Spiritual Abuse : What Now?

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148 Responses

  1. Mike DeLong says:

    — What were the signs you wish you would have seen before you got hurt?

    I have just a couple: if a pastor shows a tendency toward authoritarian readings of Scripture, especially of doctrinally marginal passages, that’s a warning sign. Also, if a pastor uses coercive language, especially in an apparent attempt to get other people to fight battles/go to jail/engage in civil disobedience that’s another warning sign.

    — What do you look for now before you join a new church?

    Transparent processes; embracing accountability; a willingness to be accountable as a core value, rather than an attitude of meeting minimum legal requirements. Plain speaking, especially in public statements. Policies including background checks for anyone who has unsupervised contact with children.

    If you can’t see their financial statements they’re not being accountable with money. If they’re not doing most of what they would need to do to file the Form 990 they don’t think accountability is important.

  2. Michael says:

    Mike,

    Excellent comment.
    Do you actually interview the pastor before committing?
    How do you check for transparency?

  3. PP Vet says:

    Underlying the issue of abuse is this question: What is health?

    What is a healthy Christian? How is that different from the world’s idea of a healthy person (self-confident, strong, decisive, fulfilled, etc.)?

    After ripping up several tentative definitions, I have decided that a healthy person is a loving person.

  4. Mike DeLong says:

    — Do you actually interview the pastor before committing?

    I would expect the pastor and elders to want to meet and speak to us as part of the membership process if not before; any pastor who isn’t curious about who is attending his church on a regular basis, member or otherwise, sets off alarms for me.

    My intent is to find a church I can attend and be heavily involved in, so my desire is to fit in and follow along and find “correct answers,” not trouble. If I have to go interview the pastor without having some sort of relationship with him and his church first that’s a problem. It’s a time-consuming process, but its potentially a lifelong commitment and needs to be taken seriously.

    — How do you check for transparency?

    Well it’s case by case: how difficult is it to see the financial results? Does the pastor mention how the church is spending money from the pulpit, with details, or does he expect that the leadership is going to handle these things and not answer to the people who are giving the money?

    If there’s language in the bulletin/order of service that says “we show our books to tithing members” that’s a danger sign. If there’s a summary of financials (more than just “here’s what we were expecting you to give by this point this year and here’s what you’ve actually given”) in the bulletin/order of service that’s a good sign. Financial disclosures on the church website are a very good sign, but in my experience rare.

  5. Michael says:

    Again, good stuff, Mike.
    One more question…one you’re undoubtedly familiar with.
    What about churches that don’t have official memberships?
    Should that be an issue?

  6. Steve Wright says:

    The talk of finances always seems to assume a prosperous church running in the black week after week – and the need to account for where all that extra money is going.

    What about a struggling church, in a struggling economy, with members that are struggling in their personal finances?

    Frankly, I think it is manipulative to week after week publish numbers in the bulletin that effectively say “once more, we couldn’t pay the bills this week without dipping into our savings which of course are dropping”

    If you wouldn’t want the pastor saying that each week from the pulpit, why have it in the bulletin.

    Most people, especially those struggling, want to escape financial problems for at least the hour they spend worshipping the Lord each Sunday.

    In the collapse of 2008, our church actually had less than $1000 one week in ALL of our accounts. The people did not hear a word from me about it, and the Lord provided week after week without us needing to make a plea for special giving. These people were losing jobs, losing houses…why would we burden them that their church was hurting too.

    Again, there are two ways of looking at pros and cons of these issues.

  7. Mike DeLong says:

    — What about churches that don’t have official memberships?

    In my limited experience these churches still have insiders and outsiders; it just takes longer to find out how or whether the pastor is accountable to the insiders.

    If its hard to find good information that’s a bad sign. In my personal opinion, if a church doesn’t have members and doesn’t disclose financial information then it doesn’t need money. If it is difficult to figure out who the elders are and/or they’re not really elders by Pauline standards that’s a bad sign.

    If “the church is the pastor” in some legal sense there’s no reason to expect that when a crisis arises he will feel the need to be accountable in how he deals with it.

  8. Michael says:

    Steve,

    I believe financial transparency is a key aspect of this equation.
    You and I have debated this offline, but I believe that the people should have that accounting whether good or bad.

  9. Michael says:

    Mike,

    “If “the church is the pastor” in some legal sense there’s no reason to expect that when a crisis arises he will feel the need to be accountable in how he deals with it.’

    Agreed.

  10. Mike DeLong says:

    — Frankly, I think it is manipulative to week after week publish numbers in the bulletin that effectively say “once more, we couldn’t pay the bills this week without dipping into our savings which of course are dropping”

    That being more or less my point.

  11. Steve Wright says:

    Let’s be clear. There are all sorts of levels when it comes to this umbrella term “financial transparency”

    Your question to Mike, and his answer, shows this truism.

    Maybe another “define” article for another week. Define: Financial Transparency

    You would get a wide variety of answers.

  12. Michael says:

    Steve,

    I was thinking about that this morning.
    I think a budget and current financials should be available.
    I also think that any major expenditure should be brought before the congregation before it’s made.

  13. Steve Wright says:

    Does the pastor mention how the church is spending money from the pulpit, with details, or does he expect that the leadership is going to handle these things and not answer to the people who are giving the money?
    ————————————————————————-
    That is a false “either/or” – To “answer to the people” implies the people are first asking a question.

    There are a lot of reasons people go to our church, but one of those reasons I have heard from many people over the years is that “We don’t talk about money all the time, like so many other churches”

  14. Mike DeLong says:

    — Let’s be clear. There are all sorts of levels when it comes to this umbrella term “financial transparency”

    I’m sorry Steve; I must be missing your point here.

    What I want to know is whether a pastor and elders will behave themselves when there’s a crisis. Unfortunately asking about past crises is rarely helpful: they are mercifully rare, and they don’t leave many artifacts. Money, on the other hand, flows in and out of a church weekly and should leave a paper trail.

    If a pastor and elders aren’t faithful regarding stuff that should be easy to see why should I expect they’ll be faithful regarding things that are harder to see?

  15. Steve Wright says:

    I also think that any major expenditure should be brought before the congregation before it’s made.
    ——————————————————
    That’s a relevant term. 🙂

    We just had to fix an air-conditioner, which is about as major of an expenditure as we might have. The people just know that one Sunday the air didn’t work, and the next Sunday it did.

  16. Andrew says:

    “Frankly, I think it is manipulative to week after week publish numbers in the bulletin that effectively say “once more, we couldn’t pay the bills this week without dipping into our savings which of course are dropping”

    Nothing manipulative in posting accurate numbers. Its manipulative to hide the numbers.

  17. Steve Wright says:

    Unfortunately asking about past crises is rarely helpful: they are mercifully rare,
    ———————————————————–
    Really? Again, this whole discussion assumes some rich, prosperous church running in the black.

    What does “pastors and elders behaving themselves in a crisis” mean?

    To me, behaving themselves means they don’t moan and cry to the people week after week about how much financial problems there are – as if God somehow stepped off His throne and the whole thing depends on the people digging deeper at a time they too are hurting for money.

  18. covered says:

    Mike, are salaries published as well? I don’t have a problem giving out my salary but was warned that the question of “can I see the books” translated is, “how much do you make?” Before any haters jump in, I do share my salary with anyone who asks.

  19. Mike DeLong says:

    — Really? Again, this whole discussion assumes some rich, prosperous church running in the black.

    I’m sorry; I don’t know how you’re drawing this conclusion.

    — What does “pastors and elders behaving themselves in a crisis” mean?

    Are they going to have a frank discussion involving confession and repentance? Or are they going to talk about loyalty to individuals, continuity of operations, making business decisions like businessmen, and other nonsense like that?

  20. Andrew says:

    “There are a lot of reasons people go to our church, but one of those reasons I have heard from many people over the years is that “We don’t talk about money all the time, like so many other churches”

    I do admire this in one CC I attended. There was a policy to not talk about money from pulpit. However, I am wiser now, as a giving unit. I should know basically how the money is being spent which was not transparent in this church. I blindly trusted. Publishing in the bulletin is a great non threatening way for people to understand the church budget without drawing undue attention to money during sermon time. No one forces me to read the summarized budget on a bulletin and it sure is refreshing to see it when you are curious.

  21. Mike DeLong says:

    — Mike, are salaries published as well?

    It depends. If I’m running any other tax-exempt charity and I file the Form 990 I only have to disclose salaries of board members who are salaried; churches are exempt from filing the Form 990. I would consider that a good place to start: if there are people in the church who can both write and cash checks they need to be transparent about how much money they’re spending.

    If on the other hand the pastor’s salary is indexed to say local median income and the formula makes sense to me I don’t much care what the dollar figure is.

    It is worth noting that the EFCA doesn’t require disclosing this information, and I think that’s a mistake, as I think it overstates how accountable ministries are.

  22. covered says:

    Andrew, I responded to a question you had asked on the spiritual abuse thread.

  23. covered says:

    Thank you Mike for your response.

  24. Steve Wright says:

    Are they going to have a frank discussion involving confession and repentance?
    ——————————————————
    THAT’s why I an drawing this conclusion, Mike.

    Unless you mean the PEOPLE need to confess their lack of giving and repent and start giving more (which is ludicrous to me)

    then implicit in your words is that the pastors and leadership have somehow been unfaithful in their stewardship of all the money that has been rolling into the church, they have blown through it all in a sinful manner and they thus have something to confess and repent about.

  25. Mike DeLong says:

    Steve regarding your #24 you and I must be talking past one another.

    I’m talking about looking at financial accountability as a pattern for how the leadership will behave when a crisis arises. How are they going to behave when (say) a member of staff or a lay worker does something criminal: are they going to try to cover it up? Or are they going to report it to authorities? How are they going to behave if there’s some other betrayal of trust that isn’t criminal? Are they going to be up front about what’s happened? Or are they going to offer a plausible cover story instead?

  26. Steve Wright says:

    I’m talking about looking at financial accountability as a pattern for how the leadership will behave when a crisis arises. How are they going to behave when (say) a member of staff or a lay worker does something criminal: are they going to try to cover it up? Or are they going to report it to authorities? How are they going to behave if there’s some other betrayal of trust that isn’t criminal? Are they going to be up front about what’s happened? Or are they going to offer a plausible cover story instead?
    ————————————————-
    OK, Mike. Now I understand you and what you are saying about crisis.

    So now that we are on the same page, then let me simply strongly disagree with you that somehow there is a connection, and go back to my point about different levels of “financial accountability”

    By the sorts of particular litmus tests you have mentioned in this thread at post #4, then it would be hard to see how I would fit your definition of “financial accountability” even though I would certainly argue we are.

    But to then conclude that I would possibly be the sort of pastor then that would cover up criminal activity or similar serious issues…Wow.

    Now before you object to me personalizing this, forget about what you may know about me or our church from this blog…and just put me in the category of new church you look into possibly joining and what you expect to see there in the bulletin, website, and hear from the pulpit.

    If those truly are your standards used to draw conclusions about possible spiritual abuse issues being prevalent at a church, then I think that is a problem.

    But we each have our opinions. And we certainly each have our experiences. In my case, this is the sort of thing I (and our leaders) actually make decisions about – not theory. We could change something tomorrow…which is one reason I read and listen to the input from this blog.

    Peace to you, Mike. Thanks for the conversation.

  27. Michael says:

    Steve,

    I think Mike has a good point about that connection.
    Transparency about money may indeed reflect transparency in other things and vice versa.
    My guess is that you would be open to speaking to these concerns in private conversation, even though they aren’t in the bulletin.
    Would that be a fair statement?

  28. Mike DeLong is right on. Wish more would listen and apply his suggestions.

  29. Gary says:

    “It is my opinion that the answer is not so much in exposure of bad guys (though that is necessary) but in education of the flock.”

    Michael,
    Even if you had the scope of exposure of Billy Graham or Chuck Smith you just can’t convince people who have already made up their minds. It has to come from within the organization. I wish it wasn’t so.

    “What were the signs you wish you would have seen before you got hurt?”

    I was a brand new Christian when I started going to CCCM. I would not have listened to you. I had to go through the process of finding out for myself. When I got hurt it was a one time event and all ties were severed on both sides. I still had no clue about how deep and systematic the problem was. Like being escorted out of town before the plague becomes pandemic.

    “What do you look for now before you join a new church?”

    When I was growing up I developed a defense to avoid my abusive dad. What happened was that I learned to subconsciously read people. Through the years I’ve lost the desperate need for it and therefore I’ve lost the sharp edge I had but I can still get a bead on attitudes pretty quickly when needed. I prayed for years for a church where People really loved God and He honored my prayer. I went church hopping and it was easy to weed out most churches. I found that a lot of pastors pat themselves and their congregations on the back for being good when they are in fact just the opposite. When I came to the church I’m involved in now it was like coming home. This group really does love and serve the Lord. My wife and I have been involved there since 1985. This church does have some spiritual retards but so far they haven’t asked us to leave.

    How did we know this was a good, spiritually healthy church? First we noticed an openness in the worship service. The emphasis in the music was more on doctrine than style, although the style was very good. The pastor and the music minister moved as one. There was a focus on praising and worshipping God and little or no attention paid to “me”. Next I noticed that the whole congregation wholeheartedly joined in the singing. Their hearts were really into it. The sermon was a healthy meal. It was something I could chew on and apply. No fluff or shame of condescension. Then I noticed how genuinely friendly people were. Then I checked out their other doctrines and it squared with what I believe. People enjoyed discussing spiritual things without arguing.

    It wasn’t easy to break into ministry at this church. They sat me down and asked me questions. They got to know me. Then they placed me with other teachers and I fit. Then when I volunteered to teach Sunday school they were cautious in a protective way. The leaders watched me and then gave their approval. When I volunteered to lead in the midweek kid’s club the guy who was leading the first and second graders interviewed me (after the kid’s director ok’d me I’m sure) and showed me how to run that group. I thought I’d be one of the dads who would help lead but after the first week put me in charge. This is a big church, mind you. It surprised me and excited me because my previous pastor would only let the church grow so much before he got real possessive.

    Through he years I’ve taught most grades from K to adult and all the people I get to work with are top notch. It’s a privilege to serve along side these folks at church and in the community. My church has weathered a lot of storms but the foundation is solid. The one thing I fight is middle age apathy. It’s a church killer.

    This is why I can recommend my church to people who are hurting. I know they will be nurtured.

  30. Mike DeLong says:

    Steven regarding your #26: yes, if your church doesn’t disclose how it spends its money then I expect it to respond badly when a crisis arrives. Yes that’s what I’m saying.

    The church I’m currently attending runs on a budget of less than a couple hundred thousand dollars a year; the quarterly financial statement fits on literally two pages of paper. The only time I’ve heard money mentioned from the pulpit is when the elders decide to spend money in a chunk to support a charity or a missionary. We don’t pass a plate.

    I don’t consider the standard I’ve outlined above to be burdensome, and I’d consider it a heart issue for someone to claim it is.

  31. Doesn’t seem to make much of a difference whether it’s shouted in a pithy manner or very logically and reasonably laid out by a Mike DeLong. People will do what they want to do and will do what they can get away with. I still say pain and noise and making it unpleasant is the only thing that moves the ball. Change will come from consistently screaming and yelling and lawsuits and bad press and exposing the bad brand and bad brand’s mindset and policies etc until it affects the wallets of the church and until it becomes more unpleasant to carry the water than to make the changes.

    That’s how the world works, that’s how humans tick and the church is no different than Business or Government.

  32. monax says:

    Just want to echo what resonates as key to me: the answer is not so much in exposure of bad guys (though that is necessary) but in education of the flock.

    Amen to this aspect of education in combating the many spiritual abuses within the church!

  33. Michael says:

    Gary,

    Thank you for that…well said!
    Can you boil this down to two or three things that every person should look for in an objective sense?

  34. Michael says:

    Ricky,

    All the yelling and screaming and noise hasn’t moved the meter.
    If it was, we’d see a decline in actual numbers.
    The reality is that CC is one of the fastest growing denoms in the country…after years of mostly negative publicity.

  35. Gary says:

    Attitude which includes openness and a good ear.

  36. Steve Wright says:

    Michael, every year we have a summary letter we include with every tithe receipt. We also have copies out for anyone to pick up who might give annonymously, or for that matter might not give at all.

    Like Paul’s thank you letter to the Philippians, it does not include dollar amounts. It does seek to summarize the stewardship of the offerings and more importantly expresses our appreciation and gratitude for all was given that year – and not just money.

    It also clearly mentions that if anyone has any questions about the use of funds to not hesitate to ask.

    Now that is simply not enough for many people that post on your blog. They will have a complaint that it is abusive to make someone ask, with the assumption that such will receive nothing but intimidation and suspicion in response. I know that some have had that experience, and so they speak from those experiences.

    Now, all it takes is for someone to hang around the place for awhile and the thoughts of leadership intimidation, gross extravagance and the like will go out the window.

    And that is why it is very hard to be critical of how a church runs things when someone has no idea about that church. There is no one size fits all. We talk about this when it comes to membership in general. If someone wants to be a part of a church with membership and all that goes along with it, then by all means, they probably should not settle into our place.

    We’ve talked in leadership and Board meetings about such things like a weekly bulletin financial status. And universally we are all opposed. It’s like talking about establishing formal membership, or even a dress cods. It’s just not in our church’s DNA. If the conclusion someone wants to draw from all that is negative and judgmental, so be it.

    And while we always want to improve as a church, (and why I read here), there is also something to be said about “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”

  37. Michael says:

    Gary,

    “It has to come from within the organization.”
    The organizations have proved impermeable…that’s why I believe we have to start from the bottom up.

  38. No it’s not. It’s fractured and there is no central denomination, it’s a bunch of independents who have no cohesive unified position on much of anything and they are all 100% independent and not a Group or entity.

    Calvary Chapel as a denomination is dying and will die when Chuck Sr. croaks, no?

  39. Gary says:

    #29 systematic should read systemic.

  40. Jtk says:

    There appears to be an assumption in this discussion on financials is that “congregational” government is the presumed correct form, or do I misread this?

    Biblically elder-led and even apostolic models can be acceptable, can they not?

    And I’m not talking about one the “I’m my own law” where a senior pastor is unaccountable, fires board of directors and/or elders whenever they won’t sign off on something (say a radio station or similar)…..theoretically speaking, of course….

    I think there can be godly, fruit-bearing, accountable, transparent governance in all three (and in varying forms that split the difference, so to speak, between those different forms).

  41. Michael, you are sending mixed messages. In one breath you claim there is no Organization to reform, and in the other breath you say it’s an Organization that can be reformed. Which is it?

  42. Andrew says:

    “…after years of mostly negative publicity.”

    I would say after “controlled” publicity. I honestly didn’t hear a negative thing at all until recently. Maybe I have just been out of touch but that has been my experience.

  43. Michael says:

    jtk,

    “I think there can be godly, fruit-bearing, accountable, transparent governance in all three (and in varying forms that split the difference, so to speak, between those different forms).”

    I fully agree whilst giggling about the radio station snark… 🙂

  44. Gary says:

    Att is here for an upgrade. bbl

  45. Michael says:

    Andrew,

    Christianity Today has run four major articles in the last few years…all of which have been decidedly negative.
    It seems whenever there is something in the major media, it’s been negative.

  46. Jtk says:

    “My desire is to equip people to be able to take responsibility for their spiritual health…to know what signs to look for that indicate a healthy church and what signs to look for that indicate a potentially abusive church.”

    THAT is what we do with our kids, am I right or am I right?!?!

    As for me and my house…..
    Abused kids are everywhere!
    Many kids don’t understand a loving dad’s voice that occasionally includes correction!
    Some kids don’t know how to hang onto their purity–but MINE WILL!

    We need to realize how revolutionary teaching our kids, our missions field, our church, IS!

    And how effective it is!

    Good thoughts, Michael

  47. You’re either confused or not being truthful.

  48. Mike DeLong says:

    Steve in #36 your church sounds a lot like a church I attended a little over a decade ago. We had two crises happen at the same time: a leader who was misbehaving sexually with the daughter of another leader, and a Christian school that was running way over budget and in danger of running the ministry into the ground.

    When the crises became public we discovered that our elders were not informed and were not keeping our pastoral leaders accountable either spiritually or financially; they were collectively a figurehead. The financials were all being kept by a member of the pastor’s family; he was suddenly and permanently unavailable once the budget shortfalls were brought to light.

    I would beg you to consider how a father sitting in the pews could have spared his family the misery of going through that experience. It’s demeaning to call the church office and ask if the pastor is around or if anybody knows where he is. It isn’t reasonable or decent to ask him to make his calendar available for public perusal. And its indecent to believe or repeat every rumor about who saw the pastor where and with whom.

    If you were in my shoes how would you tell a sick church from a well church? Leaders who misbehave will eventually happen to every church; what distinguishes a healthy church from a sick church is how they’re detected and dealt with.

  49. Michael says:

    Ricky,

    This conversation isn’t about just CC.
    I’ve said it a thousand times and I’ll say it again.
    In CC, policy is set by one man, Chuck Smith.
    He hasn’t listened to any of our concerns.
    What on earth makes you think he’s going to change now?
    In the SGM mess they have circled the wagons and you can see them behind the wheels with their fingers in their ears.
    My whole point is that perhaps an educated and informed laity will not support the people who don’t deserve to be supported and won’t end up as cannon fodder.

  50. Michael says:

    Thank you, jtk!

  51. Steve Wright says:

    “It has to come from within the organization.”
    —————————————
    And I will repeat and yell what I have said both publicly here and privately to Michael.

    If the people of this blog community want change in churches, the absolute best way is to have a blog community that encourages participation from pastors of the churches you wish to see make changes. To not see them as the enemy but to even encourage their participation – even if at first it might be a little overly defensive.

    When I showed up there were many, many CC pastors here. Michael will vouch that most of these guys are good guys, certainly not abusive, and the sorts of pastors and sorts of churches Michael himself might recommend someone to attend.

    And they bailed. (I’m stubborn and Michael is a friend – and in the end I still can learn from the voices here)

    I don’t recommend this place to CC pastors anymore. I once did. I get crap from some for posting here.

    Not only can pastors learn from those with bad experiences, but we can learn from each other. I love it when Shaun Sells posts what his church does on issues of accountability and transparency – and I take notes. But Shaun is a rare participant anymore, and many don’t even rarely come by.

    An empty echo chamber won’t make a dent towards progress on this spiritual abuse issue.

  52. Crowned1 says:

    –What were the signs you wish you would have seen before you got hurt?

    The idolization of the senior pastor. He is considered canon over the black and white text of the bible (His interpretation overrules what is literally written down).

    –What do you look for now before you join a new church?

    I no longer join man’s churches. I fellowship with many Christians, but no longer consider myself ‘of Paul’ or ‘of church inc.’.

    –What questions should you have asked that you will ask before you join a new fellowship?

    My fellowship is every single Christian on the planet earth with Jesus Christ as Shepherd. It is impossible for me to leave the fellowship, unless I leave Christ.

  53. If Calvary Chapel is in fact an Organization that can be influenced through relationship building and politicking, then it’s an Organization that can be reformed.

    If it’s an Amoeba that is not an Organization and is fractured and splintered beyond repair and is un-reformable, then politicking is not the answer, scorched-earth is the way to go so the “independents” distance themselves from a bad brand.

    A massive campaign could be done, grassroots, in each area where there is a Calvary Chapel franchise. Topix, blogs, Yelp, etc highlighting all the bad news in the media, highlighting personal negative testimonies, highlighting the financial opacity, abuses, moral failures etc. An incessant and persistent push would affect the numbers and the money given. It would interject doubt into the brand and would give people pause to support it.

    Once the brand becomes uncomfortable to promote, it would make CC truly independent as folks would change their names to avoid being “that” CC or CC would accept leadership responsibility and reign in the brand and administer some changes…which it seems is what the Calvary Chapel Association path was going to try and accomplish (largely b/c of all the heat CC has taken in the last 5 years).

  54. Michael says:

    Steve,

    That’s the other piece I advocate.
    Many of the guys who used to frequent here rewrote their church bylaws to have a layer of accountability in those specific churches that went far beyond the bounds of the Moses Model.
    When we burned all those bridges we lost the ability to see more and more of those kind of individual reforms.
    That is the only way to change these “organizations”…one piece at a time.

  55. Andrew says:

    Christianity Today is a magazine you will never hear mentioned in CC circles. All I have heard is tremendous accolades about how great Chuck Smith is and that he is so humble that he even picks up trash on the campus grounds. (snark comment). But I could really care less about him picking up trash. I want to know this man’s real motives which I am not sure we will ever really understand. I want to give this guy the benefit of the doubt just as I want to give any guy the benefit of the doubt but not give him it solely based on his position or title.

  56. Steve Wright says:

    Steve in #36 your church sounds a lot like a church I attended a little over a decade ago…
    —————————————————–
    And you don’t see, Mike, how insulting and judgmental it is for you to say that and then tell the story you tell in post 47?

  57. Mike DeLong says:

    Steve —

    Please understand that I’m asking you to help me understand how I would go about telling your church from mine; I’m not suggesting they’re the same.

    I was very happy with my church until the crises hit; in retrospect I feel like a fool for not having seen the warning signs.

  58. Michael says:

    Ricky,

    I’ve seen “scorched earth’ a few times.
    In each case the burns healed and the churches are bigger than ever.

    Here’s the other reality you have to factor in.
    Most people who attend a CC do not have a bad experience.
    They love the churches and that’s why the growth.

    In an individual case like Visalia, I think some mass campaign might have been effective.

  59. It has been effective in warning the public and within our rights to do so (as the Appellate Court will affirm).

    I’ve seen it happen effectively throughout history and recent history with similar grassroots efforts to address abuses and/or corruption in public entities. Look at pushes to expose Wal-Mart, Apple etc for labor practices (some changes have been made, though incremental), look at the pushes to expose RCC child abuse (big changes have been made), pushes to expose corruption and abuses inside Boy Scouts etc.

    It moves the ball.

  60. Steve Wright says:

    Please understand that I’m asking you to help me understand how I would go about telling your church from mine; I’m not suggesting they’re the same.
    ———————————————————-
    Mike, you said our church sounds a lot like your old church. Those were your words. You most certainly did make quite a suggestion there and I do not let you say such a thing about our place unchallenged (say what you want about me – but not our church). But let’s move on.

    Trials are the test of any person, especially a leader. Some break under the trial. Some are strong in the Lord. Unless we have the knowledge of Jesus who knew Peter would deny Him three times – the results can be surprising.

    If you think putting numbers in the bulletin or on a website will keep someone from cracking in time of trial, you are mistaken. What matters is there are procedures in place to clean up the mess if it happens. And THAT is step one to ask about. You would see that at our church, (and on our website). Apparently it was absent at your old church.

    But I will help you as you request based on what I have stated so far..

    So I ask you, did your old church each year say you could ask any questions you had about the finances? If not, then there is a big difference right there. If yes, then the question is did you bother to take them up on it? Did you exercise your stewardship?

  61. Steve Wright says:

    May I also ask our host, aren’t we far afield of talking about spiritual abuse.

    If a pastor commits adultery, it will devastate a church, make for some difficult conversations between parents and their children, and the church may not even survive – but are we now lumping that in with being spiritually abused?

  62. Crowned1 says:

    Michael @ 37 – “The organizations have proved impermeable…that’s why I believe we have to start from the bottom up.”

    Yup. It happens between the believer & God first. You can try to educate people all you want…but ultimately it is they, through God’s guidance, who will have a heart change.

  63. Andrew says:

    “Most people who attend a CC do not have a bad experience.
    They love the churches and that’s why the growth.”

    This is probably a true statement. What I find so ironic is that on one hand I find CC extremely consumeristic and on the other hand extremely anti-consumeristic to the point they rebuke anything with the smell of consumerism. Its like they play both hands at the same time. Consumeristic in that they give the people what they want in terms of music, dress code and felt needs yet anti-consumeristic in the sense that no one other than the inner circle really has a say in what goes on at the church. It is a bit bizarre to wrap your mind around this but I think this is part of educating the flock of the reality of these kinds of churches. Setting a reasonable expectation goes a long way.

  64. Michael says:

    Sorry, I’m multitasking.
    Steve, at times the disqualification of a pastor can lead to abuse when the one disqualified won’t step aside.
    We’ve seen that many times.
    It would fall under the umbrella of accountability standards built into the church and what mechanisms are in place to deal with such.

  65. Mike DeLong says:

    Steve —

    looks like we’re having a similar vs. same problem here.

    — What matters is there are procedures in place to clean up the mess if it happens.

    It’s a good first step to have documented procedures for dealing with crises in much the same way it is good to have a published statement of faith. Documented procedures are only documents until they’re acted on. Does your church similarly publish accounts where they’ve followed these procedures? It has been my experience that churches rarely do this.

    And you’re right: this church didn’t publish these procedures, so you’re a leg up there.

    No this church was not forthcoming regarding financials under any circumstances, and that’s where I learned this hard lesson. That being said, the successor leadership team promised that the books would be audited and the audit published. After a year that hadn’t happened. So far as I know the books were never audited.

    Do you disclose your financials once a year? If you don’t how can people ask sensible questions even once a year? I would gently suggest that once a year isn’t often enough. At my current church there’s not much money and quarterly is adequate; if we were a larger ministry (and I can’t say off the top of my head when little turns into big) monthly might make more sense.

    What really matters is whether the church desires to be accountable: are there line items? Can I understand them? I would refer you to Kenneth Copland Ministries as an example of what *not* to do; last I checked they issued a pie chart with percentages and nothing else.

    Your question about stewardship is apt: I tithed regularly before the crisis hit. Once I realized there was no accountability I gave my money elsewhere. I’m not sure what is the right thing to do if say the church has an annual business meeting and the results are only partly comprehensible. But financials aren’t a litmus test; they’re just a good place to start.

  66. Michael says:

    Ricky,

    The growth in the number of CC churches is just numeric fact.
    As to what will happen when CS dies…I believe that the organization will splinter into at least three or four recognizable entities, all of which will adopt the “independent” mantra to avoid any central liability to the personality in control.
    Thus, in my opinion, it becomes even more important to have an educated, informed, and conscientious laity to assess the churches they may attend.

  67. Steve Wright says:

    Mike, I believe your earlier questions and current expectations make sense from the perspective of one who had the poor experience you happened to have. Totally understandable. To demand them of all churches and draw negative conclusions from those who don’t fit those standards is a mistake in my opinion. Though I would understand you personally never attending any church that did not match the standards you now expect.

    From what you have described about your old church, our church is neither “similar” or “same”

  68. I think most people have a generally good experience in Calvary Chapel.

    I think most people have a generally good experience in the Catholic Church, Boy Scouts, TBN, Mormon Church, Scientology etc.

    “Most” is a fallacious argument.

  69. “The growth in the number of CC churches is just numeric fact.”

    Support it then. Where’s the data? I haven’t seen that as fact and there is no support (that I can find) for that claim.

  70. Michael says:

    Ricky,

    Let me speak to this from a local standpoint.
    If I started an anti-Calvary crusade here in the valley, I would soon have to move to New Mexico.
    There are a bunch of them, they’re big and getting bigger.
    The church I got run out of had a dip when scandal hit….it’s massive again today.
    Until people get personally wounded they simply will not listen…and even after that, they are quick to forgive, as my old church and Albuquerque shows.

  71. Do you think Skip made some changes as a result or is it business as usual?

  72. Michael says:

    Ricky,

    We’re getting off topic.
    I want to focus on practical ways to recognize abusive churches and how to avoid getting trapped in one.
    Let’s get this back on track.

  73. Michael says:

    Yes, he made some changes…he’s utterly invulnerable now.

  74. OK, thanks Michael. Good discussion.

  75. Mike DeLong says:

    Steve —

    For your benefit let me try to underline my basic points: if I want to avoid an abusive church I’d look for two things: a culture of accountability and available data.

    By which I don’t mean that everybody is accountable to one guy. Or three or four guys. But rather does that one guy or do those three or four guys make an effort to be as open to the church at large as they expect us to be with them. I might even suggest that they should be held to a higher standard in this regard.

    And data is hard to come by, so we have to make do with what we can get. I need data so I can take it to someone else and ask them if I’m crazy or prejudiced or unreasonable or whatever and they can tell me yes or no. So much of what we deal with in churches is “written on water,” meaning that it comes and goes and leaves no evidence behind. In trying to pin down this exact question (“How do I stay away from abusive churches?”) I’ve been frustrated how often crises leave behind only “he said she said” stories. And I’ve had fits getting the Biblically mandatory two or three (independent) witnesses for these stories.

    If I get away from those all that is typically available are tapes (of sermons), court records, and financial disclosures.

    When I’ve encountered abusive pastors few of them have said clearly abusive things on tape. More often they’ll wait until the tapes are no longer rolling: they’ll say things when they’re out of the pulpit or after the closing prayer, when the AV guys have stopped taping.

    In the text of a sermon (on tape) it’s often difficult to tell a hard teaching from an abusive teaching; nobody’s theology is perfect, and the occasional odd comment from the pulpit doesn’t make a pastor an abuser.

    Court records are rare.

    That leaves financials.

    If you can help me find another way of measuring how accountable a church is on a regular basis that a disinterested third party can observe I’m all ears.

  76. Steve Wright says:

    Years ago, Disney was involved with some movie project that upset the Christian community. The calls to boycott Disney were loud.

    I remember a wise voice in all the commotion saying “Wouldn’t it be more effective to not support the specific work that offends you, rather than condemning Christians who would like their young child to enjoy the fun of Disneyland on her birthday”

    If you want Disney to do less of those sorts of projects, it seems sort of odd (and certainly a futile gesture) to make attending their theme park or watching Dumbo and Cinderella the litmus test of serving the Lord and not being “of the world”

    Your mileage may vary…

  77. Steve Wright says:

    when the AV guys have stopped taping.
    ——————————————
    My guys are like the NSA. They never stop. 😉

    (just adding a little levity and what might be an inside joke to some here)

  78. Xenia says:

    In my world, these would be red flags:

    1. A priest who expects more from parishioners than the Orthodox Church as a whole expects, such as extra rigid fasting, attendance at every service, assignment of over-long prayer rules, etc.

    2. Asking inappropriate personal questions during confession.

    3. Seeing themselves as some kind of 18th century Russian staretz who expects his flock to hang on his every word as if he were St. Seraphim himself.

    4. Prognosticating over people (“You will be a priest one day”) when all they are doing is taking a wild guess to make themselves appear to have supernatural insight.

    My parish priest displays none of this inappropriate behavior, by the way. In fact, it’s hard to get him to give me advice at all, he just says “Pray and I will pray, too.” And it works!

  79. Michael says:

    Xenia,

    How big of a problem is abuse in the Orthodox world and how do they address it when it happens?

  80. Xenia says:

    Michael, I have never seen a case of abuse first hand. I know of one priest who was an interim pastor at our parish for a month who had pretty strict ideas but he is only an assistant priest at his own parish and I actually followed the difficult advice he gave me, to my own benefit. I wouldn’t call him abusive, just awfully strict. They can’t really go beyond what their Bishop allows. Most of the spiritual abuse I have seen (from afar) has happened in monasteries run by over zealous converts to Orthodoxy.

  81. Jeff Sheckstein says:

    Mike

    The problem with hinging due diligence and accountability on financial disclosure is that very few churches will answer questions or consent to an in person review of a financial. Maybe one question they can evidence on their own is “is nepotism” rampant in the church? I get if if a SP has a gifted child, but what if not gifted or multiple family members are employed?

    Nepotism would indicate abuse as the SP would have little or no accountability from his board, staff, congregants, etc. and this “yes man” culture always permits or looks the other way to rationalize their innate convictions.

    Min you, this test is not the sole indicator, but one of many.

  82. Gary says:

    I just had an epithany. Y’all are Christians. Right? jk Actually what I just realized is six degrees of separation here. More about that later. I knew there were (are) pastors here but now I think yer all pastors. No wonder a lot of my posts go seemingly unnoticed. Makes sense now. duh 😉

  83. Michael says:

    Jeff,

    Another good call.
    Nepotism can indeed be one of those signs…

  84. Gary says:

    …and I know it’s epiphany. nyuk nyuk

  85. Xenia says:

    Most of you, probably all of you (except me) would consider life in an Orthodox monastery to be abusive. The monastic takes a vow of obedience and the abbot/ abbess sometimes gives inexplicable orders that must be followed without murmur or complaint. Most people would not choose this kind of life but the purpose is to learn to deny yourself. Happily, joining a monastery is voluntary and only for those who are called by God to this type of life of self-denial. But to the outsider, pretty much everything that takes place in a monastery would be considered abusive.

  86. Michael says:

    Xenia,

    I was just wondering if there’s procedural recourse for parishioners.

  87. Gary says:

    Apothecary?

  88. Xenia says:

    Michael, a phone call to the bishop’s office would be the first step.

  89. Michael says:

    Gary,

    I’m a pastor, Steve is a pastor, covered is a pastor…there’s a few more, but not many.

  90. Gary says:

    Xenia,
    Yep, except the wine. Not abusive per se cuz the monk knows what he’s getting into and he agrees up front.

  91. Steve Wright says:

    I need data so I can take it to someone else and ask them if I’m crazy or prejudiced or unreasonable or whatever and they can tell me yes or no
    ————————————————————-
    Mike, I believe you should trust the leading of the Holy Spirit.

    not that I am against outside (Spirit-filled) counsel, but when it comes to finances, unless you have a LOT more information than just raw numbers on an income statement, an uninvolved 3rd party can’t give you an accurate evaluation of what is proper, what might be “too much” or “too little” and so forth.

    I also do not understand what you wrote here: “…four guys make an effort to be as open to the church at large as they expect us to be with them”

    What expectations of “openness” is your church pastor putting on the people?

    Other than asking some questions before I marry someone, or running a background check for people wanting to serve…I can’t think of anything a pastor has the right to demand of a person – at least in our style of church. Obviously, churches with formal confession and so forth would be different – as would those with formal membership.

  92. Gary says:

    Jeff,
    Ya ever shop at Hone Nepot? They got everything. I think I’ll go lie down for a spell.

  93. Michael says:

    Xenia,

    That’s what I thought…and why I like systems with bishops. 🙂

  94. Mike DeLong says:

    Jeff —

    Nepotism is a warning sign, yes.

    Often a small new church will have members of the pastor’s family in crucial unpaid roles, and it’s difficult to grow out of that phase.

    In one of the churches I attended the pastor’s wife was an administrator at the Christian school, and one of their family members (a cousin who was retired from business) kept the books.

    Another ministry we’ve been associated with has its board full of the founder’s family members. They are unpaid, but I would still consider this a warning sign. Not that they’re necessarily doing anything wrong, but rather that its hard to imagine how accountable the ministry is really being if the chairman can always count on safe votes from the board.

  95. Solomon Rodriguez says:

    “What about a struggling church, in a struggling economy, with members that are struggling in their personal finances?

    Frankly, I think it is manipulative to week after week publish numbers in the bulletin that effectively say “once more, we couldn’t pay the bills this week without dipping into our savings which of course are dropping”

    If you wouldn’t want the pastor saying that each week from the pulpit, why have it in the bulletin.

    Most people, especially those struggling, want to escape financial problems for at least the hour they spend worshipping the Lord each Sunday.”

    How about a once a year opening of the books? My former Four Square fellowship did that and it produced a very healthy dialogue. They did it on a Wednesday night in place of service and passed out a copy of the financial books to everyone in attendance. For and hour and a half the congregation could ask the Pastor anything concerning what was on the books. It could get a little heated sometimes but never disrespectful.

  96. Solomon Rodriguez says:

    “Years ago, Disney was involved with some movie project that upset the Christian community. The calls to boycott Disney were loud.

    I remember a wise voice in all the commotion saying “Wouldn’t it be more effective to not support the specific work that offends you, rather than condemning Christians who would like their young child to enjoy the fun of Disneyland on her birthday”

    If you want Disney to do less of those sorts of projects, it seems sort of odd (and certainly a futile gesture) to make attending their theme park or watching Dumbo and Cinderella the litmus test of serving the Lord and not being “of the world”

    Your mileage may vary…”

    I had a brother in the lord that condemned anybody that went to Disney Land or watched Disney movies but yet he was a big Lord of The Rings fan

  97. Mike DeLong says:

    One more thing I would watch out for: the Heavy.

    If there’s a staffer whose job it is to fire people and generally be the staff disciplinarian and be Mr Law and Mr No that’s a sign you’re dealing with an abusive ministry.

    Especially if he’s the guy who preaches twice a year and his topic is always something controversial and he takes a really hard line that seems otherwise out of character for the ministry.

    The trouble with this warning sign is that you may need to go to church somewhere for a year before you can get a good look at this guy. He’s not going to show up to Inquirers Class and say “Welcome to Crossroads. I’m Pastor Bad News.”

  98. Steve Wright says:

    Here is what I think are good questions, We start with the assumption that you need to hang around for awhile to get a feel for any church, and that you aren’t trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. (i.e. if you are big on formal membership, then don’t waste time considering a church without it)….so in no particular order of importance, for those evaluating a CC or other similar church.

    1 ) What is the pastor’s resume. NOT his testimony. Where did he serve before here, how long, what formal education, why were moves made when they were made. How did he get this pastorate

    2 ) Does the pastor know who personally gives money and how much

    3 ) Who gets a paycheck from the church

    4 ) What is the pastor’s family connection to the church. Do they serve, do they attend etc.

    5 ) Is the pastor personally available to do weddings, funerals, make hospital calls, and just sit down and talk (or talk on the phone)

    6 ) What sort of formal accountability is in place to remove the pastor (or anyone else) who may become disqualified.

    7 ) Does the church run background checks on those who serve

    8 ) What policies are in place to protect children

    9 ) How can the average person learn about the finances.

    10 ) What mission work is supported by the church, and approximately how much goes there.

    11 ) What sort of help to the poor in the church, and/or in the community is taking place, and approximately how much.

  99. Becky says:

    What were the signs you wish you would have seen before you got hurt?

    Well, in my case I had the Holy Spirit tapping me on the shoulder at Starbucks inside the Barnes and Nobel in Charlottesville Va – “Becky what do you NOT see here? What is not clicking for you?” as we sat across the table from cc pastor and his wife. I told the Holy Spirit “Oh that can’t be true he is a calvary chapel pastor!” What was I NOT seeing? Humble, caring, genuine,God shining through. What was not clicking? What they were saying was not meeting up with what I know. My Daddy always had a saying about God. “You KNOW that you KNOW” It is a Spirit thing. I guess. In my case I just don’t always listen to what the Holy Spirit is saying to me.

    What do you look for now before you join a new church?

    Well, now I want to make sure it is NOT non-denominational. Too much room for Celebrity pastor and no accountability. I look for how obnoxious the males are. Seriously, if they are the kind of men who are “women need to be barefoot, pregnant, and obedient” I immediately won’t even acknowledge them. If the women are all about what they are wearing and appearances then I don’t want too have anything to do with them either. Arrogance and self pride. If the Worship team is way cool and put on a concert instead of leading worship then that is a red flag. If the service is all about the pastor’s message then that is a red flag. If people say things like “What are you giving up for Gods Kingdom” red flag. With ccville it was “you need to sacrifice for the lords work” Or “Becky you need to be content and stop missing home” OR “if you don’t get on board Reuben will be fired”. Never in my life have I been around so many women who worshiped the pastors wife and were all about looking good. It is one thing to dress nice it is another to make a huge deal about it. If felt dirty to be there.

    What questions should you have asked that you will ask before you join a new fellowship?

    Basically, What I learned from where we are now is by visiting first and noticing how humble our Priest/Pastor was during service. The whole service is all about The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit. It is not about the message from the pastor, how cool the worship team and or leader is, and it is not about what outfit the pastor’s wife is wearing this week. When we met with the Priest/Pastor for dinner he was very open and genuine, and caring for us. His wife is amazing as well. I did have the Holy Spirit tap me on the shoulder and say “This is good” So I decided to listen to him this time. 🙂 So far so good.

  100. Linnea says:

    It is my opinion that the answer is not so much in exposure of bad guys (though that is necessary) but in education of the flock.”

    Absolutely Michael–and that’s true in any walk of life, including corporate America. I’m a trainer by trade, and training/shaping thinking transforms.

  101. Linnea says:

    PP Vet @3… a hearty YES!

  102. Linnea says:

    Regarding financial transparency…some of us are so busy, we can’t listen as well to the Lord. I think it’s good to let folks know that bills can’t be met. From the time I leave for work till the time I get home is 11.5 hours. I barely have time to talk to my husband and kids, let alone, petition the Lord for needs. Please, for those of us who are pushed to the limits, please, let us know your need.

  103. covered says:

    Linnea, your post was refreshing. I love that you said, “please let us know your need”.

  104. covered says:

    Linnea, I do hope that your days are lengthened so that you can spend some time petitioning The Lord. It changes things but you already know that 🙂

  105. Michael says:

    Linnea,

    Thank you…the educational aspect isn’t getting much traction.

  106. Linda says:

    Signs of a potentially abusive church:
    Rewriting bylaws
    Fortifying control
    Required respect
    Heavy emphasis on authority and submission
    Pressure to conform
    Firing or excommunication cloaked as resignation
    Squelching questions
    Strict commands to not gossip
    Shunning of problematic members
    An abundance of disinformation and guarded information

  107. Gary says:

    Michael,
    A personal note regarding the six degrees of separation I mentioned earlier. It may actually be 2 degrees. Or 3 times 2 degrees. You might need Nodoze for this. Just remember- I get tired when I’m silly. Or something to that defect.

    After being away from CCCM for many years I visited one Sunday during one of my family’s holiday treks down to OC from SF. We used to visit my family for Christmas every other year. Visiting CCCM after being away for about ten years was strange. It was the first time I had seen the building I had helped build. A lot had happened to me in those years. I hadn’t given CC much thought. The service was more middle America. I felt like I hadn’t missed much since I left. Chuck was preaching the same as he used to which reminded me why I had become restless to get out of there back in ’73.

    I have visited twice since then. Each time I noticed a more polished air, more comfy seats, and of course a more well-dressed upscale clientele. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. It’s just that I didn’t expect CC to go that direction. They were still saving seats and I figured the leadership had given up on “Jesus doesn’t save seats”. The last time I visited there was a very pretty but very bland blond singer singing a pretty nondescript song. I felt betrayed in a way. Let down. Like I felt when I had seen the sequel to 2001 A Space Odyssey. Ten years later and it was empty.

    So 3 visits in about 40 years. Are you still with me? This was before I heard anything negative about CC other than my expulsion from the commune and my run-ins with my CC brother.* Since I had incubated there I would sometimes get homesick for my alma mater. (Snarky joke deleted.)

    This brings me to an incident that happened last year. It had been about ten years since I had visited CCCM. I heard an ad on the radio for a local CC here in the SF area and I got homesick. I wanted to visit. I knew it would be nothing like CCCM. I’ve visited other CCs while on vacation in northern CA and they were like most very small Baptist churches. I had to wait until a Sunday when I wasn’t already committed.

    When I got the chance I took my wife and we visited CC San Ramon. Due to my cell phone accidently getting turned on during the main point of the sermon I had to talk to the pastor after the service. I had to apologize. His name was Jared. I think his last name was Protero or Potrero. I found out that he knew my brother. I told him the gist of my problem with my brother and asked him if he would be interested in helping to negotiate a reconciliation. I’ve been trying to reconcile with him for many years. Jared was amenable. But soon after that he told me Skip Heitzig had asked him to go to Albuquerque. So it never happened.

    At the same time I was contacted by a regional CC pastor who I had grown up with. He was going to be in town and maybe we could get together. Now remember I have no ties to any CC. I asked him to help negotiate a reconciliation, since he knows both of us. He helped up to a point but bailed midstream. During this same time I was shown some videos about another CC pastor who knows my brother. I didn’t think all this was a coincidence. I e mailed him and asked him but I got no reply. Mighty CC has struck out!

    So that’s the scratchy surface of my 2 or 3 degrees of separation. To bring this into focus I have wondered since these seemingly random relationships and meetings that I may have a part to play in what we are discussing on this thread. (Without intending to of course.) That is addressing CC abuse. My sitch with my CCCM brother has been a thorn in my side since 1989 and I know nothing is wasted in God’s kingdom.

    *I could fill one side of a long ledger with my relationship with my CCCM brother but I won’t. I’ll just say our relationship has been fodder for a lot of halfway decent verses.

  108. brian says:

    Been a long day and hope to have a nice Friday. It might be me but I think I fall into these ruts late at night. Those that read my posts must see it, I get all wound up, blow up, dump huge text often true but out of context and filled with emotion. It is a common theme with me here, and in life. I try very hard to be level headed and logical, when I do it ticks me off that they are not compassionate to me. I have come to see that often the “them” is me or a compilation of people filtered through hurt and misunderstanding. Love takes no account of a wrong suffered, it does not nor it should excuse abuse of any kind but I think it was written to those that suffered the wrong so they could seek justice / reconciliation with a clear and comforted heart.

    Do you find humility healing? I do, not humiliation but humility, one is forced upon the person the other I think is a choice.

  109. Gary says:

    I hope so too, brian. For the last ten and a half years Friday has been my day off. Not now since I’m working for a different company. Work is spotty and I never know when a measure will come in for me to do. In effect I’m on call.

    Do you ever feel like you’re in the silver chair? I do and it’s frustrating.

    Humility is when God has to put you in your place and, man it hurts. On the other hand, we get humiliation all the time from people. But it’s not from God. God is not in it. God can use it because God is the great redeemer of all things and He can use anything for His ultimate purpose. I have to believe that or I loose hope.

  110. barnabas says:

    Transparency. I want a complete budget, see the church board minutes, observe the commitment to obeying the Word of God, ask around the community to see what the pastor’s reputation is, see his family in the full context life, and how the character of the church he leads is perceived. I want to see how empowered the members are, and would informally interview many of them. I would attend without committing to any membership for a year to see how things go. That’s a start.

  111. finallyfree says:

    I wish I would have known about the classic signs of manipulation. Manipulation is performed when someone wants to get something he or she wants from someone else — for self edification only and not for the good of anyone else. How many times in a period of 15 years, as a pastor on staff, I was told, “you can do that…but…”; “if you don’t pull up, you may need to step down from “such and such” ministry…”but you can still be an elder” (or whatever that leader deems is good for him – for the moment). “If you have a problem with this pastor (himself), you have a problem with the church”…that’s a biggie! “You may not fear Jesus…but you better fear this pastor!”

    Also, look out for guys that go after your spouses. A big problem in the CC I was at was the idea that women cause problems when they get together. So my wife was told to only have light conversation with women in the church; then when she was “obedient”, she was chastised for not having relationships with he women of the church (as the pastor moved through waves of paranoia). Basically, if you were under the thumb of a pastor, either husband or wife, depending on who was viewed as the most “obedient”, you were encouraged to make relationships with others and had opportunity to advance in minsitry. But if you were the spouse that was “not obedient” (meaning, not giving total “god” type allegiance to the pastor), you were shamed to no end. And the pastor would move to shame to the point of encouraging divorce. Then, he could and did get an even more obedient “servant”. By God’s marvelous grace – this is when I said with tears and trembling lips, “wait a minute! I’m not doing this any more!” and left 15 years of what I thought was ministry…and many friends – only be completely, shamed (not church discipline – but public shaming). The Pastor lied to the entire church, stating that my family did not want anyone from the church to contact us (after we left). Wow. By God’s grace, some did a year later – and then many precious saints since then. Thankful that God would have them contact me as I was also “holding the coats” of those who were stoning.

    Maybe look out for pastors that all out scream at saints in the church? I know, that should be obvious, but I was so sin-sick, wanting attention in any form, that I did not catch that this may be a bad sign if it’s a regular occurrence (without acknowledgement or repentance).

    And finally, the idea that there are no other Christians out there doing it right. We were even isolated from other CC affiliates because they are all “compromisers”.

    Sadly, it’s so easy for any church, whether under the Moses model, or under the Plurality of Elders model, or any other model, to be politically tainted, and let leaders continue to hurt sheep without restraint. It’s important to not jump on the next band-wagon only because it’s billed to be biblical in it’s form of leadership. “Jesus style” is really the only biblical model in the end, and he died for the haters of God. May we die too.

    Thanks for bearing with the long post 😉 This is the first time I have written in a very painful “ex-ministry” 4 year span and I was wondering if I should ever say something. Hope this is helpful!

  112. Michael says:

    FF,
    I’m very glad you wrote…that is mind bending stuff!

  113. Gary says:

    finallyfree,
    Welcome to the next step in your freedom from your past. Fellowship diffuses shame.

  114. brian says:

    From my limited point of view, manipulation is a focal point for proving our claims if one uses skewed data not only is that Holy but it should be expected. In my limited view of the Evangelical Christian religion are basically apologetics seeking to be fulfilled, if my soul goes to hell and yours to heaven has no meaning. I mean that, it has no meaning what so ever. It is the apologetic we should defend, if a billion or so souls suffer eternal, premeditated, divine suffering in hell, that is small potatoes to being proven right, winning a blot post, rebuking a person who appeared at a conference.

    First on its face, any deity that needs to take out a vast majority of humanity for some blood lust, take me first. To your face I say that. OK we got that aside and I am still alive, will check in later today to prove my hypothesis. Trust me I get the God wants our soul emails and the eternal wrath voodoo doll magic spells online and offline. If I wake up and am still alive in the later morning we will see if that hypothesis is real. I have always seen God as a loving father that would do anything to help His children heal. For the most part in my limited experience of the Christian religion both online and off line. God hates us, no me, personally, with malice of forethought from the foundations of the universe for having committed the vilest of sins, I was human. I never quite got past the idea that God created humans, preordained humans to fall, then created them to literally be born, live, and die, to be resurrected in an eternal body only to suffer eternally.

    That is not good news, I think people that, it just is not. Also it has no evidence what so ever, we had no literal fall, though I do not think we are not fallen. I think we are the apple of our God’s eye and he did all he could to reconcile us to him. I never understood why I should repudiate that and know that God, the Eternal Father, created the vast majority of humanity to eternal torment and that is their one and true purpose. I hope everyone is saved and that great joy will be found in the great reconciliation. But that goes to show what an emotional piece of trash I am, imagine the Father of Glory saving all His children, If that does not cement what a piece of human trash I am I dont know what does. From the cheap seats, it is not good news, it never has been.

  115. Jackie Alnor says:

    Three signs of potential pastoral abuse
    1. The false teaching that the law of the tithe applies to NT believers
    2. A pastor who claims to be your ‘covering’
    3. A pastor whose teachings cannot be challenged privately

  116. Jackie and I agree. #115

  117. Gary says:

    brian- the silver chair.

  118. Andrew says:

    I would agree with #115 as well. I would add that any Moses Model pastor of any large size church would most likely delegate any of these kinds of questions to his staff hence shielding himself from being challenged. Which is telling.

  119. Gary says:

    Regarding spiritual abuse and the Moses model. Everyone here knows that the model of the man Moses of the bible is not the model Chuck or CC follows. Many others have found out the hard way. Chuck’s model of governance of God’s people has nothing whatsoever to do with the real man Moses. I’ve gone into the details on that before so I won’t go into it here. Besides- y’all know.

    The so-called Moses model needs to be called what it really is. It’s a pretense. It’s deception. It’s a lie. It’s a cover up. It’s a system that transforms men with good intentions into predators, spiritual and otherwise. Not all but way too many. Which bible character did that? I can’t think of any. Maybe some of Paul’s detractors. The person who comes to mind is Professor Marvel- the Wizard of Oz. He’s not a bad man; he’s just a bad pastor.

    There’s another fictional character who comes to mind but this isn’t fiction and I don’t want to overstate Chuck’s intentions. I’m not a liberal so I don’t focus so much on intentions. I see words and actions. I see their resulting heartache. I see a systematic insidious fleecing of the flock the likes of I could not have imagined a few years ago. This system makes the evils of the RCC look like kindergarden. At least those guys are obvious.

    I’ve had many conversations with Christians who were Catholic about what could be done to pull people from the fire. It’s been a source of frustration. The only thing we came up with was to go back to Mass and befriend as many of them as we could. We never did that. I’d rather go to a biblical worship service. I believe there are more Christians who have come out of Catholicism than from any other group. Catholicism primes people to receive God’s grace because they beat them over the head with shame and guilt.

  120. Andrew says:

    “Catholicism primes people to receive God’s grace because they beat them over the head with shame and guilt.”

    I never was part of RCC but I imagine this could be the experience of some but not all. I would say this is more true of CC which primes people to read the Bible to actually read about the grace of God for them selves. Its too bad some of the pastors actually want you to follow them instead of Jesus however.

  121. Gary says:

    Andrew,
    What I mean is that after someone has grown up in the RCC they are ready for the gospel. CC primes people to go to sleep.

  122. Andrew says:

    ZZZZZZ. snooze!

  123. Gary says:

    Do you disagree?

  124. Jim says:

    “RESOLVED: that we encourage all denominational leaders and employees of the Southern Baptist Convention to utilize the highest sense of discernment in affiliating with groups and/or individuals that possess questionable policies and practices in protecting our children from criminal abuse; and be it finally”

    With 5000 pastors in attendance, over 2500 voted in favor of this amendment, which is clearly referencing SGM. The largest protestant demon in the nation does not approve of it’s high profile leaders’ cozy relation$hip with CJ.

    Up to a third of SGM churches have left, including the 1st (the mothership) and 3rd largest. This would be like Costa Mesa leaving CC. The remaining churches are not thriving, but are shrinking. Many who remain (member and pastors) have one foot out the door.

    Apples and oranges in every respect. Google CC and then SGM.

    CJ and his buds can circle the wagons and plug their ears, but their star is clearly falling.

  125. Andrew says:

    Gary, No disagreement with you. Just waking up from my slumber.

  126. Andrew says:

    “Apples and oranges in every respect. Google CC and then SGM”

    Maybe bad apples and bad oranges. Bad fruit is what they have in common.

  127. “With 5000 pastors in attendance, over 2500 voted in favor of this amendment,”

    Jim, are you saying that almost 50% of the SBC pastors voted to maintain relationships with the abusers?

  128. Steve Wright says:

    Yeah, Jim. How does a vote with wording like that not look like an election result in Cuba?

    Seems you should be a lock for 99%+

  129. Gary says:

    Jim,
    I’m disappointed that so many voted the other way- to look the other way.

    Dang, Andrew. I was hoping for some snark.

  130. Jim says:

    Sorry, I don’t know the tally. I only know that the resolution passed, which req’d a majority. I was being conservative.

    Keep in mind that everyone knew that this was about SGM and primarily Mohler, so the actual language of the amendment is secondary.

  131. Jim says:

    By apples/oranges, I’m referring to the damage done by bringing the dirty deeds to light. SGM was an easier target due to their age, size, and general weirdness.

  132. Andrew says:

    Jim,
    If this is about Mohler, what does this mean? I thought he was president of the SBC seminary. Does this mean the seminary is no longer part of the denomination? I haven’t really been following.

  133. Jim says:

    Andrew,

    It means that SBC pastors don’t approve of the face of their denom being associated with SGM. This vote is massive blow back.

  134. Andrew says:

    And Mohler was part of SGM or at least endorsed CJ. Ok, its making more sense to me now.

  135. Steve Wright says:

    Sorry, I don’t know the tally. I only know that the resolution passed, which req’d a majority. I was being conservative.
    ——————————————————–
    Thanks, Jim. My mistake as I thought you were in fact reporting a vote.

    I’m sure it overwhelmingly passed.

  136. Andrew says:

    Now if we could only get CCs to have a vote. Who only knows what is buried underneath the sheets.

  137. Gary says:

    That would be like the whole Catholic church including all the cardinals, archbishops, monsigours, priests, nuns, etc. deciding to do away with the papacy. Not gonna happen.

  138. Andrew says:

    Exactly, which is why I hope the SBC would completely distance themselves from anything Calvary Chapel if they are serious about their resolution.

  139. Gary says:

    What ties does the SBC have with CC?

  140. Andrew says:

    Well for starters, this guy just spoke at CCphilly.

    Randy Stinson is the Dean of the School of Church Ministries and the Vice President for Academic Innovation at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY.

  141. Jim says:

    Still can’t find hard numbers, but found this on an SBC site from an attendee:

    “I thought it was brilliant on Peter’s part. The Resolution, along with his amendment were passed with seemingly small opposition.”

    I’m sorry that my first comment was poorly worded.

  142. passing throgh says:

    Eastern Orthodox don’t have abusive priests? Horse pucky. Let’s tell the truth and not candy coat things.

    This took all of 30 sec. to find. Of course there are more.

    Who are priests accountable to? Oh, Right. God. Got it.

    http://www.pokrov.org/

    http://www.rickross.com/reference/clergy/clergy887.html

  143. Gary says:

    The problem with churches is that they are full of people.

  144. Jackie Alnor says:

    Right Gary – and the goats outnumber the sheep – and you know how goats are – they like to use their horns to butt people around. And most career pastors are hirelings and not shepherds – the lunatics have taken over the asylum. So what do you expect????

  145. Jackie Alnor says:

    Maybe that will wake Andy up.

  146. Gary says:

    Yeah, it’s a very sad situation. Who is Andy?

  147. Andrew says:

    Hi Jackie,
    Didn’t know you were referring to me. Yeah, I agree that the goats do out number the sheep. And when the goat is a pastor its more like a wolf. And I agree with Gary its a very sad situation.

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