Recovery From Abusive Church

Discussion in 'Pastoral Ministries' started by untangled, Jan 24, 2007.

  1. untangled

    untangled
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    Hey Pastors,

    I was just wondering if any of you have had an experience with abuse from a former congregation. Have any of you been done extremely wrong by a church in the past at no fault of your own?

    How did it effect you next ministry?

    What ways did you deal with the desire to be mistrusting of your new congregation?

    I have met a few ministers that have really had abusive churches. I myself have pastored an abusive church - it was the history with about every pastor before me. It really did not have anything to do with the pastor exactly, it was the church that was always fueding. The pastors there just got the bad end of things.

    Anyway, any thoughts?
     
  2. Major B

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    1. Yes

    2. Part of the abuse was "blacklisting" and making concerted efforts to destroy my reputation through bald-faced lies. Every time they heard I was candidating, the machinery went into operation. Once, I was two days from being officially recommended to a congregation, and the phone demons went into high gear and spiked the deal. That one nearly killed my wife, because I'd been preaching there for several weeks, and she had already started to bond.

    3. I did not get a new congregation, because of (2) above. After several incidents, I quit candidating and pulled my resumes. In my home county, I get very few calls to even do supply preaching, although I do get calls from greater distances. We are in a counseling ministry (bi-vocational), and I teach Sunday School.

    4. My church had a similar history. I learned that pulpit committees lie, and that if a church has not had a pastor leave on good terms in over 50 years, then you won't be the first.
     
    #2 Major B, Jan 24, 2007
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 24, 2007
  3. bobbyd

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    Been there, seen it, done it, got the shirt.
    My most recent church was abusive in that way, known for running off pastors and at times destroying ministries.
    My wife and i were determined to stay and fight, but when we became aware of the fact that they were willing to destroy our ministry and our reputation...we knew it was time to get out.

    Thankfully i got my resume out early enough to not suffer any real harm or effects. And another thanks was the fact that many in our association were very familiar with the situation at that church and were working with us to find a new place of service also.

    It has not caused me to be overly cautious in my new congregation, although i do not trust people as much as i used to and i'm not yet willing to really lay my neck on the line at this point.
    On the flip side, it has helped me appreciate being in a church where the pastor is actually respected and prayed for and not disrespected and preyed upon.
     
  4. donnA

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    Our pastor came from a church like this, and I can see him in areas where he is skittish, and reluctant, he is still healing from them. But he knows we all love him, and we aren't likely to treat him like he was previously.
     
  5. untangled

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    Thanks

    Thank you for your comments. It's just part of the ministry that you do not think too much about going in.

    Major B,

    I'm sorry to hear about what happened with you. It seems some Christians can be just as evil as someone of the world. I was sort of lucky compared to you. I pastored a complete problem church and suffered some abuse. The funny thing is things got worse after I stepped down. I gave proper notice and said nice things, etc. They called a meeting and didn't even give me my last pay check. Praise God my father was still working at the time and gave me some help as well as the church that I came to.

    Bobby,

    I'm glad you're in a new congregation now. It is much like mine. They appreciate having a pastor and do not treat me badly even in disagreements.

    Thanks for the replies. Be blessed!

    PS> Major...I pray God will open up a door for you.:thumbs:
     
  6. donnA

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    sorry about posting in the pastors area, it thought this looked like an interesting topic, and wonered about this from pastors point of view.
     
  7. John of Japan

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    My father built a church up to over 200 and was seeing many folks saved in a church he pastored down South in the early '60's. Young men started coming from a nearby naval base, so he started picking them up. One was a young black man. A deacon got up in the service and said, "If he's staying I'm going." This and other things produced a movement in the church to fire Dad.

    To make a long story short, they voted him out by calling in old members who hadn't come in years for the vote. (Anyone writing a church constitution, take note.) But God had His say. All of the five who led the opposition ended up going to Heaven early--one in a car accident, another through cancer, etc. (My sister can tell what happened to each--I was only a little boy.)

    Later a man who had been in the opposition was called to preach, realized the damage he had done and wrote a letter of apology to my Dad. It was too late, though. Dad's spirit of ministering had taken a huge hit, and he never was the same. He pastored a number of small churches after that but never saw the victories he had there. Praise the Lord though, he never quit, and ended up going to Heaven by way of Alzheimer's after preaching the Gospel for 60 years. [​IMG]
     
  8. Lagardo

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    Went through an abusive church as a youth pastor. It was very difficult to get over, but in the end these things helped:

    1) Lots of prayer and support from trusted friends in the ministry. There were about 4 men who were extremely helpful to me. They prayed with and for me, offered me advice, and helped alot with sorting out all the details of what happened.

    2) Coming to terms with my own shortcoming and mistakes which lead me to be in the position I was in. In my case, I had sat in on plenty of secret meetings that were rough on others and were intended to make someone (volunteer, deacon, etc) quit the church. I rationalized this at the time, and had I been willing to call sin what it was, I probably would not have found myself in the same meeting later.

    3) Remembering all that God taught me through that very low time. Things are going great in the new church!
     
  9. thjplgvp

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    May I suggest a book for you all to read, I will warn you ahead of time there a couple of items in the books you probably won't like none-the-less it is a great book to help you see the abuse side.

    The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse by David Johnson and Jeff Van Vonderen.

    You won't be sorry you read it.

    thjplgvp
     
  10. Major B

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    The Wounded Minister, by Guy Greenfield is excellent, as is Seven Churches NOT in the Book of Revelation.
     
  11. Tom Butler

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    I think some of you are being too charitable. True believers actually act like true Christians.

    What we are also seeing here is the reality that many of our churches are filled with unregenerate men and women, the fruits of easy believism, pragmatism and decisionism. We should not be shocked when they act like it.

    God bless and comfort all you abused preachers, and God save the abusers.

    And dear God, if they are saved, please treat them like your children and spank 'em good.
     
  12. dh1948

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    Theories

    I have two theories based on my experiences over the past 33 years:

    1) Golden boy usually tarnishes.
    2) Those who eat you up in the early years of your tenure, later on, wish they had.

    There is always a group in the church who see you as the church's "savior" when you arrive. Once you have made a few decisions that do not please them, you had better watch out. Their view of you will definitely tarnish.

    Often those who are your closest friends during those early years will turn against you later. Go figure.

    Pastoring should be a joyful calling, but personal attacks have a way of taking the wind out of your sails.
     
  13. TaterTot

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    We were in a church like many of you have described as well. Left with our tails tucked. I know that there are genuine reasons for dismissing ministers so I am not saying all churches are at fault. Pastors are human too, and I have seen poor decisions and mistakes we have made.

    It would be easy to get into the "victim mentality", but the truth is, God uses these bad experiences for His own honor. Goodness, can you see the growth you have experienced from those difficult times? Might just be part of the refining process.

    However, the reality of where "church people" are now saddens me. I think if people really "got" worship these little kit-picky things would fade.
     
  14. thjplgvp

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    Tater said"It would be easy to get into the "victim mentality", but the truth is, God uses these bad experiences for His own honor. Goodness, can you see the growth you have experienced from those difficult times? Might just be part of the refining process."

    1 Peter 4:12 Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:

    Amen Tater! God is good.

    thjplgvp
     
  15. untangled

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    Good Replies

    Hey People,

    Good replies here. Thank you for sharing experiences and information. Let me pose another question:

    Why is it, in your opinion, that there are many congregations that are abusive toward their pastors? Also, does anyone have an opinion on whether there is a different pattern in older and newer congregations? By older I mean churches with a longer history and tradition not age. Some of the church plants I have seen blossom have seemed to have had a different type of environment for the pastor and have less disputes in general. This is just from the very few that I have seen.
     
  16. Major B

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    It is very likely from what I've seen, that a lot of members of these poison curches are lost, and even more of them are inadequately discipled.
     
  17. BCF Jeff

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    I have discovered through my early ministry that there are abusive churches and abusive individuals and a pastor should not mistake the two.

    In my very first pastorate I served a wonderful church but had two abusive members. In hindsight I should have exercised church discipline and been done with them. The church was being held back by just two people.

    Unfortunately, my mistake was two feel that the entire church was responsible for their abuse. The church needed leadership and instead I just duck and covered. If I had chosen to lead I would have had much support. I now feel that since I did not stand up for the congregation God disciplined me by calling me to what I thought was an ideal church.

    This ideal church turned out to be extremely abusive. They had know understanding of pastoral authority and was filled with many unregenerate church members.

    The core of this church were angry women suffering from dysfunctional marriages. They were instantly jealous of the close relationship that my wife enjoyed with me. They set out to destroy her. The gossiped slandered and ridiculed. For two and half years we toiled to grow the church by evangelizing the lost and discipling these new converts. Although we saw the lost come to Christ they eventually left to join healthy churches.

    Again church discipline was needed but this time there was little support among the leadership. After these women torn down my wife to the point I sent my wife and children to another church to worship away from the attacks, they turned to slandering me. I was rumored to be embezzling. I tried as hard as I could to reach them but with only one success.

    Because of pride I refused to admit defeat. I did not notice how this abuse was affecting me until another pastor confronted me. He pointedly informed me that I had become downcast, isolated, and started gaining weight fast. He encouraged me and prayed with me.

    He helped me by mediating my separation from the church. They church voted me a severance package worth two months. And helped me circulate my resume. He counseled me and offered advise. The best advise he offer was that when there is a problem, "Barney Fife it."

    I have since been called to another church. I relate to it somewhat differently in that I try to see people as they are. I am much quicker to to deal with anything resembling trouble. I also am very protective of my wife and children. I also have become proactive in screening potential leaders.

    The best advise I can give to anyone in ministry is as follows:

    1 Stay close to the cross. Pray, read scripture, and meditate and not just during sermon prep.
    2 Develop relationships with others in ministry.
    3 Remember you are a servant leader not a member of the church.
    4 Never forget that were God has called his people to minister, Satan has called his to destroy.

    God bless you and I hope that something I have wriiten encourages you.
     
  18. BCF Jeff

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    I have discovered through my early ministry that there are abusive churches and abusive individuals and a pastor should not mistake the two.

    In my very first pastorate I served a wonderful church but had two abusive members. In hindsight I should have exercised church discipline and been done with them. The church was being held back by just two people.

    Unfortunately, my mistake was two feel that the entire church was responsible for their abuse. The church needed leadership and instead I just duck and covered. If I had chosen to lead I would have had much support. I now feel that since I did not stand up for the congregation God disciplined me by calling me to what I thought was an ideal church.

    This ideal church turned out to be extremely abusive. They had know understanding of pastoral authority and was filled with many unregenerate church members.

    The core of this church were angry women suffering from dysfunctional marriages. They were instantly jealous of the close relationship that my wife enjoyed with me. They set out to destroy her. The gossiped slandered and ridiculed. For two and half years we toiled to grow the church by evangelizing the lost and discipling these new converts. Although we saw the lost come to Christ they eventually left to join healthy churches.

    Again church discipline was needed but this time there was little support among the leadership. After these women torn down my wife to the point I sent my wife and children to another church to worship away from the attacks, they turned to slandering me. I was rumored to be embezzling. I tried as hard as I could to reach them but with only one success.

    Because of pride I refused to admit defeat. I did not notice how this abuse was affecting me until another pastor confronted me. He pointedly informed me that I had become downcast, isolated, and started gaining weight fast. He encouraged me and prayed with me.

    He helped me by mediating my separation from the church. They church voted me a severance package worth two months. And helped me circulate my resume. He counseled me and offered advise. The best advise he offer was that when there is a problem, "Barney Fife it."

    I have since been called to another church. I relate to it somewhat differently in that I try to see people as they are. I am much quicker to to deal with anything resembling trouble. I also am very protective of my wife and children. I also have become proactive in screening potential leaders.

    The best advise I can give to anyone in ministry is as follows:

    1 Stay close to the cross. Pray, read scripture, and meditate and not just during sermon prep.
    2 Develop relationships with others in ministry.
    3 Remember you are a servant leader not a member of the church.
    4 Never forget that were God has called his people to minister, Satan has called his to destroy.

    God bless you and I hope that something I have wriiten encourages you.
     
  19. John of Japan

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    Very good post, BCFJeff! :thumbs:
     
  20. untangled

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    Good Post

    Hey Jeff,

    Thanks for the post. I agree there are some churches that have extremely abusive individuals that are not abusive as a whole. Unfortunately the one I was at was extremely abusive almost 100%. They had problems with every minister after their favorite minister left. I found my best support was the older women in the church. The men were usually fighting amongst themselves. Looking back, I should have asked some people that I knew who knew of that church about its history.

    It was full of potential but the frustration of the people, whether they meant it or not was taken out on me. I've been cussed, slandered, sent away without a check after giving a proper respectiveful notice, etc. The thing was that 70% of the people had horrible attitudes (even those that liked me). They did not want to attend there - they did not like the people in the pews next to them and they did not know how to communicate but through fighting. It was the history.

    I know of a pastor who has an extremely good church but has some hindrances in his ministry due to two or three influential people. Its sad that some follow after hate rather than the Holy Spirit.

    In my experience, it is not new converts that abuse their pastor, but people who were full of "church". Could anyone agree?
     

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