Saturday, March 31, 2012

Chuck O'Neal Secretly Recorded Private Conversations

Pastor Chuck O'Neal sometimes recorded private conversations without getting permission from involved parties.  The elders were aware of this practice as you will read below.   This  was not a rare practice for him according to some people who personally saw this taking place.  I'm wondering how many churches have pastors/elders who tape record conversations of their church members/attenders? 

I mentioned in Comparing the Two, Part 2, that Chuck O'Neal and the two elders came to our door unannounced and demanding information from me a few weeks after we had left the church.  A commenter asked me a question:


Click to Enlarge

Later, Meaghan added a followup comment sharing her experience with Chuck O'Neal using a recording device.  Here is her story copied directly from the comments section. Meaghan's story needs to be read.  It is important and shows the type of treatment she and many others endured at the church, but was never able to share because of shunning.

on January 1st, 2009~C'ON, DL and DW were on my front porch, there on the word of my new pastor to speak with me about my not submitting to them and causing discord with the flock...by the way, my pastor offered to sit 'en masse' with the several families at this new church to settle the disputes with Chuck, he refused. Instead came to my home unannounced with a recording device. I knew this because I didn't open the door instead listened to their conversation via my peephole listening device. Heard DL say 'Do you have the recorder on? To which Chuck said yes. When I didn't open the door, they left only to return an hour or so later. Then we told them the police were called and to leave us alone, at which Chuck yelled all kinds of reviling remarks about us and they left. The police later spoke with Chuck and he told the officer he was given permission by our pastor to speak with us! The officer informed him only we could give him the 'permission' to be on our property and speak with us. Then Sept of 2010, after we returned a 'family' heirloom piano, of which we were only storing, the 'church', a mob of 30 or more, showed up on our front yard with the piano, all the while Chuck was video taping it. We didn't engage, though it was very very sad and sickening to see the hatred in their faces~next day the piano was given away via craiglist to a very happy large family. God works wonders as painful as it was to see true colors. Since that day, I have been praying God will lead HIS children out of there, and give grace to those still there being blindly persecuted...may your day be filled with His love and grace. I am so thankful to God for leading us out, and when my eyes were opened, they were OPENED!


This is just one of possibly many cases of using recording devices. I have talked with other sources who have confirmed that they saw him using recording devices during meetings and he did not disclose to the meeting participants that he was recording their conversation.  


Someone mentioned to me that they knew of a meeting in which Chuck played a recorded conversation that I was involved in.  If Chuck had an issue with something that I said, why didn't Chuck come to me personally?  Why don't I know about it?  I wish I could hear this conversation.  

It feels very strange knowing that someone heard a private conversation of mine without my permission and knowledge.  I am typically a very open person and what you see is what you get, but I like to share when it feels appropriate and safe for me.  Knowing that something private was shared without my permission kind of feels like being stripped naked in front of a stranger - a very vulnerable feeling. 

It makes me wonder how many people were violated in this way.  To me it is a violation of privacy to record someone's private conversation.  I also think it is wrong to take that recorded conversation and play it in front of people who were not privy to that conversation.  It is wrong on so many levels.  What would make a pastor stoop to such a level?  Why would a pastor have a need to record conversations?  Why can't someone's recollection suffice?  Why does he need "proof"?    Are his witnesses (elders) not proof enough? 

Out of the 40+ yrs I have been going to churches, I've never heard of a pastor using recording devices to record his congregants' conversations.  It really is hard to wrap your head around this kind of thing.  This seems like something one would see in a criminal tv movie, not a church, and certainly not from a loving shepherd.  


If you are going to Beaverton Grace Bible Church, you need to know that this may happen to you.  If it happened with Meaghan and me, who knows how many others?  Do you feel safe knowing that at any time your conversation may be recorded without your permission and played for others?  Are you okay with that? 


A number of people have also told me their stories about recorded conversations, but I will not share them without permission.  If you would like to add your story to the comments (or e-mail bgbcsurvivors@gmail.com), I would be happy to feature your story. 

Friday, March 30, 2012

White Hanky Award: "Hypocricy" by Anonymous Commenter



I've visited a couple of "African-American" churches -  of course they would welcome anybody, but they were primarily filled with African-Americans.  They were so warm and loving.  The services were exciting and the joy of the Lord was acknowledged loudly and from the heart.   I love to see how other churches praise God.  In both churches, I noticed something that doesn't typically happen in "white" churches that I've been a part of.    If something moved a woman, maybe something said in the sermon or perhaps a song, she might stand up quietly and wave her white hanky to express a heartfelt, "Amen!".  

I just read a comment that I consider to be a white-hanky post.  It was so good.  I am standing up and waving my white hanky right now.  It deserves a post on its own and here it is.   A big thank you to the Anonymous contributor!

Hypocrisy:

1. a pretense of having a virtuous character, moral or religious beliefs or principles, etc., that one does not really possess.
2. a pretense of having some desirable or publicly approved attitude.

See Chuck O'Neal's sermon 'Peaceful Love' on BGBC website under 'Our newest sermons'. Listen at twelve minute mark as he exposites Matt. 5:38-40 "You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also."

Compare this to his google comment: "After three and a half years of suffering a great many injuries tamely, without stirring for our own relief, we are now using lawful means to right the ministry of the Gospel at BGBC and to protect our families. It is not a “threat”."

And he is suing other Christians.

Hypocrisy therefore permeates the soul with a predisposition against genuine repentance. That is why Jesus referred to hypocrisy as "the leaven of the Pharisees" (Luke 12:1).

Hypocrisy also works directly against the conscience. There's no way to be hypocritical without searing the conscience. So hypocrisy inevitably makes way for the most vile, soul-coloring, character-damaging secret sins. Thus hypocrisy compounds itself, just like leaven.

Matthew 23:1-3 23 Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, 2 saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. 3 Therefore whatever they tell you to observe,[a] that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do.

I pray the Lord opens the eyes of those still trapped under such hypocrisy.


Comparing the Two, Part 3


This is the final post of a 3-part series comparing the characteristics of dictators with people who spiritually abuse.  The other two parts can be found here:



"Anonymous" posted this comment on Part 1:


The last sentence really made my head spin.  I had been thinking of the parallels of physically and spiritually starving people.  But "Anonymous" is correct in that there is a kind of death in both environments.  This thought should not be minimized.   How can someone be growing spiritually and emotionally in that kind of environment?  Isn't the ultimate goal of a pastor and shepherd to help his sheep grow spiritually?  Who is benefiting by spiritually dead members? 

And this part was profound:  "What I wonder is what the leaders hope to gain . . . ."   Having this type of authoritarian rule over people only benefits who?  The leader.  This is a self-absorbed leader which is completely contrary to the heart of a true shepherd that we read about in scripture. 

After reading the CNN article, I did a quick Google search on the word "dictator".  I don't know what school teaches this stuff, but spiritual abusers, dictators, cult leaders seem to have learned the same tactics to control and manipulate the people "beneath" them. 

Most dictators have several characteristics in common. They usually rule autocracies, governments with a single self-appointed leader and no governing body to check his power.  Often, dictators have totalitarian regimes, keeping their power through control of the mass media. Totalitarian dictators also use secret police and spy on the citizens of their state as well as restrict or completely remove their personal freedoms. 
Many of these dictators foster cults of personality, a form of hero worship in which the masses are fed propaganda declaring their leader to be flawless (and in some cases, divine or divinely appointed). The North Korean dictator Kim Il-sung (father of Kim Jong-il) was essentially the sole subject of all forms of art created in the country. Schoolchildren were taught to give thanks to Kim Il-sung, the source of all of their blessings, as part of their training. Critics spoke of him as being megalomaniacal and extremely narcissistic.

Do you notice similar patterns?

We are not in N. Korea being ruled by a dictator.  The mom in the CNN story spent 10 years in China and has been living free in the US ever since.  She and her daughters now help others who are going through the same experience.   Many of us "defected" the church and are still being sought out by the "dictator" months if not years after leaving.  Where is our freedom?  We are in America where we should be free to worship where we want to worship without having a former pastor interfering in our lives.

Lastly, take a look at this video.   It's amazing to see the devotion, honor, and respect these mourners are demonstrating.  Their deceased dictator is the same man who literally starved so many of his citizens, some to the point of death.   He was held to a god-like status by his people.  In light of the parallels between the devotion of the people to their dictator and the devotion of church congregants to their pastor, I found this video disturbing.  


Thursday, March 29, 2012

Chillaxin'

My family and I spent quite a few hours on the road and are now at the Oregon coast enjoying a few days of spring break.

It looks like we broke a record today on the blog in both number of hits and comments.  If you have not read the comments, please check them out.  

So much of this blog is only my observations and thoughts.  But really, my story is only a small part of the whole story.  Many of you reading this blog have your own stories which are just as real and valid as mine.   Together, we make the whole story and can convey the real picture of what we experienced, the pain we went through and hopefully, the process of healing.  God will use what we went through for His purposes. 

On the trip, I was able to read a few of the comments that were sent to my phone, but after I "publish" this, I will go back and read the comments again in the context of the post.  I want to read your words and understand what you went through. 

Thank you so much for your comments.  Once again, you are validating the need for a place to be able to freely talk and share your experiences.  

I leave you with this picture of what I look like right now.  Yes, those are my very old and comfy slippers and that is the amazing raging Oregon coast beyond the dunes.  There's a storm right in front of me.   And there is a spiritual storm going on as well.   I feel very comfortable in this storm because I know Who is at the helm of my ship.  Praise God!






Wednesday, March 28, 2012

5,000 Hits

We've reached 5,000 hits on this blog! 
Woohooooooooo!!!!! 




Comparing the Two, Part 2

This post is continued from Comparing the Two, Part 1.

Some might ask how one can begin to compare the atrocities of physical starvation and beatings at the hands of a dictator to the emotional/spiritual abuse by pastor/elders of a church.   They seem worlds different.  I understand that question.    The physical abuse mentioned in the article depicts the effects of abuse which can be easily seen and identified by anyone, sometimes with just a quick glance.  We read about the physical condition of the children, distended bellies, weakened and tiny bodies, physical scars from beatings, children who starved to death, family members who disappeared.  The way people in this country are treated is horrific.  The signs of physical abuse are evident and leave little doubt as to what happened.   The signs cannot be hidden. 

Emotional and spiritual abuse are not as obvious.  You may not be able to tell by looking at someone that they are emotionally or spiritually abused.  They sometimes suffer silently.   They may not understand what happened.    There can be confusion, disturbed sleep, nightmares, difficulty concentrating, difficulty in relationships, fears, anxiety, sadness, anger, etc.  On a spiritual level, it can result in lack of trust in God (how could a loving God lead them to an abusive church),  mistrust of any spiritual leader, difficulty to pray, read God's word, difficulty to maintain relationships among Christians because of distrust, difficulty to trying a new church and some may never venture into a church again because of that fear or pain.   Because the signs are not as obvious as physical signs and can go undetected, it can lead to a mental or spiritual collapse.  I remember someone from church who had a mental breakdown leading to in-patient hospitalization.  Was this due the spiritually abusive environment?  Some have wondered.  This person never came back to the church, found a new church family and seems to be doing very well now. 

Regardless of the kind of abuse, whether it be sexual, physical, emotional, or spiritual abuse, there can be lasting repercussions on the health and emotional/spiritual well-being of the person.

In Part 1 of this blog series, I quoted paragraphs from an article in CNN.com (In North Korea, a brutal choice).  I noticed the parallels between dictator/spiritual abusers and the people of N. Korea/people in abusive churches.  The indented quotes are from the CNN article and then you will read my observations on how it parallels with a church with this type of leader. 

When a country is led by dictators, it's the ordinary people who pay the price and are forced to make gut-wrenching decisions. 
I am keenly aware that there may be many people who go to church week after week, sit quietly, never ask questions and never have a problem.  They probably wonder what this blog is about, have never seen or experienced anything that has been mentioned and think I’m a crazy, divisive woman who has nothing better to do but cause trouble.   There are people in North Korea who adore their leader, believe everything their dictator says, never question or complain.  Even though they are starving, they keep supporting their leader and wonder why others distrust their leader and are trying to flee.  They think those who question their leader are wrong and turn them in to authorities if they see them doing something against their beloved government. 

In my first Google review which was removed, I said something to the effect that all will go well with you at the church unless you ask questions.  The same can be said in most countries where there is a dictator - you simply do not ask questions or complain to a dictator without consequences.  If you toe the line, you will be fine.   If you stay and submit to the leaders - all will go well with you - - unless you starve to death which is a real concern.   

We were fine in the church for 2 years . . . . until we asked questions and raised concerns.   It was never the same once this occurred.    We were publicly labeled as divisive and destructive slanderers by the pastor and signed by the elders (read Google reviews).   There are consequences to those who dare to leave, dare to question and we are dealing with those consequences nearly 3-1/2 yrs later.   


Defectors' stories are often the only way the world learns about what happens inside the reclusive country.  But many who escaped North Korea choose to remain silent, fearing repercussions for family members left back home.
Google reviews and this blog are a couple ways in which people can learn what has happened inside this reclusive church.  Many people who leave will choose to keep quiet about their story because they may have friends or family members who remain at the church and they fear there may be repercussions.  



Many who do speak out, including Han and her daughters, use pseudonyms (as they do in this article) to avoid detection by the North Korean government.
Many people who have left and have spoken out on Google Review or on the blog use pseudonyms to avoid detection by the pastor and his group of “spies”.  There still seems to be an element of fear even though they have left.  They don't want to be discovered and sought out again as many have experienced even months or years after they have left.


"I believed the party kept us alive," Han said. "I was very thankful. I was constantly trained to believe that without the party, we wouldn't exist."
We were taught to believe that our church was the best - that no other church could measure up - that most churches weren’t even taught the true gospel. 


She did not doubt the leaders, even as her family went hungry. It was the United States and South Korea's fault, they were told, that they had to hunt frogs, rats and even snakes.
Even though there were some odd teachings or perhaps strange vibes that we felt, we overlooked them because we didn’t want to be in a church with false teaching, watered-down messages, seeker-sensitive churches which didn’t measure up to what we were being taught.  We were convinced that our church was the best and any other church would have been inferior or bad. 



The first time Han and her husband snuck into China and hid at a relatives' home, she got her first glimpse of a rice cooker, full of steaming, hot white rice.
The rice in Han's story represents spiritual life to me - an opportunity to live.  The first time people ventured into a new church, they got the first glimpse of normalcy, grace, life, joy.   The abundance of grace, life, joy is overwhelming to one who leaves this kind of environment.   I remember seeing former BGB friends weep during a worship service at another church - to be free was amazing.


The next day, officers came for her, too. In custody, she was forced to kneel in front of police, who kicked her, beat her with a wooden rod and smashed her skull. They lay her hands flat on the cement floor and stomped on them.
The pastor and elders have come to our homes, unannounced, demanding information weeks and months after leaving the church.  This is not physical abuse as in the N. Korea incident above, but this type of coercion and control felt spiritually abusive to us.  Could he not have picked up the phone and asked for a meeting?  Why the show in force with the elders in tow?  Why was our conversation recorded without our consent?  We are not in N. Korea.  Having been treated like this, it sure makes one wonder:  does he think he owns us?

There are some who have left the church and have come back.  If you are brought back, whether voluntarily or by coercion, you may be forced to repent of your “sins” even if you do not believe you were sinning.  You may have to do this before the church body or on the internet publicly.  You might be beaten down emotionally.  If you humble yourself and give in, you may go back and settle back in, but there is a cost.  Or you may be tainted and never treated the same way again.  But if you leave once again, you know the price that will be paid:  most likely labeled as being in church discipline and shunned.  Either way, this feels like an emotional beating.  


"We can talk about what happened," she said. "All my family in North Korea has died. I realized God chose us. Other people cannot talk or their family will suffer."
We have been out of the church for nearly 3-1/2 yrs.  I signed my name "Julie Anne" on the original Google review.   My review represented what happened to me and what I saw at Beaverton Grace Bible Church based on my understanding of church policies and the Bible.  I believe a lot of people at Beaverton Grace Bible church have "died" emotionally and spiritually in this spiritually abusive environment and I want the story to be told just as Song Ee Han is telling her story publicly.  Even after nearly 3-1/2 yrs, my former pastor seems to be trying to control what I say by suing me and 3 others for $500,000 for "defamation".

The final post in this series can be found here:  Comparing the Two, Part 3



Tuesday, March 27, 2012

How Can They Live Without Jesus

Keith Green was a popular Christian singer when I was a teen.  I was told that if you didn't have money for his concert, he would never turn you away.  He also gave out his cassettes to people.  He had a very giving heart.  He also published a newsletter that I devoured and the information he shared altered the course of my life as I studied scripture and found it to be true. 

A friend sent me the lyrics to this song and it fits so well with the topic of spiritual abuse.  Spiritual abuse can rock your faith like none other.  The italicized lyrics really spoke to me with regard to this issue.  Sometimes our brain will wrongly equate those in authority with God.  If those in authority were abusive, God can get some of that blame.  He is not to blame.  The last stanza is beautiful. 


How can they live without Jesus
How can live without God's love
How can they feel so at home down here
When there's so much more up above

Throwin' away things that matter
They hold on to things that don't
The world has gone crazy
But soon maybe
A lot more are gonna know

For maybe they don't understand it
Or maybe they just haven't heard
Or maybe we're not doin' all we can
Living up to His Holy Word

'Cause phonies have come
And wrong's been done
Even killing in Jesus' name
And if you've been burned
Here's what I've learned
The Lord's not the one to blame

For He's not just a religion
With steeples and bells
Or a salesman who will sell you
The things you just want to hear

For His love was such
That he suffered so much
To cause some of us
Just to follow, follow

So many laughing at Jesus
While the funniest thing that He's done
Is love this whole stubborn rebellious world
While their hate for Him just goes on

And love just like that
Will bring him back
For the few He can call His friends
The ones He's found true
Who've made it through
Enduring until the end
The ones He's found true
Who've made it through
Enduring until the end




Monday, March 26, 2012

Comparing the Two, Part 1

I read a heart-wrenching story on CNN.com yesterday (In North Korea, a brutal choice)
about North Korean defectors and what they have to go through to survive and get to freedom.  It was very difficult to read.  Some of the paragraphs grabbed my attention because of the similarities in leadership tactics between dictators and authoritarian pastors.  What the woman and her family in the story went through physically can be used to parallel what people in abusive churches deal with emotionally and spiritually. 

Here were some key paragraphs that caught my attention.  Later, I will show the parallel I see between a dictator and a pastor who uses his authority in a way that is spiritually abusive.

When a country is led by dictators, it's the ordinary people who pay the price and are forced to make gut-wrenching decisions. 
Defectors' stories are often the only way the world learns about what happens inside the reclusive country. But many who escaped North Korea choose to remain silent, fearing repercussions for family members left back home.
Many who do speak out, including Han and her daughters, use pseudonyms (as they do in this article) to avoid detection by the North Korean government.
"I believed the party kept us alive," Han said. "I was very thankful. I was constantly trained to believe that without the party, we wouldn't exist."
She did not doubt the leaders, even as her family went hungry. It was the United States and South Korea's fault, they were told, that they had to hunt frogs, rats and even snakes.
The first time Han and her husband snuck into China and hid at a relatives' home, she got her first glimpse of a rice cooker, full of steaming, hot white rice.
The next day, officers came for her, too. In custody, she was forced to kneel in front of police, who kicked her, beat her with a wooden rod and smashed her skull. They lay her hands flat on the cement floor and stomped on them.
"We can talk about what happened," she said. "All my family in North Korea has died. I realized God chose us. Other people cannot talk or their family will suffer."


When reading the CNN article,  take note of the following:
  • How do the dictator and leaders use their authority to control people?
  • Even though Song Ee Han lost family members to starvation does she still honor her leader?
  • Why was it wrong for Song Ee Han to seek food for her family in China to prevent her family from starvation?   
  • What message does it send to people of N. Korea when someone escapes to get food for their starving family?
  • What message does it send to the leaders of N. Korea when someone escapes to get food?
  • What do the common people of N. Korea think of other countries?  
  • What is their opinion of their own country and leader?  
  • How did her neighbors respond when they sought food in China?  Did they side with the government or with the starving family?  
  • How was she treated by neighbors when she returned to the country?  
  • How was she treated by leaders when she returned to the country?  
  • Can you find parallels in this type of leadership compared to a spiritually abusive leader in a church?
  • Can you find parallels between the common people in N. Korea who don't ask questions and the "common people" in church who don't question their leaders?   
  •  
     
I know . . . . some of you are probably wondering how I can have the audacity to compare people who are abused to the point of starving to death with people spiritually abused.  I get it.  Hang tight.  I'll get there. 


 . . . . . to be continued  (Comparing the Two, Part 2)






Sunday, March 25, 2012

One Month and I Feel Good



It's been one month since this blog was created.  After noticing my Google reviews on Beaverton Grace Bible Church were being removed from the Google review website without any explanation, I began this blog to share my story because I felt my voice was being taken from me.  I don't get this idea of silencing someone on a review forum, especially in America.  How can that happen?  Don't we have a thing called Freedom of Speech?

When we were at BGBC, I would guess the highest church attendance rate to be around 100 people, including children.  I've heard that the numbers were about 80 fairly recently.  How many people typically look up Google reviews when searching for a new church?  Probably not too many.  I wonder how many actually would have seen my initial review had it been left there - especially after it had been bumped down with the glowing reviews by current church members?  Probably even fewer.

Having the Google reviews removed encouraged me to find to a different platform.  This blog has accomplished that with a wider audience, thanks to Google's search engines.  More people will be able to read my story, compare it with theirs, gain understanding on how spiritual abuse can affect the lives of people in such devastating ways and hopefully will be able get back on the right track.  

Through this blog and my story, I have connected with individuals, bloggers, organizations, and even an author who deals with this topic.   It's been wonderful to get support and feedback from people around the world. 

When I initially sent the link out to three people, I suspected a few hits a day and thought it might fizzle out.  Last week, there were several days with over 200 hits a day and the total amount of hits at the time of this post is 4,435.  

It feels great to have a voice again.  I will not stop talking.  I will not stop sharing my story.  I believe it needs to be told.   Thank you for your comments and prayers.  I feel your support. 

And to further express how I feel, go ahead have a little fun with me and picture me as one of the young ladies dancing on the stage.  Oh yea, baby, I feel GOOD!  And yes, that was a shout! 


Saturday, March 24, 2012

Christian Freedom


Let Freedom Ring




Christian freedom assumes one's ability to critique Christian teaching. Only in cults and other oppressively authoritarian environments is the freedom to critique what is being said taken away. Even the Apostle Paul says it is a noble and honorable thing to not receive what you hear Christians say (just because of who is saying it), but to search the Scriptures for yourself to see if what you are hearing is true (Acts 17:11). 
From Wade Burleson of http://www.wadeburleson.org/

Acts 17:11
11 And the people of Berea were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, and they listened eagerly to Paul’s message. They searched the Scriptures day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth.

Friday, March 23, 2012

You Can't Make This Stuff Up, Part 1


I remember something that was taught.  I think it was said at the ladies retreat and/or perhaps on a Wednesday night meeting, but probably not on Sunday (because Sunday's messages were recorded???).

Anyway, the topic was about men/boys wearing the color pink.  We were told that pink was a "feminine" color and men/boys ought not to be wearing those colors.

I don't ever recall reading anything of the sort in the Bible.  Anywhere.  I couldn't even make up something like that.    What in the world does a man wearing pink have to do with the love of Christ and sharing the Gospel?  Nothing.  It's extra made-up nonsense.



You can buy this shirt from Zazzle for $18.95. 


After the ladies retreat, I remember looking through my son's drawer and seeing a pink shirt.  This particular son is a redhead with an angelic white porcelain face.  He looks amazing in pink.  I want to squeeze him when I see how cute he looks in that color.  The pink against his cheeks and red hair was a beautiful sight to his mama's eyes.  There was no way I was going to throw that shirt away.  He may have worn that shirt the following Sunday and probably other Sundays as well.  I wonder how many people noticed my boy wearing pink. 


Does this man look feminine?  I think not. 


Tommy Hilfiger Classic Polo Shirt  Pink $54.99 (sold out)

For further reading on fashionable dressing for men, check out this article  Can men wear pink?  Decide for yourself if pink is acceptable for your man or men (if you have many sons as I do).

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Obey Those Who Rule Over You and Be Submissive, Part 2

In Part 1, I shared my story about how Hebrews 13:17 was used with me as I questioned an elder about the firing of our personal friend.  I discussed the feelings I had when it felt like the elder was lording over me the idea that it was my job to obey and submit to the elders and authority that God had placed before me instead of being able to ask questions and air my concerns. 

Much later I discovered that although the words “obey” and “submit” are used in many translations of the bible, the definitions that we use for “obey” and “submit” in today's language does not line up well with original Greek translations.

This may be new to some, so I want to explain the process I used to find the correct meaning of the key words in the verse.  I used this site for looking up the key words:   Vines Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words.  (It is now in my sidebar for future reference.)  There are other Greek lexicons available for researching, but this one is readily available online and quite easy to use.  Simply type the word you want to look up in the search field.  This will give you listing of Greek words associated with the English word.  Sometimes the word we use in English may have many words associated with it in Greek.  For example, when I looked up the word "rule" in the search field, I found eight entries in Greek.  In that case, I needed to search through all eight entries to find the entry that referenced the specific verse "Hebrews 13:17".  Scripture references are clearly listed in each entry so you are able to identify which entry listing is the most accurate translation.  This is such a great tool for Bible study.

Here are the definitions from Vines Expository Dictionary for three key words in the Hebrews 13:17 verse:  obey, rule, submissive.  Take a look:

Obey:   <B-2,Verb,3982,peitho>

"to persuade, to win over," in the Passive and Middle Voices, "to be persuaded, to listen to, to obey," is so used with this meaning, in the Middle Voice, e.g., in Acts 5:36-37 (in Acts 5:40, Passive Voice, "they agreed"); Rom. 2:8; Gal. 5:7; Heb. 13:17; Jas. 3:3. The "obedience" suggested is not by submission to authority, but resulting from persuasion.

Rule:  <B-4,Verb,2233,hegeomai>

"to lead," is translated "to rule" in Heb. 13:7,17,24 (AV marg., in the first two, "are the guides" and "guide."

Submissive:  <1,,5226,hupeiko>

"to retire, withdraw" (hupo, under, eiko, "to yield"), hence, "to yield, submit," is used metaphorically in Heb. 13:17, of "submitting" to spiritual guides in the churches.

Please notice that all three words have Hebrews 13:17 referenced.  These are the intended meanings for the words.  I don’t understand how translators determine which words they select for translation work, but it is clear that not every word that you read in the Bible can be defined by using our modern meanings.

In many current Bible translations, the use of these three words give the verse an authoritarian tone.  However, when looking up the meaning of the original words in Greek, the tone of the verse changes significantly.    Let’s look at the original NKJV translation and then replace the three words with the Vines Greek translation to see how the verse tone changes.

Original NKJV:  Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls . . .
and
Vines:  Listen to or be persuaded by those who guide you and yield to them, for they watch out for your souls. . .

The original NKJV sounds heavy-handed, like a master/slave relationship.  The Vines version sounds like a relationship of mutual love and respect, like a mentor.  There is a willingness to yield to a mentor/leader like that because of the trust established in the relationship. 

I can appreciate the kind of relationship demonstrated using the Vines meanings.  I want that kind of person involved in my life, investing in me, guiding me.  That kind of relationship compels me to follow and imitate their lives.  I do not respond well to authoritarian-type personality, someone who lords over me as a master/slave who seems not to care about my well-being, but promotes his position of authority.

Think about the ramifications of this distortion of truth.  I don't consider myself to be one who typically let's someone walk over me, but I was amazed at how this verse (understood with the wrong translation) affected me for several years.  Did these "shepherds" bring God's truth to me or something distorted?  What was the effect of the distorted truth on me?    I trusted godly men to present the truth to me.    This is serious stuff, people!  God's truth must not be distorted for personal gain. 

I will leave you with more resources regarding this verse at the bottom of this post.  There are a multitude of sites devoted to this one verse.  I hope this helps you to see that pastors/elders are not to lord over those they shepherd.  For them to take that stance is wrong and distorts God's intended purpose for an elder/shepherd.  

The following description of an elder sounds like a breath of fresh air to me and note how the tone is more in line with the "Vines" verse above.   I hope everyone can be blessed in a church where elders are like this:
  
1 Peter 5:1-4:  And now, a word to you who are elders in the churches. I, too, am an elder and a witness to the sufferings of Christ. And I, too, will share in his glory when he is revealed to the whole world. As a fellow elder, I appeal to you: 2 Care for the flock that God has entrusted to you. Watch over it willingly, not grudgingly—not for what you will get out of it, but because you are eager to serve God. 3 Don’t lord it over the people assigned to your care, but lead them by your own good example. 4 And when the Great Shepherd appears, you will receive a crown of never-ending glory and honor.  

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Additional References/Articles on Hebrews 13:17

Obey and Submit (Hebrews 13:17) 

Solving The Hebrews 13:17 Dilemma

“Obey” and “Submit” to your Leaders? The Hebrews 13:17 Deception

Hebrews 13:17

Elders: Rulers or Servants Part 1
Elders: Rulers or Servants Part 2
Elders: Rulers or Servants Part 3 
Elders: Rulers or Servants Part 4 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Obey Those Who Rule Over You, and Be Submissive, Part 1


One of the last Sundays at the church, I arrived only to discover that our long-time personal friend who was also on staff at the church was fired.   We were shocked and deeply saddened.   I had arrived early for praise and worship practice as normal, but was obviously not in the right frame of mind for praising and worshiping after hearing the news.    I asked to meet with one of the elders on the praise and worship team and we sat in the back pew of the church while I asked him "why?".  I remember he was gracious and tried to answer as best as he could.  The other elder joined our conversation and the first elder went back to practice with the praise and worship team.  I continued discussing the situation with the second elder. 

It felt odd to be speaking to an elder in the back of the church when I normally would have been with the praise and worship team, but he had things to share with me.  He opened his Bible to Hebrews 13:17 and read it out loud to me.  The version he used was NKJV:

Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.

I don't know how long we sat in the back of the church, but it was long enough to miss the entire praise and worship practice which usually lasted over 30 minutes.  I also don't recall how many times that verse was read to me - especially the first part:  Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, but those words were permanently etched in my brain.

As he read and reread the verse to me, I wondered if he felt I was not obeying.  What was I not obeying?  I did not know.  I was only asking questions, sharing my concerns, thoughts, and disappointments.   How did that equate with not obeying?   This was my friend who was fired.  Didn't I have a right to question why this precious family was being ripped from our church?  Nobody had told me to be quiet, to not have concerns.  As far as I was concerned I wasn't not obeying anything.

Sadly, I have skipped over that verse the last few years.  It has been too painful to read.  I heard it so many times from that elder's lips in an authoritarian fashion that I didn't want to have anything to do with it.  It felt like this elder used this verse to make himself and pastor appear as the authority in my life and used in an effort to make me crumble under the weight of those powerful words.  

Recently, however, I found something very interesting.  Yes, the verse uses the words "obey" and "submit" in the text in many translations, but what is the context of this verse and what is the meaning of the original Greek words?  It never occurred to me to look deeper to find the meaning.  I now firmly believe that this verse was used inappropriately.   I cannot guess whether the leaders in the church have studied this verse or not.  But it was used in a way that benefited them and their assumed authority position over congregants.  Had I known the truth then, I could have responded differently.  Instead, I felt the cloud of authoritarianism and rebuke coming down.  That is absolutely contrary to the examples in Scripture of how a shepherd tends his sheep.  No one should be lording their position over anyone.

As I have been reading more about spiritual abuse, I have run across this Hebrews 13:17 verse used in spiritual abuse situations over and over again.  It is a key verse used by those who spiritually abuse.  Men have distorted God's Truth and have used it to elevate their status in an authoritarian-type position over the lives of their flock.  This is a misuse of scripture and an abuse of God's precious flock.  Look at this verse which discusses how elders should treat the flock:

1 Peter 5: 1-4:  1 The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed: 2 Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; 3 nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; 4 and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.

Take a look at John MacArthur's commentary on the responsibility of a shepherd.  Click on the link below:
  

 We don't read anything about a shepherd "lording" over the flock in this article.


I'm going to to publish this post now and finish the rest later, but in the meantime, I would like to challenge you to look up this verse (Hebrews 13:17) and see if you can find the Greek meanings for the words "obey" and "submit" used in the context of this specific verse.  Keep in mind the words "submit" and "obey" used in this verse may not have the same connotation as "submit" and "obey" used in other verses.   Do the words really mean "obey" and "submit" in the sense that we use the words today?  These are important ideas to consider.  You may be surprised as I was.   Feel free to let me know in the comments area if you find an answer. 


. . to be continued . . . .


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

How People Search for This Blog

Blogger (the hosting site for this blog) gives me behind-the-scene stats on my blog.  Although I am unable to tell exactly who is frequenting the blog, it does give some interesting information.  Here's a picture shown on my stats page of the words/phrases people have used to find this blog.  I guess I'm a nerd because this sort of thing amuses me (click to enlarge).



Yesterday's Comment

Last night "Anonymous" left the following comment and I felt it was worthy of a whole blog post.  The snippets of paragraphs come from the article entitled, "When Should a Christian Leave a Church" at the Battered Sheep website (also noted in this blog's sidebar).   The entire comment is indented and italicized; my comments will not be indented and will be in this font.

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.  

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Does This Sound Familiar?

I ran across this post a while back from SGMSurvivors Blog and bookmarked it because a lot of it rang true to my experience.  I wonder if anyone else can identify with it:

1. A person has a difference of opinion, a question, or a problem.


2. As he’s been trained to do, he approaches leadership with this issue.


3. Leadership is, for whatever reason, not receptive to this person’s point of view, or not equipped (in the professional sense) to deal with the person’s problem. (Here, actually, is where this process hangs on one rusty nail, like my dad would say. As satisfied SGM-ers have pointed out, oftentimes leadership IS approachable and happy to take a seemingly “negative” observation under advisement…or offers up approaches to the member’s problem that the member finds useful and acceptable. When this happens, all is well, and the rest of the steps do not occur. But when the observation is NOT well-received, or the member is NOT helped, we move on to step 4.)


4. Since leadership did not receive the question or negative observation well, or since “indwelling sin” is essentially the only counseling tool in leadership’s toolbox, leadership turns things around and offers up “observations” of its own, directed at the questioning member’s motives, heart, and eventually, sinfulness.


5. At this point, the member is left with two choices. Either he “receives” what leadership says and accepts leadership’s assessment of his sinful motives, or he holds out for his original point. Again, the SGM folks who are satisfied with their church’s structure have found themselves ending the process at this stage, if they weren’t already finished at step #3. However, if the member does NOT accept leadership’s assessment of his sinful motives, and if he does NOT choose to “repent” and give the issue a rest, then he moves on to step #6.


6. Leadership gives the member something of an ultimatum. Either the member submits to what leadership says, or the member is placed on some sort of discipline plan. Failure to submit to the discipline plan will result in step #7.


7. The member is disfellowshipped until he chooses to submit to leadership’s “restoration plan."

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Blank Posts

Two times this week I have lost posts. It appears there is a known issue with iPads and Blogger when editing posts. Now that I know, I'll be sure to type my posts elsewhere and have a backup. My apologies to those who found blank posts twice this week. Everything is fine now.

 Blank Posts

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Leadership Styles

I ran across an interesting blog article (that is noted in my sidebar).  There is a 5-part series called, "The Dark Side of Spiritual Abuse" at The Barnabas Blog written by Philip Harrelson.

Today I read Part 4 a number of times.  So much of it spoke out to me from my own personal experience or the experiences that others have shared with me.    

The blog author mentions the book, Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership, by Gary McIntosh and Samuel D. Rima, and from the book lists five types of leadership styles which can lead towards spiritual abuse:

  • compulsive leader
  • narcissistic leader
  • paranoid leader
  • co-dependent leader
  • passive-aggressive leader

Reading through the examples of the characteristics was quite shocking.  I kept finding myself saying,  "wow, that's it!" over and over again. 

I think this book will be in my Amazon shopping cart shortly.   See if you find yourself nodding your head as you read the blog article.   I found Parts 3 and 4 especially informative. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Lawsuit

Sorry, my cat must have gotten the top of it.  This is the last page of the summons.

When I got home from taking my daughter to volleyball practice the other night, my husband told me that a person knocked at the door and hand-delivered some papers that he had to sign for.  I was handed a pile of legal-looking papers.  I want to inform my readers that Chuck O'Neal and Beaverton Grace Bible Church have filed a legal suit against me and 3 others for defamation with damages to the tune of $500,000.  The summary outlines snippets of quotes from review sites and blog comments.

Obviously it’s not every day that one is sued.  And it’s not very often that I deal with a dollar amount that has so many zeros behind it, but I had some initial thoughts regarding the summons. I first laughed at the absurdity of the whole thing (this seems to be a popular response). 

I also noticed a common phrase in my thoughts:  “what kind of pastor”.

What kind of pastor files lawsuits against Christians?   

Mary Fairchild writes an article for About.com on this topic of Christians suing here:  Should Christians Sue in Court .  Below we find Scripture dealing with this subject:
New International Version (NIV)
1 Corinthians 6
Lawsuits Among Believers
 1 If any of you has a dispute with another, do you dare to take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the Lord’s people? 2 Or do you not know that the Lord’s people will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? 3 Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life! 4 Therefore, if you have disputes about such matters, do you ask for a ruling from those whose way of life is scorned in the church? 5 I say this to shame you. Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers? 6 But instead, one brother takes another to court—and this in front of unbelievers!
 7 The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated? 8 Instead, you yourselves cheat and do wrong, and you do this to your brothers and sisters.

What kind of pastor files lawsuits, period?

What kind of pastor asks for exorbitant amounts of money from families/young adults on limited incomes?

Christians expect pastors to be examples of Christian character, modeling appropriate ways of dealing with conflict, bringing in other people when things get difficult to resolve.  We expect pastors to be able to take criticism and be able to answer questions.  We do not expect pastors to retaliate if they are asked questions or are criticized.  

This lawsuit is frustrating and also makes me sad.   I agree with scripture's process on the handling of disputes and keeping them out of court.  However, it seems this pastor has not chosen to go that route and has instead sued me in the civil court system.  Going to court against another Believer never would have been an option for me.  However, I now have no choice.  I am obligated to respond by obtaining legal counsel or else the case will rule in favor of Chuck O'Neal and the church, including the award of $500,000 in damages.

I think there is a bigger battle going on and it is not mine, but the Lord's.  If there is something I have done wrong in this, I do pray that I would be able to hear His voice. However, I remain confident that God's hand is in this.  He knows this situation and knows my heart.  This is His battle and I am His vessel.  I have nothing to fear.



Wednesday, March 7, 2012

My Sweet Daughter

Admin note: Last week, a blog post entitled, "My Sweet Daughter" was in this spot. It was posted online for several hours.  I put it put in draft mode temporarily to make a minor revision during which my computer crashed. When I got back to the post after getting my computer working again, the blog post was blank, however, the title was still there. The post was meaningful to me and I'd love to have it posted again. If anyone has a copy of it, please contact me: bgbcsurvivors@gmail.com Thanks! 

Stay tuned for more blog posts. 




 Pr 21:15 When justice is done, it brings joy to the righteous
   but terror to evildoers. 

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Rest, Little Kitty


This kitty found us not too long ago.  She was an abandoned kitten and her life existed in in the cold and bitter winter, constantly searching for food and shelter.  The kids placed some food and milk outside and she hung around a bit, coming and going.  Gradually, she let them pet her.   To the children's excitement, one day I let her venture inside the house.  She looked around, but quickly went back outside.  Our home was too foreign for her.  The next day we let her in again and she found a dark, quiet place beneath our couch and slept for a few hours hours.  We could hear purring.   She was at peace.  When we opened the door to let her outside, he put her front two paws outside the door, sniffed the air, but didn't go out all the way.  Stray cat no more, she was home!

Now she is an indoor cat and has no desire to go out in the cold air.   She's full of energy  and playful.  However, there is still something not quite right.  If we put our hand down to touch her, she is very cautious and runs away most of the time.  Occasionally, she'll let us rub beneath her neck and she relaxes a bit.  We've had her for a few weeks now and she still is not completely comfortable with us.  It has to be on her terms.  She cannot simply relax and settle into our lap.  She seems to always have a nervous energy.

This made me think of abuse.  Whenever there is abuse, there are trust issues.  It's difficult to relax, difficult to know how you will be treated.   You always have to be on guard and prepared for the next abuse.  It is a natural protective response, but it takes a lot of energy to live like this.  It takes its toll on a human's body physically, mentally, and emotionally.  If the abuse was spiritual, there can be lasting effects.  Some spiritual abuse victims will leave a church, never to return.

The pastor represents our shepherd and we, the congregants, are the sheep.  In the Bible, our true Shepherd is God.  Very often in our minds, The Shepherd (God) and the shepherd of a church (pastor) get confused.  If we believe that God placed the shepherd (pastor) in the church for us and this shepherd abused us, sometimes that gets equated with God doing the abusing - even though we know that cognitively to be false.   That is why it must be stopped.  Spiritual lives are at stake.  Who wants to risk going back to a church where someone is in authority?  How can I worship God when he placed these pastors in my path?  Oh, it gets very confusing.  Sometimes it's just easier to leave church altogether.
 
I think over time as kitty sees that we love her and she sees that we will never hurt her, she will begin to trust.  I hope one day she will get to experience the sweet peaceful feeling of resting in a warm lap and falling asleep.  She's missing out.   Shame on those who use their position as pastor in to lord over people in a way that makes it difficult to trust.   Take a look at our kitty's eyes in that picture.  This was taken on the first day she found us.  She shows fear.  Those eyes remind me of so many people who have suffered at the hands of a pastor who used his authority to control them. 

I want to be able to rest in my Heavenly Father's lap, unhindered by the pain of the past.  When those shepherds crossed my path, abused their authority to their own gain, it made it hard to trust Him.  Every day my spiritual walk is a struggle.  Will God abandon me?  Will He reject me?  Will He be there to pick me up?  Will He accept me if I fail?  I have to remind myself that God was not the abuser, but man.  One day I hope to rest comfortably in His lap without having those fears and confusing thoughts.  What a joyous day that will be.