“An astonishing and horrible thing has been committed in the land: the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule by their own power; and My people love to have it so. But what will you do in the end?” Jeremiah 5:30-31
We see the Lord’s displeasure being expressed against those who operate an effort to control the people. Consumed with their own ambition, these leaders have convinced the people that their power is divine. Yet in reality, these false prophets are merely wielding their self-imposed influence for personal gain, claiming they speak for God.
“From the least of them even to the greatest of them, everyone is greedy for gain, and from the prophet even to the priest everyone deals falsely. And they have healed the brokenness of My people superficially, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ but there is no peace” (NAS). Jeremiah 6:13-14
A common characteristic of an abusive religious system is that the real needs of the people are lost in the never-ending quest by the leaders for personal fulfillment and happiness.
And this has been my story. Part of it anyway. You will find my whole story in detail in my first book, ”Climbing Out of the Box, My Journey Out of Sexual and Spiritual Abuse Into Freedom and Healing”
When I needed to go to work to help support my family I was told by the authorities of the church I attended that I needed to forfeit working and stay in the ministry because if I didn’t I would lose all my gifting to ever do ministry again. For years I thought my gifts would not be used again and that I was disobedient because I didn’t obey them. (Until I was shocked when I began to see my same gifts used out there in the market place..aha moment.)
A church that repeatedly told us they basically had the corner on the market of Jesus and they had the fullness of God and His gifts, where other churches did not, and that if we ever had to go elsewhere, we would miss God’s highest.
A pastor who found ministry to be a vehicle for his great gain, lying and manipulating donors to give more and more money. He actually took the offering in decorated trash cans…(not lying). The wealthy had the high positions in the church. There was the pastor who had the men of the church build his home for free labor, stating, that as Solomon had to have the temple built before he could help the people, he, too, needed to have his temple before he was free to really be a pastor.
A leader who cornered me in a room alone, threatened me, and yelled because he said I was too “perfect” to minister to women. He said I needed to dress down and quit painting my nails if I wanted women to identify with me. He also said I needed to project being poor. I was devastated.
Openly ostracized and lied about to a congregation of people to manipulate me to quit my women’s ministry outside his organization that was reaching hundreds of women. ( I didn’t quit. I left his church organization that very night.)
Innocently called into a pastor’s office alone and watching him lose his temper at me, yelling with spittle flying, finger pointed in my face, falsely accusing me of talking about him behind his back because I told a sound man I was removed from the worship team and had no idea why. I sobbed so loudly I couldn’t gain control while he stared me down with contempt until I finally got up and left.
These are all true stories, and I could go on and on but,
…now, many years later I coach so many who relate their own stories of pain and abuse at the mercy of “godly men and women”. My heart aches for them because I know this is not Jesus. This is man or woman who wants to control and the power goes to their heads.
But, this was just the beginning of my story. Upon leaving these controlling ministries after 25 years of having a church building as home and family, I went through a 5 year sabbatical where I had an encounter with Jesus such as I never had, after being in church and busy with ministry all those years.
It took me many years to be set free from the damage that was done to my spirit and to be able to enter a church building without anxiety and tears.
So don’t lose hope in the pain of loss when you know you have to make a change. Jesus promises to NEVER leave you or forsake you. Even when you are brave enough to leave and everyone is saying to just overlook the sin.
When all the control and crutches are gone guess Who is left standing?
And oh what a Man He is…never to leave us or forsake us. He will reveal Himself to you in all truth and lead you to safe places to experience the true love of God in motion, and connect with believers who really care and walk in His love in confidence.
Things to look out for in your place of church community if you suspect spiritual abuse:
Do they say you have to blindly respect and obey them, without having earned it, just because they said so and they are your leader?
Do they demand your allegiance to them as ‘proof’ that you are a follower of Jesus?
Do they use exclusive language: “We are the only church in town really following Jesus.” “Our theology is the only sound doctrine.” Everyone else is missing the “deeper” walk.
Do they shame people, without grace, if they fail to live up to the church’s expectations?
Do they quote scriptures about “not touching God’s anointed” when referring to themselves? 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 their critics.
Do they cultivate a dependence on one leader or leaders for spiritual insights? Personal discipleship isn’t encouraged. Often the Bible gets pushed away to the fringes unless the main leader is teaching it. And if you have an insight from God they have to approve it before you can share.
Do they demand blind service from their followers, but live prestigious, privileged lives.They live aloof from their followers and justify their material 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. They typically chase after wealth–at any cost, and often at the expense of the very people they shepherd.
Do they hold to outward performance but reject authentic spirituality. And place burdens on followers to act a certain way, dress an acceptable way, and have an acceptable lifestyle, but they often demonstrate licentiousness, greed, and uncontrolled addictions behind closed doors.
Use exclusivity for your blind allegiance to them. Followers close to the leader or leaders feel like lucky insiders. And, of course, this meant they are more spiritual than the rest of the congregation. Did you ever feel like you are exempt from the “click” of popular people in the community of believers? Everyone else is on the outside, though they long to be in that inner circle.
We are all one body in His church.
You are the church!
We need safe places to gather together and grow together and share Him together. Don’t settle for less, and be brave enough to change if the Holy Spirit is showing you that something is just not right. In fact, run!!
The longer I stayed out of my ‘loyalty’, the move abused I was in the end. You cannot fix it!! Run!
There is healing and restoration from this horrible sin for both the ones who have abused and the victims of their abuse. Remember we are all an important part of His body. We ALL have gifts, callings and talents He wants to use. We were never meant to sit in a pew looking at the backs of heads while listening to one man teach, without using our own gifts too!! No one is more important than the other.
Be set free today!!
Call me if you need help with this issue and you find yourself sunk deep into spiritual abuse and feel like you can’t get out. Go to the home page from this blog and send me a message. Or please comment below.
Are you frustrated and feel as if God isn’t using you the way you think He should be? Is it not happening fast enough? Do you watch other ministries and find yourself envying their positions and wish you could be them?
I always thought that because God had called me to write and teach that I needed a growing audience to validate that calling. I was so driven to find myself a platform or audience worthy of my calling and found myself sorely frustrated that God wouldn’t bless my efforts the way I thought it was supposed to happen.
It just wasn’t fast enough.
It is exhausting promoting yourself.
Where do we draw the line in losing ourselves and our energy in self promoting, and just allowing Him to get our gifts and talents out where He purposed for them to go?
Here I am at the cusp of another book being birthed to the multitudes. “50 Ways to Meet Your Lover” is in proof stage now and in a few weeks will be ready to be presented to the world.
This is my 2nd book and I have to say I have learned a few things along the way.
I have given myself permission to breathe…. and trust Him to guide me to the next step.
These are some of the things I have learned in the last few years of trial and error in my writing and teaching. This is not an exhaustive list because I am certain there are still many things He will open my eyes to!
But allow me to share a few points that I have learned now:
1. Being seen as a celebrity in any sense of the word is a deceitful ploy of the enemy. We have been brought up to admire and envy people who have celebrity status. Many times celebrities in the church world perceive their value as a human as usually based on a need to be recognized as a person of value.
Jesus let His disciples know that His kingdom works very differently.
2. It is often true that those who make such big jumps into perceived celebrity often get twisted by them, and end up crushing others when their influence exceeds their personal character. Perhaps that’s what Paul meant when he warned us not to think of ourselves more highly than we ought to think, whether we aspire to a place of influence or already have it and think it gives us a place above others.
3. Whatever we do for God must be just that. For Him. What He does with our works or service or gifts is up to Him. We want our message out there, of course. But according to His purposes, not our own perceived purposes. When I wrote “Climbing Out of the Box”, I had to give it to Him. I still do. And even if my story sets one person free from a life of abuse and into freedom in Jesus then it will have been worth it. And, to date, it has set many more than just one free.
4. Instead of looking for what we don’t have, Luke 14 invites us into responding to God’s working right where we are in life.
Rather than having to make something happen by our own wisdom, the path to God’s life comes by loving the people He has already put before us, applying our gifts to their needs and trusting the rest to Him.
I’m convinced that will create opportunity enough for whatever God wants to give us and what He desires us to share with them. Yes, marketing a book is necessary so that people will see it and buy it and see their lives changed by it. But if it isn’t in His timing and it doesn’t sell fast enough, then I have to accept that He knows what He is doing. He will make it happen. Not me. I just do what He tells me to do.
5. Most of our questions to Him center around how to make ourselves known to the world and usually focuses on our abilities, wisdom, or connections. He works so differently than we do.
We try to find that one key to open big doors, rather than allowing ourselves to live freely in what God has already given.
It’s easy to miss His whispers when we’re more focused on our own desires for ministry. He knows how to draw us into relationship with Him and it’s not by following someone else’s steps. We are unique and what He does for one may not be what He does for me.
In the end, we are only asked to follow him, not to build an audience or to produce our own transformation.
Whenever you are frustrated at God for not opening better doors for you, that might be a sign that you’re focused at the wrong doors.
I am learning that growth of simple relationship with Him is more trustworthy than the substitutes of self-promotion, manipulation and begging favors from others.
So how do you find ministry, find fellowship, or live transformed as you seek Him?
Simply accept the invitation to live deeply in Jesus and love those around you the way you are coming to understand how He loves you. Listen when He nudges your heart. Step out in faith in what He whispers to you.
If you live in His space you will find His power transforming you, His Spirit connecting you to others and everything He wants to do in you will be fulfilled by Him.
If the disciples had set out to change the world outside of waiting on Him, don’t you think they would have failed miserably and become lost in their own reasoning and ideas to accomplish so large a task?
“We are intimately linked in this harvest work. Anyone who accepts what you do, accepts me, the One who sent you. Anyone who accepts what I do accepts my Father, who sent me. Accepting a messenger of God is as good as being God’s messenger. Accepting someone’s help is as good as giving someone help. This is a large work I’ve called you into, but don’t be overwhelmed by it. It’s best to start small. Give a cool cup of water to someone who is thirsty, for instance. The smallest act of giving or receiving makes you a true apprentice. You won’t lose out on a thing.” -Matthew 10:41-42 (The Message)
Jesus knew the most amazing things could begin with a cup of cold water.