let him dictate and make decisions in their personal lives. That was a red flag. I am glad I said no or I might be living under that unhealthy leadership to this day. Now that I have been out for a few weeks. I feel peace in my relationship with the Lord.
Pastor'sFiance said...
Painfully for me you have described my pastor/fiancé. I have since moved to another church and currently contemplating our future. To me(I am from South Africa) engagement is just as much of a commitment as marriage and I do not wish to sin against God by doing what's convenient instead of what's right and trusting God with my life. I would appreciate advice from people who have been in similar situations. I dread being first lady to a church with a leader like him, I personally feel he is not fit for ministry, as much as i love and care for him. Of course I haven't uttered this to him. He is very manipulative, subtle controller, deceiver, greedy with money, not accountable to anyone, beyond reproach and mostly not faithful to me. He has had multiple affairs and has once told me he strongly believes in polygamy, he says its our culture and biblical. I'm exhausted by him and we are not even married yet.
cld said...
We have a pastor in our town like this. The eye opening point for me was, "He will favor and offer help to people who are down as long as he thinks they will be useful to him later on down the road. " I had a hard time putting my finger on it because helping people seemed like a reasonable thing to do, but, we always knew that he had an ulterior motivation.

We are part of a different church but will be praying for this deception to be revealed in due time.

Thanks for the article.
cld said...
Anonymous, this breaks my heart to hear of such a sad experience. You got calls 3 times a day? Now that is manipulation, wow!
cld said...
Pastor's Fiance', run, run, run. I just read your post to my husband and those were his words. God has clearly used this writing to warn you to leave. He is already unfaithful to you in so many ways. Unfaithfulness is biblical grounds for divorce, you have nothing to fear. My husband and I will be praying for you.
Set Free said...
Dear Pastor's fiancé, your answer is "RUN!" If he is unfaithful to you before marriage, it will not be any different after marriage. He is not a true pastor if he's doing all theses things. Those are not the attributes of a loving man/husband/pastor. Getting married to this man and starting a family will only cause more hurt to you and your future children. You wouldn't be wrong in God's eyes to leave him. You would be making a very smart move!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

10 Ways To Spot Spiritual Abuse

     Found this article and wanted to share. You can find it here.

This topic has been ricocheting in my heart and head many years. But recently, I’ve noticed a greater influx of reader email about this topic, so much so that I felt it would be wise to address it. Although I am thankful I haven’t had an extreme experience with spiritual abuse, I have had some incidences that have scarred me and made me leery of churches and ministries that bully.

Some of my spiritual abuse experiences include:

  • A leader above me telling me that even though I was burned out and losing my health, I had to stay in the ministry because if I didn’t I would lose all my gifting to do future ministry.
  • A church that repeatedly told us they basically had the corner on the market of Jesus and that if we had to go elsewhere, we would miss God’s highest.
  • A leader who found ministry to be a vehicle for his great gain, lying and manipulating donors to earn more and more money.
  • A ministry that shamed me into throwing away all my evil music (including Lionel Ritchie and Duran Duran…oh the evil!)
  • A leader who cornered me, threatened me, and yelled because I brought up a concern that others saw. This led to panic attacks.
Perhaps you have a story to tell too.
I woke up last night at 3 in the morning with this burden I couldn’t shake. I sat down and wrote these traits of spiritually abusive ministries and churches. This is not an exhaustive list, but it typifies what happens. Often you don’t realize you’re in a situation until your health is damaged, your soul is torn, or your outside relationships suffer. My heart in sharing this is to simply shed light on unhealthy, manipulative, controlling practices.

Spiritually abusive ministries…

  1. Have a distorted view of respect. They forget the simple adage that respect is earned, not granted. Abusive leaders demand respect without having earned it by good, honest living.
  2. Demand allegiance as proof of the follower’s allegiance to Christ. It’s either his/her way or no way. And if a follower deviates, he is guilty of deviating from Jesus.
  3. Use exclusive language. “We’re the only ministry really following Jesus.” “We have all the right theology.” Believe their way of doing things, thinking theologically, or handling ministry and church is the only correct way. Everyone else is wrong, misguided, or stupidly naive.
  4. Create a culture of fear and shame. Often there is no grace for someone who fails to live up to the church’s or ministry’s expectation. And if someone steps outside of the often-unspoken rules, leaders shame them into compliance. Can’t admit failure but often searches out failure in others and uses that knowledge to hold others in fear and captivity. They often quote scriptures about not touching God’s anointed, or bringing accusations against an elder. Yet they often confront sin in others, particularly ones who bring up legitimate biblical issues. Or they have their circle of influence take on this task, silencing critics.
  5. Often have a charismatic leader at the helm who starts off well, but slips into arrogance, protectionism and pride. Where a leader might start off being personable and interested in others’ issues, he/she eventually withdraws to a small group of “yes people” and isolates from the needs of others. Harbors a cult of personality, meaning if the central figure of the ministry or church left, the entity would collapse, as it was entirely dependent on one person to hold the place together.
  6. Cultivate a dependence on one leader or leaders for spiritual information. Personal discipleship isn’t encouraged. Often the Bible gets pushed away to the fringes unless the main leader is teaching it.
  7. Demand servanthood of their followers, but live prestigious, privileged lives. They live aloof from their followers and justify their extravagance as God’s favor and approval on their ministry. Unlike Jesus’ instructions to take the last seat, they often take the first seat at events and court others to grant them privileges.
  8. Buffer him/herself from criticism by placing people around themselves whose only allegiance is to the leader. Views those who bring up issues as enemies. Those who were once friends/allies swiftly become enemies once a concern is raised. Sometimes these folks are banished, told to be silent, or shamed into submission.
  9. Hold to outward performance but rejects authentic spirituality. Places burdens on followers to act a certain way, dress an acceptable way, and have an acceptable lifestyle.
  10. Use exclusivity for allegiance. Followers close to the leader or leaders feel like insiders. Everyone else is on the outside, though they long to be in that inner circle.
Have you ever experienced this kind of situation? What did you do? How did you heal in the aftermath? And what can we do as responsible Christ followers to expose this kind of abuse? What can we do as leaders to follow in the gentle footsteps of Jesus?

Friday, January 24, 2014



Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Free From Control

I haven't written a post in a long time because I'm so far removed from the controlling, abusive church I was once involved in and the very manipulative family member I had is no longer around. The 2 subjects I've learned so much about - control and manipulation - are still a part of my life because I'm hyper-vigilant now in these areas. I don't want to ever be in these situations again!

I've been watching a new show on TLC called "Breaking The Faith" and it is all too familiar. Even though these young girls have long un-cut hair, wear no makeup, and wear dark, plain, all-covering dresses, I can still relate. The dress code we had was not as intrusive, nevertheless we had one. We were told to wear panty hose (even in the summer, even with sandals), wear skirts below the knee, and pants were not allowed at church... just dresses, skirts, and suits...very expensive suits. That is...until the pastor's family members decided they wanted to wear pant suits to church, then we were given a lesson on what pants are appropriate. Pants were only allowed with a jacket or suit coat. My daughter was once "written up" because her jacket didn't have a collar and it wasn't considered an appropriate suit coat. I've come to realize that if you are an adult and anyone is trying to tell you how to dress, it's a form of control. I understand that there are dress codes for work situations, but I'm referring to someone outside of work situations - a pastor, a controlling boyfriend, etc.

**Control is never okay, whether it be a pastor, a so-called friend, a family member, a boyfriend, or a spouse. It takes away from who you are as a person and leaves you feeling like an empty shell. Leaving controlling situations is a process and you have to find yourself again. I highly recommend you go to counseling or therapy if you have found yourself in a controlling situation and begin the road to recovery.

In the show the "prophet," the "man of God," is still controlling the people from prison. He is in prison for sleeping with minors that he calls his wives, but that doesn't stop him from calling and giving them their marching orders. The people in his group or the "crick" as the young people who've left call it, gather around the phone to hear the messages he has "heard from God." All of the people gather and listen as if it were God Himself calling. I've noticed that the "prophet" is always taking something else away from the group in order to maintain his control, and he is always telling them they will disappoint him or God if they do certain things.

Several of the young boys and girls have left the group and the show is about their life outside the "crick." I've been amazed at the similarities to what I and many others have experienced in leaving our controlling situations. The young people really have a hard time because these things have been engrained in them since birth. In passing, the girls will say things like, "We weren't allowed to play with dolls, we weren't allowed to eat sour cream, we weren't allowed to taste candy or even eat sugar." I've heard the boys say, "We weren't allowed to play any sports at all." They were told it was God's will that they work and not play. Even though the young people are out of the group, they still live with a gripping fear that if they take off their "crick" approved clothing and dress like a "gentile" that they'll go to hell. They're afraid if they try sour cream on a taco, they will be doomed. It's so sad for me to watch and I hate the control that they've been under. I fear that they'll never be able to be "normal" after the extremities they've lived under. I'd love to go to them and try to help them. Hopefully someone will.

Their practices are to the extreme and so many people could never relate, but the people leaving controlling, abusive churches today can absolutely relate. The pastors are not as extreme as the "prophet" on this show, but they use the same tactics. They modify his approach enough to make it not appear as a cult, but they slowly, over time, brainwash good church-going people just the same.

Instead of making the children wear long dark dresses, parents are told, "Don't let your children dress as if they are going to a picnic. Young boys should wear a suit and tie to church and always wear their shirts tucked in." There reasoning sounds so Godly - they are honoring God with their dress. And I is that any different from the extreme cult I've talked about above. It's all still control and it's all still based on fear that you will disappoint God. The pastor's today will talk about eating organic and being healthy, but it's all still the same. It's his way of even controlling what you eat. He knows that if he can control your money and your food, he's got you.

My hope is that these controlling churches will continue to be spotlighted and that people will see the truth and free themselves. Just as when the girls from the show are asked how they feel leaving...I want others to say along with them, "I feel freedom."

God never intended for a man to lord over you. He gave you - you, yourself - the freedom to make your own decisions. He is not a harsh God waiting to scold you if your skirt is not long enough. He cares about YOU. You, the person He created and loves more than you'll ever know.

On this New Year's Eve, ponder these things and go into this new year free of demands placed on you by controlling people. Be your own person. Love yourself for the person God created. Throw the fear these controlling men have led you into right out the window. Put things you don't understand on the shelf and dwell on one truth that's most important - God loves you. He loves you just the way you are and He doesn't want you living in fear that if you make a mistake you'll disappoint Him. And just as I've watched this show and have seen these young girls think they will go to hell for cutting their hair or eating sour cream, I want you to see that God would NEVER be the way these wolves in sheep's clothing have made Him out to be.

The message is's not about what you eat, it's not about your money, and it's not even about how you dress. The message is...what really matters is that God loves you more than you'll ever know! He loves you to the moon and back and more!

Friday, January 18, 2013

All Too Familiar

Yesterday I received this comment on the post "The Controlling, Abusive Pastor". Everything she said was all too familiar. I have experienced everything she described while in my former church and I've experienced the same effects she described after leaving. I'm posting her comment and invite you to tell her your story or give her advice on how you've handled the questions, the hurt, and the inability to trust again (which is very normal.)

"I too was hurt by an abusive and controlling pastor, and by the church. The pastor attacked me from the pulpit in a very passive aggressive manor, and behaved inappropriately with me on several occasions. His wife yelled at us during a women's group because she couldn't reach her husband one day, how he needed a day off because some of us in the church are so needy and we take time away from her and her husband--yes she actually said that to us. I finally made the decision to leave, only to hear, after I left, all the hateful and hurtful gossip about me being insane, or an alcoholic etc... just because I had problems and I left. This was also my first experience in a Christian group. How can I trust again? I'd like to come back to a church, but how do I know which one to choose? I've attempted going to two new churches on two different Sunday's but I keep having panic attacks when I pull into the parking lots, believing that what happened to me before will happen again and I just leave. How do you get over the hurt and how do you trust again?"

My answer...
"I can relate to your situation so well. My best friend, who was in the same church I was in had the same experience in the parking lot of a church she was trying to attend. You are not alone. This is normal behavior for someone who was in an abusive church. The best thing to do is to continue talking about it. Don't hold it in. If you need to talk to me please feel free to email me. To trust again - it just takes time. I left my church almost 5 years ago and I still have a hard time trusting. I'm getting better with time, but it just takes time. I also highly recommend going to talk to a therapist. The pastor of my former church is still talking about us. We were called evil, snakes, etc. The good thing is, he just resigned from being the pastor. I hope some of this helps. Please feel free to vent here or ask more questions if you want to."

Thursday, December 13, 2012

"The Great Sham"

I've seen many people fall so hard after being in a controlling church/cult. It seems that they run as fast as they can away from God and anything related to God. I didn't do that because I was able to separate God from my pastor because I've always believed in the love of God - even though I never saw it demonstrated from my former pastor. For a while after leaving my church I couldn't read my Bible because all I heard was the pastor's harsh voice and his bogus teachings, so I just tried to concentrate on the fact that God loved me. I basically had to put everything I learned at that church on the shelf and say to myself, "God loves me and that's all I can think about right now."

But I've noticed that some people can't even do that. The reason being...the controlling, narcissistic pastor carefully and convincingly teaches week after week that he is your "man of God." He makes you believe that when he speaks it's equivalent to God speaking. He has "words from God" for you and over time you really do begin to see him as God. I know that sounds absurd to some, but that's how cult leaders brainwash people. They do enough good to earn your trust. They actually demand your trust and you basically begin to trust them with your life. You feel like you can't make a move without their consent. Of course these self-promoted, controlling pastors know exactly what they are doing and they take pleasure in the loyalty of their followers. You are punished for a lack of loyalty - you fear that you will be the subject of his next message.  My former pastor once told me he was thinking of requiring his staff to watch 'The Godfather' movies so they would learn how to be loyal to him. It would be funny if it weren't so true...and sad.

When a person finally sees the light and realizes what they are a part of they can't separate the two - their pastor and God. That's clearly why the Bible teaches for us not to put our trust in man. It's sad to say that so many Christians have their trust in a man who doesn't even care about them. So when the pastor lets them down, lies to them, and hurts them, they run. They run away from God, when all along God had nothing to do with what they were a part of. God is love and if a pastor is not demonstrating the love of God and pointing you to that love at all times, he's not a true pastor.

I can remember sitting in services and hearing the pastor call people idiots and use phrases like "you should beat their brains out" while referring to your children. I would think to myself, "I sure wish my children could see the real love of God that I experienced when I was first saved. But dummy me...I just kept sitting there listening to his foolishness. My kids are suffering for it and I hate it. Come to find out now, they were afraid of him. They were afraid that if they weren't perfect, he would embarrass them. They were afraid the "devil would get them." The pastor would use phrases like if you do something wrong you will "open the door to the devil." Can you imagine how a child feels when they hear that? They are walking on eggshells, afraid of the devil, when what a child should be focused on is the love God has for them. These controlling, manipulative churches are backwards! They have people more devil conscious than God conscious. And the sad thing's all planned by the pastor to keep people right where he wants them - under his control.

If you have found yourself in a place like this, get out now. Get your kids away from the fear that's produced in these churches and expose them to the real love of God. Run away from the control and into the arms of God's love. I know that's easier said than done, because once you've invested your whole life into something and then find out it was all a sham, you're cussing mad, you're hurt, you want to punch somebody for doing you that way, and you want to try to forget it all (which is hard to do). God's not upset that you feel this way either - He understands. Try to put your trust in Him and don't ever allow yourself to put so much trust in a man/pastor again. Just try to think about how much God loves you. Don't throw it all away because one day you will need God.

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.”

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Once Again, I See The Effects Of Control

Hey friends,
I haven't written a post in a while, but I stay connected with my blog on a regular basis. I always respond to comments and I check to see which posts people seem to be reading. It's very interesting that most people find my blog by googling words such as controlling, manipulative people and narcissistic pastors. I think there are a lot more people dealing with this than we know.

I received a heart wrenching comment yesterday on a post titled, "The Controlling, Abusive Pastor," and I want to share it with you.

"These are some of the qualities that my pastor has too. He keeps threatening that anybody who leaves the church without his decision would die and go to hell and God himself would take vengeance against such a member. I feel I'm into spiritual slavery . I have felt many times that he has manipulated scripture to meet his selfish motives. Now he wants me to move closer to his house so that he can control me more (though he gives different excuses). There are forced covenants that he has made us take regarding a business that the church should start. We are only 6 members and it's a home church. I'm frustrated and can not even talk back for the fear of speaking against authority. There are times when I thought suicide would be a way out. But suicide I believe would be a direct ticket to hell so I don't dare to take such a step. On the other hand I want to fulfill the plan and purpose for which God has sent me to the world. I'm crying out to the Lord to help me. Can I ask you guys for prayers though."

This comment greatly concerned me and this is why my blog is so important to me. Once again I see the effects and the devastation that being under a controlling leader has on people and I hope something I say can help. This dear person is suffering under the hand of a man who calls himself a pastor but is so far from what a true pastor really is. I hope the person who left this comment finds the courage to leave this ungodly control and find peace.

This "pastor," and many others like him, use fear and manipulation to keep people under their rule. They go to extremes by saying that bad things will happen to you and your family if you leave. You have to realize they are just bullies and you must not allow them to manipulate you. They only want to use you so they can have their own selfish way. It's never been and never will be about what is best for you. It's all about what will benefit him - the selfish pastor. When people who call themselves leaders treat people this way, it is the total OPPOSITE of the way God treats people.

Being under a controlling leader strips you of who you are. It takes away your voice and you find yourself living only to please the leader. You lay aside your own wants and dreams to fulfill his. That is NOT what was intended for your life! When a man takes control over you in the name of God it's wrong. God Himself doesn't even take control over us. He gave us our free will to choose. How can a man claiming to be a voice for God do something that even God can't do? The answer is...he can't unless we allow him to. We have to be strong and stand up to these kind of controlling people and say enough is enough. And be warned...when a pastor says if you speak against him you are speaking against authority, he is hiding something. No one person is higher than another and when a pastor tries to make you feel lower than he is, he is a narcissist with wrong motives.

To the person who wrote this comment, I hope you read this post and realize that you need to run from this situation. It's unhealthy and it is sucking the very life out of you. I know it's hard, but God will give you the courage. I have been there and I had to stand up and take my life back from a controlling, narcissistic tyrant. Being in this type of situation only hurts you and no good will come from it. Your life is basically on hold until you free yourself. You can truly start to live again when you get out from under the control. I hope you find your voice and start to enjoy your life. You have a friend in me and I would love to talk to you. You can get through this. I did and I know of many others who have too. You are not alone.

If there are others who have a word of encouragement for this hurting person, please feel free to comment here.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Spiritual Abuse Resources

January is Spiritual Abuse Awareness Month. I'm glad to know that there are people out there trying to raise the awareness of this travesty that affects so many lives.

Dr. Barb Orlowski has compiled a list of spiritual abuse blogs and websites. Barb looked at over 130 sites and picked the best of the bunch. These sites provide insights into people's lives and experience of spiritual abuse. Some of them may speak to you more than others, but you can pick the ones that are your personal favorites.

I have linked the sites for you, so all you have to do is click on the title.

*Church Exiters

*Setting The Captives Free

*Pure Provender

*Futurist Guy

*Spiritual Abuse In the Church

*Spiritual Abuse

*Christian Survivors

*The Hope Of Survivors

*Kingdom Grace

*Battered Sheep

*Spiritual Abuse Recovery resources

*The National Association Of Christian Recovery

*Recovery From Abuse

*VM Life Resources

*The Wartburg Watch

*Church Abuse

*John Mark Ministries

*Apologetics Index

*Stop Spiritual Abuse

*Reflections On Spiritual Abuse

*Rick Ross Institute

*Wittenberg Gate

*The Barnabas Ministry

*Word Of Faith Recovery Forum

*Ministry From Two Poles

*Ruby's Emporium

*Wicked Shepherds

*We Survived Abuse

*Spiritual Abuse Sanctuary