Sunday, March 29, 2009

Statistics on pastors

The following statistics were posted on a site called Pastoral Care Inc. After looking at the figures, it becomes obvious that pastors and their families are also being victimized by a performance based system of religious obligation. As pastors are pushed, they tend to push back and, as a result, the people in their congregations are also victimized.

Since my experience with spiritual abuse, it's been hard to relate to pastors and accept them as brothers in the Lord. Often, when in conversation with one, I can feel myself shutting down. That's not right and it's not fair. They're not the enemy.

Connecting with former pastors who have left the system like Wayne Jacobsen and Darin Hufford and hearing about their struggles while in the system has helped me to see that pastors may be some of the biggest victims of this system. Caught in the middle of a system that requires more and more performance from them and a people who have never been allowed to mature, the pressures on pastors can become unbearable as these statistics show.

My hope is that I can grow to the place where I see pastors as fellow strugglers on this journey who need to know that God's love for them isn't based on their performance. He just loves them because they're his.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Anyone . . . please!!!

When we come into an understanding of God’s love and grace, our life changes dramatically. One of the major changes is in our friendships. We may have had an active social life for many years before but, all of a sudden, our friends seem like strangers.

They just can’t understand why our lives no longer revolve around the institution. In the institution, social life is based upon its planned programs and activities. Since we’re either not going or we participate irregularly, we no longer have common interests or activities to keep us connected.

As our life becomes more and more focused on a relationship with God that is free of religious obligation, we find ourselves drifting away from those friendships. They may not end suddenly but we find that because we’ve changed, we have less and less in common with our former friends and, as a result, our interactions with them become fewer and fewer.

If you’re like me, you struggled to hold onto those relationships. You called and you tried to restore what was once there. This is probably the most painful part of this journey. It hurts to finally admit to yourself that they don’t seem to be interested in making the effort to continue the friendship. They might even give you a lecture about the danger of the road you’re on and your need to be committed to the “church.”

This journey is a lonely one because often there is no one nearby who we can share it with. Over time, the aloneness gets difficult. We pray and ask God to give us the friends we think we need but, as time goes by and none appear, we get more and more discouraged and the loneliness increases. Finally, we start to think about getting involved again. After all, anyone is better than no one.

Those were the feelings I went through and I thought I was past them but, as with most institutional mindsets, they have a way of unexpectedly showing up again.

I recently spent some time at my son’s home taking care of my grandson while my son and his wife were at the hospital having their second child. Most of the time, I was alone with my two year old grandson. He’s a sweetheart and I appreciated the time with him but I missed all of my online friends.

I got home late Saturday afternoon and was very tired. Since I had to be at work Monday morning, I knew I should just stay home Sunday morning to rest and get ready for work on Monday. However, I started thinking that maybe I should “go to church” just to be around people. Fortunately, I didn’t get very far with this line of thinking before I realized that this was an old institutional mindset that was coming out. I was feeling like anyone or anything was better than being alone. I ended up staying home and spent the day re-connecting with my online friends.

I'm going to stop and add something here. I’m not saying that it’s wrong to go but, when I go, it should be because I want to go and not because I need to go. I’m learning that God meets my need for all things including friendships and my dependence shouldn't be on an institution.

The truth is that the friendships we once had may have been for that season of our lives. We’re now in a new season and we have to accept that we may not be able to bring those friendships into this new season. Freedom for me came when I stopped pining for what once was.

I believe we’ll never be happy in this free life until we learn to be satisfied with what is and stop pining for what we’ve lost.

Related posts are:

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Spiritual Abuse Blog Posts

I'm in the process of listing my blog posts on spiritual abuse in the sidebar of my blog. I should have the process complete either later today or tomorrow. I decided they were too scattered and difficult to find. This addition will make it easier to locate for anyone who is interested in reading about my experiences and thoughts regarding spiritual abuse.

I'll also be adding a series of posts that were sent to me by a friend. I feel her insight will be beneficial for anyone seeking greater understanding of spiritual abuse. She has asked that they be posted anonymously so I will be honoring her request.

Although when I started this blog, I never intended to post on the subject of spiritual abuse, I've found that many are hurting because of having been victimized. My prayer is that as they read through my resources they will come to experience the freedom and joy I've experienced as I've come to understand the unconditional love that God has freely given to us.

Windblown Media

I’m sure all of my readers know the amazing story behind the book “The Shack.” Written by a then unknown author named William Paul Young, the book achieved almost overnight success due to the efforts of Paul and his friends Wayne Jacobsen and Brad Cummings. Unable to find an established publishing company that was willing to take a chance, they formed their own company and published the book. It became a runaway bestseller and Windblown Media is now a respected member of the publishing community.

Wayne recently announced on his blog the titles of their next projects. “I’m just finishing editing work on two other titles that Windblown Media will release this fall. One is a novel called “Bo’s Cafe” by the men who wrote Truefaced, and it is as amazing a story about a man confronting grace as I’ve ever read. His marriage is in trouble and his attempts to fix it is only driving his wife further away. Will he learn to embrace the only thing that will save his marriage and himself—God’s extravagant grace? We’re also doing “The Misunderstood God: The Lies Religion Tells About God”. It is a remake of Darin Hufford’s book, “The God’s Honest Truth.” Those will be out this fall and I can’t wait for some of you to read them,” he wrote.

If you’ve read my blog for any amount of time, you know that I consider Darin a very dear friend whose teaching has revolutionized my life as a believer. I found his book, “The God’s Honest Truth” almost two years ago and my life hasn’t been the same since. His message and his style of presentation has connected with me like no one else ever has.

I’m excited about this new project and I’m looking forward to the release of Darin's new book. I believe it has the potential to reach thousands and to give new hope to those who have been beaten down by religion .

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Holy Road

I just finished reading "The Holy Road," the sequel to “Dances with Wolves.” Written by Michael Blake, it’s a heart wrenching tale of the Comanche’s struggles to maintain their free lifestyle in spite of the encroachment of white civilization. As we know from history, their struggles resulted in defeat and they were herded into reservations where their freedom was stripped away.

Although “The Holy Road” focuses on their struggles and their movement into institutionalism, I see much of the same dynamics played out in the church’s movement into institutionalism. At one time, the church was free. Since we had the Holy Spirit living in us, like the free Comanche, we were also free to go wherever we wanted. A time came, however, when the church was herded into the reservation of institutional religion and our freedom was stripped away.

Following are some excerpts from the book that I believe we can all relate to:

“The passing of the ultimatum had swollen the reserve’s population with anxious people utterly ignorant of how to navigate the holy road. The former free roamers knew nothing of the structure upon which the white man’s culture was based and, though, the wild people of the plains responded to peer pressure, to follow instructions from any type of central authority was as alien to them as celebrating a birthday.”

“Two years later, upon their release from an old Spanish prison in the humid place the whites called Florida, Smiles a Lot, Hunting For Something, their firstborn, and Rabbit came back to Fort Sill . . . The old ways were still being practiced but otherwise there was little to remind the returnees of the free life that had once been.”

This last sentence really touched my heart. In the institutional church today, many of the old ways are still being practiced but without the life and spirit that was once behind them. As a result, today’s church has lost the vibrancy and excitement that characterized the early church.

I’m hopeful, however. Throughout this world, I see signs that God is restoring back to his church what was lost and in the coming days, I believe we’ll see a church that is filled with the life of the spirit in even greater measure than experienced by the early church.

To read my previous posts on "Dances with Wolves," go to the following links:

Dances With Wolves
More Dances With Wolves
A mysterious awakening

Saturday, March 7, 2009

An amazing story of God's love and grace

Darin Hufford has posted on his website a letter he received from a free believer.

Shannon Brown and her family had been members of a cult for 13 years. As anyone who has been in an abusive church knows, freedom is not automatic. It’s a process and usually a lengthy difficult one. In her letter to Darin, Shannon shares her experiences in the cult and her journey to freedom after she and her family left.

I believe Shannon’s story will be an encouragement to all of us and will give us hope as we navigate the often difficult journey to freedom from the shame and condemnation of oppressive religion. She has graciously given me permission to share her story so to read it in its entirety, follow this link.

Friday, March 6, 2009

A well kept secret

I was talking to a friend at work today and somehow the conversation turned to the subject of spiritual abuse. As we spoke, I shared information with her and told her about my posts regarding spiritual abuse as well as my personal experiences in an abusive church.

She was shocked! Totally ignorant regarding this subject, she asked questions hoping to gain understanding. Her reaction confirmed what I’ve known for some time.

Spiritual abuse is a well kept secret that the church has swept under the rug. Rarely, if ever, is it addressed by the leadership. Yet, thousands of believers are being victimized today. People are still being held in captivity and new captives are being taken. Although these captives are brothers and sisters, there is no cry of outrage. For the most part, the institution ignores the problem.

Spiritual abuse is founded on the traditions that are the lifeblood of the institutional church. The primary tradition that enables spiritual abuse to continue is the clergy/laity distinction which places one person above the others. Although abusive churches carry this tradition to an extreme, if it were to be exposed for the lie that it is, it would have a ripple effect that would have serious consequences for all institutional forms of religion.

The primary goal of all institutions is the furtherance and growth of the institution. The mindset is that the institution is to be protected at all costs. The result is that people are left unprotected and are sacrificed in order to make sure that the institution continues to thrive and gain strength.

One of the lies that has kept people silent has been the teaching that it’s a sin to get angry. The truth is that Jesus was angry enough to use a whip in the temple when he saw the innocent being victimized by a heartless system. I believe as children of God with the nature of God, we also need to get angry when we see the innocent being victimized by spiritual abuse or any other man made tradition.

As I search the web, I’m excited to see that the silence is being broken and that people are speaking out. There’s a cry of outrage that is being raised up. Blogs and websites have been started to inform and encourage those who have been victimized. Many who have been silent about the hurt and abuse they’ve experienced are finding out that they’re not alone. It’s not hopeless. Others have been abused and moved past it to a place of freedom.

In an attempt to provide information to help those who have been victimized, I have a list of resources regarding spiritual in my sidebar. Also, for easier reference, I will be adding a special section giving links to my posts on spiritual abuse. My hope is that this will be a helpful tool for all who need this information.

After I wrote the first draft of this post, I read Darin Hufford’s latest post regarding "Anger Management." As usual, Darin has great insight which I believe the church needs to hear. After reading what he had to say, I added to my post a few additional thoughts regarding anger that his comments inspired. I think you’ll be encouraged by what Darin has to say. To read his post, follow this link.

"All that is necessary for evil to succeed is that good men do nothing." Edmund Burke

Monday, March 2, 2009

Ministry is . . .

"When you minister to someone, it's about helping them and encouraging them. It's not about changing them." - Darin Hufford

"It's about loving them and encouraging them and being their cheerleader in life with no ulterior motive." - Darin Hufford

Leadership in abusive churches

In my previous post, I discussed the danger of the clergy/laity distinction as promoted by the religious system. As I thought about it later, I realized that this tradition is the foundation of abusive systems. Expose and destroy this lie and the abusive system has nothing on which to stand and it will crumble.

Although all institutional churches have a clergy group that is separate and distinct from other believers, in an abusive system, this distinction is carried to an extreme. The leader takes on godlike proportions and is to be followed with unquestioned obedience.

Submission is a favorite topic in these groups. This was true in the abusive church I was involved in. The pastor’s insecurities weren’t noticeable at first but later, as they became more obvious, he began to speak more and more about submission. He taught that we were supposed to give him unquestioned obedience. If it turned out he was wrong, God would deal with him about it but our responsibility was to obey without question.

This gave us an easy way out since we didn’t have to think or take responsibility for our actions. This hindered us, however, because it prevented us from developing our own relationship with God. After all, why should we? We had the man of God to tell us what to think and what to do. We didn’t need to have our own relationship with God. That would only cause us confusion since we might hear God tell us something different than what the pastor said. Since the pastor was always right, of course, we had to have heard wrong.

In abusive systems, pastors love to be called “the man (or sometimes, the woman) of God.” This title separates him or her from the rest of the people because it’s assumed that he has a special relationship with God that’s unavailable to others.

Scriptures are mis-quoted and taken out of context. I remember the pastor standing up front as he quoted “King of kings and Lord of lords.” As he said, “King” and “Lord”, he would point to himself. Then, when he said, “kings” and “lords”, he would point to us to emphasize that he was king and lord over us.

When there is any indication that someone might have a differing opinion, those leaders are quick to remind their followers of the danger of touching God’s anointed. We were told that leadership had a special anointing and that God would punish anyone who spoke against them or criticized what they did. Because of this anointing, they were answerable to no one but God and could not be held accountable for their behavior.

The basis of this teaching is found in the Old Testament verse, Psalm 105:15 which says, “Do not touch my anointed ones; do my prophets no harm.”

Notice that “anointed ones” is plural. When we put aside our traditions and look at this verse in context, it’s obvious that the anointed ones being spoken about are ALL of God’s people and not a select few. It’s obvious that the warning was given to the enemies of his people and not to his people.

The truth is there in NO special anointing on leadership. Insecure leaders maintain control and protect their position by twisting scriptures for their own personal benefit and this is only one of the many scriptures that they twist.

God doesn’t require unquestioned obedience even in our relationship with him. We’re free to ask questions and seek clarification when we don’t understand or agree.

God has invited us into a relationship with himself in which he treats us with respect and as adults. Although we’re his children, he doesn’t treat us as children. He allows us the freedom to make our own decisions. We’re responsible for the decisions we make and for our actions and we shouldn’t turn this responsibility over to anyone else.

The good news is that Jesus has removed the barrier between God and man and he has become the only mediator we need. In abusive systems, this beautiful loving relationship with God is replaced by total submission to a man and, in essence, he replaces Jesus as our mediator. By submitting unquestioningly to man’s authority, the barrier is put back up. Total freedom will come only as believers understand that the clergy/laity distinction is a man made tradition. As we learn to accept the love and grace that God so freely offers, we will live in that freedom that Jesus came to give us.