Personal Story: What Did the Church Teach You about Yourself?

Spiritual abuse, sex abuse, patriarchy, domestic violence, Sovereign Grace, Desiring God, CJ Mahaney, John Piper, Mental Health


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Part of recovery from abusive churches is coming to grips with what you were taught and how it affected you. Sometimes, and very appropriately, the ability to see this clearly results in anger. Jennifer Michelle posted about her experience on Facebook and gave me permission to share it. I think many of you will be able to relate to her experience. ~ja

What church doctrine taught me about myself:

Sin nature- all are born sinners. Children must be “trained,” and disciplined, and made to repent. Chastisement is sanctification. Suffering is holy. Anger is unholy- unless you’re a man in your home, a man behind a podium, or a white man in general. Sadness is selfish, a symptom of pride. Pride is to be avoided, as it is the ultimate sin, bad enough to bring down Lucifer. Free will is meaningless, because each and every instinct we have is sinful anyway, and should NOT be validated. Besides, what difference does free will make when God chose the “elect” before the foundations of the earth?

The law is our SCHOOLMASTER, but we will never “graduate” this side of heaven. We will NEVER be “sanctified” until we are “glorified” in death, in heaven.

Total depravity- nothing in us is innately good. We are putrid, vile, worthless, helpless sinners, and can ONLY be loved perfectly by a perfect GOD, and ONLY by His “mercy,” since we are all undeserving. Mercy is NOT something man can ever possess in the “flesh,” because the flesh is sinful. And we shouldn’t expect ANYONE to ever truly love us since we aren’t worthy of it, so we shouldn’t complain or be at all surprised when we are treated like shit, especially by our loved ones, and especially by authority figures, since God appoints them over us for our sanctification.

Nevertheless, God will send the Holy Spirit to live inside of you, should you “choose” to repent of your sins and invite Him in. But you can never be sure if He is guiding you, since you can never trust your instincts, and the Holy Spirit is a “still, small voice” that can easily be drowned out and “grieved.” Only by “renewing our minds” by telling ourselves bible “truths” over and over can we ever be “sure” we are doing, thinking, or living the right way. Even still, our minds are fallible, so we should seek “wise counsel” from more “spiritually mature” individuals who can interpret bible truths for us. But we can’t blame them if they are wrong, intentionally or otherwise, since they are also fallible. Also, remember that “the flesh” is constantly at war with “the spirit,” so just ignore the inner conflict you feel since we are called to be joyful in all circumstances. So be thankful for your pain, and don’t blame anyone. That would definitely be gossip.

Special thanks to Sovereign Grace Ministries, The Gospel Coalition, Desiring God Ministries, Living Waters, The Way Of The Master, Focus On The Family, and Grace To You. I want to send each of you my therapy bills.

Furthermore, why should my theology be informed by organizations who cover up child sexual abuse and lie about it? Organizations who oppress women and discriminate against minorities? Organizations who are fixated on “honoring God,” while excusing domestic violence? WHERE IS YOUR HONOR? These organizations do not wish to honor God, they wish to take the ROLE of God in their parishioners’ lives. Well, I’ve taken mine back.

11 comments on “Personal Story: What Did the Church Teach You about Yourself?

  1. Yeah, we are born sinners in rebellion against God. When we are converted, we are adopted into God’s family and our sins are forgiven. We receive the Holy Spirit to sanctify us and lead us into truth.

    However, we can’t actually trust the Holy Spirit to lead ourselves or others into truth. Instead, we must rely on men approved by the church to tell us where we are sinning. We should read the Bible and pray every day to receive guidance and truth from God, yet, we should never trust that guidance or truth if it ever contradicts what the approved men have told us about ourselves.

    The Bible seems to say that as adopted children, we can please God through works he has given us, yet, don’t be fooled. “Our righteousnesses are as filthy rags” The Bible says God gives us a new heart, yet we are still, by default, going to choose the wrong path.

    We are still worthless, despite being saved. Christ has to hide us from the wrath of his father, and when God looks at us, he is somehow deceived into thinking that we look like Christ and we get to sneak past into Heaven, but everyone knows that we are still wretched sinners.

    If we’re good Christians, people around us will hate us. If people don’t hate us, then we aren’t holy enough and we’ve given into the approval of the world. The people that are really out there for God, like the Westboro Baptists, should wear the public derision like a badge of honor, because obviously God must be really pleased to let them suffer like that.

    God has given his chosen leaders(TM) an infallible ability to discern sin in others. Thus, if one of those leaders calls you something (e.g. bitter, insubordinate, liberal, deceived), it’s not really them talking, but God talking through them. You need to repent and convince that leader that you have truly changed in order for God to re-approve you.

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  2. Great summary of Calvinistic and most of evangelical theology. It’s a great theology for these groups to use to control the masses. Sick. BUT, it’s not based on original history of Jesus movement. These erroneous and dangerous theologies need to be corrected. They harm so many people. And yes, send them your therapy bills. I need to send mine to Mahaney, Tomzcak, Che Ahn, Lou Engle, and all the SGM teachers that screwed me and our church members up. We are responsible for our own actions, but these teachers and this kind of teaching is deceptive and dangerous.

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  3. Pingback: Christian degradation | Civil Commotion

  4. “These organizations do not wish to honor God, they wish to take the ROLE of God in their parishioners’ lives.”

    Living, modern-day Pharisees. The very kind of arrogant, controlling, scheming religiosity that Jesus Himself stood up against while on earth, and stands against still today from His eternal throne in Heaven.

    Tomorrow we observe Good Friday. This post inspires me to recall that on the day of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, it must have appeared as if the Pharisees had won. They got Him crucified. They got him killed. Their religious power over the people must have seemed complete and unstoppable.

    But we who believe know that the resurrection followed, and that the Lord Jesus sits at the right hand of God waiting to judge the living and the dead!

    Today’s corrupt church leaders do not tremble in fear over all of the unjust, wicked acts they have committed, covered up or sanctioned (while “acting” in God’s name). Instead, they jest and equivocate and continue in their abuses. A sure sign that they are all doomed, for if they had any conscience at all, they would be shaking in their boots at what awaits them.

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  5. Everything I have seen written here is spot-on in all of its ugliness. On the other hand, the church ultimately “taught” me not to trust the church or try to abide by all of the insane checklists and dictates it spews…but rather to return to the wonder of an almost indefinable and extremely personal relationship with my gracious, all-powerful Lord!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. where does the pain and rejection end? Christian counselor says to get back into community. I go back to community in small group and certain discussions lead to the response, “ask your counselor”. Then, I try Celebrate recovery and church again. I get the same thing. “you need to do community, get a Christian counselor”. EVERY SINGLE PLACE with Christian community shoves you away! I’m RIGHT HERE!!!! RIGHT HERE IN FRONT OF THEIR FACES! WHY can’t they just sit with me and listen. Maybe pray? What is happening? I think most Christians are using Cloud and Townsend’s “fleecing of Christians” as an excuse to do what Christ tells us to do. They claim “boundaries” when they have NO clue! It’s just an excuse to not do community and build walls. I have no idea what is happening. Any and all advice would help!

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  7. Tammy, Cloud and Townsend say that we need boundaries to keep the wrong people away, but that we can be over-protective and not let the right people in. We need to grow in discernment to understand which people are safe and which people are unsafe.

    I find that typically, people get the wrong message – they get what they want to hear, which is boundaries = keep people I don’t want to minister to out. In the Good Samaritan, the priest and the levite had boundaries, so things don’t change.

    Honestly, I don’t know how I found a good church. I grew up in an abusive church and that was my only experience. It was really hard to walk into another church, but I looked around and people seemed free to worship how they felt led. Some signed, some moved, some raised their hands, others stood and some sat. No one seemed worried about what others thought.

    But… one thing that I saw on another blog seemed really appropriate. We don’t really walk into a church and lay out our baggage for all to see. I think that’s pretty wise. God did open up some relationships where I could be more open about what I went through, but I didn’t go around saying, “Hi, I’m Mark and I was spiritually and emotionally abused” There were times when that came up appropriately, but it didn’t lead to me being ministered to outside that moment. So, yes, I haven’t been ministered to in that church as I would like, but I’m not sure that’s a bad thing. I hope if I really needed that ministry, it would be available, and the church I go to does have those sorts of ministries. But, I think I’ve gotten much more healing from hearing the message that I am wanted and loved rather than being told that God ‘tolerates’ me even though he’d much rather (apparently) hit me with a lightning bolt.

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  8. EVERY SINGLE PLACE with Christian community shoves you away!

    I’m so sorry that’s been your experience. I think community can be so hard to find. The places that I’ve found that seem most open seem to be exercise related, interestingly. Maybe because you spend hours together talking?

    I do hope that you find what you’re looking for. I struggled a bit with making new friend as an adult, but I realized I had to open up, invite people to things and go to things when invited. This is not Christian related, though I do go to church most of my outside activities are with other people.

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  9. This was heartbreaking to read. The hurt and spiritual abuse patriarchal ministries like GTY, Pulpit & Pen and Wretched Radio are putting on woman is unacceptable and unbiblical. The viciousness of these men is in no way reflective of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
    It’s disheartening that these men can claim to be so learned in the scriptures and be so blind to the fact that they are behaving like Pharisees. I hope one day they can see it. I’m sorry for all of the women under their tyrannical thumb. I’m sorry for all the women (including myself) who struggled with believing God could love us as a result of this low view of women that is being preached from their pulpits and platforms. I’m greatful to have found the book “Man & Woman, One in Christ” by Phillip Barton Payne. It helped me through my struggles and questions greatly.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Hi Megan, welcome! I agree with you 100%. I met Philip Payne at a conference last summer. He has done so much studying in this area. I, too, have his book. It’s excellent!

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  11. ” or a white man in general.”

    What a stupid and discriminatory statement to make. Can you imagine the pain you cause to all those “white male” victims of sexual abuse when you tell them their suffering matters less because they’re the “default oppressor”?

    Guess I was wrong about this website.

    Goodbye.

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