This is a two part article. See: Part One
Therefore, concerning what is being asked of or expected from us, which approach are we seeing from the particular leadership in question?
Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity. Titus 2:7
And many will follow after their sensuality, through whom the way of the truth will be maligned. 2 Peter 2:2
If it is the latter of the two, there is spiritual abuse going on, requiring the execution of the Most High God’s directive:
Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. Ephesians 5:11
Knowing Them By Their Fruit (Matthew 7:20):
Again, knowledge is key, knowing what is or is not going on concerning the spiritual leadership and/or the church.
And oppress not the widow, nor the fatherless, the stranger, nor the poor; and let none of you imagine evil against his brother in your heart. Zechariah 7:10
Churchabuse.com has a comprehensive checklist of behaviors indicative of harmful conduct.
Honestly and prayerfully examine if what is taking place is healthy or unhealthy.
- Does your church tightly control the flow of information within its ranks?
- Does your spiritual leader use public shaming as a method to gain the compliance of followers?
- Is your spiritual leader intolerant of questions or critical inquiry?
- Is your spiritual leader the exclusive means of knowing “truth” or receiving validation?
- Does your spiritual leader have unreasonable fears about the outside world such as evil conspiracies or persecutions?
- Are you discouraged to associate with former members, being warned that they are “evil” or “defiling”?
- Is leaving your group to join another church equal to leaving God?
- Does the surrounding community view your church as a cult?
- Does your spiritual leader consider it evil persecution when criticized or questioned?
- Do the goals of your spiritual leader seem to supersede any personal goals or individual interests?
- Do you fear being rebuked, shunned, or ignored for expressing a different opinion?
- Do former members often relate the same stories of abuse and reflect a similar pattern of grievances?
If you answered “no” to all of the above 12 questions, your church is very healthy. If you answered “yes” to three or more, your church is showing signs of being unhealthy. If you answered “yes” to six or more, your church is very unhealthy. If you answered “yes” to eight or more, your church is more than likely a full-blown authoritarian cult.
“Spiritual Identity Crisis?”
It’s Not Your Fault:
“… It’s perfectly okay to want to be accepted just for who you are now. As you transition from the group/leader identity back to your own identity, you may find yourself ‘acting out’ and doing things that would have displeased your former spiritual authority. This is all healthy, and is a completely normal part of the exit process… We may find ourselves rebelling against the politically correct aspects of religion, and even questioning everything we ever learned while in the spiritually abusive group. Even though this may feel like a very confusing, difficult process – rest assured it is a very healthy and normal part of recovery…”
“Spiritual Identity Crisis?”
One of the most frightening and demoralizing aspects of spiritual abuse is the aftermath of it. Whether it is an individual or the corporate church body, there is often further pain heaped upon the already traumatic situation.
The sheep are, in one way or another, scattered (Jeremiah 23:1-2), hurt and disillusioned.
“Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of My pasture!” declares the LORD. Therefore thus says the LORD God of Israel concerning the shepherds who are tending My people: “You have scattered My flock and driven them away, and have not attended to them; behold, I am about to attend to you for the evil of your deeds,” declares the LORD.
There can be any number of scenarios which occur before, during or after the abuse and/or its scandal once it has come to light.
There may be threats, including threats against one’s life, one’s family, one’s career or one’s church membership.
There is often toxic gossip. The “Scarlett A” may be applied to the victim, while simultaneously excusing or protecting the perpetrator(s).
If/when that happens, please remember: this is victim blaming. And it is NOT of the Most High God. Therefore, it becomes important to see yourself in Psalms 40:17.
But I am poor and needy;
yet the Lord thinketh upon me:
thou art my help and my deliverer;
make no tarrying, O my God.
You are the hurt, wounded party. And you have not gone unnoticed. Our all-knowing, all-seeing Creator knows every last detail. And He is, by no means, blasé about what happened.
“And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea.” Mark 9:42
How did they cause you, little one, to stumble?
Furthermore, the predators in question will not get away with what they did. Never forget, the Most High God has limitless ways of executing His Justice.
For we know him that hath said, “Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense,” saith the Lord. And again, “The Lord shall judge his people.” Hebrews 10:30
Scripture doesn’t tell us “it is a fearful thing to fall into the Hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31) for nothing!
Truth lives; Truth wins…
“For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known. Therefore whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the housetops.” Luke 12:1-3
And, if that still didn’t snap the guilty to attention, perhaps this big-time, eternal and spiritual reality WILL…
“…Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” Matthew 25:40
The Divine does not possess a cavalier attitude on this point; neither, then, should we. For, this perspective came after another which cuts right to the heart of the Father…
“…Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 19:14
The Most High does not appreciate anyone who interferes with the communion of His children. Spiritual abuse, make no mistake about it, interferes, hinders and damages that precious gathering. It affects His children by promoting the doubt, insecurity and the lie of “un-lovability.” Spiritual abuse often has been a breeder of those toxic lies. As a means of manipulation and self-interest, it inflicts such assertions as…
“You are damned.”
“You have lost the love of God.”
“It is hopeless unless you ‘repent’ (by our definition of repentance only).”
And, because faith is the most personal to us, this shakes everything.
(Again, remember the scattering of the sheep).
Scripture, however, is emphatic about Our Father’s stance on the issue:
For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39
The LORD of hosts hath sworn, saying, “Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand.” Isaiah 14:24
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.” John 10:27-29
Concerning spiritual abuse, you, perhaps, for a time, may feel you are going it alone. But you are not alone. You are not forsaken, forgotten, unloved or blamed. He knows. He knows YOU. You may be walking through a spiritual abuse experience or season which constantly seems to beg the question, “What did I do wrong?”
Answer: Nothing, little lamb, nothing.
And, in your meantime, do not despair. He is leading, helping, restoring and guiding you…
“Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come.” John 16:13
This is a two part article. See: Part One