Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Survival Strategies for Hyper-Authoritarian and Repetitive Sermons

I'm a little bit surprised if you are still reading my blog.   The last three posts were rigged to make a point and I took you on a ride without your permission so you could understand first-hand what it felt like.  I tricked you and purposefully kept the majority of the post the same, but altered bits and pieces to make you think I was giving you a brand new post.  The last post, I again interspersed the same message, but this time with growing feelings of exasperation and anger.   I'm still trying to wrap my head around the thought that a pastor knowingly did this week after week after week after week . . . okay, I'll stop :)

I know how I felt with those repetitious sermons.  I felt like they were wasting my time, that he wanted to pound his message into my head, that it was a form of indoctrination.  They were loud, felt strong, and sounded like hyper-authoritative lectures.    I hope you were able to sense my rising emotions as I continued each post.  

For the record, I normally only use the word "suck" as in,  "my little boy likes to suck his thumb", not the way in which I used it on the previous title, "All Smoothies are Good, Sermons Suck."  In fact, every time I see the title, I cringe because that is not how I speak normally.   But it was used because it expresses how one may respond when dealing with something like this.  Anger rose up from within me screaming:  STOP THIS INSANITY!  It's interesting as I type these blog posts, I often emotionally connect to those times from years ago and the feelings come flooding back. 

 I know many congregants were annoyed with the repetitious sermons, while others sat and endured it quietly.  We all react differently.  Some people zoned out and their minds drifted.  Others used the time to get some business done.  Here are some ways people zoned or preoccupied their mind so they didn't have to listen to the repetitious sermons.  It was easy for me to see what was going on when walking out of the sanctuary to check on my little one in the nursery or to use the restroom.


Some people worked on their checkbooks.




Quite a few kids drew pictures.  I remember seeing some fantastic sailing ships with men and their weapons  (hmm, the thought that the drawings related to war so often never dawned on me before typing this).




Grocery lists:  this was a popular way to bide the time



Another popular response as I briefly alluded to above was to leave the sanctuary and go to the bathroom, get a drink of water, check the nursery to see how the kids were doing, go outside the check the weather, etc.   

It occurred to me that I may have just "outed" these "mental escape" methods to the pastor because I know he and his "spies" read this blog.  Perhaps there will be a meeting soon to recruit spies to report this activity to the pastor - or install hidden cameras, or who knows what else.  When you are dealing with someone who secretly records conversations without permission, goes to houses unannounced demanding information, keeps detailed files of "sins", even sins repented of and long forgiven, this would not be out of the realm of possibilities, sadly. 

I ran across another N. Korea story on CNN this weekend in the midst of this series - how timely.  CNN covered a story of someone who defected from N. Korea and left his wife and 2 daughters behind.  This part especially struck me:

Oh, a native of South Korea, moved his family to Pyongyang in 1985 despite his wife's reservations on the promise of a good job and free medical treatment for his wife's hepatitis, but when they arrived he realized he had been tricked.


He says there was not a job nor medical help for his wife, just three months of what he calls, "lectures from day to night on North Korea ideology, history and brainwashing." He was then forced to work in a radio station broadcasting propaganda.


There's that brainwashing thing again.  That's what it felt like for me.

My 25-yr old daughter, Hannah, who is also being sued for defamation along with Meaghan and me, discusses this in her Google review.  I'd have to look up which words/phrases are actually part of the defamation lawsuit, but here is her reaction to the repetitious sermons that she posted on the original Google review and might very well be in the lawsuit:

The entire time I was there, we never got off of Romans 12 (over a year).  I now think Chuck thought we were too stupid to grasp his "deep" concepts and so felt he had to hammer it in repeatedly week after week, and/or he likes to hear himself talk.  

And here is also Hannah's response to my recent blog posts:

So the last three posts pretty typical of his sermons from what I remember from personal experience, except that you would need to have at least 50 minutes of verbal oration and add only maybe 10 minutes of new material, which is in essence only delving into literally the three next words in the same sentence of the half a verse we've been "exploring" for the last 8 weeks.

Hannah remembers it as I do.  She was at the church for a little over a year and moved out of our home and 45 minutes away because she couldn't handle this church and didn't want to get sucked into it again.  We stayed a little over 2 years and by the time we left, we had only progressed to Romans 13:6-7.   So for the 2 years and 2 months we were there, we covered Romans 12 through Romans 13:7.  As I took good notes and checked the sermons noting key phrases were reused but in different order for the first 45-50 minutes of the sermon and then we'd hear fresh material for the remaining 10-15 minutes.  Hannah's assessment above is correct.  My time would have been better served by reading the Bible on my own in the parking lot and then coming into the sanctuary 10 minutes before the end of the service to hear the new mini-sermon. 

I brought these issues up to the pastor during our final meetings because the sheep were obviously disgruntled and crying out for food.  They did the best they could do to communicate this, but it fell on deaf ears.  Why did the crying sheep not matter?  Why did this relentless, authoritarian, repetitious loud preaching continue despite the cries of the people?   What kind of pastor ignores pleas from his congregants and plows ahead with his own agenda?  What purpose did this serve?  Who was this benefiting?

I look back on the wasted time, think of what it did to me spiritually.  I kind of wish I would have had the guts to do this during Sunday sermons:


Julie Anne's knitting


I always have a pile of UFO (unfinished objects) knitting projects that need to be worked on.  I imagine they all would have been done if I used my time more productively.  What a shame, because not much positive came out of that time.

I leave you with this comment from David Johnson that came through just as I posted this.  It ties in beautifully because repetitious sermons as we endured can cause one to be spiritually weak and their growth to be stunted. 


David JohnsonJune 12, 2012 9:48 AM
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 www.rawstory.com (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.



45 comments:

  1. Perhaps he was lacking inspiration (something to copy). Once he did a series about other religions including Catholicism that I thought were quite good. The only problem was that when I checked out the website he referenced (something like graceandtruth.com, but I don't really remember) most of his messages were exactly what was posted on their website. He hadn't done any actual study himself to bring us those sermons.

    The site the material came from used to be linked as a resource on WRGBC's website. Of course that is gone now.

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    1. I've seen other comments to this effect. It's pretty sad if it's true.

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    2. For the last year that I was a member of Eastminster Presbyterian Church, I spent service-time as a care-giver in the nursery with the preschoolers—the coolest little people on the planet! I had become no longer interested in the sermons of my pastor. Although he was an exceptionally good and godly man (we prayed together every Wed, he was a man after God’s own heart, he was truly a good pastor); however, for his tolerance of a certain rebellion in the church’s (and denomination’s) authority structure my heart was broken. His sermons were neither boring or repetitive or unbiblical—No, it was because of his position on the nature and scope of spiritual authority that I could no longer stomach his preaching. I eventually withdrew my membership and looked for a healthier church. Still, really good and amazing people there, but I couldn’t stay.


      A couple years ago I listened to a series of homiletics lectures given by Dr. Bryan Chapell of Covenant Theological Seminary entitled Christ-Centered Preaching. I took a few notes.

      In his opening lecture Chapell lists the three Aristotelian rhetorical components of persuasive messages:

      1. Logos - the word (verbal content; logic)
      2. Pathos - passion (emotive content)
      3. Ethos - character (trustworthiness; credibility; authority)

      The Apostle Paul says, "Our gospel came to you not simply with words [logos], but also with power and with deep conviction [pathos]. You know how we lived [ethos] among you for your sake" (1 Thess. 1:5).

      Consider Phillip Brooks' famous saying: "Preaching is truth poured through personality." And Marshal McLuhan's famous saying: "The medium is the message."

      Here's the reality: one's character can become so vitiated that not only does it inevitably affect the message itself, but it can close people off from ever even hearing what you have to say.

      When Chuck stood on the steps of Portland's Convention center shouting things like, "You Sir, shall Perish from the Wrath of God!" Do you really think this was an effective way of evangelizing to Jehovah Witnesses? No, they didn't look any deeper than the medium to realize they weren't interested in the message.

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    3. Having emphasized the ethos (character, personality, trustworthiness, credibility, authority) component of preaching. Let me share two quotes toward appreciating the logos and pathos side of the art of preaching.

      Martyn LLoyd-Jones writes: “What is Preaching? Logic on fire! Eloquent reason! Are these contradictions? Of course they are not. Reason concerning this Truth ought to be mightily eloquent, as you see it in the case of the Apostle Paul and others. It is theology on fire. And a theology which does not take fire, I maintain, is a defective theology; or at least the man’s understanding of it is defective. Preaching is theology coming through a man who is on fire. A true understanding and experience of the Truth must lead to this. . . . A man who can speak about these things dispassionately has no right whatsoever to be in a pulpit; and should never be allowed to enter one.”

      "The most powerful weapon on earth is the human soul on fire." – Marshal of France and military theorist, Ferdinand Foch

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    4. Crawlers and toddlers are people before people have had time to mess them up! People the way God created us to be. Loving.

      In two churches, before and after my own were born and left home, I have worked in children's church every 3rd Sunday or so. Best time of my life.

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    5. Arce - I wish Blogger had a "like" button!


      It's funny - as I read your comment, in the other room, my toddler x 2 (6-yr old) was making "bathroom noises" with his mouth purposefully trying to annoy his older brothers :)

      Not so loving anymore! LOL

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    6. One thing I would like to emphasize. There is a blessed fold of true and genuine spirit-filled believers at Eastminster doing true Christian ministry in the name of our Lord and Savior. Although I left Eastminster maybe five or so years ago, I only left a ministry on their campus less than but a year ago. And all seven years of my ministry at their respite center I recommended broken people to visit the church. I still feel that good about the place! If I may be crass for a minute. Eastminster Presbyterian is a hell of a church! With a lot of true Christian love there!

      I believe it was for the true Christian love exhibited at Eastminster that a lady and her four-year-old son faithfully attended.

      [An aside: Another young woman who oversaw the nursery ministry observed me holding and rocking her baby in my arms, and in on seeing how I was with babies recruited me for the nursery. However, Arce, those crawlers as you call them were actually pretty boring human beings... (not as boring as Julie Anne’s last three posts) but these babies didn’t even know how to talk yet. Just poop, pee, scream, and push little bright toys around on the carpet. After about two weeks of that gibberish I got a transfer. See, on the other side of the wall was where all the cool kids were, where all the action was happening. So now I got to work with the three, four and five year olds. I pick up my story:]

      This lady's son, he was one of my favorites. And yes, I had favorites, but I loved them all equally. Well her son was usually my first kid, and one morning as we were playing with small plastic animals on a small round table my boy looks me in the eyes and says, “Freddy was in my dreams last night!” I kept on playing and then said, “Freddy who?” My boy looked at me with googly eyes and said, “You know.” I said, “Oh, that Freddy.” We played some more and I asked, “What was Freddy doing in your dreams?” My boy not even breaking his plastic dinosaur's stride nonchalantly answered, “Killing people.”

      My heart broke. Somehow he had been exposed to the horrors of Freddy Krueger. But my heart, after skipping a beat, was warmed by the reality that this lady and her son were surrounded by the love of true spirit-filled Christians, even better followers of Christ than me. And even, broken me, the boy had. And I was glad to be a someone he took his cues from. Bless you Eastminster!

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    7. I think you just hurt my feelings, David, by saying my posts were boring. Wah, wah!

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    8. That was classic, David. Very good!

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    9. Ed, are you talking about David's long post or the "sue me" post? ;)

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    10. The "sue me" post. I cracked up laughing. In the midst of all this, the humor was good timing.

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    11. Ok, whew, I thought you were jumping on his Julie Anne's-posts are-boring-bandwagon. I'll approve future comments of yours. Not so sure about David's.

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    12. Julie, Hehe...no, not at all. As you and David both know, I don't always agree with David. To me, he is too long winded for me to decipher what he really said, anyway. But if he found it boring, I think (I can't speak for him) that he was agreeing with you that the preaching of your Pastor is what was boring, based on your analogy of your posts. I hope that is what he meant.

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    13. Yep, Ed, as you said, this was precisely what I was driving at.

      Look for my emails, so I can harass you behind the scenes.

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    14. Looking forward to it, David...still. I have a sarcastic sense of humor, but it's not to be mean or nasty...it's just my style. I am not a know it all, but I do study. I am not influenced by what someone else already decided, which is why I am non-denominational. God gave us all a mind to decide for ourselves. Those in Thessolonica searched the scriptures daily to see if what they were told were true, or false. I like that style of learning. We can't take everything that a preacher states as true, or false, until we check it out for ourselves, without their influenced verses to prove their points, as we all know, there are opposing views based on other verses. I could never be a Calvinist, or a Lutheran, as they already decided for you, what to think. So harass away!!

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  2. Hi Julie Anne,

    I've been following your blog for a few weeks, and in that time I've noticed that the number of Google reviews of BGBC, which had peaked around 985, has been steadily declining since then. It stands at 934 right now.

    It seems that somehow the reviews are being slowly but steadily removed. At this rate they will have them all deleted in a couple of years.

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    1. Yes, other people have informed me of that, too. Evidently a bunch of Yelp reviews have also been removed. There are probably rules in the TOS that in order to review an establishment, you have to have actually been there to "experience" it.

      There have been quite a few pictures posted and removed, too. I'm glad I copied the one that had a couple burning at the stake. I should post it on my blog now that it's been removed. It really cracks me up how creative some people are.

      I'm still trying to figure out why someone posted the Josh Groban picture on the Google site. I'm not sure he wants to be a part of this mess. But now that I'm thinking of Josh, I think I shall bring his soothing music to my ears :)

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  3. What irony! I just reread Romans 12. It has so much to say about this whole situation. Perhaps if Romans 12 had been studied in a way that could inspire changes of the heart, none of us would be here.

    "Romans 12
    17 Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. 18 If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. 19 Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,”[a] says the Lord. 20 Therefore

    “If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
    If he is thirsty, give him a drink;
    For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.”[b]

    21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."

    I just can't consider excommunication, showing up on someone's doorstep with a mob and recording private conversations as good responses to perceived evil.

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  4. Beautiful knitting.

    Love the drawing, too. The war theme seems very popular these days and is getting tiring, with so much preaching about the air war, the ground war, and the battle we are to wage. Swords are big these days in Christian circles of a certain bent. They are included in many sermons and many pastors and elders seem to think they must have one hanging in their office. But from reading the Bible I've been under the impression the battle is already won, and I believe it. Of course the Bible speaks of war, but it also speaks to something better. Rest and peace in Christ is available right now, and we ought to be about living as if we believed it, not thinking we have to fight our culture into submission to Christ, or worse yet submission to pastors, elders, or human institutions.

    Guess you pushed a button there that made me want to rant. Got it off my chest now.

    Thanks for your wonderful blog. You're all in our prayers. God bless!

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    1. See, you get it. Sometimes you need a breath of fresh air, rest, and peace - to see the beauty in God's handiwork (art, knitting, music, gardening, good food, friends, whatever), to know that He's done the work for us and his grace is sufficient for us. Thank you for ranting.

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  5. *Giggle.* Actually, I was guessing you were having a "Groundhog Day" theme to make your point on the sermon repetitions.

    I'm also surprised that, for a man who should've known Romans 12 so, erhm, thoroughly, your former pastor hasn't applied these concepts to his own actions.

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    1. Stalked,

      This is a common pattern that can be seen by these kinds of pastors: they preach the very things that they are blinded by in their own lives.

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  6. I loved your posts, but have to admit that I didn't "get it" until your third one. Very clever!

    My husband and I once spent 2 1/2 years in a Bible study covering the book of Acts. Great fun! I wasn't knitting then, but, whenever I do happen to attend a church service today, I never leave home without a knitting project!

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    1. You illustrate another point so well, Kathi. People don't tend to notice this repetition at first. It takes a while!

      I didn't take knitting to the Sunday Service which is more formal and there were more people there and could be a distraction to others; however, I did take my knitting to other meetings. They had GBI (Grace Bible Institute) for 2 hours after lunch on Sundays. Before going to this church, Sunday afternoons were for naps and so when I started going to GBI, it took everything within me to stay awake. It finally dawned on me that if I knit, I would be able to stay awake. (And if you are like me, you can actually focus more on things while knitting than without knitting.) I even mentioned to the pastor that if he wanted me to stay awake, I would be knitting. If not, I would surely fall asleep. I think he overlooked it :)

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    2. My spouse and I used to take sunday afternoon naps, but stopped after two children!

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    3. A friend,

      I don't know how to take your comment. My brain went to these options:

      1. Children can make it difficult to nap (they get into things, they need attention, they could be loud, etc)

      2. "Napping" could yield more children and 2 was your "limit".

      LOL

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  7. Hey call me Sleepy, call me Dopey but after a life time of those type of sermons they just leave me Grumpy.

    I remember the annual sermon on "mixed bathing" always on the Sunday prior to Memorial DAY when the community pools open up. Then there is the non-stop messages on just about every type of sexual sin the sex obsessed pastor could think up. One Sunday evening he actually preached on having your son's haircut in Uni-sex salons because it leads to homosexuality. Then he spent 15-20 preaching about cross dressing and how evil it is. I leaned over to my mother and whispered, "he is probably wearing his wife's underwear right now". She stepped on my foot as if to say cool it but let out a little giggle. Just then he said, " I know that some of you try on your wife's clothes when you are home alone and THAT (pointing his finger) is SINNNN ". That did it, mom busted up laughing. We get in the car: "so our pastor is a cross dresser, great. I always knew something was off about the guy". My mom just said shut up, she wanted to get that picture out of her head ASAP.

    Ten years latter that same pastor got up with three other staff members all dressed as women (dresses, heels, wigs, make-up etc) and sang a Point of Grace song. I guess it was supposed to be some sort of Parody, but probably more of their weird little fantasy life coming to the surface. I have to hand it to my parents, they finally admitted I was right about that Pastor and bolted from that church. I had left on my 18Th birthday.

    And to think two of those clowns are ex-MARINES.

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    1. I am glad I wasn't in the service with you. My bladder wouldn't have held.

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    2. What a crazy story! I've never heard of such a thing.

      Leaky: No kidding. Can you imagine sitting behind this mom and then kid? haha

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  8. Beloved in RecoveryJune 13, 2012 at 5:59 AM

    Oh wow, can I ever relate! I have - left to get water, sneak a cookie, see if the nursury workers needed anything, walk outside for a moment, use the bathroom. Best use of time - read another section of scripture and do a study (esp. helpful if I remembered to bring my commentary). Since I lead worship, sometimes I searched through the hymnal and pondered songs for the following week. I envied the woman who was bold enough to bring her knitting. Also, I find it hard to believe that the pastor spent every Sat. evening in his office preparing a message, when it was only 10 min. of new material, and about 45 min. of review. (No, Julie Anne and I did not have the same pastor, nor do we even live in the same state - just two different pastors using the same method.)

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  9. Beloved in RecoveryJune 13, 2012 at 6:07 AM

    P.S. Julie Anne,
    I'm so sorry I missed your last posting. I saw the first two on the Smoothies, and then, I don't know what happened. I just love coming to your blog, and reading. I always find time no matter what. But suddenly I felt a great need to: check on the garden; take a nap; check the weather; get a drink; use the bathroom; cut my toenails; walk outside and smell the air; etc.

    If you added new material, I'm sorry to say I may have missed it. And it is just too painful to read through the same old same old and try to decipher what might be new. ;-)

    (Somehow these three posts of yours drove the message home better than anything you could have said)

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  10. By the way, Julie Anne, I didn't see bananas, mangoes, oranges, or pineapple on the grocery list you show above. You must be smoothied out.

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    1. Never! I just finished my breakfast smoothie - the same recipe from the first smoothie post. It has evolved a bit over time. I now put about twice the amount of unsweetened cocoa as when I first started making it. Chocolate, baby, bring it on!

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    2. So if I'm reading this correctly, you used 90% of your old smoothie recipe and changed about 10% of it?
      :)

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    3. HAHAHAHAHAHA - that's funny!!

      As long as the repetitious part is the unsweetened cocoa, I will be fine, though :)

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  11. I actually remember at bgbc doing this. For me it was either to do lists or a wholly different Bible study on my own. Also trips to the nursery, and bathroom. I usually sat in the back so I could hear if my baby made any noise at all so I could go out. Chuck did call me on this one time but I did have a sick infant and I counted how many times his precious wife went to the nursery and tried to stay around her number. I even told him that.....of course he actually told me that t never got up. What a lie! I guess you see what you want. Since she was my cover excuse I guarantee that I was counting her trips. Always found it amusing since she had two older children often working in the nursery who surely would have gotten her if her baby needed her........ But alas, the humor is here but it's sad. I enjoy being in a church that I have to run out at the end to use the restroom because I don't want to miss anything!

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    1. As if we need to count the pastor's wife's trips to the nursery to justify our own trip to the nursery?! What's that all about? Why do we not feel the freedom to take care of our child?

      This is what people need to understand. There is an environment created in a spiritually abusive church: people are on edge thinking of ways of justifying normal behavior of a mom going to the nursery to tend her crying child. What is this insanity?

      This is the type of thing that makes spiritual abuse crazy-making. People will say: what exactly happened? How do you describe this clearly so they can understand? It's complicated, isn't it?

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  12. Notice the fake check book pic, she makes sure you see how much she tithes. Lol that's a Pharisee for you.
    Matt 6:3-4

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    1. HA! You're funny. I wonder if my 14-yr old notices that I "used" his checkbook.

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  13. Maybe the trips to see how the kids were doing in the childcare area were part of God's protection over the little ones. Seems there would be less opportunities for the sex offender to offend with watchful parents visiting periodically.

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  14. Yep, sermons about the gospel, and the gospel, and more gospel. Because we are supposedly transformed by the same gospel that saved us. MacArthur has even bought into this. Sad.

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  15. Good job here sis, the situation is teaching you much.

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