Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Healthy and unhealthy churches

Set free recently posted a blog that contrasts the characteristics of healthy churches with unhealthy churches.

This past Sunday was a day set aside to pray for the persecuted church. I believe this is important. I believe we need to remember and pray for our brothers and sisters who are suffering because they know Christ.

However, I believe we also need to remember that many of our brothers and sisters are being held captive in abusive churches. Some of us have personally experienced spiritual abuse or we know someone who has. This is a major problem that is swept under the rug since the institutional church just doesn’t talk about it. However, Father knows and he cares and he’s stirring many to begin speaking out for those who can’t speak for themselves. I’m thankful for the many blogs and websites that are committed to sharing resources that are helpful for those who have been victimized by spiritual abuse.

What Really Matters is one of these sites. It’s an excellent resource for those wanting more information regarding this subject and I highly recommend it.


Jim said...

Hi Aida. Through several wounding experiences in the institution-- some at the hands of supposed "friends" -- I've arrived at some conclusions about why many churches do this:
1. It's not about relationship - not really. It's about pragmatics. The needs of the religious machinery become paramount. If you can no longer fulfill a need, you are no longer a valued "asset" or "team player."
People become means to an end. Their value is ultimately in what they an do for the organization. There is no intrinsic value in a person (from this view point).

2. The entire structuring of body life prevents real relationships from happening, setting up an organizational environment that precludes people from having value unless they can contribute in a way the religious leadership sees fit.

3. It's not really about a Kingdom where individuals are prized, honored, and always needed, regardless of context: It's about a false-substitute: this thing people call, 'church.'

4. It's not really about living from the heart -- but about pragmatics -- as Wayne Jacobsen says, "the mutual accomodation of self-need."

Bino M. said...

While I agree with what you said here, there are also people who willingly submit themselves to the abuse. They really do not want to come out of the cage and be free because they find a sense of security in there. The church/institution/pastor is their God.

Keep telling the Truth because Truth can not only set us free, it can give us the courage to be free as well...

Aida said...

Jim, I think you've made some really good points.

As you said, people have no value in those churches except what they can contribute to keep the machinery going. It's never about relationships because, as one of my friends said, people are disposable.

I don't know if you've seen the movie The Mission but your comments brought that movie to mind. In that movie, a catholic priest had led an entire native village to the Lord but, when the government decided they wanted the land that the natives lived on, the natives would not leave. Instead of supporting these converts, the catholic hierarchy conspired with the government to kill the natives.

Although these natives were now followers of Christ and members of the catholic church, they were expendable because the survival of the religion depended on good relations with government.

Aida said...

Bino, I agree. In my previous post, I called that a slave mentality. A slave mentality can become so entrenched that people would rather suffer the abuse than leave. That reminds me of an abused wife who stays in the marriage even when she can leave and makes excuses as to why she doesn’t leave.

Also, I believe some people are addicted to being abused and will go from one abusive situation to another.

"Keep telling the Truth because Truth can not only set us free, it can give us the courage to be free as well..."

That's beautifully said, Bino. I believe a big reason why people stay in abusive situations is because of an identity issue. They don't know how much Father loves them and they don't understand that his love gives them great value. I believe it’s important to continue to share his love with them because there are some who will hear and begin their journey to freedom. said...

Aida, the music from "The Mission" has always haunted me. I don't think at the time that I first saw the movie years ago, I would have understood the depth of the religious system's betrayal of the natives and their expendability. I probably should watch it again with new eyes.

Aida said...

Jim, I saw the movie last year and I still think about it. It was such a graphic enactment of how far religious leaders will go to ensure the survival of the system. The very people that the system is supposed to serve become expendable.

I've also thought about watching it again. said...

Aida, Here's a quote a friend just sent me. It can easily apply to the spiritual blindness and entrenched denial of institutional leadeship. The quote is from Tolstoy:
"I know that most men, including those at ease with problems of the greatest complexity, can seldom accept even the simplest and most obvious truth if it be such as would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they have delighted in explaining to colleagues, which they proudly taught to others, and which they have woven, thread by thread,into the fabric of their lives." --Tolstoy

Aida said...

Great quote, Jim, and very applicable.

Pride will definitely blind us to truth. People will often choose the blindness rather than admit they were wrong. Leaders especially are determined to hold onto the status quo. I'm coming to believe that the leaders of these groups are in as much bondage as the people and maybe even more.