Spiritual Abuse Recovery: The New Jezebel: 'How to Identify and Recover from Spiritual Abuse - You Are Not a Jezebel'

recovery from spiritual abuse

spiritual abuse recovery

Thousands around the world have been damaged by bad church experiences and are in need of spiritual abuse recovery. A church atmosphere of spiritual abuse normally has definable elements. An insular and isolated leadership culture is one of those elements. In doctrine, many of these cultures have the theology and language of servanthood. In practical expression, their leadership culture is one of hierarchy, elitism, secrecy, immunity, and privilege.

Many who have had a bad church experience, and are in various stages of spiritual abuse recovery from the hurt of that bad church experience, have to come to grips with a common ploy used by agendized leaders. That ploy is to label anyone who disagrees with them and their “authority” as a Jezebel. It is a persistent problem in many expressions of the body of Christ.

One would think from the amount of teaching, literature, media, and seminars about leadership, that it was a critical component of the gospel message. Yet when we search the Scriptures, we find much about fatherhood (gender-neutral), discipleship, servanthood, and “following,” but little about “leadership.” Madison Avenue corporate values have so poisoned the Western version of the gospel, that we don’t know the difference between effective kingdom ministry and efficient running of an organization. Fortunes have been made in popular Christian literature espousing various “leadership principles” that Jesus would not recognize as His. We think the values of the boardroom and the prayer-room are compatible. They’re not.

Many “independent/non-denominationl networks” are more papist in their leadership theology and practices than the Vatican. Some who ardently and aggressively espouse Protestant Reformation doctrine for salvation are thoroughly Romanist in their practice of leadership. Little Protestant Vaticans abound. The only difference between themselves and Rome is that Rome has worked the matter of its belief and practice regarding “leadership authority” more thoroughly and with more interior logic to its natural conclusion, and isn’t bashful about it.  Protestant popes are just in denial.

Immunity from criticism is expected and promoted by those who have the reins of control in these wicked and toxic church cultures.  In order to maintain this immunity, dissent must be portrayed as disloyalty, and disloyalty must be punished, either overtly by demotion and shunning, or by more subtle methods.

One way a leadership immunity culture is maintained is by inordinate and unidirectional emphasis on honor. That is, honor is defined as never disagreeing with, challenging, or confronting a leader on anything he or she teaches, or in his or her behaviors. In this type of universe, honor flows in only one direction . . . up the hierarchy. The biblical admonitions to honor one another and to honor the least honorable are lost in the sea of leadership privilege. A healthy kingdom culture of mutual honor (including double honor to elders who Gr. proistemi “go before well”, not KJV “rule”) is not to be found, and in its place is a docile, groveling, emasculated servility and the insecure controllers call it “sonship,” loyalty, submission to authority, and honor.

You Are Not a Jezebel

For the last fifteen or twenty years, it was common for any normal expression of personhood that happened to challenge a leader to be dismissed with the epithet of “Jezebel or Absalom spirit,” and “you have a problem submitting to authority.”  Thankfully, that canard no longer has control over many of God’s people the way it used to in the past.[1] But, alas, the ever-inventive, insecure, authority-intoxicated, do not lack for creativity. There is a new-Jezebel, a new dismissive and condescending magic phrase used to assure leadership insularity: “You are wounded;” “you have a wounded spirit,” “your wounded spirit is making you too negative, judgmental, and critical,” “you need counseling and healing.”

This is a kinder-gentler version of the Jezebel accusation. It is an attempt to dismiss the CONTENT of an objection or criticism from someone deemed  as inferior, or not as spiritually-enlightened, by pointing out (accurately or not) the soul-damage of the individual bringing the criticism, or the improper WAY in which the criticism is brought. This is an attempt to come across as “caring” for the individual bringing up the issue, yet still maintain absolute control.  It is a form of condescending paternalism. It is implied that there can be no merit to the objection or criticism, because after all, “Aw, shucks, dearie, you are so wounded . . .”  You are not a Jezebel. You are a functional human being.

Spiritual Abuse Recovery

On our way to spiritual abuse recovery, let’s think about the irrationality of some common “leadership” dynamics in many churches and so-called “networks:”

  1. Could it not be possible that a fully functioning, normal, healthy adult simply disagrees with you and a particular slant on some topic that as a preacher/teacher/pastor/ leader you might be espousing?  Could it be that perhaps, the individual is not wounded, but that you are just wrong, or the individual just has a different perspective or opinion on a matter? As ridiculous as what I am about so say is, in many atmospheres of “spiritual fathering” and “apostolic authority,” that possibility is not seriously allowed. There’s a demeaning attitude where anyone chronologically younger, or spiritually less mature[2] is treated dismissively like a “child” who “just doesn’t get it,” or who “just doesn’t have the revelation,” or “who needs healing.” Never mind that the scriptures say that child-likeness is a key to true spiritual riches, no, no, not for us–we are going to unload our self-perceived, vital profundities on an eternally subordinate class of unenlightened and psychologically co-dependent “children” and call it “spiritual fathering” . . . it is not spiritual fathering. It is an unhealthy need to be needed. It is an addictive need for a compliant and unquestioning audience. Sacrificing  other people’s resources (souls, time, finances, energy) on the altar of personal drive, ego, and ambition for “ministry greatness” and financial security, is not spiritual fathering. It is pimping souls.
  2. For the sake of argument, let’s say the individual is indeed wounded. So what? What has that got to do the merits of the objection they might be bringing? My goodness, even a jackass (Balaam’s donkey) gets it right now and then, and being a jackass doesn’t mean that what the jackass is saying has no merit! How about addressing an issue on the merits, or lack thereof, of an objection, rather than side-stepping the matter because the vessel with the objection is flawed?
  3. What if you, as the “leader” or “spiritual father” of the group are yourself, responsible for the wounding of the those  you are accusing of being wounded! Is dismissing their objections, criticisms, and concerns helping them?  Of course not! It is producing more wounding! YOU ARE THE PROBLEM! As Nathan said to David: YOU ARE THE MAN. It’s like blaming the patient if the surgeon botches the operation!
  4. Is it not likely that we  ALL have been hurt/wounded in some way, and that we are ALL in various stages of transformation into the image of Christ? Why is it assumed that leaders are whole people? It has been my  experience that leaders are just as broken in many areas as the rest of us! But the phony-baloney church leadership culture disallows authenticity and transparency. I was actually taught never to show weakness to someone who is your “subordinate,” because if I did, the subordinate might “lose respect for me” and not “submit to my leadership.”  This makes me want to vomit. I wish I could say I heard this in only one place. I DID NOT. IT WAS NORMATIVE LEADERSHIP TEACHING, summarized by this cute LIE: “Confess up (to superiors); counsel across (to peers); teach down (to “subordinates”) meaning, never show weakness or need to “status equals” or  “subordinates.” This is egregious wickedness masquerading as “leadership teaching.” Some of the most dangerous people I have met are wounded, staggeringly insecure, needy, unhealed, leaders who need the validation of others so badly in order to feel good about themselves and the “revelation” they believe they carry, that they think the rest of the world “just has to hear.” Nobody’s “revelation” is that vital. Just Jesus is.

Conclusion

The next time someone tries to dismiss you with the shibboleth of the hour: “you’re just wounded.” Take heart. You might be, and you might not be, and it has very little to do with the legitimacy of your differences and concerns. If every thought, concern, objection, or criticism you have, is dismissed with the wave of the magic-wand of “woundedness,” you need to rethink your associations. You may be in a cult, and if not a cult, you are in a very unhealthy spiritual relationship. The risk of spiritual abuse, psychological damage, spiritual damage, damage to your marriage, family and friendships is VERY HIGH.

For your sake, I beseech you in the mercies of the Lord, do not let other psychological and social pressures keep you in an environment and relationships that are detrimental to your spiritual well-being. You are responsible for your own spiritual abuse recovery. Make a change, no matter what the cost. Do not expose yourself or the ones you love to church abuse masquerading as loyalty and submission to leadership.

For a podcast interview on this topic please go to: http://stevebremner.com/2012/05/the-new-jezebel/


[1] Everyone I have ever heard teach on that topic has himself, had a problem with authority. The strength of sin is the law. When an individual harps on a topic, he or she has a problem with that topic in his/her own lives. The folks I have heard teach about Jezebel and Absalom, themselves are Jezebelian and they use the teaching of it to cover their own desire for control and power.

[2] In some cases, just being female is enough to dismiss you.

Copyright 2012,  Dr. Stephen R. Crosby, www.stevecrosby.org. Permission is granted to copy, forward, or distribute this article for non-commercial use only, as long as this copyright byline, in totality, is maintained in all duplications, copies, and link references.  For reprint permission for any commercial use, in any form of media, please contact stephcros9@aol.com.

79 comments on “Spiritual Abuse Recovery: The New Jezebel: 'How to Identify and Recover from Spiritual Abuse - You Are Not a Jezebel'

  1. Dr. Crosby, thank you so much for this. Church “leadership” is one of my pet peeves – as I was recently told by someone who has studied the concept there is no word for “leadership” in either the Old or New Testament – biblical “leaders” are identified as “servants of the Lord.” My complaint is that it seems to me that corporate American has determined what church leadership should be – we the church have borrowed from all their leadership models and books to determine how we servants of the Lord should lead. Somehow the two just don’t go together even though we try to make it happen by calling church leaders “servant leader!” Ha! It’s just another way that the world has influenced the church instead of the other way around. I love to be challenged or questioned by one of my members because I’m often the one who needs to learn something new not them! Thanks again for this post.

    • Thanks Jim. I must have been feeling cranky this morning. 🙂 . . .. actually, I have had to face that thing again in some circumstances where people are being devastated, and I have just had it . . . fed up with it, fed up with the disingenuousness. so, I got it out of my system today. 🙂

  2. Great sharing – so true that for relationships to be healthy there must be a “two way street”.

    Openness, honesty, and transparency really only happens in an environment of mutual love and respect.

  3. As always, well-written and spot-on, Stephen! It is past time to set the priesthood free by saying, “Stop looking to other PEOPLE (especially those who are not clearly motivated by the Spirit) for validation or understanding.” Doing so is voluntarily subjecting oneself to evaluations by mere human beings (you’re wounded, you’re rebellious, you’re arrogant, you’re wrong–which can often be “projection”!). Above and beyond fatherhood, discipleship, servanthood (and I might add “leadership”), we should simply heed the Lord’s words: “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27). It’s that simple. “MY voice…the follow ME.” If we have the indwelling Spirit and truly observe the “one anothers”, we should all be hearing that One Voice and be able to follow together. Each of us is who Father says we are. We all have spiritual mentors, but they are fallible. They have neither the authority nor the ability to “fix” you. We are exhorted to hear the voice of the Good Shepherd and follow HIM. If a human mentor gets between us and the Shepherd instead of also following with us (side-by-side), they are disobedient to His command. Woe and whoa! The role of the spiritual father (or mother), discipler or servant is to show us how to FOLLOW as they follow along with us. Paul wrote about themes of fathering, discipling and serving. But he preached only one thing: Christ! “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” (1 Corinthians 2:2). All of his other teaching was to explain what following Christ looks like. Followership is more than a theme; it is the imperative! There is a very real difference between brokenness before the Lord and what the world calls “woundedness”. I will walk confidently with my limp, and I will mutually submit to my fellow-followers in love. But I won’t be subject to the tyranny of someone’s “opinon”…because Father says I don’t have to!

  4. Very much appreciate this, Steve. Very thoughtful. There is, however, even in the church, true servant leadership. I have witnessed and experienced both. Bless you and Rita.

  5. Think of all the messianic first-last/last-first principles that are violated with “leadership” as well. Titles, self-promotion, prominence in where one sits, turning all four cheeks….

  6. ONLY TOO TRUE. MY WIFE AND I JUST WENT THROUGH THIS TYPE OF SITUATION 2 WEEKS AGO. OUR CURRENT PASTOR WAS PASSING AROUND A BOOK IN OUR LOCAL CHURCH. IT WAS SAID OVER THE PULPIT BEFORE THE SUNDAY SERMON THAT THIS BOOK WAS REQUIRED READING, AND IT WAS NOT TO BE CRITIQED. EACH PERSON WAS REQUIRED TO SIGN THAT THEY HAD READ IT. WHEN IT CAME TIME FOR US TO READ THE BOOK, WE WERE EAGER TO SEE WHAT IT WAS ABOUT AND WHAT THE PASTOR WAS TRYING TO PROMOTE.
    THE NAME OF THE BOOK IS “GOD’S ARMOR BEARER”. MY WIFE AND I BOTH HAD HOLY SPIRIT BELLS AND SIRENS GOING OFF EACH CHAPTER WE READ. I ASKED THE PASTOR IF WE COULD HAVE A MEETING WITH HIM ABOUT THE BOOK, AS WE HAD SOME SERIOUS CONCERNS. DURING THE MEETING IT WAS SAID THAT BECAUSE WE WERE NOT WILLING TO SIGN THE BOOK WE BOTH WERE IN DISUNITY AND NOT HONORING THE PASTOR AND TOLD WE WERE RELIEVED OF OUR WORSHIP LEADING AND WORSHIP DIRECTING RESPONSIBILITIES IMMEDIATLY AND INFORMED THAT WE WERE BEING REPLACED. MY WIFE AND I CO-LEAD WORSHIP, – I FROM THE DRUMS AND SHE FROM THE KEY BOARD. WE WERE ABLE TO LEAVE THE MEETING ON A GOOD NOTE.WE WERE ABLE TO PRESENT MANY ISSUES WITH THE BOOK AND ALSO SHARE OUR OPINIONS OF THE UNBIBLICAL AND OUT-OF-CONTEXT THEOLOGY COONCERNING THE BOOK. WELL…SUNDAY MORNING WAS A LITTLE AWKWARD FOR MOST OF THE CONGREGATION AND US. WE HAVE BEEN ABLE TO ENCOUNTER THE LEADING OF THE HOLY SPIRIT IN AND THROUGH THE WHOLE ORDEAL, AND WE WILL BE LEAVING THAT LOCAL BODY TOMORROW.
    WE WILL BE ABLE TO SHARE OUR LOVE TO THE BODY AND BE PRAYED FOR BEFORE LEAVING. WE ARE NOT BITTER OR ANGRY, DISGRUTLED, WOUNDED OR OFFENDED, BUT LOOKING FORWARD WITH GREAT EXPECTENCY TO THE NEW CHAPTER GOD HAS FOR OUR FAMILY. {KEEPNG CHRIST FIRST AND FOREMOST IN OUR LIVES}.

    DAVE

    • Amen! Christ First! Christ Foremost . . . You guys have only begun to find your stride . . . just watch as things exponentially explode for you . . . in a good sense. Love to you and your family.

    • Dave – You may be the first to have the courage, but you wont be the only ones to be thinking and feeling something other than the paster does about this. You made the very best choice… bless you.

    • Having just completed my reading of Steven’s book “Authority, Accountability, and The Apostolic Movement”, I am browsing this site forme more! I need a powerful shower of Gospel sanity! I am truly grateful for God’s Word and for His Holy Spirit, my one and only source! And I am grateful for someone like Stephen and for his compassion.
      So, I was curious and checked out the book you are mentioning…I wanted to vomit…mostly when I read people’s comments and rating of this cultish abomination manual…thousands of sheep, manipulated into submission to man!!! The horror makes my heart shutter! They are being whipped and loving it 😱
      I cannot emphasized enough the urgent NEED for EVERY SINGLE believer to READ the Word daily and IN CONTEXT!!! Years of this practice has saved my spiritual life and kept me sane and bold in proclaiming the TRUTH in the face of subtle deception.
      Jesus is my one and ONLY shepherd. He ALONE is the lover of my soul and the keeper of my heart.
      Thanks again Stephen, GOD bless you abundantly! Hope we meet someday!

  7. I can’t say “Amen” enough times to this, Steve. Thanks, I feel a sense of vindication by what you’ve said.
    It never ceases to amaze me the many creative ways we can marginalize one another to make ourselves feel superior.

  8. Brilliant article and brilliant blog! I do want to query though (on a slightly tangential note)- what about when this spirit does manifest through a non-Christian in a corporate culture; I am in the process of collating research on a book I want to write abt how the jezebel and ahab spirits work to bring down Christians with corporate ministries. (And of course I accept that we are all flawed, and that all such corporate Christians are not necessarily Elijahs.)

      • H there; sorry 😉 I am saying that there are times when I have seen this spirit at work in a workplace setting, where it operates through people in authority who are NOT Christian (in fact in the last incident like this, the person advocated middle-eastern religionS etc and opendly denied Christ!), and where the primary mandate is to bring Christian people down who have workplace ministries.

        What about instances like these? Do you believe then that the Christians addressing those issues simply have issues with authority or that they genuinely do see jezebel manifesting. (I understand that the situation in each instance is more complex and that I am giving you an overarching, broad strokes’ view of the “problem” at hand.)

        • Hello Rita, Thanks. In my opinion there are no limitations of arena for a control/Jezebelian spirit to work: marriage, friendships, job/work, church, government. The question often becomes, not what we see or observe, in the spirit or otherwise, but how to address the matter with wisdom that does besmirch the Lord’s testimony or open us up to unnecessary ridicule and misunderstanding. Seeing/recognizing it is not enough. Having wisdom in how to deal with it is the crux of the matter to me.

  9. Re: “Counsel down, confess up”

    Steve, this really is sick. Are people teaching this on a wide spread basis? I have always thought the best way to confess sin is to call on one of your old friends in the Lord. Have people actually managed to bring a hierarchy into this?

    I am aware that some groups who want “covenants of submission” from you, are the least trustworthy people on the planet, and should be avoided at all costs. But “Counsel down, confess up,” I’ve never heard that, going back to the late-sixties – early seventies. How long has it been going on, and is it wide spread?

    Regards. Fob James

    • Hello Fob, I wish I could say that teaching is a thing of the past. It is not. It is widespread in many non-affiliated/charimatic-type/apostolic-prophetic type groups. Just last night I was with a young man and his family who graduated from a well known Pentecostal Bible College just a few years ago . . . he shared with me that is exactly what he was taught also . . .

      I share your assessment about the whole covenants of submission stuff too. We were in a group that tried to enforce that. Just this week two friends of mine left a church where they were leaders when the pastor tried to start enforcing stuff like that . . . requiring them to sign what amounted to a pledge that they would never question anything.

      This stuff is alive and well . . . regrettably. Mostly in the remnants of charismaticdom . . . but not limited to it, like I said, the young man was at a very traditional Pentecostal College

  10. Hi Steve…
    As ever you just dont mess around!!! Thankfully.
    Yes have been there, done that, got the T-shirt, though “R” & “J” words were still very popular at the time… gladly that particular cult meeting hall… oops sorry . church.. has now closed.
    what are the R & J words???? Rebellion n Jezabel and that particular brand if cul… er church would also say one needed deliverance…

  11. I want to know where Joel is so I can go there! Ha.
    Steve, I’m printing this and leaving it on the windshield of a visiting pastor I know. (-; Thank you, thank you, thank you. If all the people in leadership would have as a “teachable spirit” as they want their “flock” to have, there would be a better church body. Those that preach; “We’re all disciples of Christ and you don’t need to call your pastor to pray and minister healing to someone, you can do it yourself”. Then follow that up with: “You must find a body to connect with and submit yourself to the pastor”.
    What does that even mean? … If you leave to follow the Lord’s call on your life without my permission I’ll never speak to you again?
    Or if you dare to question me I’ll admonish you in front of the whole congregation…out of love you understand.
    I so pray that this would start a fire through out the whole western culture’s church that would burn all this dross out of it’s system. Lord show your blood bought freedom to see the light and change into a bride without spot or wrinkle. In Jesus’ mighty name I pray.

  12. Seems that in many churches today (as in the past) the two favorite games played are Sinon says and follow the leader. It seems to me that It’s time to grow up and refuse to play childish games. After all, “If the blind lead the blind both fall into the ditch.”

  13. Wow Steve..have been in a couple of these places…where lies are bought and truth is sold for the sake of “the culture” and not the kingdom of God. I’ve come down harshly on my wife at times for her rightly recognizing this stuff. It’s like you’re saying, where’s the maturity in leadership that can handle the truth, and can raise up sons and daughters. affirming the gifts and truth they bring, no matter what packaging it comes in, and helping them come to maturity so they can go beyond where the leader has done. What confusion this has brought..thanks for speaking out about it.

  14. Thank you for sharing this. It brought healing and encouragement; as well as confirmation that I do hear God’s voice and I’m on the straight and narrow…following His lead. 🙂

  15. Steve, My wife and I went through this 30 + years ago in the “Discipleship/Shepherding Movement” By the grace of God we survived. As a result, we can smell it before we see it. It is sad that this is still a plague on the Body of Christ.

    • Hi Ed, I wish I could say the issue has vanished. It has not. It is common in mainly independent/charismatic/apostolic-prophetic style churches and networks. Just talked to a young man in his mid 30’s last night who said he was taught this stuff in his Pentecostal seminary.

  16. Hello Stephen, Thanks for your article. You have addressed a subject that needs to be dealt with if the church is to be sound. Jesus addressed it when he advised to take the lowest seat at the feast, and when he said of those rulers that lord it over them, and that it should not be so among us. The kingdom of God is different than the world. Leaders are afraid that being transparent with their flock will undermine their authority. Among those who are fleshly it indeed will. That is one of the issues that Paul wrestled with in second Corinthians. Every true apostle will have as part of his gifting, the gift of transparency. God gives him this gift so that those that are coming up around him can see that our walk is not magic and it is not easy. Those in leadership are not special, but just have a gift of authority, and hopefully more time and trials in the faith.
    I recently had a direct in the spirit encounter with the spirit of Jezebel working in concert with the spirit of witchcraft. I addressed the witchcraft spirit, (because it was the one trying to directly come against me), and when I did, instead of the witchcraft spirit answering me the spirit of Jezebel addressed me and said that the witchcraft spirit was working under her, (the spirit of Jezebel’s ), direction. I had this experience after speaking with someone who was under the power of the spirit of Jezebel. A large part of witchcraft is to exercise power and authority over someone through manipulation. If you would ever like to talk about it, please call (Brian Williams 574-367-8920)

  17. Wow. You have written my story in part here. Thank you for the encouragement. Bless you muchly! (and…made me laugh…you’d be accused of being wounded/rebellious/unable to submit if you wrote/spike this to my EX pastor!!!)

  18. Steve, if you haven’t heard from Dave & Joy in a while. They r going through this right now. They have asked to leave for not signing a do not challenge the Pastor and always agree. Very sad this the very issue that God is using for me to move on. Even r youth pastor stood up and got canned. I am so glad we r strong enough to standup to it. No man can spoil our love for what god wants to do.

  19. I’m a friend of Steve Hill and got to your article through his FB post. For the past 13 years, I’ve done business (insurance) with thousands of church leaders of all kinds from all kinds of churches, in almost every state. I’ve encountered some wonderful men and women of God. It’s also been very difficult at times seeing the type of leadership and control that gets asserted over people in the body. It’s sad from both counts – the leader is not living in God’s joy, and cannot, and those around him aren’t free to passionately launch into their missions will boldness and full partnership.
    I personally had to make a very tough decision within the past few years and leave the church family I’d been a part of for almost 14 years, and since the day I’d become a believer. There were so many good things that happened there, and I’m so thankful for it; but it came to be where every time I came into the building I felt like I was being choked. We would share prophetic vision about what God wanted to do, but then for years we’d never make any changes to move in that direction. I couldn’t emotionally take it any more. It was hard to move my family on, and my wife didn’t understand for some time, but now she sees that it was necessary and unfortunate. We had so many friends. I’d talked many times to elders and friends about it, but it became clear that nothing was going to change. It was very hard for me.
    So, I’ll certainly take the affirmation of articles like yours that I don’t have to feel guilty or condemned over these things. I know you don’t know me or my circumstances, but I share your grief over this matter. I most certainly do.

    • Thanks Peter. I understand. God’s great redemptive reach does not preclude him doing “good things” in “bad atmospheres” with “unhealthy and unwhole people.” We are all unwhole to some degree. However, the reality of God’s redemptive reach, his ability to work and do good things in very toxic places, does not mean we endorse the toxicity, those who are the source of it, and expose ourselves to its effects. If direct confrontation does not result in healing and change in those with the issue, we are not required to allow ourselves to be devastated and violated. We get to make a change, and take our grief with us. Indeed, I never would say this is easy, but necessary things rarely are. I pray the same for you as I do for Ruth. The issue is not “finding another church.” It is finding safe hearts to be knit to in Him. The two are not categorically the same.

      • Steve, I admire you taking the time to respond to everyone’s comments (including mine, of course), which I have read. I’ve thought at times it might have been easier if things were “all bad,” then it would have been a no-brainer, so to speak. There was not enough affirmation, like you are giving, of the validity of my concerns and of me seeking out healthy relationships (which I have and am) in the body for me and my family. Part of the dynamic in situations like this is an unhealthy loyalty by some of the members. I even had a lady come up and give me a “prophetic warning” about not speaking against the Sr Pastor (which I had no intention of doing) – I was really taken aback; I’d know the person for years and respected them.
        Crazy stuff happens. God is a good father, and my goal is to learn from all this and follow his fathering example.

  20. I was reading through the posts and was wondering exactly what Rita talked about before I even got to her post (“does this happen in the workplace?”) I just came out of a situation where my superior was constantly “pointing out” areas were I wasn’t submitting to her authority. The more secular terms were “not being a team player, not giving 100%, etc.” At first I was totally baffled because I had no idea where she was getting this. My actions and attitude were the total opposite of her description of the given situations. After a while I realized it probably didn’t matter what I said or did because her mind was made up. (She is not a believer.) I spent an incredible amount of time in prayer before the Lord on this because I knew I couldn’t (or shouldn’t) let it turn into bitterness on my part. I continually asked the Lord to bless her. I felt the Lord wasn’t going to release me from the situation until I had learned a few things about forgiveness, especially when it is not asked for or believed by the other party to be due. After all, they did nothing wrong and only pointed out my “shortcomings.” So now after more than 2 years of this, the Lord has provided an incredible opportunity that is far better than I could have ever planned for myself. I continue to pray for her but still wonder how things got so messed up. Thank you so much for the article and letting me know I’m not crazy!

  21. “The Leadership Paradox” by Denny Gunderson hammers on the mentality that you address in this blog. It is the best book on servanthood that I have ever read. It is a convicting read if anyone gets a chance to read it.

  22. I’m quite a direct person who has always wanted to ask questions of everything to help myself understand reasons why. I grew up in a network of charismatic churches where I was eyed suspiciously and often told I had a rebellious spirit and a problem with authority. I loved God and my church elders with all my heart and was so frustrated that my longing to understand was such an awful thing. I totally believed that it was my problem and tried and tried to be less questioning, more accepting, even when some things seemed so incongrous with Scripture. By the time I was old enough to leave and change churches I was pretty confused about many things. I tried two other churches, each for a few years. The first quickly used the ‘problem with authority’ response to me, the second used the ‘you have a problem and need counselling’. Again, I believed both and went through counselling to try to break my rebellious spirit.
    I finally gave up the fight, really. I love God. God answers my prayers, is constantly there for me, never misses a beat in my life. I have amazing Christian friends who meet, support, text and email me but I miss church, I miss fellowship and worship.
    Your writing gives me hope that there are pastors out there who would put up with my asking ‘why?’ but to be honest I’m too scared/exhausted to start searching for a church again after all these years!
    Like one of your previous posters I wish I knew where your church is but I suspect I’m in the wrong continent!
    Sorry for such a long comment. Just to clarify, my questioning ‘why?’ was on things like ‘why must we wear head coverings (my first church in the 80s who no longer do anyway), why can’t women lead worship, why don’t we have a child protection policy…anything that to me seemed illogical or unbiblical or just plain irresponsible.

    • Thanks Ruth. I understand. The question to ask is not “where should I go to church”, but “in whose hearts can I be safe as we follow Jesus together.” The issue is finding healthy people, not a “place to go.” Pray the Lord leads you to healthy people. They are out there, and perhaps in some of the places we might least expect.

    • Hi Ruth, I was really moved by your story.
      I just wanted to encourage you that there are churches that are healthy as Steve says.. those are the ones who seek to help the people to develope their own relationship with God for themselves, the kind that dont freak out cos you dont fit the hole they dug for you and allow you to be who you are without being threatened by your uniqueness and openess. Basically the folks who like to control you in this way are in themselves so insecure then need to control their own environment and you are part of that environment so you get controlled. It is usually those who “ask” questions and “challenge” the way things are done, not done, preached etc that have escaped the controls and so in order to make you the problem, the jezabel/rebellion/need ministry crock is trotted out. in short the ripples of this to everyone else is…
      1. you are to be treated with suspicion
      2. you are someone to keep at a distance
      3. you are the problem
      4 anyone else joining in will be treasted in the same way and trust me that one bring a fear of man and bam!!! the congregation know what is expected and accepted.
      The people learn to dance a dance to the tune of the preacher and in the dancing they are careful to take all the right steps and keep off the preachers toes. It is then we spiral into a game of survival and we compromise!.
      It takes strength to walk away and it comes from a deep conviction. I just want to encourage you Ruth… You are better out than in if being in means compromising… BUTwe all thrive in fellowship and yes… do ask the Lord to open a door for fellowship of the healthy kind, it is out there. So what continent are you on? Bless ya
      Jayne x

      • Thank you for your reply. It is a relief not to be judged and your words and Steve’s words have brought a smile to my face! I’m in Sussex, England.

      • Hi Ruth.. we are UK too. Stoke on Trent. If you would like to email me at any point Im sure Steve can pass my email to you… on FB as well. Jayne x

    • Ruth, without really realizing it until I read your comments. I’m exactly like you are. But I not only “ask” questions, I question things thus I’m pretty much feeling less than appreciated in the churches I’ve attended. I am constantly getting myself into trouble because I question so much. Only recently I was accused of “not being in order” when I questioned something. Of course I picked during the person’s ministering to ask. Not good! I too have dropped out of church until recently when we found a small country church we started going to Wed. night bible study. Have attended a few Sunday mornings but because of a health issue I just can’t make it in the mornings and I really don’t want to go because of the churchism thing. I just wanted you to know your not the only one to ask questions. I genuinely want to know why people believe the things they do and why people want to put God in a box constantly. I like the advice Steve gave you, I wish you richest blessings in that. That has been my dream for over 15 yrs. To find a group where I feel completely safe. Steve do you really think that is possible?

      • Sharon, it took me 35 years of frustration, but I have found those kind of people, with no agenda other than love and my welfare. However, they are outside of “organized” religion, and I do not mean organic church or house church. Those are just different types of organized religion to me. We love and relate to one another and while we “meet” and gather on occasion, meetings, and what happens in meetings are not the center of our existence. We do not meet for fellowship. We meet because we are in fellowship.

  23. Hi Steve. Two things come to mind as I think about what you wrote. First when Paul confronted Peter about his hypocrisy and secondly, when Jesus washed his disciples feet setting the example for anyone who wanted to be “great” in the kingdom of God.

  24. Thank you so much for this post. Just read it after an amazing day of serving in our community outside the walls of the church we had left two years ago due to the very things your shared. Just confirmation on the calling God has placed our our lives. What a great tool God has given you. Please keep the post coming.

    Cris Nole
    The Front Porch

  25. My brother, you are hitting your spiritual stride with this one. With your permission, I am going to distribute this to all the elders in the communities with whom we relate. The treatment of this topic is vital! Keep on hearing, my brother and keep on expressing! It’s Him through you! Peace!

  26. I first went through a church situation where I was dismissed by the statement you are wounded and need healing. First I was falsely accused in a semi-public setting in a very dishonorable way During this meeting, the leadership had made a mistake by losing control and allowing me to see their real side, true-blue hypocrites. I experienced shot-gun disciplship, psychological manipulation, whispering propoganda where I was scapgoated, and everyone believed I was the problem. This was the only thing that they could do to save their skin, they lied, and broke up relationships by telling people others had something against them which they did not etc. I was totally totally crushed by this. Two weeks ago, I had a priviledge of going through this again, false accusation, spiritual abuse. Those who were accusing me, they themselves had 3 of the 1 Cor 5:11 sin list (I found this out later). Thankfully, it was not as hard this time. I just shook the dust off and went on. It was still hard, but everything is in God’s hands.

  27. Hi Steve, what a blessing it was to read this article.
    This was my life in the ministry, I am still seen as bitter and unforgiving because I say something about their flawed and abusive system. The extensive damage done to myself and my family has been used to discredit my concerns..To me it is absurd, but they just do not see it. It is a deception. We are out and trying to recover. I almost want to send this to several people but I know they are not ready to accept it. Please pray for my family as we still suffer,and for the abused church.
    Thank you, thank you, thank you for putting my thoughts into your blog so eloquently.

    • Hello Heidi, I am sorry for your pain, but I am glad the piece was a help to you. I understand what you are going through. We went through the same and almost didn’t recover. Took us years. I pray yours will be much quicker. There is life “after church”. 🙂

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