Authoritative Preaching, Emotional Responses, Leaving the Church, Personal Stories, Recovery Process, Spiritual Abuse, Spiritual Bullies, Stories of Hope

A Father Shares the Fallout His Family is Facing after Being in a High-Controlling Church

Spiritual abuse, children, mental health, high-controlling church, NAR, New Apostolic Reformation


Special note:  I am in Chicago until 11/5 and would love to get together with survivors or those interested in helping survivors. If you would like to meet up, please contact me and let’s see if we can arrange a gathering.   ~Julie Anne



Today, we are going to read a brief personal story from Andrew. Andrew shares with us the harm his family faced and is still facing after being in a high-controlling, abusive church for 15 years.

There are a number of thoughts that struck me when reading his words.

  • First, Andrew seems to have a good understanding of what he and his family endured, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Sometimes this process can take years.
  • Secondly, he is not minimizing or trying to move past the current emotional and mental state of his family. It appears that he is appropriately addressing each conflict or bump in the road right now. Many times when people are in a spiritually abusive church, they want to move on so quickly (understandably), that they forget to take care of themselves and get their wounds healed.
  • Thirdly, Andrew is aware that this healing process is a journey. He’s taking a realistic look at where he’s been, what is happening now, and the work ahead, and knows there is no quick fix.

I believe there is a recovery process to get to wholeness after spiritual abuse. Process is the key word. It doesn’t work well to close the door to spiritual abuse and act like it never existed. It did exist and it did have an impact on lives. If we are quick to put it behind us without doing the necessary recovery work, we are likely to fall into similar traps.  When we go through recovery, we gain knowledge, understanding, have a new fresh perspective on who God is and how He relates with us, and we learn to forgive ourselves.  ~ja



Family Fallout after High-Controlling Church Experience


spiritual abuse, children, mental health


My family and I fled from a small, very controlling church birthed into NAR (New Apostolic Reformation) thinking 18 months ago. It was and has been horrific; my faith has and is still undergoing serious questioning and reshaping. The cornerstone is still there but the foundation is being taken apart and examined piece by piece.

My kids, whose ages range from 19 down to 2, have had to completely restart their lives; most of them were born into and raised by the group.

We are experiencing things like severe clinical depression, self-harming (which started while still members of the group, occurring notably before the bi-weekly meetings), serious issues with who and what God actually is to them, etc.

They have difficulty in making and maintaining relationships with other kids their age; they never learnt the basic skills of how actual humans interrelate with each other. They literally do not have the skills to make friends. In the group, all relationships were mandated and controlled, and any kind of disagreement or conflict was dealt with very firm words and/or physical punishment.

For rebellious children, the punishment was being “put under discipline,” which could include seclusion from their peers, being home-schooled alone, instead of with the community of “family” as it was called, having to perform work like weeding yards during play time, dietary restrictions, etc. So, my kids never learnt how to have healthy conflict, or to find their own voice in relationships.

My eldest kids just don’t know if they believe anymore. They recoil from any kind of discussion about God, and quite frankly I understand. The God they learnt and experienced was harsh, demanding, and only exhibited “tough love.” The God they experienced was a man, the “Apostle” of the church who was (and I quote) “The Apostolic Revelation of Jesus Christ to this church.”

Bit by bit we are all finding our way out of this place. It is painfully and painstakingly slow. I know that after 15 years in the group, it will take some time.

24 thoughts on “A Father Shares the Fallout His Family is Facing after Being in a High-Controlling Church”

  1. Andrew, you and your wife are brave and caring; you put your precious kids first. Everyone heals differently. You guys need to stick together now, however hard it may be. Here’s the thing: Don’t, but don’t give up. God loves you and your precious family so much; please take it moment by moment, and stay near to those who truly love the Lord, and stay even nearer to the Lord Himself.
    You guys WILL make it.
    Lots of love.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Thank you for sharing and emphasizing what this does to your kids. 7 Mountain Dominionism is progressing at break-neck speed. It goes by many names: NAR, 7MD, Dominionism, Third Wave, etc. It seeks to control all 7 Mountains of “culture” meaning every aspect of your human existence.

    Many of the “non-denom spirit-filled” aka Pentecostal/Charismatic churches are seriously into this. They use softer coding to be discrete, but all Christians need to watch out for what their children are being taught. These churches/cults know that the older adults may have had some decent bible based teachings, so they try to reference scriptures and keep the weekend teachings a little more bland, but the children are completely moldable (and separated from parents into the youth programs) and they work that angle hard.

    My extended family attended Gateway Church in Southlake TX, which is one of the largest ARC (Association of Related Churches) churches that engages in this. Many if not most of the ARC churches support Dominionism. They say it in a good way, like we desperately must reach the next generation for Christ. Or we desperately need to have godly men and women in government and business. Nothing objectionable on the surface, until you later find out what they really want and what god they really want the world following.

    Gateway calls their children’s program “God’s Amazement Park” and they have designed it to look like an amusement park, which it basically is. The productions that they put on have won awards. It is entertainment on steroids and the kids love it! They can’t wait to go to church. This ends the battles that parents have trying to get their kids corralled on Sunday mornings. Their head pastor has stated repeatedly that their top priority is reaching the next generation first, and that they achieve that with all of the fun.

    The more dangerous and cultic teachings and other bad stuff don’t start in earnest until the kids are in junior high. By that time they are already indoctrinated into believing whatever the pastor say is Truth. The teachings in the junior/senior high would make your soul cry. Not enough parents listen to these terrible sermons or pay attention to what is going on. They are too busy. They drop the kids off. In a very Scientology type way the kids are pressured to confess every insecurity they have no matter how minor, every sin, lustful thought and all the problems that go on in their household. Then, like in Scientology, they keep the kids coming back out of extreme fear that their small group will gossip at school about these very embarrassing details. Your reference to self-harming thoughts rang true to me.

    We got out before our kids reached the age of 16 and could drive to their own church. But two of my older siblings did not. The parents have since changed churches but the older kids refuse to leave Gateway. My sibs are terrified that their kids will end up marrying other Gateway members, as that is strongly encouraged to keep the cult fueled. My sibs try to reason, threaten, warn, pray and cry. But the cultic connections are too strong. These kids are taught that God talks, audibly, to them and that is the only parent that they need or must listen to. They are taught that anyone, including your parents, that are outside the cult that speak anything that isn’t glowing or gushing about Gateway, are the Enemy. What they say is from Satan and must be rebuked. The parents are left feeling helpless and like they brought all this on themselves. The amount of devastation caused is unspeakable. They don’t fully understand how manipulative these cults are.

    These churches are literally destroying families, yet so few people speak up. Thank you for sharing. These churches spare no expense going after your kids. Get out before it is too late. It will break your heart, and depending on the teachings, your kids’ eternal destiny may also be at stake. Most of these Dominionist, entertainment oriented churches do not teach about the critical necessity of confession and repentance. It is just a big feel good party. It is destructive beyond words.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I’m always amazed when I hear about churches like this-those that don’t appear on the list of official cults. I’ve probably wouldn’t recognize one right away. Thanks for sharing your story, and I pray that your kids will soon be free of the indoctrination they received.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. This breaks my heart and is so similar to what my family and sons are experiencing and it’s been 5 years since we left. I’m so sorry for Andrew and his family and pray that God will reveal himself as the loving Father that I know He is.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Linn, the reason it’s not easy is that there are at least three different definitions for cult. It can mean (Latin etamology) any religious group, a non-Christian church that uses (more or less) the Bible and some Christian practices (e.g. Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses), or it can mean a church that uses a lot of “control tactics.” OK, four; it can mean “any religious group I don’t like”.

    You’re using, roughly, the third definition, which is fine. The difficulties are that not everybody agrees on what constitutes “control tactics” to begin with, and also that a church can only be known as a “cult” once someone gets out and starts talking about those tactics. So the feedback loop has, shall we say, inherent delay.

    Thankfully, I’ve got no interaction with the “7 Mountain” group that I’m aware of, but odd name in light of the fact that John’s Revelation uses a city on 7 hills (Rome?) as a picture of Babylon in the end times. Go figure, I guess. But if the stories are true, yuck.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Andrew, I’m very sorry that your family is suffering from this abusive “church.” I think (for me anyway) it’s harder to watch the affects of the fallout on the kids. I hope for better days for all of you.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Andrew, I understand what you and your family are going through. It’s perfectly okay to question God and church and faith after such an experience. Know you are loved and cared for by a compassionate God outside organized religion, church, etc.

    Anyone, is the NAR, dominionism movement the same one that C. Peter Wagner and people like Lou Engle (The Call) push? In my PDI/SGM days in Pasadena that was the rage to have “apostles” in your church movement and be more “new testament”, etc. Back then, it was all well-meaning people trying to be “more biblical” and “obedient” but by their fruit you will know them.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. IMO. we can safely consider the NAR a cult organization. A commenter on The Wartburg Watch informed me that the NAR is surreptitiously infiltrating and taking over Assembly of God churches in the same way the Calvanistas are doing to Baptist churches.

    There’s an interesting website that’s focused on exposing the beliefs of the NAR. In one article, the author talks about one NAR leader, Brian Simmons, having a divine dream about a new chapter in the book of John.

    Simmons claims that, while he was asleep, the Lord took him out of his body and brought him to an immense library room in heaven. Simmons said, “And the Lord came up to me and he said, ‘Brian, I have brought you here to let you take any two books you want.’” Simmons goes on to explain that he selected two books, but then he saw a third book he also wanted. It was titled John 22. (This is noteworthy because there are only 21 chapters in the book of John.) . . .

    “Well John 22, go back to John 14:12 and you’ll see that there is a greater works generation… I believe the John 22 generation will be a people that do the greater works of Jesus. They will not add to the scripture, and that’s a sealed book. But it is a book that is unfolding and the works of Jesus will be replicated by an entire generation of people that believe fully in the power of God.”

    Liked by 2 people

  9. There are excellent resources on the definition of cult, NAR, it’s branches, and players etc. at Also Talk to Action has been following NAR for years.
    Andrew, may you and your family go under the mercy.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Andrew, I’m so sorry for what your family has been through. It is heartbreaking. When I came out of an abusive church, I remember feeling as though the teachings were like strings that were wound around and tangled through everything in my brain and it took a long time to unravel those strings and pull them out. Trying to separate the false ideas from the truth is a time consuming task, sometimes it takes a new situation or observation to make it clear. Have faith, this unpleasant period will pass and better times will come.

    It sounds like all of your family is out together, and that is something to be so thankful for. Oftentimes some members will stay behind and then you have a break in fellowship which is so painful.

    Be kind and patient with each other. It takes time to work through the feelings and sort out the thoughts, it can be really hard to even want to think about the issues involved. It really is a kind of trauma. I know it took me a long time before I could even read my Bible again. The opposite of abuse is unconditional love and acceptance so I figure that must be the antidote.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I know nothing of NAR except what I have read on blogs. But it does seem to be infiltrating a lot of churches is subtle ways and the pew sitters have no clue. Probably less doctrinal than what Andrew is describing but the arctic of love bombing to lure people along. Especially young non denominational growing churches. Is it that Robert Morris is so rich and successful many pastors are seeking to be his circle? Mark Driscoll has hooked up with him. Morris seems to be a safety net for fallen pastors, too.

    Andrew, we are all here because we trusted the wrong people. I have no platitudes for you. I am fresh out. When I was going through my journey out of spiritual cognitive dissonance, someone who came out of theirs 15 years before told me to take the family go get an ice cream during church hours, sit in the sun and thoroughly enjoy it and each other. He said that my Savior will enjoy the fact we enjoyed it! Small steps, buddy.

    I did not understand that at the time but I do now. We aren’t weaning ourselves off Jesus Christ but organizations that claimed they were of God. We can only change our paradigm of Jesus Christ by getting out of the systems.

    I am STILL apologizing to my kids for my lack of wisdom that totally gutted our lives. I pray they learn from my mistakes. My advice to them is to be wise as serpents and gentle as doves. I wasn’t.

    Liked by 3 people

  12. What Lydia said! Our family is the same Andrew.

    I’m sure our Lord cares more about our mental health and well being than where our bum is parked for an hour on Sunday.

    Enjoy your family. Seek the Lord and take pleasure in the simple things. His creation in nature and your children.

    He is good.

    Religion sucks.

    Jesus is away from it all.

    We love you Andrew, in Christ and we feel for you all.

    It gets better. There’s a lot of confusion at first but after a while you realise Jesus wasn’t in those places to begin with.

    Stay close to Him. He loves you all so much.

    Liked by 3 people

  13. It’s wonderful hearing from you all, thank-you so much for your encouragement. One of the biggest surprises I had after coming out of the cult was just how many people had similar experiences. The NAR is just one more framework that man uses to store up power for himself – and is rampant in Pentecostal/charismatic circles and thinking. I’m not ready to label the whole movement as bad because of my experience with one small church, but far out, it looks very very risky doesn’t it. Part of my healing journey has been to study counselling, and when I finish would like to specialise in the area of abuse in the church. Sadly, I think there will be plenty of people out there.
    Again, thank you all for your encouraging words.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Andrew, I am hearing that spiritual abuse is going to a biggie for counseling services. One therapist in Texas I met referred to it as “sanctuary abuse”.

    Paul Martin sort of pioneered exit counseling from thought reform religious groups with Wellspring. Check it out.

    Check out Robert Lifton’s “Thought Reform” tactics if you have not already. I bet you recognize many of the characteristics.


    Liked by 1 person

  15. Andrew, I think the best people to counsel those who have been harmed in the church are people who have experienced the same kind of pain. When my lawsuit story went viral, I was sent probably over 500 emails. A big majority of those emails were people who had left the church because of spiritual abuse. There are so many of us. It’s a tragic consequence of spiritual wolves. The Bible referenced wolves and God is not pleased when we are harmed spiritually.

    Please keep in touch. I’d love to follow your family’s journey. I was writing honestly when I said I thought your family would make it. I see in you someone who will work hard to make sure your family has the best possible resources and support for healing. Please let me know if there is anything I can do to help.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. @Jen:

    These churches/cults know that the older adults may have had some decent bible based teachings, so they try to reference scriptures and keep the weekend teachings a little more bland, but the children are completely moldable (and separated from parents into the youth programs) and they work that angle hard.

    “Give me your children for five years and I will make them mine. You will pass away, but they will remain Mine.”
    — Adolf Hitler, cult leader

    Liked by 2 people

  17. To mwcamp “Anyone, is the NAR, dominionism movement the same one that C. Peter Wagner and people like Lou Engle (The Call) push?

    The short answer is yes. However, some people get really picky on the titles, believing that unless a church or pastor has direct ties to the recently departed C Peter Wagner, then it is not NAR. Lou Engle, the founder of The Call, Bill Johnson of Bethel Church, Ted Haggard of New Life Church, Rick Joyner (author of bizarre books where Rick claims that God revealed to Rick that the Kingdom of God is filled with flying, vomiting monkeys) Mike Bickel of IHOP, Jack Hayford of The King’s University, Church on the Way and Gateway Church – Southlake, TX and Todd Bentley of the Lakeland Revival were all involved in the original formation of the NAR. (Note that Haggard and Bentley had scandalous falls and Bickel has confessed his IHOP prophecies and programs are fake and he has had severe abuse scandals including one involving murder associated with IHOP.) John and Carol Arnott of Catch the Fire – The Toronto Blessing and the other Vineyard Churches are also involved. Gateway helped launch the DFW Catch the Fire Church just a few miles from their main campus using one of their top teaching Executive Pastors, Alan Smith, to plant that church.

    This very same belief that the Second Apostolic Age began in or around 2001, is subscribed to by some of the biggest names in the Pentecostal business, not seen above. They use the less “tarnished” names of 7 Mountain Dominionism (7MD) aka “dominionism” or Third Wave of the Holy Spirit (usually just called The Third Wave). The core beliefs of this movement are based mainly on their strong belief that beginning in 2001, God miraculously restored “Prophets” and “Apostles” to Christendom. Men like Jack Hayford, TD Jakes, Jimmy Evans and Robert Morris are deemed both Prophets and Apostles.

    Dominionists teach and believe that we are living in an age of supernatural signs and wonders. They believe that prophets and Apostles can perform miracles, healings and prophesy on level with the original 12 Apostles. Some even claim to resurrect the dead. Gateway teaches that ALL of their members, including small children, are capable of prophesying and performing miracles and healings. As you may imagine, when these “prophecies” do not come true or kids cannot miraculously “heal” their parents broken marriages or their serious/terminal illnesses, their faith shatters and many leave the faith for good – so this is a destructive teaching.

    For a decent list of worldwide Dominionists, you can check out the Empowered 21 Leaders page here but that is by no means a complete list. Don’t be surprised when you see Lisa Bevere’s name proudly listed there. Keep in mind that she and her husband John are faithful and long-term members and supporters of the Ted Haggard founded New Life Church in Colorado Springs. Ted Haggard was one of the original co-founders who went to pagan temples in Greece with Wagner, to scream at the spirits, when this movement first launched. Wagner and Haggard were tight. The Beveres are “all in” on this movement.

    Assemblies of God churches have been both linked to Dominionism and also denied links. I think you have to look at the individual churches. Hillsong is 7MD, and are currently seeking to take over The Arts and Entertainment Mountain. They hired one of the most prestigious agencies in the world, William Morris, to better promote the Hillsong brand and the top pastors live celebrity lifestyles consistent with the largest named celebrities in the world. In fact, they are living those celebrity lifestyles hand in hand with such celebrities in their extremely posh homes in LA, London, NYC and Sydney. Their school is called Hillsong International Leadership College and it is very big on pushing dominionism on their 1,200 students.

    However, you won’t see the word “dominionism” anywhere on their website. Of course, you won’t see the word Pentecostal there either, despite Brian Houston heading the Assemblies of God Australia org for years. As President of AOG he even renamed the entire org to Australian Christian Churches to better HIDE Hillsong and the other AOG churches Pentecostal core. So many churches are very sneaky about their dominionist ties. Gateway’s school, The King’s University, and Gateway Church are more open about their 7MD beliefs and they have very close ties to David Barton and Ted Cruz. Robert Morris is a major leader so he can’t really hide his dominionism and he doesn’t sell the same volume of music as Hillsong does, so he doesn’t have to sound more mainstream to keep those millions rolling in. Hillsong is very deceptive.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Thanks LT.

    “Hillsong are very deceptive”.

    They are the most dangerous group in Christianity today (IMHO).

    Their music is what gives them their legitimacy.

    I’m seeing the effects of this group in a small regional town in Germany.

    Bethel also.

    People who speak out against these groups are made to feel like they’re crazy and imagining things.

    Seeing your comment is reassuring.

    I’m glad there are ‘watchdogs’ out there.

    Unfortunately some are promoting equally dangerous groups (of the Calvinist flavour) which can lead to similar spiritual results.

    Essentially the big picture is this:

    Spiritual idolatry.

    Are you worshipping God in quiet and in your heart?

    Or have you gone after strange doctrines (Balaam/Nicolaitans etc?)

    John 4. God wants all of us.

    Get away from the clubs and the gurus.

    It’s so simple yet we make it so hard.


  19. Amen LT. You are spot on concerning your information. Thank-you for speaking truth in a matter of fact manner.

    And Salty, “People who speak out against these groups are made to feel like they’re crazy and imagining things.”

    Amen to that! And the greatest persecution will come from the pastor, leadership, and those who deem themselves as “more spiritual” than yourself, believing in their hearts that you do not exhibit the capacity to discern for yourself, as the Bereans did. You are led to believe that you need their ‘lofty’ wisdom and knowledge, apart from Christ, in order to have faith.

    It’s as if people and movements have become the mediators, instead of Jesus Christ as the Only Mediator.


  20. As a former church member, I’d say that there is no need to fear losing your faith. There are quite good reasons that might make leaving the faith reasonable and healthy. I did, and I found it resulted in positive outcomes. Just one person’s journey.


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