Abusive churches are not obvious. Generally, they appear to be very biblical and spiritual, with very well-meaning leaders that want nothing but the best for you. Realizing the truth is a tricky business because denial is practically inevitable, and no one wants to believe the worst of anyone.
The devil masquerades as an angel of light, a wonderful, spirit-filled ministry that promises to bring all things spiritual and uplifting to its members. It is VERY deceptive and subtle. I like the title of the book, The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse, because "subtle" is very descriptive. The leadership presents itself as your answer to all you need spiritually. They will provide your covering (see my other blog post on the spiritual covering doctrine, link below), and they will be all you need in the way of spiritual food. And it all just looks so good.
In John Bevere's book, Breaking Intimidation, he says:
As with most of Satan’s devices, intimidation is camouflaged and subtle. We feel its effects- depression, confusion, lack of faith- without knowing its root.*Another point he makes is that intimidation is a spirit, essentially a controlling spirit, that must be dealt with in the spirit, not by human will:
Since intimidation is a spirit it cannot be fought on the level of our intellect or will. Having a positive mental attitude will not overcome intimidation. **I knew things weren't right for many years in the abusive church I attended, but I chose to stay, reasoning that they meant well and they preached what I THOUGHT was the gospel. And actually, much of what they preached was truth; it was the twisting of scripture and the application of it for their own gain that proved to be the problem.
One of the other problems was that I just didn't want to have to start over somewhere else after investing so very much time, effort and money in the place. No one wants to admit they were wrong, and no one likes change. It takes a lot of intestinal fortitude to finally face the truth and then actually do something about it.
Abusive leaders are in it for the control whether they actually are aware of that or not. Period. They want to control your life, they want to control your money, they want to control your time. And most agree that there are deep psychological reasons behind their behavior- problems from years before that were never dealt with properly.
When church becomes a consuming force in your life, you've got to step back and look at it more objectively. I have written a book about my experiences and what I have learned about how they operate and why it's so very easy to get sucked in.
We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities,
against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world,
against spiritual wickedness in high places. Eph. 6:12 KJV
Wolf is free clip art from openclipart.com.
A great site to check out:
Breaking Intimidation by John Bevere
*Bevere, John. Breaking Intimidation. Lake Mary, FL: Creation House, 1995, p. 21.
** ibid pp. 83-84
Red Flag ChurchesRed Flag Churches
Be Not Deceived- Learn to Test the Spirits
What Does a Wolf Look Like?
Making the Decision to Leave an Abusive Church
The Spiritual Covering Doctrine
Hold Fast to the Head
To Tithe or Not to Tithe
The Dechurched and the Next Move of GodRighteous Judgment
The Dechurched, the Wilderness Experience and the Next Move of God
Liquid Church- The Shape of Church to Come
Church and Spiritual Abuse
Clergy- Invitation to Idolatry?
Church- Consider Your Ways
Faith, Grace and the Promises of God
Quill pen is free clip art from Wikimedia Commons.