How do you spot legalistic, abusive churches?

Discussion in '2000-02 Archive' started by Jessie, Dec 5, 2002.

  1. Jessie

    Jessie
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    These last 7 or so years, have nearly done us in. We went from thinking we were in the best church around, to feeling shunned, not quite good enough, and on and on.
    One pastor left and took 3/4ths of the people with him. Next pastor, immediately began telling us how he was the one in control, the one with authority, the one running things. He was deceitful, manipulating and controlling. And, if all that wasn't bad enough, he was twisting scripture around to make points in his 'sermons'.
    It took a while for all this to hit us in the face. It caused problems in our family, when one saw and the other one didn't. It has put distance between two brothers and their families - one stayed, one left. It's hurtful, and awful.
    I know there are others who have been in churches like this, and would like some helpful advice. When you are visiting churches, what are the very first things you need to watch for, in order to avoid this kind of mess again? I know a few: pastor always stressing his authority, discrepencies in what he says compared to what he does, and people who you know are sincere, caring Christians that start dropping out of sight without a word.
    When we first started visiting this church, it seemed so great. We really felt like God wanted us to be there. And, I guess we did learn a lot - just not the kind of things we thought we'd be learning. Any advice from others who have been there and done that would be appreciated.
     
  2. Don

    Don
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    When I first moved to this area, a set of circumstances occurred that told me I was supposed to be in a certain church. I called some pastor friends of mine to see if they knew anything about the pastor of this church; one of them did, and it wasn't good. This pastor friend of mine, however, told me that the situation had occurred 10-15 years ago, and a lot of things change in that amount of time.

    My wife wasn't comfortable. I had a feeling. I ignored all that, and my family joined that church. Seven months later, we left, and man, were we devastated by all that happened with that leaving.

    My advice? Talk thoroughly with your wife and children. If they're not comfortable, explore why. If you're not completely sold that it's the place for you, get on your knees and ask why not. If you know something about the pastor, bring it up to them, and discuss it thoroughly (I only did this halfway; was told by this man that yeah, he had wronged my pastor friend, and that he should apologize. I never followed up after that, and later found that he never did. I should have gotten my pastor friend on the phone right then and there and got the two of them to talk to each other; I have a feeling I would have learned a world of things about that man in just that one action).

    I'm about to move again, come this March. Searching for a new church is not easy. I'm creating a list of about 20-25 questions. It helps me solidify biblically where I stand on certain things, and allows me to ask pastors and church members certain things when I start visiting churches.

    Above all things, PRAY, PRAY, and then PRAY some more.

    Oh, and we learned a lot, too--like you, just not the things we thought we were there to learn. I sincerely look on this experience as a huge silver cloud. I've learned so much about proper church administration, dealing with pastors and congregations, and many other little lessons that will be invaluable as I continue to progress through my Christian life.

    I'm betting you feel the same way.

    [ December 05, 2002, 06:09 PM: Message edited by: Don ]
     
  3. Jessie

    Jessie
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    Thank you, Don. First, let me say, that I'm the wife :D , not the husband. I know, it's not clear, with the posting name of 'Jessie'. And, I, like your wife, was not comfortable from the start, with the second pastor. I discussed it with my husband, told him everything that bothered me, and brought his attention to things that weren't right. You wouldn't believe how he reacted sometimes. He basically told me that I was a troublemaker, when all I was doing was pointing out things that were NOT biblical. Needless to say, it caused problems. After much prayer, he began to see the same things I did. He was in a position that he had to resign, before we left, and I guess that made it worse. So, now, I guess we are both being labeled as 'the problem', just like others that have left before us. I just want to do everything possible to avoid this again. It takes so much out of you, that you feel almost completely drained.
     
  4. Johnv

    Johnv
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    A church that forbids women from wearing pants for biblical reasons is spiritually abusive.

    However, churches that have dress restrictions in church out of tradition of that denomination and that's fine with me. For example, wearing a yamulka in a Jewish temple, or wearing of Salvationist uniforms in a Salvation Army Church.
     
  5. Rose

    Rose
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    HI Jesse,

    I have bumped a couple of threads that go along with what you have said; Baptist Theology-Leaving a church and Baptist Denomination-Good and Bad things about IFB churches.
     
  6. Pastor_Bob

    Pastor_Bob
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    First, very few churches actually "forbid" women to wear pants. Many teach on modesty and explain that pants may not be the most modest clothing for a woman to wear.

    Secondly, if they "forbid" for "biblical reasons," how can that be "spiritually abusive." If it's biblical, it has the endorsement of the Holy Spirit.
     
  7. Abiyah

    Abiyah
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    I was reared in the church which I found, in later
    years, to be problematic in that manner. It was
    an organization with a number of tightly-woven
    churches in several cities in the States, Canada,
    Norway, Sweden, and in several countries in both
    Africa and the USSR areas. In other words, when
    one attended one of these church, especially in
    the US and Canada it was the same as the other
    churches.

    I say all that, because I attended that church in a
    number of cities around the States and was
    basically quite happy in them, until I moved here.

    I came here upon marrying my husband 15.5 years
    ago, and the first time I was in that church, I just
    wanted to run back out the door. In the 60s, we
    called what I felt "negative vibes," but these shook
    me to the core. I could hardly wait to go home!
    I knew immediately that I never wanted to return,
    that something was wrong. But I had just married;
    How could I tell my new husband that his church
    was ROTTEN to the core?

    So, against my intuition, I stayed, and it did not
    take long for the ugliness to start. I am not going
    into detail, but the things that happened were
    horrid, ungodly, evil, and they tore our combined
    family apart. I got my children back and my hus-
    band got his son back, but his daughter never
    returned; she remains totally detached from the
    family. I have never said this before, but we were
    told not to come to her wedding and we still have
    not seen a photo of our granddaughter.

    So, my fortune was that I started going to a
    Baptist-based synagogue on the side, while
    still attending there, fulfilling all my duties. I
    could do this while attending that church regu-
    larly, because the service times and days were
    different. This was very fortunate for me, be-
    cause after I had been attending the synagogue
    for @ 7 years (although not real regularly), the
    church excommunicated me. I did not have to
    look for a place to go--I just immediately joined
    the synagogue.

    My husband, however, was not excommunicated.
    He continued to attend there, but in just under a
    year--no, I guess it was really 7 months later, he
    left. He attended two churches for a bit, settling
    into the third--a Nazarene church.

    The thing that drew me to the synagogue initially
    was the way the pastors made themselves vul-
    nerable to scrutiny in both their service as pastors
    and in their personal lives. Nothing is hidden.
    Criticism is accepted and dealt with. All sermons
    are open for immediate public correction. If a
    person has a question or criticismduring a ser-
    mon, a microphone is given them, and it is dealt
    with immediately. i know this would be unnerving
    to most speakers, but after the false teaching I
    had dealt with, this was fresh air to me.

    So, for me, the most important thing is for the
    leaders to make themselves accountable to the
    congregation, rather than all the emphasis
    being placed on the members being accountable
    to the leaders while they remain untouchable--
    high and lifted up.

    [ December 06, 2002, 10:27 AM: Message edited by: Abiyah ]
     
  8. Jessie

    Jessie
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    Thanks for the replies. Abiyah, it must have been really hard for you. At least your husband is out of there now. And, you're right about the accountability. This person told us that he was almost unapproachable. This was the word he used, if I remember correctly. What was bad, was no one else seemed to think anything about it, including my husband. Actually, he did and said a lot of things that no one seemed to think anything about, including twisting the scriptures.
     
  9. Johnv

    Johnv
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    Secondly, if they "forbid" for "biblical reasons," how can that be "spiritually abusive." If it's biblical, it has the endorsement of the Holy Spirit.

    Are you saying that forbidding women from wearing pants is not abusive, if they can back it up with scripture, even if you or I don't agree with their interpretation of scripture?
     
  10. Monergist

    Monergist
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  11. Jessie

    Jessie
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    TimothyW, thanks for the link. It's good! [​IMG]
     
  12. Jessie

    Jessie
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    Rose:
    "I have bumped a couple of threads that go along with what you have said; Baptist Theology-Leaving a church and Baptist Denomination-Good and Bad things about IFB churches."

    Thanks, Rose. I really appreciate it. [​IMG]
     

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