Saturday, February 15, 2020

Christianity and Politics


Conservative Christian involvement in politics has been going on for a lot of years now. In my memory, it seemed to have started with Jerry Falwell and his Moral Majority which functioned from 1979 through the late 80's, according to Wikipedia. Since then, the Christian conservative right has been building steam, culminating in what we see today- conservative evangelicals neck deep in politics. My question- how Christian is a “Christian” political movement in the first place?





Control Issues

This can all be reduced to one question- who is in control? Do Christians think this will make their lives easier? Control the government, have an easier life? And it truly is a matter of control. Christians clearly want control of government. 

Was Jesus an advocate of control? Hardly. That’s the devil’s wheelhouse. And He certainly wasn’t an advocate of controlling the government of His day. Jesus’ followers were expecting Him to do just that but He didn’t. He loved them all, and showed them a higher, better way- the way of love, forgiveness and serving.

But somehow that just doesn’t fit into the conservative agenda; it has become far more important to demonize and defeat the other side and take control. Does this sound like Jesus at all? He told us to seek FIRST the Kingdom of God, but the Church seems to be completely consumed with retaining control of the White House. Are conservative evangelicals pulling the strings, or is Jesus? This quest for power and control is disturbing.
Power corrupts, and when a church leader who already has significant influence gains an audience or role as an advisor to someone with significant political power, it becomes difficult to remain a person of faith and character. Usually, the political agenda and the religious agenda are merged. Then, the politician sounds as though he shares the church leader’s values, and the church leader is associated with platform positions that are not defensible from a Christian perspective... (1)
Puppet is free clipart from clker.




Faith vs Fear
Merriam-Webster's definition of partisan- a firm adherence to a party, faction, cause or person; especially: one exhibiting blind, prejudiced, and unreasoning allegiance.
Partisan politics are just that- partisan, requiring adherence to one party, necessitating the rejection of the other. Political involvement breeds disdain and often outright hate for the other side, all fueled by fear. Both sides are guilty of sowing fear of what the others will do if given power. 

Where is the faith in any of this? It boils down to Christianity vs Politics, or Faith vs Fear. In my opinion, you can’t have it both ways. You are either operating out of fear of what the other side will do, or you’re operating in faith, believing God in spite of what the government does. And the Kingdom of God and the Great Commission are completely lost in the quest for power.

The fear campaigns have raged for years, sucking in all those who choose to listen, breeding hate galore. The groundwork got laid decades ago, and now each side absolutely hates and demonizes the other. Christian? I don’t think so. Christians have very effectively planted their faith in the political system, in politicians, and in an earthly government, striving for control, and thoroughly convinced they are right. And all of it has been motivated out of fear. The Church has drunk the Kool Aid.

True Christianity is not fear-fueled. Perfect love casts out fear, and thus doesn’t live its life motivated by fear of what the other side might do. All this political action is clearly motivated by control and fear. We gotta have control, or the others will destroy us!

Scared man is free image from clker.




 The Strife Factor
 
Again, it’s PARTISAN politics, meaning you take one side or the other. The Bible doesn’t speak favorably of those who promote strife and division, and this is all this political movement does- it exploits Christians’ attitudes in order to control government, multiplying the divisiveness in our society. And for Christians to join in and compound the strife is deplorable- it is thoroughly contrary to the Kingdom of God.

But that’s not the worst of it. This whole conservative, evangelical and primarily white movement is creating a huge division in the Body of Christ, and the devil is loving it- he is exploiting all this to divide and conquer. Church- you are being used!

People that fall into this kind of thinking will just assume that if you aren't for one side, then you MUST be for the other side. A politicized brain will think along party lines and just can't seem to think outside that strife-ridden hate-mongering political box. Tunnel vision is the result with the only goal in mind being political power. What happened to the Kingdom of God in all this? Frankly, it got shoved to the side in favor of worldly power now.
Rom 16:17  Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.

1 Cor. 3:3- For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?

James 3:16- For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.

Donkey elephant image is free clipart from Wikimedia.




Hate Thine Enemy

In the Name of Jesus, the Church is promoting hate, strife, divisions and a morally superior attitude that the world sees as incredibly hypocritical. They want control because they fear the other side, and hate is the nasty by-product of all this. And as far as I can tell, Christians have managed to justify this underlying hate without really even acknowledging that it's there.

I find it amazing that well-meaning, otherwise sound thinking Christians can see the "other side" as so thoroughly evil, and exude such hate toward them, and not be even slightly convicted. Like I said, the groundwork for this was laid decades ago, hate and fear having been sown for all things liberal. The attitudes have been pervasive and justified for years, and the ridiculous thing is, one side is no doubt just as guilty as the other of sowing fear and hate. And who knows how much, either way, is actually true? But you gotta believe every negative thing you hear about the other side! But anything negative about my side? Lies, it's all lies! No, it's manipulative politics and a power grab.

Angry man is free image from Pixabay.



Herd Mentality

The way Christians have flocked to this mindset has been, to me, mind-boggling. The reasoning they use is all very consistent, with most using the same logic, the same arguments, the same attitudes. With so many big names involved, and the talking points all gone over in churches across the country, it's like a complete take-over of the American church has been pulled off via YouTube and social media. Church leaders are all in lockstep, influencing their congregations who are falling into line without questioning any of it.

Just because everyone else is doing it, does that mean you have to?

To challenge any of this brings a response that is impossible to reason with. And from years of experience, that kind of knee-jerk reaction is suspect to start with and immediately makes me wonder what's behind it all. Priorities have been shifted from bringing the love, forgiveness and grace of the Kingdom of God to a dying world to a dogged determination to control government and squash the other side whatever the cost.

Jesus said that the way is narrow that leads to life (Matt. 7:13-14). Herd mentality leads to error; we are called to be led by the Spirit, not by what everyone else is saying and doing?

Again, just because everyone else is doing it, does that mean you have to?

Sheep herd is free clipart from clker.

The beauty of the cross and the magnetic quality of Calvary-quality love has been smothered in a blanket of self-righteous, self-serving, moralistic posturing. (2)



 Will the Real Church Please Stand Up?

This has gone on long enough. Christians have no business justifying their fear, their hate, their promotion of strife and division, and their desire for control. We have been shown a higher way- the Kingdom of God. We are to demonstrate that Kingdom by loving, not hating, by sowing reconciliation, not strive and division, and allowing Jesus to be the Head of His body.

Political leaders are just that- political. They of necessity are partisan, full of strife and division, power hungry and full of the hate that goes with it all. We have no business promoting this worldly way of doing things. And again, Jesus rejected this mindset. He was offered this kind of worldly power in the temptation; He chose the way of love, the way of sacrifice, the way of reconciliation. He resisted the devil. But the American church has chosen to bow the knee and in so doing, has compromised itself.

The cost for this depth of involvement in worldly politics is the fruit of the Spirit. Where is the love? the joy? the peace? the patience? the kindness???? When political domination takes over your thinking, the fruit of the Spirit disappears. It's like the people on the "other side" don't qualify as humans, as God's creations. They are demonized and hated, and all this is justified in their thinking. 

Jesus said, You will know them by their fruit. Is a political mindset destroying your fruit? I'm certainly not saying you shouldn't vote; you should. It's a matter of how deeply you sink yourself into the world's way of doing things. What I've seen is not the real Church. Is the Kingdom of God your priority or is political domination? Has patriotism completely overshadowed the cross?

And honestly, if you look at it from a biblical viewpoint, it actually looks a whole lot like idolatry and spiritual adultery- church people putting their trust in third party "prophecies" and political leaders rather than in their God. Misplaced trust in the world's way of doing things is deadly- it will kill you spiritually.
...the spirit of whoredoms hath caused them to err, and they have gone a whoring from under their God.  Hos. 4:12 KJV
What if the Church spent as much time in prayer and really listening to the Spirit as it does listening to all those worldly voices out there? God can accomplish a whole lot more through a body that will cooperate, submit to Him, and let Him do things His way. That requires laying down all the fear, control, manipulation and hate and learning to live by faith, being led by the voice of God, and manifesting the fruit of the Spirit to all, regardless of political persuasion. Seek FIRST the Kingdom of God.
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.  2 Cor. 103-5 NASB

Tree Planted by Water is free clipart from christart.



WWJD?

Jesus probably would... be the only person to bring Democrats and Republicans together. (3)

We have far too often placed our worldly citizenship before our heavenly citizenship (Phil. 3:20) and allowed the flag to smother the cross. (4)


1 Hager, Glenn. An Irreligious Faith: How to Starve Religion and Feed Life (p. 57). Communitas Books. Kindle Edition.
2 Boyd, Gregory A. The Myth of a Christian Nation: How the Quest for Political Power Is Destroying the Church, Zondervan, 2005, p. 138
3 Hager, Glenn.  p. 78.      
4 Boyd, Gregory A. p. 111



For a little more information on how some of this may have begun, see my post:

The Trump Prophecies: Believe Them Without Questioning?


Recommended Reading


An Irreligious Faith: How to Starve Religion and Feed Life by Glenn Hager
This is Hager's personal account of his church experience and what led to his leaving institutional church. He has a lot of great ideas for the church of the future.








The Myth of a Christian Nation: How the Quest for Political Power Is Destroying the Church by Gregory Boyd
Boyd makes a clear distinction between the Kingdom of God and earthly kingdoms, and explains how the American church has blurred the lines between nationalism and Christianity to the hurt of the Kingdom of God.



Tuesday, February 11, 2020

The Trump Prophecies: Believe Them Without Questioning?

How Gullible Are We?


 I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. (Acts 20:29-30)

There has been an enormous amount of prophetic rhetoric flowing from some quarters of the Christian community for years concerning this administration.

Having been a part of the charismatic branch of the Church for many years, I understand the mindset in that when a prophecy is given, the tendency is to consider it a true Word from the Lord. But after having been through an abusive church experience, I have learned the hard way to look at everything twice.
Take heed that no man deceive you. (Mt. 24:4)
I wanted to find out how all this blind loyalty got started, and in a quick internet search I found what is probably the beginnings- “prophecies” from a guy named Mark Taylor. With the help of a co-author Mary Colbert and her connections as an established writer and editor, the rest is history. So all this can be traced back to one guy and his author helper. One human, subject to error, and untested for the most part, has influenced thousands. (1)



Are We Lemmings?

It looks to me like the church as a whole is by far too easily led into error, partly because we have been conditioned to think like dumb sheep, or more accurately, to not think at all, letting the leadership do our thinking for us.

We have the concept of the clergy/laity divide firmly implanted in our thinking, a mindset that places all responsibility on whoever is behind that all-powerful, always-right pulpit. When we enter the doors of a church building, more often than not our brains are checked at the door. I honestly can’t recall being taught much if anything about our responsibility to test spirits and to think for ourselves. But then, most pastors aren’t apt to do that, are they? It would undermine their authority. (I am speaking strictly in general, hypothetical terms.)
As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you... (1 John 2:27)
Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God... (1 Cor. 2:12)
Many Christians, particularly in the charismatic crowd, tend to swallow whole anything that resembles “prophecy”. They want to believe that God has spoken like an Old Testament prophet, meaning it HAS to be God, it HAS to be correct, and you HAVE to believe it or find yourself rebelling against God Himself.

When the gift of prophecy manifests in a church service, everyone just assumes it’s all God, and not one word is mentioned that the gift should be tested. All they see is glitter, goosebumps and angelic choirs. Believe me, I’ve been there, done that. And when this starts, the assumption is made that the prophecy is correct, and the possibility of error multiplies as the assumption spreads.

No one ‘prophetic person’ has all the revelation. He or she also depends upon others with prophetic gifts to supply more ‘pieces of the puzzle’ of God’s revelation (1 Cor 14:29-33). The person prophesying also needs those who have gifts of discernment, leadership and wisdom to complete their contribution to the church. (Exerpt from Differences Between Old and New Testament Prophetic Ministry)



Test the Spirits, Test the Fruit

The New Testament gift of prophecy is not the equivalent of what God did before Jesus. (This is just my understanding and opinion.) The Old Testament prophet HAD to be right; there were no checks and balances; there was no rest-of-the-body to cooperate with, and false prophets were condemned, those that prophesied out of their own minds.

We now operate as a body, needing one another. People who prophesy cannot accurately operate like an Old Testament prophet; now, every gift has to be balanced with the rest of the body, with the operation of the rest of the gifts.
Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others pass judgment. (1 Cor. 14:29)
We are told to test the spirits-
 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world (1 John 4:1).
We should be like the Bereans in Acts-
Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so. (Acts 17:11)
They were checking out Paul!

The stigma of a “false prophet” is huge; this could be one reason people don’t want to consider the possibility of error. In Old Testament days, yes, being a false prophet was deadly. But now, the prophetic gift must, according to Paul, be judged by the rest of the body, I don't care who it is, big name, little local. We all make mistakes. False prophet? Not likely, probably just human, though actual false prophets are surely out there, wolves in sheep’s clothing. We are to judge the Body of Christ-
For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? (1 Cor. 5:12)
Generally speaking, we have it backward. We’ve been on a hair trigger to judge those outside the church, and so ready to give a pass to those within. We have a horrid reputation of hate toward those without, while those within are left unjudged. The world sees flagrant hypocrisy for a reason. We exhibit hate toward those in the world, and we don’t test the spirits or the fruit of those in the body.

Good apple/rotten apple is image from Wikimedia.




Follow the Leader

YouTube is littered with “prophets” and their “word of the Lord prophecies” that seemingly no one is even pretending to test. The institutional church system has absolutely crippled the Body of Christ, leaving us with a dumb sheep mentality, so very easily led around by the nose. The result has been a tidal wave of gullibility that has made the Church, as a whole, a big bunch of dupes, lemmings rushing off the cliff.

This is not to say that all people posting their prophecies are disingenuous. I’m sure there are a fair number of very sincere people out there, people who are under the impression that if they think they receive a “word from the Lord”, it has to be right. They simply have not subjected their gift to the rest of the body to be tested.

I can’t begin to tell you how many Christians I have spoken with that are absolutely adamant about these “prophecies” over the current administration. They think that to reject these prophecies is to reject God and doom the country to destruction. There is something seriously wrong with this picture.

It looks to me like church people as a general rule don’t consider that no one is 100 percent accurate. Ever. Everyone is subject to error, subject to their own opinions, subject to prophesying out of their own desires and mind.  One lady in particular on YouTube seems to have a great prophetic ministry, but one of her comments (in the middle of her "prophecy") was questionable at best, and not one other person called her on it. The assumption of accuracy just multiplies, spreading rapidly, increasing the possibility of multiplying error, the mindset spreads, and frankly, the Body of Christ is brought into disrepute. We look like mindless idiots, and the temptation to succumb to idolatry is huge.

We have the charismatic branch of the church to thank for most of this. The prevailing mode of operation in these churches is to just turn off your brain when someone starts in with their "Thus saith the Lord..." Mercy me, God Himself is speaking, and don't dare question it. It's gotta be God.

Then my personal favorite, exploited by charismatics generally, and abusive churches in particular- they bandy about the verse "Touch not my anointed and do my prophets no harm" (Ps. 105:15) to dispel any criticism of the  "prophecies" or the "prophet". To say ANYTHING against leadership is absolutely taboo; they claim you'll find yourself resisting God Himself. I find it interesting that this particular play is being thrown out there to support these Trump prophecies. Don't question, don't criticize, or you will be found in rebellion. It's like a divine insurance policy, with people carrying the concept over to criticism of the current administration.

All this is based on the Old Testament paradigm of a prophet, and goes completely and thoroughly against New Testament teaching to test spirits, be not deceived, judge the fruit, be not ignorant brethren. No, you won't keel over if you think for yourself! This is just a tactic to gain and retain power and control, and let there be no doubt- control is the name of the game here.

Many of these prophecies may be posted by people who genuinely operate in the gift of prophecy, BUT they MUST be tested, according to the Word of God. We are to test those spirits, for far too many false prophets are out there seeing how many they can dupe. Balance is flagrantly lacking. Just because someone claims to be speaking for God doesn't make it so. No one is right all the time. Test the spirits, test the fruit. Be like the Bereans. Don’t be a dumb sheep!
You will know them by their FRUIT. (Mt. 7:16)
Follow the Leader is free clipart from wpclipart.



The Great Commission

But by far the more important issue concerns our priorities. The Body of Christ should be consumed with love- loving those who don’t know God. Our commission is to bring Jesus to a dying world regardless of political affiliation, if any. But we have confused our mission with politics, influencing believers to put their trust in a worldly, and so by nature, corrupt earthly government.

Does the world see the love of God in all this? No, they see hate-filled, politically-minded zealots who have lost their first love. Does any right-minded Christian really want to be associated with all this? To be carnally minded is death. We have judged those in the world while we have not judged what goes on in our churches. We very desperately need to fix our priorities. God help us.

I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. (Acts 20:29-30)

Many deceivers have gone out into the world... (2 John 1:7)
Little children, keep yourselves from idols. (I John 5:21)

 1 Donald Trump's Presidency and False Prophecies

Wheat field is free image from Pixabay.



How Christian is a "Christian" political movement in the first place?



Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Are You in a Red Flag Church?

Spiritual Abuse Basics: Are You in a Red Flag Church?

Do you attend a church where everything is seemingly great, but leaves you wondering and empty inside? Does everyone seem to enter into worship and seem to be satisfied, but you're not? If you have a nagging feeling that something just isn't right but you can't nail it down, you may be in an abusive church. Satan masquerades as an angel of light and will come looking like a ministry full of light and life and all things wonderful. But underneath is nothing more than control masked as protection.

Red flag churches aren't obvious. They have a very slick veneer of spirituality that deceives those who attend into thinking they are in a solid fellowship. The truth isn't apparent until you've been there for awhile and start to see the junk that goes on underneath the surface. Scripture is twisted to meet the requirements of the assumed authority of the leadership, but just enough truth is preached to keep people hooked. The doctrines promoted in these churches place huge stumbling blocks in the path of those searching for the truth, deceptive doctrines that essentially pull people into seeking the honor of men rather than the honor of God.

If you have been attending a church that leaves you feeling empty, confused and feeling guilty, and if you feel like something is wrong, but you just can't put your finger on it, you may be in an abusive church. The main problem is that as long as you are in a church like this, the only thing that you will recognize is the nagging feeling that something is just not right. The bewitching influence of the false doctrine preached in these churches blinds their members to the truth so that getting through to those under this influence is a bit of a trick.

Another problem is in seeing the situation as actually abusive. I was very slow to acknowledge the abusive nature of the church I was in, mostly because I knew that the pastor's intent was good, that he was a "nice guy", and that much of what went on in the services had enough truth in it to keep most of us hooked for years. I left out of frustration, but it took a good year or so to come to terms with the fact that it indeed was both a cult, and abusive. The terminology put me off for a long time.

Because you are reading this, I assume you have questions concerning the church you attend, or perhaps one that someone you know attends. I can't stress enough the subtlety of spiritual abuse; if you have any doubts at all, the chances are great that the church you question is not right. This post will give you a quick overview of what to look for to identify an abusive church. If you want more information, a free download of my book Red Flag Churches: Distinguishing Protection from Control is available at smashwords.com.


The Spiritual Covering Doctrine

Absolute Authority, Submission and Obedience

In abusive churches, submission to authority is the main theme of most sermons and something that is always lurking around in the background. In their estimation, the dumb sheep need their leadership and oversight because they are more "spiritual" than the rest of us. They have the calling, they have the training and possibly the education, and so they are qualified to lord it over the congregation.

One of the main tenets taught in these churches is that you must be submitted to authority to have authority, a concept taken from a Watchman Nee book, Spiritual Authority. Beware of any church that uses this book as required reading for any leadership training. Out of this concept comes the whole spiritual covering doctrine, a doctrine that essentially says that you can't leave their oversight or evil will befall you- a neat little controlling mechanism. Any church that uses this book as required reading is more than likely abusive- a red flag church.

Submission IS a biblical concept, but not the way it is demanded in abusive churches. Submission in biblical context is mutual with submission to one another, not the very one-sided version found in these churches. Along the same line are the armor bearer books. These books promote a position of servitude to a leader, but with a façade of honor. These so-called armor bearers are people that follow the leaders around like puppy dogs doing their bidding, and not just in church. This extends into their personal lives as well, doing errands and whatever else the controlling leadership desires. Serving is one thing, but requiring servitude from someone to prove their loyalty is entirely different. Beware of any church that uses these books as required reading. I don't really know if the author's intent is biblical or not, I just know how controlling leadership uses these books for their own purposes.

Authority is never really delegated in these churches because absolutely everything goes through the leaders anyway. They bestow title and position, but there is no real authority that goes with it. Those that receive these honors are just people who rubber stamp the leadership in whatever they decide they want, and any challenge to their authority is deemed a challenge to God Himself. One of their favorite Bible verses is Psalm 105:15- "Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm." That one is trotted out regularly to threaten anyone that might take issue with them. "Mine anointed" creates the aura of holiness that builds the intimidation factor- "I'm holy and you're not, so you can't touch me."

Titles are very important to these kinds of leaders, titles and image. Everything is a façade with image being the overriding priority in their thinking. Because image is so important, they will lie from the pulpit to protect it. You will not know why people have left unless you actually go to the ones that left and ask, and that is actively discouraged. An ex-elder once told me that they were instructed by the pastors to make them look good. That was the only reason they were bestowed with the title "elder". Red flag, perhaps??

See my post The Spiritual Covering Doctrine for more information.


Religion- The Stumbling Block

Works, Works and More Works

Abusive churches are run by a system that promotes works and rules that are both spoken and unspoken. To gain the attention of the leadership and possible ministry position, people jump through hoop after hoop of works to prove their loyalty. And abusive leaders love loyalty.
Religion is works and works will bewitch those under its influence, and I can speak from firsthand experience when I say that you just don't see it until you get out from under it. It wasn't until I left that I realized everyone in there was consumed with brown-nosing to gain position and power.

These churches are psychological pits of codependency- people in leadership that need to prove themselves with works, and those that choose to submit to their authority and are willing to play the game. It is a sick treadmill in which the people are completely dependent on the leadership for everything, and some of the people want it that way.

Never forget- religion bewitches. Works bewitch. Under its influence you no longer see things as they are.


Idolatry

Worshiping Men and Money

Your loyalty is gauged by your performance, so as you begin to be consumed with proving your loyalty to the leadership, your focus shifts more and more away from pleasing God to pleasing men.

The intimidating nature of the leadership lends itself very readily to encouraging idolatry, with loyalty oaths and statements being rather common in these churches. These contracts or whatever you care to call them are statements of allegiance to men and lead to ungodly soul ties and idolatry. (For more information about soul ties, get the book Breaking Unhealthy Soul Ties by Bill and Susan Banks.) When this kind of commitment is made, leaving becomes much more difficult, and the draw back into the controlling environment becomes very strong. If you are presented with one of these contracts, DON'T SIGN!! Then sit back and look for other red flags.

Along with the idolatry aspect goes the whole atmosphere of covetousness. The prosperity doctrine is preached and people are encouraged to "use their faith" to obtain the bigger houses and better cars that consume the desires of the leadership. This blatant conspicuous consumption is actively encouraged and considered the "blessing of God". This leads into the demand for the tithe. They twist arms by threatening people with the curse if they don't tithe, something that is completely unbiblical. And they are told that their giving determines their blessing from God, essentially throwing grace out the window. Giving becomes yet more works. Since leaving this church, I have also rethought my position on the tithe. If you are interested, check out To Tithe or Not to Tithe where I have also included links to several good books on the subject. Tithing is a touchy subject but one that needs to be openly discussed and not just accepted.



Silence, Secrecy and Information Control

NEVER Expose the Problem!!

It is absolutely against the unwritten rules to speak against the leadership in any way, shape or form. One never, never questions anything they do. This is the rule that enforces complete silence and it is this rule that allows the leadership to run completely unchecked. They do what they want with no accountability whatsoever. The concept of accountability is a very one-sided process in these churches, with the congregation thoroughly accountable to them, but they are accountable to no one, even though they may say they are. The accountability our pastor claimed was back to the pastor that taught him all this mess in the first place, making it completely worthless. And realizing that the mess goes back to their home church drives home the extent of the problem. Those people have "sent out" other preachers to propagate these dangerous doctrines in other parts of the country.

Nothing is ever done in the church without clear, specific approval. Without that permission granted from on high, you are in danger of committing grave sin, the sin of offering "strange fire", another doctrine that is twisted to serve their own agenda. As stated before, absolutely everything is directly managed by the leadership. We sat through plenty of  "sermons", a.k.a. brainwashing sessions, on offering strange fire that further instilled fear of ever questioning, let alone crossing, the leadership.

The basic characteristics of witchcraft are manipulation, intimidation and domination. If you see these operating in your church, run!! Control is the name of the game, and submission to authority is the chief doctrine that is continually preached- witchcraft indeed. They will do what they have to in order to manipulate, intimidate and dominate their way into your life.

One of the truly aggravating aspects of these churches is the whole atmosphere of secrecy that permeates the place. No one knows anything and this is the way they want it. Information is tightly controlled so that if you want to know anything you have to find it out from the leadership. In the church I attended, even the lady that answered the phone had no clue about anything. She had to field calls all the time from people asking about things she was never told about by the leadership.

Idolatry in the form of the worship of man and the atmosphere of covetousness permeates these places and opens the door to every evil work (James 3:16).




Isolation

Then there's the rule that says that thou shalt never visit another church. You will receive all you need from them, so you don't need to go anywhere else. Other ministries are regularly denigrated and ties to the outside are cut off. This kind of secrecy and isolation create a great deal of frustration, but of course you're not allowed to talk about it.

I specifically remember the sermons built around the symbolism of a tree- if you pull up a tree by the roots to transplant it regularly it won't ever bear fruit. Right? The illustration was complete with visual aids in the form of a blackboard with a chalk drawing of a tree. We were told that if you don't "get planted" in a church, if you don't quit jumping around, you'll never bear fruit. This was just another angle on the move to convince you that you can't leave the place. We got the blackboard lesson at least once a year, and every time it was preached it built the walls around the place a little higher and a little thicker. And the irony was that even though you never left the place and stayed dutifully planted as taught, you weren't going to produce fruit. These places drain you, they don't feed you. They are essentially fruit robbers- there is no love, joy or peace in these places. Instead, they promote confusion, frustration and upset. And the longer you stay planted in such an environment, the worse it gets.


The Borg

or Mind-Numbed Robots

In abusive churches, you are expected to go to the leadership for everything; they want to do your thinking for you. Often you are told that you don't hear from God accurately, undermining your confidence. You never make your own decisions in a place like that because you're just dumb sheep that don't have the sense to come in out of the rain without being told. If they know you do hear from God, that would threaten their position of authority, so your confidence will be attacked.

Leadership presents themselves as more spiritual than the masses, and you are continually told to trust them. Dependence on them for everything is the goal, of course. A friend of mine likened it to The Borg on Star Trek- your independent thinking disappears and is taken over by the collective thought of the leadership and all those duly brainwashed into their vision, their goals, their ministry. 

There is no such thing as a vision apart from the "vision of the house". Everything is geared toward that end. Churches that operate biblically will do their best to help you work toward the vision God has given you, lifting you up and promoting you in the process. This will never happen in an abusive church. You are only there to be used by the leadership to promote them and their goals. "Vision of the house" is one of those catch phrases bandied about regularly. It's not found in the Bible.

If you aren't a Star Trek fan, you can read about The Borg at Wikipedia.


Let the Peace of Christ Rule

Peace Should Be the Deciding Factor

And let the peace (soul harmony which comes) from Christ rule (act as umpire continually) in your hearts [deciding and settling with finality all questions that arise in your minds, in that peaceful state] to which as [members of Christ's] one body you were also called [to live]. And be thankful (appreciative), [giving praise to God always]. Col 3:15 AMP

This is such a crucial point- ALWAYS follow peace. If you have no peace in your church, it's time to consider finding another one. Abusive churches will leave you feeling frustrated, unspiritual, joy-less and confused, in other words, in a state that is anything but peaceful. According to the Word, allowing your peace to be taken from you will set you up as a target for the devil:

And God's peace [shall be yours, that tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and being content with its earthly lot of whatever sort that is, that peace] which transcends all understanding shall garrison and mount guard over your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Phil 4:7 AMP

You will guard him and keep him in perfect and constant peace whose mind [both its inclination and its character] is stayed on You, because he commits himself to You, leans on You, and hopes confidently in You. Isaiah 26:3 AMP

The longer you stay in a place where you have no peace, the more access the evil one will have to your mind. Your protection is in peace, it is not in submission to the authority that hangs the spiritual covering doctrine over your head.

I understand all too well how difficult it is to make the decision to leave, mostly because of the investment made into the place in time and resources. You just don't want to face the fact that you made a bad decision. But there are many, many others in the same boat, and God is more than able to recompense. If your church leaves you in a state of upset, I encourage you to just leave quietly and cut your losses.  It is a command to seek peace. For more on leaving an abusive church, see Making the Decision to Leave an Abusive Church.


Bottom Line

Judge the Fruit

It's so important to judge the fruit, not the gifts, and listen to the still, small voice that is trying to guide you into peace. It's so very easy to be beguiled by the spiritual show, but it is the fruit you must look at very carefully.

First, decide if there is any fruit being produced by the church- are people being ministered to, are people getting born again, is there any ministry being done outside the church, ministry to those in the community? Abusive churches become very closed communities with no ministry outside their own group. Also look at the fruit displayed by the leadership- do they walk in love and patience or are they harsh, rude and even mean? To see any negative side to their character, you may have to look behind the scenes. Image is all important, so the oh-so-spiritual front may be all they will display during services, though I am sure there are exceptions to this.

Second, look at your own fruit. Are you in peace and joy when you attend services there, or are you left in frustration, confusion and even anger? If your church does not produce the fruit of peace and joy in your spirit, there is something wrong.

And last, if you begin to look around and see that people around you are merely striving for position, title and power, you are in a place that actively promotes idolatry. Jesus is no longer the Head in a red flag church. Abusive leadership consider themselves as a mediator between you and God, usurping Jesus' role as the only Mediator we need. This is idolatry run amok.

If your church fails these tests, you need to consider moving on for the sake of your own well being and certainly for the sake of your family, especially if you have children that are being influenced by this kind of atmosphere. This post is a summary of my book Red Flag Churches which is available as a free download. I encourage you to get educated- this is the first step in finding freedom and true peace. I have several related blog posts which will give you a good start.

IN [this] freedom Christ has made us free [and completely liberated us]; stand fast then, and do not be hampered and held ensnared and submit again to a yoke of slavery [which you have once put off]. Gal. 5:1 AMP

Little children, keep yourselves from idols. 
1 John 5:21

Cease ye from man . . .

Isaiah 2:22


Recommended Reading

Understanding Is the First Step to Freedom

Books

Red Flag Churches- book recounting my experiences in an abusive church. Available as a free download in several formats at smashwords.








 

The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse by  David Johnson, Jeff Van Vonderen
This is the first book I found that really opened my eyes to the deception going on in the church I attended. This book is very easy to understand and highly recommended; if you don't get any other books, get this one. It is also available for Kindle.



Exposing Spiritual Abuse by Mike Fehlauer
This is the book written by the man who wrote an article I found online that began my journey out.








Charismatic Captivation by Steven Lambert
This is a very detailed, in-depth look at spiritual abuse. I don't agree with all his points of view, but he goes into great scriptural detail explaining why abusive church doctrines are so wrong.








Toxic Faith
by Stephen Arterburn & Jack Felton
Excellent book that describes when religion becomes addictive and toxic.








This is another wonderful text that goes into great detail explaining spiritual abuse and why the doctrines are unscriptural.








Churches That Abuse by Dr. Ronald Enroth  An indepth look at quite a few abusive systems and an analysis of how they operate and what they have in common.








 Blog Posts

 wademullen- This is an entire website devoted to abuse of all kinds.

Key Truths for the exiles scattered by toxic church systems- blog by Deborah Brunt Blog dealing with the abuse experienced in Baptist systems.

How to Deal with Spiritual Abuse Triggers- blog post by Aprille with a lot of very helpful information on dealing with the triggers that result from experiencing spiritual abuse.


More Good Reading

Breaking Unhealthy Soul Ties by Bill and Sue Banks
The whole concept of soul ties is explained, both health ties and unhealthy ones.








Toxic Faith by Stephen Arterburn, Jack Felton
When the drive to attend church becomes a problem.  Balance is the key.









Codependent No More by Melody Beattie
A very thorough reference that explains codependency and how it affects all concerned.








Boundaries  by Henry Cloud and John Townsend
Learning how to say "no" to maintain peace.











Websites

These websites provide lost of information on church abuse and are all well worth checking out. Some have links to other organizations and websites.







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