The following was helpful insight after leaving this church:
'When Should a Christian Leave a Church?'
By John G. Reisinger
"Lording it over the flock provokes church fights and splits. A domineering spirit in elders provokes mature men of strong minds and independent judgement to leave the church. These very ones would have the greatest potential for future leadership in the assembly. Dictatorial measures make lesser men craven and dependent, stunting their true growth. But it also has its harmful effects on the "lords over God's heritage." It makes them egotistical and self serving.
I always found it interesting that the pastor rarely shared the pulpit with other men - primarily only if he was out of town or on vacation. It seems if raising up godly men were a goal, there would be far more opportunities to let men teach. When we were there, we knew of many men who had been Christians far more years than the pastor. I can think of at least a couple others who had experience in either pastoring or preaching. The environment was not one conducive to raising up strong godly men. And for some reason, I do remember hearing his negative comments about "weak men" in his church.
...you can stay in that church. However, you will have to shut up and obey the "duly authorized eldership" and totally dry up spiritually. You will be sinning against Christ by allowing your pastor to be the lord of your conscience--and believe me, that is a grave sin! If you stay under such a ministry very long you cannot help but yield your conscience to the leader. However, the moment you do that you will begin to live in fear of that leader and his authority over your soul. When you reach that point, you are actually part of a cult and you have totally given up your true liberty in Christ. You will be afraid to even think for yourself, let alone speak and act that way.
This is very sad to me. What you have is a bunch of scared sheep who are afraid to ask questions, maybe afraid to leave because they know how people who leave are treated. Although there are no ropes physically holding people to the church, it seems as if they are being held emotionally captive and emotionally paralyzed to do anything. At this point, it almost becomes more easy to remain because the emotional price to leave and the fear of the unknown can be daunting.
Unfortunately, there are some churches that actually demand that kind of submission from you in order for you to be a member in their church, or cult, as the case may be. They will bounce you in and out of membership according to your "rebellion" (questioning anything the elder says or does) or "repentance" (treating the pastor like a pope).... These kind of churches use the office of elder and deacon as a carrot stick to award the "really loyal devotees." It is sickening to see men grovel and lick boots in order to be in favor and power with "the man of God".
We can see the action of the "really loyal devotees" quite frequently on the Google and Dexknows review sites. If a negative review is posted, the loyal devotees will quickly edit their review so that their glowing 5-star review remains on the 1st page, hoping to bury the negative review deeper. Clearly, it's all about protecting the image of the pastor and church.
...The next time some key families leave a church, don't be too quick to believe that the "duly authorized" pastor and his devotees were right and the people who left were all "rebels against authority." It just may be that the pastor was a power mad paranoid that had begun to think of himself as the infallible voice of God. It is possible that the power structure in a church can be wrong!"
Sadly, the sheep sitting in the pews may have lost their ability to think clearly under the oppressive and abusive environment. They even accept it when Scripture is used completely out of context. It takes a very powerful person to be able to leave a church like this - it takes amazing strength and courage. And that is why I have this blog - we were silenced and possibly shunned, but now we have the opportunity to openly dialogue about what happened, what we went through, how it affected us, how to move on, how to find healthy new churches, how to get support, etc.