Sunday, June 3, 2012

Happy Tears

Rose from my backyard.  I have neglected the bush and somehow it produced this.  Amazing.   Can God create something amazingly beautiful out of a life of "neglect"?   I think so!

And I will lead the blind
    in a way that they do not know,
in paths that they have not known
    I will guide them.
I will turn the darkness before them into light,
    the rough places into level ground.
These are the things I do,
    and I do not forsake them.
Isaiah 42:16

I woke up to happy tears this morning thinking about the lives of some people close to me - that they might be feeling a glimmer of hope as they attempt to step out in hope of new beginnings, not quite sure of what lies ahead.   I know I'm being vague, but each little step that brings healing and hope in this spiritual journey is so good, especially stepping out in faith and holding the hands of a big God who loves them.

I'm getting a little personal here.  The most difficult thing for me about spiritual abuse is what it can do to our relationship with God and I'm so happy that despite this half-million dollar lawsuit, despite the fact that I have always had trust issues and abandonment issues with my earthly fathers which naturally extend to trust/abandonment issues with my heavenly Father . . . .  God has been revealing Himself to me in very real and powerful ways - through circumstances, through relationships, and through His word.    It's hard to find the words to express what my heart is saying to me, but it's all so good and has led to many happy tears.  It's been a long time. 

But at the same time, in my e-mail box this very morning, someone wrote about the inability to step one foot into church this morning although they wish they could go - - - - they just can't get past the emotional barrier, the fear and pain that is before them.   This is the time for those of us who are stronger to especially be praying for these precious souls.  Brothers and sisters in Christ, will you please do that?  Will you pray specifically for the people who have e-mailed me or commented who want to go to church but are unable to because of their spiritually abusive past?  

Can we talk?  Can we put this stuff out on the table for discussion?  If you are one who just can't seem to get back to church, but would like to, can you try to articulate what makes it difficult for you?   There are no right or wrong answers.  Some have expressed fear.  Are you afraid?  If so, can you share what you are afraid of?    Is it the pastor or church members?   Is there anything that would make it more comfortable for you?    I really want this to be a place that can facilitate this type of discussion because I've lost count of how many who have mentioned they want to be in church, but just can't seem to do it.  Some have not gone back for over a decade or longer.  

Pastor Wade Burleson is trying to connect with those who have been spiritually abused by offering the eChurch and I think that's a great first step.  In a sense, we who read and participate here are a community of sorts and can be of encouragement to each other.    I hope you will take advantage of this blog and "virtual support group" to share.   Feel free to use a pseudonym when commenting (just pick a name and forget about the URL).  Talking about the big emotional stumbling block in front of you will help to diminish it.  I'd love to see comments from both sides - those who are having difficulties and those who want to be a support. 

 * * * * * * * *

I wanted to be sure to remind you about EChurch this morning.  Deb and Dee have their blog mostly up and running again and have posted a new EChurch with songs, prayers and a message by Pastor Wade Burleson.  I hope you will check it out here:  EChurch:  6.3.12

 * * * * * * *

UPDDATE:  Lois contacted me from and said she still has a few more copies of The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse to give out.  For more details, read the first paragraph of this post


  1. Love this post Julie.

    And to those who have a hard time stepping foot in a church, I don't blame you. Unfortunately you are right, too many churches that you will step into will give you the very same abuse you have ran from and are healing from. There are churches that are grace filled but they are hard to find as they are few, and it's hard to tell which one that is until you are in the front door and have been there for awhile.

    I wish there were easy answers, sadly there are not. I hope you join me in praying that those churches that are grace filled will grow in number and stature outnumbering those who aren't. I believe God is answering that prayer I have been praying for many years through all of you who are speaking out in courageous sound against spiritual abuse. Enduring threats of God's wrath and lawsuits. I do believe this.

  2. Why go back when it is the same as any other church you've been to. The mindset is still the same. I've been to many different types of churches(in different states) and the people are the same, the system is the same. The people are indifferent, self-focused and system focused.

    I have found that there is more freedom in Christ outside the institutional church. I personaly don't have any desire to go. I haven't left God, just the bs which "Christians" call spirituality.


    1. Some do have a desire to go back. Not all churches are bad and not all pastors are bad. Just because you may have grown up in a very dysfunctional family doesn't mean all families are very dysfunctional. There seems to be little room for hope in the mindset you represent. I find that sad.

    2. Julie Anne, I'm just telling you MY experience. This has been MY experience with all of the churches I have been in. I don't know why that it is hard for you to believe this given what is going on in the American church today. Others see this reality. I'm not the only one.

      Anon 3

    3. Please don't take this wrong because I love having open conversation, but the purpose of this post is to discuss with people who want to try church again, not ones who have given up on institutional church altogether.

    4. In a way I do empathize with the Anon above. Lot of similarities to Anne Rice quitting Christianity.

    5. Thy Peace,

      Oh I do, too. And the real fact for many is there may not be a healthy church in their area. So for those who want the institutionalized church experience, their options are either go to the unhealthy church or not at all (or move). That's a very tough place to be and something that we should discuss, too.

  3. What helped me was to go to a different kind of church. I bridged a gap after leaving my Pentecostal church (and after a break of several weeks from attending chuch at all) by going to mass at a nearby Catholic parish. I found solace in the liturgy and decided that would be a factor in finding a new church.

    My husband and I eventually landed in a United Methodist church, which is somewhat liturgical, and like it there.

    1. EN - that sure was a big switch! I do understand the draw to a liturgical style. Thanks for sharing.

  4. It took more than a year after leaving BGBC for me to find a new church home. I went to more than 10 churches. Unlike what I had been told at BGBC, I found many Bible believing communities that did not mince words, with people who reached out in Godly love to me and my family. Ultimately we ended up in a larger church, due to a special need within our family which has been meet with such joy and welcoming in our new community. Keep trying, dear ones. I knew we were in the right place when complete strangers reached out and offered such wonderful kind and obviously Spirit-led support to us. A mark of a church that embraces the freedom Christ gives us is people who are unencumbered by bonds of man and are generous with their understanding and compassion.

    1. Wallflower - wow - 10 churches!! I'm glad you didn't give up and eventually found a church home/family. I love your last line: "A mark of a church that embraces the freedom Christ gives us is people who are unencumbered by bonds of man and are generous with their understanding and compassion. Yes!"

  5. I just went through a mental and emotional ordeal at a church it's been 5 months I haven't stepped into a church.I have a fear of being betrayed and fear people making trouble.And it happened at my old church.People went and told Pastor on me.And I can't describe how I felt.I just was in shocked.I miss the fellowship very much.I'm looking for another church.Praying for healing and going forward.But I will never step back into that church again :-]But I ask for your prayers as well.I appreciate it so very much.May The Lord Bless You Penny Holgate Jude1:24

    1. Penny - I'm very sorry to hear about your experience. That definitely does not sound like a pleasant experience. I will pray for you and ask my readers to as well.

  6. Just remember that if you are a believer in Jesus Christ, born again by the Spirit from above, you were born into HIS church! His church (ecclesia, the called out ones) is not about some building or organization or programs. It is about people who LOVE JESUS and ONE ANOTHER. I haven't been able to find another church either, after 20 years of running into traditions of men. I miss church. I miss people. I am tired of having to fight in "church" just to obey the Lord. I was not spiritually abused like some have been, but I understand Christ's plan for HIS church, and it is not abusive control, nor is it the opposite of licentiousness to sin just because we are covered by "grace". "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty" but like the Apostle Paul reminded us, "do not use your liberty for a cloak to cover maliciousness."

    1. Wow, Shirley 20 years is a long time. I just don't get all of this "traditions of men" stuff that is going on in churches, but sure know it exists. Have you been able to meet with other Believers for fellowship and spiritual growth?

  7. For me, it was both leadership and congregants. I'd experienced abuse at Church #1, and rebounded to Church #2. Many at Church #2 heard my story about Church #1 and were supportive ... until several years later, I saw Church #2 exhibit the same indicators of being abusive. I was judged & had the, "Your judgement is off because of what you experienced at Church #1. We're not that." I left quietly. I wish they could've seen the flip side: That because I'd experienced abuse first-hand, I knew the warning signs. Not being jumpy. Just wiser.

    When I started Church #3, I stayed in the background for years. Jumpy about getting to know people & get involved. I'd also not attend for months on end, because it was too much. After a few years of watching, I found niches where I could get involved. I was also wiser about who I made friends with. I also waited still longer before telling folks about my experiences at the other two churches.

    1. Good for you!! You learned from your first experience of what NOT to accept. I think that is wise to sit back quietly and observe for a while - watch the pastor/leaders, observe the congregants and their fruit. I have usually been pretty active in our churches but following our bad church experience, I was in "veg" mode and needed to detox - get reacquainted with grace, unconditional love, living a life of freedom to even skip church without feeling guilt.

      How are you doing now? Do you feel completely free from the first two negative church experiences?

    2. I really resonated with what you said, Stalked Blogger: "That because I'd experienced abuse first-hand, I knew the warning signs. Not being jumpy. Just wiser."

      I've been reflecting recently on how we as survivors of spiritual abuse, could prove ourselves to be great assets to churches as we continue to process our past experiences and learn from them. We become sort of like "spiritual barometers" -- measuring the environment of safety and healthiness there. But -- as you experienced in Church #2 -- our "read" on a church may change from an initial appearance of it being spiritually good weather when we first get there, but over time, we see what the climate actually is underneath an appearance of all sunny and bright, and our reading may change from fair to foul.

      We barometers don't create the weather ... just give an intuitive and/or analytical analysis of where it's going. And actually, that kind of discernment is something every disciple should develop. "Solid food is for the mature, who by reason of practice have had their senses trained to discern between good and evil." [Hebrews 5:14] Who woulda thought ... we who might seem weak because of brokenness from spiritually abusive experience could actually end up being the ones who are spiritually mature because it moved us to learn and discern ...

      Organizational designers and developers and leaders would be wise to listen. They can't build healthy ministries if they don't understand how things can go desperately wrong. We are walking testaments to the dark side of church life ... and often looking for places of light and healing. Hopefully we find them soon ...

    3. Those of us who have been in bad church environments and are on the watch for warning signs are exhibiting the spiritual gift of discernment.

      John Macarthur defined this gift here: "Christians with the gift of discernment have the God-given ability to recognize lying spirits and to identify deceptive and erroneous doctrine (see Acts 17:11; 1 John 4:1)."

      Although I no longer consider Mac as the be all and end all in commentators, this is a revealing description of discernment. I feel that as a result of my experiences at BGBC, I am developing this gift that I never knew I had.

    4. wallflower - - Glad you've been able to identify the spiritual disciplines and skills that go with a gift of discernment. Like all gifts, it comes with a cost to someone. Perhaps the painful experiences of spiritual abuse and surviving them are the investment that "activates" the development of this gift, and the beneficiaries are both ourselves and others in the Body.

      You might be interested in this two-paragraph clip that I wrote a couple years ago when I wrote a case study about the lack of discernment shown in the "Lakeland Outpourings" and the harm that occurred to the Body of Christ because of it:

      [start clip]The discipline of discernment is a sort of spiritual investigative reporting. We must do a lot of work to accomplish it. But it’s not all up to us. In biblical discernment, we rely on the Spirit to give us insight continually as we gather facts and make observations, analyze the material and develop tentative perspectives, and pray and process with others and refine our interpretations.

      Did you catch the phrase that said, “process with others”? If we consider discernment as a communal practice instead of simply an individual procedure, I think we will come up with better insights, fewer gaps in our perspective, and a more balanced and timely approach to our responses. [end clip]

      So, whether we have a specialized gift of discernment and it's more intuitive/gut-level, or the everyday spiritual discipline of discernment and it's more intentional/analytic, the Body needs all of us working together to identify darkness and call us toward Christ, the Light of the World.

    5. Julie Anne - Thanks for asking. That was a really kind response.

      I actually do feel free from my past experiences. A big part of it was letting time heal the wounds, along with what I'd mentioned before about allowing myself the benefit to act on what I learned.

      Another part was learning to separate Christ from the church garbage. It didn't happen overnight. Nor do I have a formula for how to do it. But I reminded myself of the verses that state that God is near those who are hurting ... and used the awful times as opportunities to get to know God better.

  8. not currently attending any church because I found the previous one so extremely exhausting with all of the hangups, gossip, judgements, calling out from the pulpit, lectures on modesty, the kind of music we listen to, what we watch on tv, if we drink a beer or glass of wine, finger pointing, feeling like we always had to have an excuse or answer for EVERYthing we did, etc.. that I feel I need to take a huge step back for a while, regather myself and my thoughts, and try to get a clearer picture on what the heck was happening (what the patterns were) so that I know better what to watch for next time because honestly, I will never, ever again stay involved in ANYTHING that is that draining on my mind, body, spirit, energy, and time, for as long as I/we did..EVER!

    1. Good for you! That does not sound like a healthy environment. I'm glad you left and have the opportunity to get some clarity. You are smart to look for the patterns, both negative and positive so that you won't get caught in that trap again.

    2. (previously posted as Anon 6:00 above)
      Thank You Julie Anne for those kind words of encouragement! This whole website has been very uplifting for me as I read through the different experiences and comments; it helps to know that I am not the only one who has been 'through it'.. for a while I thought that 'I' was the problem; I now see that was not so.

    3. mustang sally - I think that is probably the most common lie we can believe after going through this experience and also one of the most powerful lies which can paralyze us in fear and self-condemnation. Thank you for letting me know that the blog has been helpful to you :)

      Keep participating whenever you have the opportunity. Just like you thought you were the only one, someone else might read your story and recognize your story as theirs! These shared experiences are so helpful for the storyteller and the "listener"/reader.

  9. For me, I think the biggest block is the fear of being deceived and controlled. I grew up in a religiously abusive family and church. I walked away when I was 16 in total disgust. I was not involved with church again for 20 years. I never walked away from God, but because of the teaching of my childhood, I believed he was mad at me and the only way to be at peace with him was to be in church.

    I finally got involved with a church and it seemed wonderful at first. Because of my abusive childhood, I was all too willing to accept the blame and responsibility for anything the seemed wrong. Must be me. I threw myself into this church and rose to the rank of department leader (think deacon). At the end, I was spending 60+ hours a week at the church (counting services) with no pay.

    Like the proverbial frog in the pot of water, over the 7 years I was there, I didn't recognize the gradual brainwashing and mind manipulation. Then the senior pastor started pursuing my closest friend. She was in an abusive marriage and had come to him for marriage counseling. He used what he learned in those sessions to manipulate her and spent nearly a year persistently grooming her and pressuring her until she finally gave up and gave in.

    I know some would say. "why didn't you both get out?" That is a fair question with no easy answer. We offered to leave. "Pastor" John would not allow it. I know that sounds lame, but unless you have been under that level of mind manipulation and spiritual twisting, there really is no way to explain. The fear of "being out of God's will and losing our salvation" was very real.

    When the wife had had enough and confronted him, my friend was kicked out of the church and they tried to run her out of town. She also divorced her husband. I walked away from the church after that. Both of us had reached the point where we were prepared to risk hell in order to get out of there.

    After we had been out for a few months, we discovered that he has had a pattern of doing this. My friend was not the first - but she's the only one they were not able to chase out of town. We both experienced the shunning and dark looks from people we had counted as friends. That is the short version....

    That was 5 years ago. I know, now, that God is not mad at me if I don't go to church and my relationship with him has grown immensely because he just doesn't stop being there and holding me. I miss the community and the sense of belonging, but the idea of being deceived and sucked in again is a big obstacle.

    1. Jeannette: Thank you so much for sharing your personal and obviously so painful story. You are absolutely right - it is not just as simple as "get out". It's like there is some sort of emotional barrier preventing you from leaving. And it is difficult to comprehend until you experience it.

      And, your last paragraph :::::sigh::::: - your story is so, so familiar. I am so happy to hear that God is holding you and your relationship with Him has grown. That's beautiful. Others, because of their bad church experience, feel abandoned by God and walk away from Him, church, and everything related. And that is certainly understandable, too.

      I hope that by reading this blog you can get some ideas about how to get involved in community and get that sense of belonging which is so important, but also ensure you are in a safe place, too.

      PS - I added a link to the story you posted here to the "Personal Stories" area. I think many will be able to relate with your personal story. Thank you, again!

    2. Jeannette,
      I looked up pAstor John's "submit to leaders" article a couple weeks ago before TWW crashed, and spent some time critiquing it in my mind. But your story puts his ideas of "submission" in a whole new light. I just did a little web search to see if other stories about him are out there. I only found one Yahoo review, which appears to have been deleted-- kinda like Julie Anne had happen with her reviews.

    3. Dave - I would still be interested in your thoughts on his 'teaching'.
      He does delete critical reviews. And you won't find much out there. He so instills in his congregation the concept that talking is evil that even now, more than 5 years out of there, I fight the fear of getting in trouble if I tell all that happened - plus there are other people involved whose stories are not mine to tell....making things public when sexual misconduct is involved is tricky for the victims, too. The backlash can be horrendous. It has been bad enough without 'telling it publicly'.

      Julie Anne - thank you.

    4. Jeannette,
      I'll take a quick stab at the teaching, and if you have specifics, we can dig into them. Really, most of the article seemed to me to be standard "obey your leaders-- the pastor is your leader" teaching. It's very similar to what 9 Marks puts out as their ideal of what healthy churches do. (IMO they seem to dismiss the fact that many unhealthy leaders abuse this teaching.) Pastor John cites (poorly translated) Heb. 13:17 three times and paraphrases it several more-- in a fairly short article. He also brings in Rom. 13:1 to support his point (even though this passage is about civil authorities, not church leaders).
      One stretch he jumps to in the last, practical section is saying that I Timothy teaches deacons are to "help the pastor" by serving on church boards or in departments. I must have missed that part in the scripture.... He does say pastors themselves should be submissive--to other pastors or gifted leaders "above" him. Apparently the pastor has no accountability to the elders or members of "his"
      own church "below" him.

    5. He has no accountability to anyone below him. And his claimed accountability to those above him is a sham. There is no one above him. He tells his congregation he is accountable to a couple of celeb pastors. When they were called to verify this, they denied it - said they had no control or responsibility for him. He claims accountability to his board, bu the board is made up of himself, his wife, his sister-in-law, her father and a man that will do whatever John says.

      The only one who seems to have any control at all is his wife. Then, only when she catches him abusing one of the female flock - he stops *until the next one) and she gets a new house - and she does damage control and sweeps everything under the rug...

    6. Is that the language employed in these circles—above him, below him? How worldly! Jesus turned the ways of the world upside down by saying, “If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all” (Mark 9:35). He said this in answer to a foolish dispute among his disciples as to who’s the greatest among them. In the words of our Master, the Kingdom Way is this: “He who is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Matt 23:11-12).

      You may want to look at the Mark 9:35 context. Mark 9:33-50 is a good section that holds together well. Let me quote a few precious Jewels of Jesus from the New Kings James Version.

      Jesus said: “And whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble [my NKJV has a note for Mark 9:42, ‘to stumble’ means to fall into sin], it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea.”

      And there’s other directions here: for “if your hand makes you sin, cut if off” and “if your foot makes you sin, cut if off” and “if your eye makes you sin, pluck it out.” Listen to me Christians. As an intimate follower of Jesus I am convinced that if our Master were standing before us today, and He Is, He would tell us “if your pastor or leaders cause you to sin, cut them off.” That’s truly your responsibility as a follower of Christ.

      There’s a lot of good stuff in these passages, but just let me end by quoting the last two verses of Mark 9, vss 49 and 50, some of the more obscure Jewels of Jesus:

      “For everyone will be seasoned with fire, and every sacrifice will be seasoned with salt. Salt is good, but if the salt loses its flavor, how will you season it? Have salt in yourselves and have peace with one another.”

    7. What is to give light must endure burning. - Viktor Frankl

      As I’ve been mulling over Mark 9:42, and how these words of Jesus may actually relate to Pastor Chuck, I’m reminded of what was said elsewhere concerning Mr O’Neal, How Chuck had better hope the Judge don’t get all Biblical on his butt, 'cause the Judgement, just might include a Millstone and a Boat Trip!

      “And whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, to fall into sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea.”

      These ‘little ones’ refers to both children and those who are weak in the faith. On reading some of the comments on this situation at (where I, personally, found out about this madness a month ago) I read the words of many who appear either weak in the faith or possessing no faith at all being adversely affected by Chucks actions in ways that either cause them to stumble, or, more often, embolden them even deeper in their rebellion against the God who Chuck professes to be an Ambassador of.

  10. I just heard about this story. I wish that I had known about the situation (and this blog) weeks ago.

    Beaverton, eh? Wow.


    I've done quite a bit of hitchhiking and while I've been on the road, I've encountered every kind of reaction from Christians that you could imagine.

    But that congregation that you left in Beaverton sounds like it's less than one step away from ladeling out the grape kool-aid. I wonder if Westboro Baptist Church, in Kansas, has contacted that "preacher" in Beaverton, yet?

    1. You are not the first to comment about Westboro in connection with this case.

  11. It wasn't the grape that was the problem with the kool-aid, but the extra flavoring. Which is exactly the problem with abusive churches, all the stuff they add to the message of the gospel, which is that God loves us enough to come, live among us, die from torture, all on our behalf. And then he rose again and has defeated death for us.

    1. I just might tack on to Arce's excellent summation of the gospel one more thing:

      Yes, He rose again and has defeated death for us, but the story doesn't end there. God continues to pursue us as a groom pursues his bride because His love for us is so vast, so extravagant.

  12. Beloved in RecoveryJune 4, 2012 at 8:27 AM

    Ok, yes - I do want to find a church. I am questioning if this is even possible. Part of me wants to find one just to be ministered to, because I am so beaten up. I hardly have a hope left. I am in physical pain - and something is physically wrong with me. I can't even pull myself together to go to a doctor. I just want to sit in church and let the songs wash over me, and not do anything for at least a year.

    This reminds me of a holocaust story. This woman spoke in all the schools in our local area, giving her story. When she was rescued from the death camps, she was in a hospital for 3 years!! I am not trying to compare myself to her - but just to say that for me and others like me - deep, deep ministry is needed. Those who were abused in church #1, and then in church #2, #3, #4 ... it is very hard. I am doing home church right now, and we are going between a handful of homes. When it is my turn to host, it takes everything I've got, then I'm recovering for several days.

    Many years ago, I used to be judgmental of the "church hoppers" who couldn't settle. I was taught to scorn them by those in leadership. I suppose it kept others from doing the same, because we didn't want to be scorned. I used to think "it was them." But now I stand with them and say "It wasn't us ... it was YOU!!!" to the leadership in these abusive churches. You know what keeps coming to mind? This little clip from Everybody Loves Raymond.

    Anyhow, I am not so sure that church as we see it today is what God ever had in mind. It seems to have the propensity towards abuse. I'm not a grammar queen, so I am not sure if that is stated correctly, but hope you get my drift. I know I need fellowship, and let's call that "church." But I am not really sure what "church" is supposed to look like. And I have to wonder if God is cleaning house.

    1. Dear Beloved,

      Your pain is evident from your words. I am sorry you went through such a bad time. Let me encourage you: Please don't stop looking for a church. There are plenty of good, healthy ones.

      I will be praying for you to heal and to find a good church home.

    2. Beloved in RecoveryJune 4, 2012 at 1:06 PM

      Holly - I have lived in the same area my whole life. It is very scant on churches. It isn't like some areas where there's a church on every corner. I imagine that areas where the weather is good and the economy is better, and there are lots of people ... but ... where I live ... it's different. I really do know what is out there, and I really, really can't think of any "functional" pastors or churches. But I do thank you for your prayers and you concern, and your reaching out. I am encouraged just that God knows just where I am. I empathize with those who would just love to find a healthy church and they just aren't existant in the area they live in.

      You know, it also is bothersome that all of our money went to two buildings (church and parsonage) and the pastor. And that it was all dysfunctional and abusive. And there is the idea of not wanting to "give" to what is bad anymore. Kind of like not wanting to give to the cancer society, when you know it's top heavy and most of it goes to administrators and not really to finding a cure for cancer.

    3. You're right. God calls us to be good stewards, not to blindly give to an organization just because it has "church" in its name.

      You're also right that God does know just where you are. He never fails. I'm glad you have confidence in that.

      Blessings to you!

    4. Dear Beloved,

      I can relate to not being able to find a church. We live in a populated area but can't find a sound church. There is a famine in the land, a famine of the hearing the Words of the Lord. Praise the Lord He never leaves us nor forsakes us! Stand firm.

    5. Beloved, I literally took a deep breath after I typed your name because I completely get what you are saying and it is such a monumental problem that so many are facing. I believe you when you say that you have exhausted all churches in your area.

      Here's what I think: there is nothing wrong with what you are doing right now (home church). It is Biblical - it is good. I also feel for you that you have been wounded and understand the toll it takes on you to prepare your home, emotionally prepare yourself for hosting and all that that entails.

      The physical toll you discuss is very real. I'm going to be real here and say that there have been times I have read some personal e-mails that have left me in tears of sadness which switches to an anger, etc. It hits me hard because I have experienced it and I'm sure that is what happens when people read the blog, too. Sometimes it can wipe me out emotionally/physically and I'm thankful that I have a husband and kids who are able to pick up the load in practical ways (cooking dinner) as I deal with some of this. Although there are sacrifices, it is all good, too. We are not being paralyzed, we are actively doing what God wants us to be doing. We are feeling pain, we are working through it. I think for me, the pain is motivating to keep on fighting this big thing, to keep on speaking out. I know I'm going to be thinking about your comment throughout the day. You wrote with your heart and I am connecting with it. We're in this together, BR! :)

    6. Fellow survivor, now more alive than ever.June 4, 2012 at 4:36 PM

      Beloved, the Everybody Loves Raymond clip really speaks to one of the points that many don't understand until their eyes are opened. Thanks for sharing that. It made my day.

  13. Just a thought for those who can't step foot in a church due to the pain of the place. Sometimes the most spiritual, peaceful, and deeply moving experiences happen in Nature. That might be a good place to start for those of you who are too pained at the place called "church" to enter that physical realm again.

    How about a solitary trip to a place you love (a mountain, a stream, a meadow, a lake, etc.) for the sole purpose of spending time alone surrounded by... well, surrounded by whatever comes to pass. For me, being an atheist, that experience is deeply spiritual but not at all religious. The feeling of cool water running over my toes or the throaty song of a meadow bird is enough to move me to happy tears. I don't expect to define the experience, only to feel it, to appreciate it, and to etch it into my soul. It has no name, no expectation, no rules, no mandate. It simply IS.

    I suggest that, if at all possible, you let go of any expectation, any agenda, and any name for the experience, including "God" (because for some of you, even that word is fraught with pain and negativity) and just BE. See what happens. It's worth a try.

    Maybe REAL church, the one that makes you feel complete and full of love and wonder is where you least expect it to be.

    1. Carol, that is really good advice. Thank you.

    2. That is such a great suggestion, Carol. Thanks ...

      Also, whether it's my background or learning styles, I have found solace-comfort-empathy-hope in music -- sometimes quieter, sometimes more epic. I wore out several sets of cassette tapes of Handel's *The Messiah* in the '70s and '80s after a horrific church split, followed by a badly abusive "rebound" church experience. Soundtracks from *Les Miserables* and *The Lord of the Rings* also often expressed in melancholy music what I could not yet put into words.

      Seems we're made to be touched by arts ...

  14. I am having trouble connecting because I invested so much into the relationships I had at the abusive church, then to have it all ripped out from under me. It was traumatic, like getting sucked into a vacuum. Everyone, save 1 or 2, deserted me. Who would want to build new relationships after that? My logic tells me that I need to get back into community and fellowship, at least for the sake of my children, but my heart holds me back. I don't want to risk being crucified emotionally again. I have never once doubted God, my salvation, and that He has a plan for me, but I see so much pretentiousness in the church that it almost seems impossible to find any genuine believers.

    1. Hi Anonymous - I really appreciate your comment because you so clearly articulated the results of spiritual abuse. A couple things really stood out to me after reading your short paragraph a few times:

      1. Negative emotions often overrule logic (please note that I'm not saying this in a judgmental way whatsoever, just pointing out the amazing power of emotions)
      2. The resulting emotions that you have experienced are very, very deep - look at the words: ripped out, traumatic, sucked into a vacuum, crucified emotionally.

      My heart aches that you have felt pain that strongly. That pain is very real and it hurts to the core. People who say "just go to another church" simply do not get. I get it and so many other people here do as well. As I have risked and shared my story in my church, I have found there are some people who "get it". Please don't lose hope. Please hang around and share more when you feel like it. Sending virtual hugs, friend! You are not alone in this.

    2. Dear Anonymous (9:23)

      I feel your pain and more importantly so does our gentle precious Savior. I am going to pray for you right now.

      Matthew 11:28

      28 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

      This song by Laura Story ministers to my heart

      May the Lord encourage you today!

      Love in Christ,

    3. Anonymous, please honor the feelings you have and don't force yourself into a church until you are ready. I felt the same way you described after leaving BGBC. You see, this wasn't the first time I'd left a church feeling judged, excluded and betrayed. My husband kept asking if I wanted to try this church or that church and I really didn't want to go to any of them because of the sick feeling in my gut. When I finally agreed to try again and visited some, I fought with my feelings of distrust and suspicion. Unfairly to these new churches who hadn't really done anything wrong.

      In my case, God kept putting a certain church before me, saying "Try Here!" I would see an ad for an annual activity they put on, hear about it from hair stylists: it just seemed like the Holy Spirit's prompting that we should visit this church. I am so glad I listened. I know there is no perfect church and this one isn't perfect but they are willing to admit it. At least here we aren't expected to conform to one standard. They recognize that each person is unique in their background, experiences, abilities and spiritual maturity. I am free to study, ask questions, listen to the Holy Spirit's leading.

      I think the only way to approach this is to ask God for wisdom concerning whether to church or not. He promises that if we ask for His wisdom, He will give it. And He cannot break a promise, it isn't who He is.

    4. I know your feeling exactly. And as I was in the church and a school teacher at the church school I find it very hard to love my new students in the public school - I am so afraid of loving them and then having them torn from me! I loved my previous students as my own children and dreamed of watching them grow up through the high school and then some cruel church leader decides I cannot remain. Some elder's wife who wanted an easy "christian teacher" job where she did not have to grade papers or teach each day shunned me - I guess it made her look bad that she only taught 1/2 the book and I made an effort to teach most of mine, and grade papers, and create fun activities for the kids. I can't help to wonder why God is so cruel to take that away from me and then I feel guilty for thinking that - He is God and I am His to go where He wants. One of the hardest things to hear was a comment by a parent when she heard I was leaving. I worked hard to get her son to do his homework an by the end of the year he was doing very well and happy - she emailed me the words "big bummer" when she heard I was not coming back. I miss them!

  15. Humans -- especially children -- don't need a "church building" or "church leaders" to have a relationship with god. I suggest that you establish friendships with people who make you feel strong and confident and loved -- regardless of their religious "label" or even lack thereof -- and that you expose your kids to the wonder of Nature and to Doing Unto Others. Head you and your family in directions that make you feel happy and secure and embraced and, should you begin to feel the opposite, retreat, and find a new road. In my opinion, it's all about finding "god" within you, NOT about being told what to do, how to feel, where to go, and what to say... let alone who you can be friends with. Church is where you find your god and that should feel GOOD. No one said it has to be in a particular building or under the influence of a particular person or group of people.


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