Piper’s New Glasses and Seeing Clearly after Wearing Distorted Lenses of Spiritual Abuse

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Seeing Clearly Again after Spiritual Abuse

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Have you seen this video which has been spreading around?  It is the cutest thing ever and shows a precious baby, Piper, who does not want her mama to put on her new glasses. But after she gets her new glasses on, Piper’s face lights up as she hears and now clearly sees her parents talking to her. What joy is expressed on her face!

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This child has a new world opened up to her with her new glasses. It reminded me of what it was like when I saw through new lenses and removed the spiritual blindness from spiritual abuse.

One of the things that my cult church did was isolate me from the world around me. There were so many church activities and meetings, we had little time to mingle with people outside of the church and were discouraged from associating with “the world.”

Some long-time blog readers know that I have been an accompanist for local high school choirs for the last 7 years. The first year I started doing this, I felt guilty because I was mingling with wordly people. I went primarily to make sure my 6’6″ son (senior in HS) would be safe (now I laugh at myself when I think of this). However, I fell in love with the choir teacher and how she connected with the students and asked if she needed any help on the piano. That was the beginning of my “choir mom” experience.

When I started, I kept looking through the lens of my pastor  – I knew that he would disapprove of this. There was an internal struggle: was my pastor right or would God be okay with me being here?

Coming to class for the first time, I saw a variety of students – people I wouldn’t see in my church. Some students had piercings, tattoos, others had brightly dyed hair, gothic clothes, you name it, I saw it. And of course there were immodestly dressed young ladies. Seeing this wide variety of people only confused my internal struggle. Was it okay for me to be here? Would God be displeased with me?

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FullSizeRender (7)

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Seeing with New Eyes

But my volunteer job was not to critique their clothing or hair styles, or judge how modestly they dressed, my job was to help them with music. Sometimes I’d work with the guys, another day I’d work with a small group of students. Before long, the bright hair, piercings, and tough images faded, and I only saw them as individuals – beautiful people just like my own kids.

We connected well and I loved to show them the love of music, to show them how to listen to music with a critical ear, to challenge themselves to aim high with their vocal abilities. Music is a gift from God and I wanted to somehow connect them with that gift, even if I couldn’t say it was from God.

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“For you shall go out in joy
    and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and the hills before you
    shall break forth into singing,
    and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Isaiah 55:12

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Using the old lenses, I was taught that one could only evangelize by the “Are You a Good Person?” method. I was taught that any free time should be spent evangelizing, even at the grocery store, the gas station, etc. I felt guilty any time I was doing something that wasn’t spiritually redeeming. Was choir spiritually redeeming? But I enjoyed it so much. Was this my flesh being selfish?

Finally, those lenses came off and I came to the conclusion that being a choir mom was being like Jesus. Sure, I enjoyed it, but I enjoyed it because music is a gift that God gave me. He gave me the gift of creativity. I’m sure God was pleased when I used the gift He gave me to share with others. Not only that, I loved and cared for these students. I was able to help students in crises, to be an encouraging presence in their life, to help them see a bigger picture when their worries got them down. God would be okay with me reaching out to those who needed help!

I am glad that I no longer see through the lens of my former pastor. That lens kept me in the dark, kept me in bondage to a man and his ways, not to God and His love and what He wanted me to do for Him.

Have you left a spiritually abusive church? Do you have new spiritual lenses? What was it like for you when you put on your new glasses?

*drawing by 12-yr old resident artist

61 comments on “Piper’s New Glasses and Seeing Clearly after Wearing Distorted Lenses of Spiritual Abuse

  1. Experiencing abuse in the church was the best thing that ever happened to me, spiritually-speaking. It opened my eyes to see that most of what I’d believed for so long was a lie which was keeping me trapped in subservience to men and their traditions. These days, I’m free to simply love God and love people – without fear! 🙂

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  3. I could connect in so many ways with this post! (oh, and the baby clip is just too cute and sweet ♥) We have had the same experience of being too busy with church meetings and activities to ever get to know our neighbors in many communities we lived in while in the military. And as soon as we left those churches for the next place, no one ever keeps in touch after you have moved out of the area. Our previous church that we finally stayed in (my husband was especially active doing a lot of work as a deacon, SS class teacher, many committees, etc. etc.) for a longer period of time turned out to be the same. Once you move away, there is no contact even though we tried vainly to keep in touch. I have noted, however, that another couple who moved away shortly before us seems to have continued their friendships, and I hate to say this, but these folks are quite wealthy and own a vacation home that they allow people to use. hmmmm. OK, ’nuff said on that. Another thing in common with your post is the witnessing thing, one church we attended was very sold on witnessing programs and you just had to be doing it 24/7 (that was the church I mentioned in a previous comment about the proper way to answer your phone!) I read an excellent essay on the Internet Monk website discussing this non-stop witnessing pressure. I’m basically a shy person and it was sheer torture for me to feel required to do this. Great post, I am so glad to have found your blog!

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  4. This is an exciting topic! I’m anxious to read about others’ experiences.

    While a devoted member of my ultra neo-Cal church, I had the opportunity to take a 9-month course on the spiritual disciplines with a dedicated small group, offered by a small church in town. Throughout the year, I realized I could never let anyone from my “real” church “find out” that I was “compromising” my “faith.” The trio of books that guided us were by James Bryan Smith, and were entitled “The Good and Beautiful God,” “The Good and Beautiful Life” and “The Good and Beautiful Community,” all of which I suspect Tim Challies would denigrate for their lack of “sound doctrine.” That year has been informing my Christian journey ever since, and I believe that the truth that sunk in that year led me to the realization that the Calvinist way can only be intellectually resolved via a mind-bending cognitive dissonance.

    This thought occurred to me yesterday when you linked to a JD Hall post, where this wannabe intellectual uses Elizabeth Kubler Ross’s 5 stages of grief to describe the Christian apprehension of the good news of the gospel! (By the way, she is a
    (1) female, (2) secular, (3) psychiatrist!, and no, she wasn’t referenced). When those little pink glasses come off, you recognize spiritual buffoonery for what it is.

    And I love that God provided as a means of illustration a girl 🙂 in pink 🙂 named Piper. 🙂

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  5. It’s becoming more obvious to me that, for the most part, unless you’ve really bought into an abusive system at one point, were raised in one, or were hurt by one it’s so very hard to feel sympathy for survivors. That is troubling to me. I didn’t really expect that aspect coming out of several abusive churches.

    Why does God let abuse happen? I still struggle with that. It’s almost a form of inter-church persecution that distinguishes the true church from the earthly. Of course that’s easy for me to say, as one who was “merely” spiritually/psychologically abused, not physically and sexually abused like many have been. What purpose does that serve?? I hate that this happens. And I still wonder why it’s allowed to happen in churches, to people trusting in God, who are there in church because they believe it’s God’s will for them. The whole thing is sickening. I don’t expect churches to be perfect, but I might have expected “godly” people to not set up systems with potential for abuse at least, if not inherently abusive from the start.

    I think what spiritual and psychological abuse has done for me is strip down what being a Christian means. The baggage and the peripherals tend to be red herrings to lead away from my purpose. Donut hole theology – make small issues huge so your enemies are everywhere around you. Judge another church because of weak doctrine and you don’t have to love them or collaborate with them to reach a city. Us vs them dynamic everywhere. No matter how many times “works salvation” was preached against, the unspoken rules were fanatical church attendance, bible reading, and prayer, or you were showing no Christian fruit and therefore unsaved. Live to serve the pastor. I could go on and on, as could many of us.
    God used a few people in my life to show a better way. That my theology was worthless if I didn’t love people. That fellowship doesn’t mean 100% doctrinal agreement. That we’re to be gracious to those “who are without”. What “true religion” means. That I’m not worthless unless I’m “ministering” in a local church-defined sense. That I am alone responsible for my soul and to not entrust my growth to the hands of men who don’t know me or even really care to know me. That I have the same access and standing before God as the pastor. That’s what my story so far is driving home to me, some of which I’m barely realizing and tapping into.

    I’m thankful for what you guys do, Julie and others, in not sugar-coating these issues and allowing us a small platform to share our stories.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. All right, let’s just get the 4’11”, 110-pound gorilla out of the room right away: I saw the Tweet and thought: why is she so excited about John Piper getting new glasses?

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  7. I admit that I did wonder if people would confused with John Piper when I clicked “publish.” Just a few minutes ago, I thought about adding “Baby” in front of Piper, but I could still get in trouble. I’m leaving it alone – lol.

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  8. Longtime Lurker – I’m glad you found the blog, too 🙂

    I could really relate with your military moves and losing relationships. You may have caught on to something with the family who has the vacation home.

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  9. God used a few people in my life to show a better way. That my theology was worthless if I didn’t love people. That fellowship doesn’t mean 100% doctrinal agreement. That we’re to be gracious to those “who are without”. What “true religion” means. That I’m not worthless unless I’m “ministering” in a local church-defined sense. That I am alone responsible for my soul and to not entrust my growth to the hands of men who don’t know me or even really care to know me. That I have the same access and standing before God as the pastor.

    JA just stood and waved her white hanky in agreement. YES and Amen, bro!

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  10. Probably the most freeing feeling was realizing that those “voices” that speak condemnation and judgement against me were not Jesus or from Jesus. Those words from people (or the church) lost power over manipulating and controlling me. So, definitely liberating.

    This freed me up to love everyone (even ourselves) and not label or put people into categories of good/bad/republican/democrat, etc. in order to see if I should interact with them. I’m saddened that I let prejudice get in my way of loving others because I put them in a certain group or just didn’t think they were the “right” crowd. Good grief! God’s love goes beyond all those stereotypes we form

    I loved that video! She’s too cute 🙂 Cuter than John Piper that’s for sure.

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  11. I’m with Sergius. I thought immediately of John Piper, too. :^)

    I’m also with Govpappy in admitting the reality that sometimes you’ve got to see something to acknowledge it….but not totally. I think that if you’ve read history and have developed a certain innate curiosity , you’re going to be able to deal with a lot of situations that you’ve never had to cope with before and say “WTF” a lot less when something new comes up–for the simple reason that if you know history (the soul of logic according to Plato), you’ve seen something similar before.

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  12. “I loved and cared for these students.”

    That says it all right there, IMO.

    My husband and kids have been frequenting a store called Hot Topic. This past Sunday was my first time to go with them. I can assure you that nobody from my former cult has ever set foot in this store. It’s way too edgy. The girl working there had a serious alternative vibe going on. She helped my kids find the Avengers, Dr. Who, Pokemon, Minion, and Minecraft merchandise they were looking for. After ringing us up, she said she hoped she had removed all the security tags. I smiled and said, “I guess we’ll find out when we walk out the front door.” She smiled back (she has a beautiful smile!), and told us to have a good day.

    Isn’t is amazing what a smile can do?

    One of the first things that began to make the kool-aid taste bitter in my mouth was experiencing more kindness from people outside my cult than I did from those in it.

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  13. For most of my adult life, I have thought one had to be a Baptist to have any connection to God at all. Several years ago my spiritual glasses started to fog up and I had to remove them every once and awhile. Everything I learned about God was changing. Through several years of realizing for the first time that God loved unconditionally, I found out that God’s love extended beyond the Baptists.
    About 15 years ago, I became a Gideon because I love God’s Word and wanted to see His book in as many hands as possible. Wow, did that move, remove the glasses and replaced with clear lenses of my old ones. There were about 10 different denominations represented in our local camp of Gideons. Since that time I have spoken in several churches that at one time I was sure were from the pit of hell and found many truly Christian people in them and they love God, Jesus and the Word as much or more than I do.
    I like what Monique has said in her post, ” Good grief! God’s love goes beyond all those stereotypes we form.” I have come to believe that as a human we have no comprehension of the depth of God’s love.
    Jim

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  14. True, one would hope that is common. But unless you happen to make the connections been, let’s say, communist Russia and the crazy church your crazy friend is warning you about, odds are it might just not mean much to you. “No! They’re part of TGC, they can’t be that crazy.” Or “My Baptist church has a membership covenant too – we’ve had it for a century – why are you making a Big deal about it?” Or “The elders look over the membership list weekly just because they care so much to pray for you all! That’s amazing you found such godly 20-yr-old elders!”

    I’m saying this from personal experience – I’m the crazy friend. Yeah, I think the truly discerning minds catch this stuff quickly and stay away, but church trust is blind with so many people. The bubble is real.

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  15. Monique….It is “Wretched Urgency-The Grace of God or Hamsters on a Wheel?” It is in the archives on there, it is called a classic post. I’d do the hyperlink thing, but I am a computer “dummie” and don’t have a clue how to do that LOL! It is so good, I printed it to keep. I have experienced most every word in the “programs” I’ve been through so most every word rang true.

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  16. You know, I’m personally of the view that you’ve got to look “under the hood” at a church–you’ll see abusive things in all kinds of churches, really. Local church near me–ELCA–is suffering greatly because of things HQ is passing down. Same thing with the UMC church my grandmother attends. Do I implicate Luther or Wesley, or possibly episcopal forms of church government? Nah, just leadership

    In the same way, TGC and others are coming up a lot, I don’t know whether statistically significantly, and part of the issue is that they’re the theological flavor of the month where all the young lions are flocking (priding?). Hence they, as well as other hot movements, are going to get hit disproportionately by the foibles of the young and ambitious.

    I’m open to hypotheses where we ought to look at certain movements with a particularly jaded eye–that is my perspective on KJVO, Landmark, and Jack Hyles style fundamentalism–but I think we first need to figure out if what we’re seeing isn’t a more obvious issue like “growing pains.”

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  17. Side note; the video reminds me of when I got my first glasses at age 18 or 19, and when the optometrist snuck the reading glasses setting in a couple of years back. “Wow, that’s nice!” Same basic thing with people getting surgery for cataracts–“why didn’t I do that 5 years ago!”. Seeing clearly never gets old…. :^)

    Here’s Internet Monk’s “Wretched Urgency” for those who want to look it up, BTW. (thank you Mr. Google)

    http://www.internetmonk.com/archive/imonk-classic-wretched-urgency%E2%80%94the-grace-of-god-or-hamsters-on-a-wheel

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  18. I didn’t want to read anything more about John Piper so avoided this post until now. Lol! Really encouraging stuff. God made a diverse world and the church should be free to reflect that. Personal preferences are not the same as right or wrong. It’s a lesson that brings us to maturity-otherwise I think what immature characters do is try to control everything and define everything in their limited perspective. It’s a shame when that happens. Glad you got out!

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  19. The problem with exclusively using the Are You A Good Person method of evangelism is that it doesn’t work with everyone. I know that before I became a Christian I thought I was quite a fine fellow, especially in comparison to all those other people who were not as nice as me. And believe me, when I compared myself to others I almost always came out on top in my opinion.

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  20. Hey Julie Anne

    When do we get to hear you playing the piano? 😉

    Sunday might work.

    Or, at least a video of the choir that the “choir mom” plays for? 🙂

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  21. Speaking to Spencer’s comments about “wretched urgency”, it speaks to me. I, too, came to Christ in Baptistic churches, heard the exhortations to do cold calling….and quite frankly, I’ve rarely seen a cold call “conversion” perservere in Christ.

    For that matter, a missionary of my acquaintance notes that he’s handed out something like 300,000 “Chick” tracts with…..one new church member. Lifestyle evangelism? Hundreds, with thriving churches that no longer depend on his leadership. Seems that the statistics are speaking in harmony with how Christ did things. Lots of relationships, not much cold calling.

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  22. Hmmm?
    “What was it like for you when you put on your new glasses?”

    Heaven – Pure Heaven
    When we’re, Jesus and me, out together dancing, in the streets.

    Heaven, I’m in Heaven,
    And my heart beats so that I can hardly speak;
    And I seem to find the happiness I seek
    When we’re out together dancing, in the streets.
    Heaven, I’m in Heaven,
    And the cares that hang around me thro’ the week
    Seem to vanish like a gambler’s lucky streak
    When we’re out together dancing, in the streets.
    Oh! I love to climb a mountain,
    And to reach the highest peak,
    But it doesn’t thrill me half as much
    As dancing in the streets.
    Oh! I love to go out fishing
    In a river or a creek,
    But I don’t enjoy it half as much
    As dancing in the streets.
    Dance with me
    I want my arm about you;
    The charm about you
    Will carry me thro’ to Heaven
    I’m in Heaven,
    And my heart beats so that I can hardly speak;
    And I seem to find the happiness I seek
    When we’re out together dancing in the streets

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  23. Oh my, I don’t even know where to begin. First, I will say I came to realize that I was free to think. You heard me right. Free. To. Think. That is because in the abusive Christian sect where I lived communally, the leader/pastor did the thinking for me. We were told our most important calling was ministry, which really meant the leader’s goals for the ministry. The ministry was more important than raising our own children, and so a church nursery was provided by day and babysitting by night, so that mothers could work in the church businesses and attend meetings in the evening. (Few members as possible would babysit so that most mothers would not have an excuse to refrain from attending the meetings.) The ministry was more important than a profession, so members abandoned the notion of attending college in order to be devoted to the *cause* We had no personal life outside of the church, which I have come to recognize as a cult. When we weren’t attending meetings or working in the church businesses, we would be out on the streets evangelizing. All members who worked outside of the church businesses (which was deemed “working in the world”), handed in their paychecks. All members, regardless of working “in the world” or in a church business, received a meager allowance. Those who preferred to spend more time with their children and dare to attend any events outside the cult, were considered to be “into house and home” and not concerned for the work of the Lord. Eating healthy, dressing well, owning nice things, such as homes, property and cars for example, were considered to be “of the flesh” and shunned. Of course, the leader/pastor didn’t follow those rules.

    One of the most damaging directives from the leadership was to mistrust everyone outside of the cult. So, other Christians were labeled as “contentious” and playing games. Parents, family members, and friends not part of the ministry were to be mistrusted (most of the members were young – in their teens and twenties when the “church” was founded). Police were also to be mistrusted because they were considered to part of the society that opposes Christ. When someone left the group, they were labeled as “backsliders.” It was said that if females left, they would resort to fornication, adultery or prostitution. The males were told that they were relinquishing their duty to “take the church by the hand” and lead. All were made to feel like miserable failures if they left, who would be under the judgment of God. If ex-members decided to join a church, it was said they were “playing church” because they knew too much, and God had a higher calling for them. Living in that controlled environment, there were few boundaries. Members were made to publicly confess their sins at meetings. Anyone was subject to open rebuke if they were perceived as not being committed to Jesus. This kind of behavior created a climate of fear and caused much inner turmoil and stress.

    So, you can imagine just from what I have said, how difficult it was for ex-members to acclimate to life outside the cult. Our very thought processes were molded by the teachings of the leader and we were instructed to question any thoughts of our own. After initially leaving, many would suffer false guilt because it had been so ingrained into our minds that we could not live for Jesus Christ anywhere else. Due to the hyper-ascetic lifestyle, many ex-members would feel guilty enjoying the simple pleasures of life, such as taking a walk in the park, spending time with family, going to sport’s events, etc. Some found it so difficult to live outside the cult, that they would return, only to become overwhelmed by despair and leave again.

    Personally, for me, I felt free the day I left – but that was the exception to the rule. As we drove away from that toxic cult, I kept thinking, “I am free. I am free at last to live for Jesus!” I knew that I never wanted to go back there again. It was like being spiritually suffocated on a daily basis. One never had any free time to even think – keeping the members busy was an act of control. Most importantly, I no longer had to live in fear that I would be exposed at a meeting for being an unfaithful Christian. As I met other Christians, I came to realize they weren’t the enemy like the leader/pastor had portrayed them. Still, I struggled for several years being judgmental, because it had been pounded into my head regularly that we were special and more zealous than other Christians.

    I am happy to say that I have arrived at a place in which I have peace. No longer do I view God as someone who is ready to punish me for every little thing I do wrong. Now more than ever, I am convinced that He is a Good God Who loves me and all of humankind. I am thankful for His mercy and compassion. He has taught me forgiveness so that I no longer harbor any animosity toward those who wronged me. I am so thankful for the freedom I have in Christ, to hear His voice and Him leading me. God used that experience in the cult to teach me to extend grace. mercy, and love toward others, regardless of their spiritual condition. So i can say that I am thankful for having been in an abusive, Christian cult, because through that experience I have learned, and continue to learn, to treat others the way I want to be treated, as Christ would treat them. That is, by “loving my neighbor as myself.”

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  24. Darlene – Your story is so sad. They literally sucked the life out of you. It is amazing that you would even have anything to do with God after that experience. I think your story will give many hope. Thank you for sharing. Wow. I’ve caught myself taking many deep breaths just trying to take it all in. I’m really glad you shared here. You are free! 🙂

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  25. I just read Internet Monk’s piece on “Wretched Urgency.” That was exactly my experience in that Christian cult, except rather than go door to door, we hit the streets and malls. And yes, we called it witnessing as well. And yes, if people didn’t get saved, if we allowed them to pass by us, their blood was on our hands. We even had marathon witnessing stints where we would stay up all night, searching out various neighborhoods where kids hung out, all-night diners, and wherever else we could find people. If people didn’t get saved in our particular fellowship, it was because we were being slack, or selfish, or fearful, or…or…or… You get the idea. Oh, and Internet Monk’s experience among those Baptists, i.e. – that most of those other *Christians* out there aren’t really saved, now that I can relate to. Self-righteous elitism is what I call it. It’s nice not to have to labor under that fanaticism any longer, but just like Mike of Internet Monk, there are still times when that voice from the distant past, I’d call it cult residue or residual cult baggage, rears its ugly head. But that voice is much quieter and visits far less frequently than when I first left the cult.

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  26. Darlene thank you for sharing. I am so sorry you had to go through all that. So happy you’ve found peace.

    This is just one part of the Wretched Urgency essay that resonated with me regarding 1 Peter 3:15-16:

    “Live so people will ask. Don’t force feed them the question. Live the life. Live it plainly, but there is no guilt trip put on anyone for not accosting their co-workers once a week.”

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  27. I may end up getting into moderated status, since I don’t agree with everything here. I commend anyone who says evangelism should be a priority in a believer’s life. If we are really saved, we will want to see others saved and will want to do everything we can to get the Gospel out. What is everyone on the board here doing to get the Gospel out? Instead of criticizing the techniques of how others evangelize, we should get busy doing it ourselves.

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  28. Have you seen any stories here on how people are evangelizing? They are just talking about others they don’t agree with.

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  29. MK

    You write…
    “Instead of “criticizing” the techniques of how others evangelize,
    we should get busy doing it ourselves.”

    Was wondering…

    Why are you HERE “criticizing” the folks on this site?
    And how they evangelize? Or NOT?

    Why are you NOT “busy doing it?” Yourself?

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  30. Yes, I do evangelize. I give out Gospel tracts regularly on the streets and talk one on one to others. It is okay to share how you do it. How do others do it here?

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  31. MK, I don’t think the comments are motivated by the lack of desire to share Christ. I believe the underlying issue is control and abuse. Many readers here have come from environments where the leadership induced guilt, shaming and a “magic” formula to motivate them to “perform” for Christ. (Christ doesn’t need our help!) I have frequently had people approach me for a “faux” friendship when in actuality I was just another notch on their witnessing belt. This leaves the person “witnessed to” feeling like someone’s mark.

    I do understand your reaction to the comments, but put in context, many readers are still healing from the spiritual abuse and are seeking to restore a genuine relationship with Christ. They are learning how Christ wants them to live, relate and share. It is difficult to get out of a rigid man-made religious dogma and begin to trust and love our Creator. I know that I am having to get rid of all the noise that authoritative, controling people have put in my head and instead be still and learn to here the voice of God. God calls us to witness in different ways, according to our gifts. Many of us here are still trying to figure out how that looks! I hope this post has not insulted your faith and action. Hopefully it will help you see that many believers are still healing from their spiritual hurt and are walking towards an authentic way of sharing with others the peace that can come from the love of God and His people. Peace be with you.

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  32. “Have you seen any stories here on how people are evangelizing? They are just talking about others they don’t agree with.”

    Yes, and I don’t have a problem with it. This place is for people to share their experiences. Do you see how a pastor’s narrow view of evangelism could be used to control his congregants? Do you see how this control by the pastor interferes with the Holy Spirit to do His work in the lives of individuals – the priesthood of Believers?

    Do you see how allowing the Holy Spirit to speak into lives of Christians and prompt them to have relationships with others can be a way to evangelize? Or does it only fit within a certain box? I sure don’t remember the “Are you a good person?” test used as the sole method of evangelism in the Bible.

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  33. MK,
    The discussion of evangelism kind of started with the essay Wretched Urgency from Internet Monk. Have you read it? It helped me. It may make some people uncomfortable as they rethink that whole way of doing evangelism.

    But since this was a post re: how we are seeing out of our new spiritual lenses, it fit with the topic.

    Whatever way we “do” evangelism, we should be reflecting Jesus’ love for others and respecting them as someone Jesus died for and gives value to, not just another tally mark or “must do” project. When people see His love through us they (hopefully) are drawn to find out just what makes us tick. This is something we all can do everyday as we interact with all sorts of people

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  34. I agree evangelism should be done with love, not the Westboro Baptist way. But in what way are many of the others complained about not showing love? We have to preach the whole counsel of God in love.

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  35. The problem with exclusively using the Are You A Good Person method of evangelism is that it doesn’t work with everyone. I know that before I became a Christian I thought I was quite a fine fellow, especially in comparison to all those other people who were not as nice as me. And believe me, when I compared myself to others I almost always came out on top in my opinion.
    _____________________________________________________________

    I don’t know that I came out as good in the self-analysis as you, because there were too many glaring things in my life that were hard to get round, but I can relate to you inasmuch as the “you’re not such a good person stratagem” had no impact on me whatsoever (that I can recall). It was learning about Jesus and who he was–that was it, not some Evangelism Explosion, Ray Comfort sure fire salvation technique. It was all about Jesus.

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  36. MK, the long and short is that evangelism is done most effectively when it is not done “cold”; it is rather done in a relationship. As far as I can tell, people are won to Christ by others who model living for Christ in their lives. In my children’s case, that’s my wife and I, among others. For an Indian couple I know, it was the love of another family and (believe it or not) holding my then-infant son–they were comforted because they had lost a child in utero. For me, it was the friendship of people at college who interacted with me at Bible studies, camping, and the like.

    Going down the line, evangelism in relationship and in life simply seems to be several orders of magnitude more effective than street preaching, handing out tracts (especially in lieu of a tip), and even VBS–I’ve never met someone in church who was led to Christ during VBS who wasn’t already in attendance.

    Think about it historically; the Church’s fastest growth is often when She is persecuted–and cold calling or handing out tracts would be a death sentence. Relationships quietly get ‘er done.

    Liked by 1 person

  37. 1st time commenter,

    OK, I think I may need some glasses because I thought that said John Piper’s new glasses.

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  38. MK

    You write…
    “We have to preach the whole counsel of God in love.”

    And who do you know who knows “The Whole Counsel of God?”

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  39. Dear MK,

    But in what way are many of the others complained about not showing love?

    Specifically in regards to Chuck O’Neal, Julie Anne’s former “pastor”: Take a closer look at her story. She says:

    Using the old lenses, I was taught that one could only evangelize by the “Are You a Good Person?” method. I was taught that any free time should be spent evangelizing, even at the grocery store, the gas station, etc. I felt guilty any time I was doing something that wasn’t spiritually redeeming.

    Just in this snippet, we can see that O’Neal:

    – dictated to his followers how and when to evangelize, and to whom;
    – dictated to them how to spend their free time;
    – imposed guilt on them for not doing “spiritually redeeming” things;
    – made himself the arbiter of what “spiritually redeeming” means.

    This is creepily controlling at best, and totalitarian at worst. Elsewhere, JA tells us how O’Neal kept her and others isolated from anyone outside their group through busywork and guilt-tripping.

    None of this is loving to me. It smacks of a man desperate to keep and control people, and unwilling to trust them with their own lives. Does this sound Christ-like to you?

    Liked by 2 people

  40. Here’s another analogy; the Gospel ought to be like garlic breath after a good Italian meal. Now nobody tells you how to have garlic breath. Nobody tells you when you can have garlic breath. But when you go out for good Italian food, you will get garlic breath and tell the whole world that you have been to Victoria’s (my fave here in Rochester MN).

    In the same way, if Christ really has come into our lives and our sins are forgiven, that’s a reality that ought to be obvious to all. It will pervade us.

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  41. MK sounds as if he/she is criticizing those who comment here who do not choose to hand out tracts…?

    Someone in our extended family used to hand out tracts wherever they went. There was no relationship building involved. It was almost a desperate thing, to “witness” to as many people as possible, a way of “counting coup” (is that a politically incorrect phrase nowadays?) by running through a stack of tracts. Hand one to the supermarket checker as you go through the line. (Maybe if you go through the same checker’s line every time you shop, and you converse a little… maybe that starts some relationship growing. And then ask them to coffee? But that’s not the impression I get when “relationship” is mentioned in the same context as handing out tracts.)

    My objection to these folks was that there was no follow-up. What if the tract stirred up something? (Unlikely, but possible. I think of how many JWs have come to my door, and I just threw their materials away when they left.) How would they know what to do next? Where to start in reading the Bible? How to pray, besides that one little “sinner’s prayer”? How to find a healthy church?

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  42. I find tracts to be cold and impersonal. I wonder how many people have had a spiritual conversion after reading a tract? I’m sure God can work through anything, but it sure seems like He gave a mouth and ears to use.

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  43. Thanks, Julie Anne. Topics here are always on topic in my world. That’s for sure.

    I personally categorize Bill Gothard as a wolf rather than as a godly soul ensnared in unrepentant sin, but I rejoice to see “official” folks finally choosing to stop
    “fellowshipping” with him. YAAAAAAAY!!!

    Like

  44. Using the old lenses, I was taught that one could only evangelize by the “Are You a Good Person?” method. I was taught that any free time should be spent evangelizing, even at the grocery store, the gas station, etc.

    Which is why everybody “at the grocery store, the gas station, etc” turned and walked away very fast when they saw you coming.

    Like

  45. And who do you know who knows “The Whole Counsel of God?”

    Coming from Wartburg Watch, I’d have to say “CALVIN! CALVIN whose Institutes have God All Figured Out!”

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  46. @Darlene

    That was exactly my experience in that Christian cult, except rather than go door to door, we hit the streets and malls. And yes, we called it witnessing as well. And yes, if people didn’t get saved, if we allowed them to pass by us, their blood was on our hands.

    You too, huh? Except with that “Fellowship” I was involved with in the Seventies, it was Cruise Night on Whittier Blvd instead of “the streets and malls”.

    And yes, the Wretched Urgency from Ezekiel’s warning to the watchmen, that if You Don’t Witness and They Die Unsaved, God WILL Hold You Accountable, i.e. not-so-veiled Hellfire & Damnation threat. (Aside — last week I caught a commercial from the atheist group “Freedom from Religion Foundation” that ended with the line “Ron Reagan, Atheist. NOT afraid of Burning In Hell. End Aside.) And with God holding his Hell-gun to the back of your head with one up the spout and the safety off, you WILL get crazy-desperate to WITNESS to that random guy who just walked by — OR ELSE! (It’s YOUR ass in Hell if you don’t!) And that insane level of pressure leads to some really insane & desperate Witnessing(TM) tactics and tricks.

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  47. I can totally relate to everyone here. I remember watching Ray Comfort on TV saying, “Every Christian should have a fishing hole.” I like Ray Comfort. Some of the Living Waters materials have been very helpful to me, especially as I am an ADD introvert who has a hard time organizing my thoughts when an opportunity comes up to share Jesus. But this constant, “You’re wasting your life” message from Ray Comfort, Paul Washer, etc., puts a lot of guilt on a person. It certainly did to me. How did I know if I had passed out enough tracts that week? Should I stand on a box and try to open air preach, too? It was never enough. What made it worse is that I live in suburbia. I’d buy a stack of tracts only to realize as I went out walking that there’s no one to pass them out to. I would have to drive to downtown to find significant crowds. But apparently by not making the time to do that and by not being willing to endanger myself as a lone woman in the evening to go to these places (because I have a DAY JOB), I’m in sin and need to doubt my salvation.

    The problem is that none of these people have DAY JOBS like the rest of us. They’re evangelists. They’re paid to be by their supporters. They don’t know what it’s like for the rest of us. They also think that because they were gifted with evangelism, that everyone else must be too. I’m glad they’re zealous and gifted, but that’s not what the Bible teaches. Not everyone is gifted by the Holy Spirit for 24/7 open air preaching.

    The truth is, I’ve learned that God sanctifies everything I do, everywhere I go, even if according to these preachers it’s a “waste of time”. Supposedly, I’m wasting my life by playing online video games (MMOs especially). But I’ve seen God completely sanctify what I had intended to be fun and relaxing, and set up a Divine appointment for me to meet someone who needed to hear the love of Christ. For example, some years ago, I was in a very large group, and ended up chatting one on one privately with one individual while we were all playing together. The conversation randomly ended up talking about this guy’s childhood, and how he was brutally abused by his “Christian” father, and how his so-called “church” enabled that and made him and his mother feel guilty for leaving to protect themselves. The poor man felt like God hated him because He didn’t hear his prayer when he was a little boy and didn’t rescue him from his father’s brutality. I was able to reach out to this person like no tract possibly could. Did he convert? No. But he met a Christian who just loved on him, who listened to him, who told him that God really did love him. I could do this because I had been through abuse at the hands of a “Christian” father myself. God set that appointment up. I couldn’t have arranged such an opportunity no matter how hard I tried, no matter how many tracts I passed out. Real love sees a person and their individual needs, not an object to whom I can feel better about myself/less guilty if I pass out a tract. And no, rigidly going through the “Good Person” test would not have worked with this person. He needed love, not condemnation. He’s had enough condemnation for one lifetime. Yes, there’s repentance of sin, and I did not hold that back, but there’s the great love of God that this person needed to hear and to have personally demonstrated towards him via a listening, non-judgmental ear.

    And yes, MK, I do still keep the Living Waters tracts around, and even pass them out. Just the other week, God set up another appointment. I was just picking up takeout for dinner. I had parked my car by some guy sitting on the curb, just reading his book. On the way back to my car, my dinner in tow, God reminded me that I had the trillion dollar tracts in that compartment box thingy between the two front seats. (It’s not the glove compartment. What do they call that thing, anyway?) I handed it to him with a smile. He asked me what it was, and I was honest and said it was about Jesus, again with a smile. Amazingly, he was totally nice, and didn’t throw away the tract. One moment of taking time out of one’s busy day to give someone a sincere smile and hand them a tract means more than showering the streets with hundreds of tracts, because God made that appointment. Unlike so many of my other attempts to give out tracts, it wasn’t done out of fear, guilt, and sheer nervousness (I’m a severe introvert). It was a sheer joy, and it showed on my face when I gave it to him. I have faith that this time it wasn’t a waste of paper, because God had set that up to where he just sat by my car the whole time I was getting my food. When God guides, He is precise, and He knows what a person needs at a given time. I find it strange when Calvinist preachers like Comfort and Washer pressure their flocks to make these Divine appointments happen by brute force, rather than recognizing that God is more than capable of converting sinners without our help. Despite the fact that I could probably be classified as a Classical Arminian, my God seems to be more sovereign than theirs. He’s made all the appointments. I’ve done nothing but stumble into them.

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  48. Clockwork Angel

    What great stories – Thank you

    Yes – “…my God seems to be more sovereign than theirs. He’s made all the appointments. I’ve done nothing but stumble into them.”

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