Comments on Recovering from Churches that abuse #2
Comments on Recovering from Churches that abuse #2 I Comment on the first six of Neffs 11 points of difference between healthy churches and abusive ones.
Commentary about Enroth, R. – Recovering from Churches that Abuse
Chapter 1 : Searching for Freedom
To distinguish between healthy and unhealthy churches, Neff poses eleven questions.
1. Does a member’s personality generally become stronger, happier, more confident as a result of contact with the group?
I point to the church’s primary interact principle, we come together to edify one another. Paul’s arguments in 1 Corinthian 14 point directly to this. The church is not a public square where any fool can get up and do whatever he wants. It is a place of our worship of God and also our mutual edification. Anything that doesn’t edify your brethren is prohibited.
2. Do members of the group seek to strengthen their family commitments?
It is unfortunate, but many church leaders see a conflict between family commitments and their people’s religion. Being a part of a family, spouse, son or daughter, or mother or father, is a spiritual work that God wants us to fulfill. Being a good family member is exactly the point. Jesus made the point that some would lose their family relationships and to hold that above Christ means that they are not worthy of heaven, i.e. they are not saved. Even Paul explains in 1 Corinthians 7 explains how in some cases marriages will be broken up, and Paul comments on how the believer should be in these cases.
But, in general, a good Christian should be a better family member than an unsaved person, and “church” should not get in the way of being a good family member. Some churches want their people 7 days a week, and all day on Saturdays and Sundays. This is unhealthy even for families where everybody is a Christian. You can get so involved in insignificant church activities (like cleaning the church, car washes, and fun entertainment stuff for teens, kids, etc) that you miss the point that family does not mean you have to do family stuff with the church or in the church physically.
3. Does the group encourage independent thinking and the development of discernment skills?
Wow! I have known a number of pastors who basically think and act like their members are their own personal slaves. Some call on a man to take off from his work so that he can drive the pastor to another state for a pastor’s meeting. The point here is it is abusive to think that everybody in my church has to follow my thinking and instructions (orders) or they are sinning.
As far as discernment is involved, most pastors only think their understanding of life and ministry as they personally see it is correct. Everybody else is wrong. This kind of leader will fall eventually because he cannot accept wise counsel from other people, and yes that does exist!
An abusive leader is very clearly and prominently seen by his demand for control over things. He seldom will allow others, and that is only when his inner circle is tightly following his desires, then he will let them make the proclamation of something, but again it has to be what he has already dictated to them in private.
4. Does the group allow for individual differences of belief and behavior, particularly on issues of secondary importance?
The openness and closedness of churches and leader are amazing. Some leaders absolutely allow no other opinion or take on the ministry except their own. Rules and procedures, and “but we have always done things this way, and we have to continue that” is the rule of the day under an abusive leader.
5. Does the group encourage high moral standards both among members and between members and nonmembers?
Here, it is not always a rule, but many an abusive leader has a dual system of norms and standards. Put simply, nobody can reach into the offering plate and pull out a handful of money but them. If they do something “wrong”, it is not wrong, but if others do it, yes. The criminality of the act depends entirely on who is doing it. Many a time, even the inner circle of the pastor has these privileges, but the common member in the pew doesn’t.
A pastor of one of the largest churches in the United States had one of his Sunday School teachers accused and went to jail for abusing little girls, but this man actually got put back into the same position when he was released. While any common member of that church would be disciplined for indecency, the pastor himself wasn’t when he did something improper with his church secretary and one of his cronies was also free from any repercussions of wrongdoing. This is common in abusive churches.
6. Does the group’s leadership invite dialogue, advice, and evaluation from outside its immediate circle?
One of the most telling signs of a good church is how they listen to their people. All of them. Although you cannot turn the church on its head every time somebody feels something should be done differently, listening and trying to see why people feel the way they do, and then accommodating church practice to not rub people the wrong way is a good sign of a good church.