Morning friends,

Wow, we have had quite a week. We've had a lively and productive discussion on spiritual abuse in marriage on this blog. Last Sunday I heard a very interesting sermon on the third commandment about not taking the Lord’s name in vain which tied very closely to the whole topic of spiritual abuse. To watch it CLICK HERE.

We also had over 2300 people registered for the webinar “Five Red Flags that Tell You That You Are in a Destructive Marriage.” My staff has been busy answering e-mails and compiling all the questions we have received from the webinar and the recent Facebook Live talks I have given.

As I read through many of the questions, I thought this question would make a great question to answer on this blog and have a discussion about.

 

Question: How do you determine if a church is a safe place? I suffered at the hands of abusive Christians and find it difficult to enter a church building at all. Keeps me isolated.

Answer: You are not alone. So many people have been wounded by Christians and by church leadership. It breaks my heart. You are wise to be cautious because the last thing you need right now is to put yourself in a place where you will be victimized again.

That said, let’s examine some of the ingredients that one would look for to determine whether or not a church body and staff are healthy.

First, it goes without saying that when someone is looking for a new church, one of the first goals is to quickly determine whether or not the church is teaching a sound Biblical truth. We may not all agree on what that looks like in every nuance but the church is to instruct us in righteousness and help us grow in our knowledge of God.

Therefore, we want to make sure that the teaching of any church we might think of attending is line with what we know is sound Biblical doctrine.Click To Tweet

That said, there are a whole lot of churches out there that are sound in their doctrine, but unhealthy and even toxic in their living, leadership included. That is not so easy to observe, especially when you are first attending a new church.

Here are some things I would do to begin to determine if a church I was interested is unhealthy or toxic. It’s not always as easy to tell if an environment is safe, but often you can rule out those that are obviously unsafe.

First, when starting any new relationship – start slowly. You want to take your time to get to know someone to see whether or not they are trustworthy and safe. Therefore, I wouldn’t start by attending a new church but by studying their website.

What kinds of things is the church doing to help others? For example, is there Divorce Care? Grief Share? Do they have a Celebrate Recovery? Are there groups for recovering alcoholics or drug addicts? How does the church reach out to the community, the poor, and the disenfranchised? By studying the church website, you can get a sense of whether the church is about helping people who are hurting, or are they more about promoting themselves?

Second, listen to a few sermons online. Don’t just listen to what the pastor teaches, but how he teaches. Is he vulnerable? Humble? Can he talk about his own failings and mistakes? Does he seem to have good self-awareness? Do you feel like you are getting to know who he is as a person as he shares God’s word from the pulpit? If you can’t answer yes to these questions, he’s probably not the kind of pastor who will help you feel safe.

Read through the church’s policy positions or doctrinal statements if they are online. How are they written? Pay close attention to areas that might be open to different interpretations of Scripture. For example, a church may believe that the gifts of the spirit, such as speaking in tongues, has ended. Do they express their conviction in ways that sound like, “We’re right and everybody else is wrong?” If so, then what that might tell you is that it is probably not safe to disagree or have a different opinion on things in this church.

Is there a women’s ministry? What is it doing? Some churches do not believe women should be head pastors, but is there a presence of women who have influence and leadership positions in the church? If not, then I would be cautious because it appears that this church does not place a high value on a woman’s voice.

Google the church’s name. Are there any scandals?  Negative reviews? Is there something that has happened in the past that would be important for you to know about before you get involved?

If everything checks out and you have a green light, then go to a live service. What is your sense there? Are people friendly with one another? With newcomers? Do you feel God’s presence in the church service during the worship time and sermon?

Now, this is the harder part. Do you want to get involved and start to connect first, or do you want to make an appointment with someone from the church to ask more questions before you get involved? I’m sure you will get responses from women on this blog that have done it both ways.

The pros of getting involved are that it helps you establish some credibility as a participant in church life and not just as an observer. The church will have more invested in you as you involve yourself rather than just stand on the sidelines observing.

If you get more involved, you WILL see flaws and imperfections in both the people and the organization. There is no perfect church. However, you will also begin to see how people handle those flaws and imperfections. Are they critical? Judgmental?  Rejecting? Or are they forbearing and forgiving and willing to speak to a person gently where necessary? Do they ostracize those they don’t agree with?

If you choose to talk to the leadership before getting involved, then go prepared with some thoughtful questions about some of your concerns. Don't listen as much to the answers, I’m sure many of them will be the same, but look for the vibes you get from the person answering them. Does church staff seem open to your questions? Concerned for the pain you have suffered? Or do they seem defensive, or protective or reactive even if they give the right answers?

One more thing, there are unsafe people in every family and organization including the church. However, just like in a family, we want to pay attention to how safety is created and/or modeled by the leaders in the family or church. Are there boundaries, support, and validation and appropriate speaking the truth in love to those who exhibit unsafe characteristics? In addition to spiritual maturity, is there emotional maturity and clear emotional awareness among the staff? If so, then there is a much better possibility that you have found a safe church.

Friend, if you have had to look for a new church, what things have you found to let you know the church was safe or unsafe?

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33 Comments

  1. Brooke on May 10, 2017 at 8:58 am

    Very good points and super helpful. I’m considering separation if I can get my health crisis under control and it will mean a church change for sure as my husband is staff at the one I currently attend. I would like to think he would be the one asked to leave but other instances have shown me this will not be the case. It’s a very “save the marriage at all costs” environment.

    • Ruth on May 10, 2017 at 7:47 pm

      I am sorry you are being sinned against by H who is in church leadership and the Bible says he will be therefore held to higher standard of conduct. It must make church attendance very opppressive for you 😔. While my H and I are currently in a good period, I know what the heaviness of the soul when you’re in the house of the Lord with your abuser.

      • Brooke on May 11, 2017 at 12:24 pm

        Yes, it is hard. I work with him in the ministry and it’s so hard to see him one way at church and act at home like he would never act in front of others.

        • free on May 12, 2017 at 7:59 pm

          I remember learning that the topic you mentioned is one of the first ways to help a woman identify if she is in an abusive relationship. The question is asked, “Does you spouse one way with you and a different way in public?” If the answer was, “Yes.” An alarm should go off in the woman’s head. Dual behaviors is a classic sign of an abusive relationship. Thanks for bringing up this point. It is a good reminder.

          • free on May 12, 2017 at 8:05 pm

            Correction….your spouse behave..one way with you and a different way in public.

            As another note, I remember when my abuser began to be equally as abusive out in public as he was in the home. I realized at that time that I was in extreme danger. He had lost desire to restrain himself. He got sloppy with his abuse. I wonder if he was hoping to finally get caught. Had a part of him tired of the charade and he could no longer remember how to wear his nice mask?



  2. JoAnn on May 10, 2017 at 11:45 am

    When we moved into a new community, we visited several churches to find a “church home.” In some places, they didn’t even acknowledge that we were visitors; in others, it was too much like the place where we left, which had become dry and barren to us. We were very exercised to pray before visiting these places, and we often got a sense within that this was not going to be what the Lord had for us. Then, we met a group of christians who invited us to meet with them, and the first time we did, there was such a clear and sweet sense that the Holy Spirit was there. Not only that, but we got two dinner invitations to eat in the homes. That is where we really saw how genuine and spirit filled the believers there were. I believe that when you see where people live and what it’s like in their homes, that is when you find out if they are genuine or not. So even though the way this group met was different from anything we had experienced before (in a home and not a “church building”), it was easy to join with them because of their welcoming spirit. We have been with them for 44 years, and it is a joy to grow along with all the members.

  3. HisEzer on May 10, 2017 at 2:46 pm

    Good points, Leslie. The only additional thing which has been helpful for me (and therefore might be helpful for other women to think about before committing to a church) is that of gaining discernment on the pastor/elders view of important relational concepts such as forgiveness, repentance, reconciliation, and trust? Even though the church I currently attend (but only the SS class now that my eyes have been opened to some of the misguided foundational beliefs in the leadership) would be able to have a “yes” check-mark beside most of the individual points listed in this article as indicative of being a sound and safe church — having women’s ministry, divorce-care, recovery groups, etc… While those factors are present, though, I have discovered that Biblical knowledge/interest on the subject of navigating relationships is strikingly lacking. And, looking back now in hindsight, I understand better how it happened that I was yet again mistreated by leadership at this new church when seeking their help even though there is this outward appearance of being Biblically sound, fair and balanced, and supportive of women… Just like the former church I fled from, it turns out this one also has the same basic theology… (I guess it is referred to as neo-reformed) which typically embraces a skewed view of forgiveness, repentance, reconciliation, and trust… This theology tends to promote the paradigm of male headship and puts a heavy emphasis on grace.
    So, my advice would be… in addition to looking at all these great points Leslie provides, also consider taking time to listen to past sermons available on the church’s website. If you find there are no sermons on the topic of “REPENTANCE”, or on the reality of toxicity relationships and how to handle them, or on pretenders sitting in the church living double-lives, or on how we are warned throughout scripture to self-evaluate and stay sensitive to the Spirit’s voice regarding possible sin creeping into our lives and quickly deal with it, etc. If none of these types of sermons exist and instead, they are fluffy feel-good messages which communicate “we have no need as believers to ever repent because God has cast all our sins as far as the east is from the west… He sees us as being totally spotless… Therefore, we should all view each other and treat one another the same way God does — continually forgiving and accepting… etc…, etc…” If that is the prevailing belief system foundational to all the teaching, then I would add a big BEWARE … red-flag … despite the positive outward appearance of having women’s programs and recovery groups. When this belief system is in place, there are still no guarantees a woman will be safe when seeking help/intervention about an abusive marriage. She still very well could experience forms of oppression (husbands word automatically believed over hers) sin-leveling (because no one person’s sin is any worse than another’s) , and the “Forgive, believe the best, and move on” rhetoric…

    • HisEzer on May 10, 2017 at 2:55 pm

      Wish I could edit… Hope all my grammatical errors don’t leave too much confusion.

      • Tawnya on May 12, 2017 at 3:55 am

        Spot on.. what a great revelation God has given you. Well said sister! Bless your soul may you continue to bring the dark to the light. In Jesus mighty name amen.

    • Sharon on May 10, 2017 at 3:16 pm

      EXACTLY! Forgiveness is so often redefined to say if we do not allow the abuse to continue, we are unforgiving and going to hell. Their version of forgiveness requires full restoration without repentance, and places the full responsibility of an abusers behavior onto those being abused. There is no difference to them between a decision to harm and simple offense. It’s all offense, and any complaint is lack of forgiveness.

    • Many years on May 10, 2017 at 6:13 pm

      Amen to this post. A person doesn’t need to go through more hurtful theology from a church which does not present a more loving and compassionate view of the reality of abuse.

    • Ruth on May 10, 2017 at 8:30 pm

      I like your points. There should be an emphasis on grace. Divorce care ministries like you said are important.
      Women’s ministries shouldn’t just be lightweight fluff. Look for some women in leadership; that’s a good sign that ladies are valued 😊.
      There should be ministries to people in the lowliest stations of the community- the ones who are trying to get off drugs, 🚙van ministries and feeding ministries for the poor kids whose parents won’t feed them or take them to church.
      💜I’ve never seen a ministry to women who are currently living in a verbally/emotionally (not physically) abusive marriage. I suppose most churches point those ladies to counseling or maybe to a domestic abuse center?
      I would love to be involved in such a ministry if my church had one.💜

  4. Aleea on May 10, 2017 at 3:03 pm

    “Friend, if you have had to look for a new church, what things have you found to let you know the church was safe or unsafe?”

    It is really tough because you want a church that actually believes something real. . . .but God choose to not give us much certainty and therefore lots of things we find at church are not as grounded in facts as we might wish. Maybe . . .maybe first get grounded by understanding what you are up against. You could read (—all available at Amazon):
    1. What Did Jesus Really Say? The Search for the Authentic Words of Jesus.
    2. Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Christian Faiths We Never Knew.
    3. Proving History: The Quest for the Historical Jesus & The Quest for the Historical Israel: Archaeology and History.
    4. How to Become a Really Good Pain: A Critical Thinker’s Guide to Asking the Right Questions. (—But a really good one, not just a thorn in everyone’s side!!!)

    This will help you realize that all these church’s policy positions and doctrinal statements are, . . . . .well, you decide for yourselves but believe me when you check primary source evidence, get ready to be amazed.

    I like Leslie’s point about: “Do they express their conviction in ways that sounds like, “We’re right and everybody else is wrong?” If so, then what that might tell you is that it is probably not safe to disagree or have a different opinion on things in this church.” Psychoanalytically this “I’m right and you’re wrong” black and white thinking is the thinking of an infant. This type of thinking is magical and primitive. Reality is really complex and heavily nuanced.

    . . . .We could easily ALL be wrong. I have a natural and destructive disposition toward the pursuit of certainty. That is why I love Christian fundamentalism but is it true? —In the real world of archeologists, specialists in Christian origins, ancient languages, the “truth” is riddled with doubt, complexity, ambiguity, nuance and is always a probability distribution. The pure and simple truth is never pure or simple just based on the extant evidence. . . . .But that is just one facet. Dr. Marie Hoffman is a dear Christian woman who loves Jesus Christ and is a clinical professor of psychology, psychotherapy and psychoanalysis. . . maybe, if you choose to, listen to how she explains how people’s personalities (—psychological trait make-up) determines what they will and will not believe: re: Trauma and the Soul of American Evangelicalism (Integration Series) Nov. 22, 2016. You can also hear her on YouTube: “Evangelicalism’s Buried Traumas.” —It provides research about the traumas that completely influenced the early founders of Christian fundamentalism and evangelicalism. —Not the data and facts, people’s psychological make-up. . . .You can see clearly in her work how the psychology, especially the depth psychology (—the unconscious) literally creates the theology . . . .the things you believe. Many of these beliefs truly are defense mechanisms against an experience of Christ. Our relationships with Christ are actually profound and dynamic relationships with the psychological self too!

    I think that if you ask real questions, you will get serious blow-back. I think the reason this happens is that good questions trigger lots of defense mechanisms and there are simply no solid answers (see Amazon, Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time). Everyone wants to belong and not be ostracized or shunned, even “Theocratic Shunning”. . . . Anyways, humility should make us realize that we could ALL be wrong (re: The Historical Jesus: Five Views -Spectrum Multiview Book Series) and it is something none of us are even clued into yet. Also, Biblical Hermeneutics: Five Views (Spectrum Multiview Book Series) . . . yes, people interpret the Bible *ALL* over the map. . .even the atonement re:The Nature of the Atonement: Four Views (Spectrum Multiview Book Series). . . .Church is not about a search for the truth. It is about safety and security needs. A search for the truth is about the most unsafe, frightening thing you could ever engage in. It involves serious questioning. It involves the desert of the real. A trip through the gnashing rocks of Christian Orthodoxy all the way to the furthest shores of your imagination. . . . All we can fall back on is that Christ knows we love Him and we really need Him. He also knows I always just want the truth even if it makes a much sadder me. I just want the truth, even if it breaks my heart. . . . .That’s why real love and serious gentleness is so, so important. Make sure you find that in a church: openness, real love, gentleness.

  5. Ruth on May 10, 2017 at 8:49 pm

    i know it sounds overly simplistic but when I switched churches about a year ago, I just really put it to prayer. I don’t expect it to be perfect. But I know I heard from God on where to go. Here are some highlights on things that settle my spirit at my church:
    1. My pastor is humble
    2. My pastor is authentic
    3. My church is VERY evangelistic
    4. My church is compassionate
    5. My church has strong youth programs for my kids 💕
    6. I can worship without being inhibited at my church

    Now, If the day comes when I decide to pursue a divorce, I might not seek the support of my pastor or involve the church at all. I might make it a legal matter alone. I would pray about it and let the Lord lead me in my decision .
    Perhaps I’d go to the pastor but I’ve seen so many ladies wrestle with the idea of getting a divorce and then go to their pastor – But they only get confusion and MORE ABUSE. So, hopefully it won’t come to that but if it did, I’d probably keep it a private matter.

  6. Connie on May 11, 2017 at 4:47 pm

    I’m just wishing we had a church at all. We attend a tiny old historic church in a town of pop. 80. On a good Sunday, we have 10 people, usually 6 – 8. The board wants only Sunday service, nothing else, and it has to be exactly as when they were little (they’re all around 60 now). And they might attend once every 3 months. Pastor is a disappointed missionary and doesn’t know the Bible well at all. His wife does but she is not supposed to speak, apparently. This is 20 miles away. Six miles away are a small community church of maybe 30 and 2 other tiny ones, none of which would have any inkling of ministries to hurting people or anything. 60 miles away are all the churches, but that is a long drive, and in winter can be rather treacherous, and of course one doesn’t know anyone there and it’s almost impossible to get to know them because we only go there to shop maybe twice a month. So when people on here talk of getting counseling and support on an ongoing basis, it’s not so simple.

    I do go to a women’s Bible Study, mostly for the fellowship but I don’t go along with the teachings that these women seem to idolize. A TV evangelist who teaches prosperity and health and not much more. I keep trying to hint that healing of the emotions and relationships is more important than getting prayers answered for more money to go on a trip and fix the house. The leader has been sharing a bit about her daughter’s ‘difficult’ marriage and how she needs to ‘just love’ her SIL and keep forgiving him. I’m praying about telling her of this website for her daughter.

    And as far as accountability for men, I don’t know any men around here that I would recommend. Sad, isn’t it?

    • Ruth on May 11, 2017 at 5:05 pm

      Oh Connie, that’s a dry desert land. The most obvious miracle of course is that you haven’t lost your mind in light of the abuse/spin you’ve shared, but I had no idea the isolation and craziness you were surrounded with.
      In light of all that, you’re holding up like a ROCK! 💪🏻
      I would’ve already chewed somebody up to pieces. Or worse yet – but for the grace of God, I’d still be under loads of condemnation, reading crapola like the Pearls put out – yuck. 🤢

      • Connie on May 11, 2017 at 5:50 pm

        The Pearls? Now that brings back some awful memories!! When you’re isolated you tend to read books, true, and they were among what I used to read….’twas a lo-o-o-ong time ago now. But I think Debbie Pearl actually was one of my wake-up calls. I read a preview of her book on being a good wife. It was the chapter about the 3 different kinds of men, and it was SO BAD that I woke up and started questioning everything they and their ilk were putting out. I even wrote them a long letter that they never answered. They and their likes put out a lot of very damaging stuff. It did tons of harm to me and my family.

        • Ruth on May 12, 2017 at 12:32 pm

          Amen! The weights Debbie Pearl has put on struggling women who just want to be godly wives and mothers is ridiculous. My H read part of the book and even he thought it was kinda off, although he liked the part about just giving your man all the sex you can muster up will magically transform him into Prince Charming. 🤢 (Imagine that?!)

      • Free on May 11, 2017 at 8:17 pm

        Oh, I agree Ruth. Connie must be one strong lady!

    • JoAnn on May 11, 2017 at 11:31 pm

      Sad, yes. Pray that the Lord would give you just one or two other like souled sisters to fellowship with. You can study the Word together and pray. This could be much more edifying than going to a “dead” Sunday service. In the early church they met in homes in small gatherings. The Lord will provide. It’s hard to be so isolated, and the Lord is sympathetic to that. So am I.

  7. Ruth on May 11, 2017 at 5:36 pm

    I want to share to a praise 😊. It might be a bit random for this week’s thread, but it’s an answer to the Cry of my heart on last week’s thread. I was gonna update there, but then I figured most ladies were done reading last week’s thread?
    Here’s what I wrote to Nancy on May 8 (3 days ago):
    I want my H to hear someone to say the words “You were ABUSIVE and it was NOT her fault.” I wrote this in reference to my frustration over counseling. Counseling was making me feel invisible.
    Lo and behold, my H went into our counseling sessions mad (I had mismanaged my time and stressed him out over an important bank deposit, it’s true) but the anger over that bank deposit meant my H let it all fly. The Counselor actually told my H he was angry, judgmental, and abusive.
    The result is I feel validated. I feel like God heard my prayer. I wish I hadn’t provoked my H bc I do have a terrible problem with time management but his response was overkill to the MAX. In hindsight, I can see the counselor has been trying to lead my H to these insights on his own, so H will think they’re his own ideas but I think yesterday H just blew that man out of the water with his papa stress level of rage.

    • Ruth on May 11, 2017 at 6:28 pm

      Typo-
      Supposed to say:
      “Preposterous level of Rage”

      Instead of “papa stress level of rage”- sorry for the crazy typo LOL.

    • Free on May 11, 2017 at 8:12 pm

      Ruth, may I challenge you with the comment “I had mismanaged my time and stressed him out over a bank deposit?” When I read this, I saw a different perspective. I saw, a lack of empathy and respect for you and the license for him to behave in a selfish, berating and controlling fashion. I am glad he got caught, yet I don’t think you are to blame in any way for his bad behaviors. If he was juggling many tasks and did one task insufficiently, would it give you the authority to demean and berate him? I would guess you would be patient, kind, forgiving and merciful. That is what you deserve to!

      • Brooke on May 11, 2017 at 8:48 pm

        Good for you for being validated. I think it’s something we all want. To feel heard. Understood. For people to know we have been horribly mistreated.

      • JoAnn on May 11, 2017 at 11:38 pm

        Well said, Free. Perceptive and right. We all have our short comings, but that doesn’t give anyone the right to berate another, and especially one who has vowed to love and honor his wife.

      • Ruth on May 12, 2017 at 2:12 pm

        You are correct in that he has a double standard. He gives grace to himself when he makes a mistake. And he wants his sins forgotten, totally expunged! But my sins are brought up over and over and OVER. Anyway, I do know the time management is a problem for me because I tend to do what is pleasurable first and what is it wh of management and is a problem for me because I tend to do what is pleasurable first and what is unpleasant later. I have other areas where I’m struggling to trust to Lord. Sound like the living in the flesh? The Lord is mchallenging me to walk more in the spirit and less in the flesh. There are great rewards for obeying the Lord; He is not a strict taskmaster, but I have been a lazy, distracted Christian up till now. I’m praying I’ll stay focused on following hard after Him. 💜

        • free on May 12, 2017 at 8:09 pm

          I think it is great that you do what you like to do first. It just makes you have an interesting personality if you ask me. What is wrong with that? If anything, maybe it is that very trait that has helped you endure your situation. Who is telling you that you have to change the way you live and think?

    • Nancy on May 12, 2017 at 1:41 pm

      Hey Ruth,

      So great that God heard your cry. I am rejoicing with you 🙂

      Here’s a small shift that I made, that made a big difference in our dynamic:

      When I make a mistake, I acknowledge it instead of apologize for it.

      ” oops” instead of “sorry”.

      There is a big difference between sinning against someone and making a mistake. Sure there are times when I apologize to my h, but it was amazing the sheer number of times I was saying “sorry” (I am also Canadian and we are famous for apologizing when someone else bumps into us!).

      Seeing a time management bungle as an ‘oops’ in your own mind will lighten how hard you are on yourself, to start with. And then when he comes in with his ‘ over-the-top” reaction, your ‘lightness’ will not match his ‘heaviness’, if that makes any sense.

      Making that distinction, I think, will help you to continue seeing how much responsibility he is putting on you, to make his life smooth.

      Also, now that your counsellor has used the word ‘abuse’ you can bring him Leslie’s material or Cry for Justice material. You will see if this counsellor is open to learning how to counsel in an abusive situation 🙂

      God is good, eh?

      • free on May 12, 2017 at 8:11 pm

        Good points Nancy. A door may have opened for the counselor to incorporate so new resources into their practice. I also like your point about sinning against someone and making a mistake. There is a big difference between the two.

      • Contentinchrist on May 14, 2017 at 7:51 am

        Great advice, Nancy. That’s one of the first things God led me to in the early days of realizing I was in a manipulative relationship. I stopped apologizing for being human. If I had made a mistake, even if it was a big one, but I didn’t intend to cause harm or didn’t deliberately do it, I stopped apologizing. You can still acknowledge the situation in a compassionate way (towards others – *and* yourself, too, I hope) without going into apologizing mode. There is something about that dynamic of over-apologizing that seems to strengthen the abusive mindset. I used to take all kinds of responsibility for things I shouldn’t have. I still struggle with this.

        But have lots of opportunity to keep working on it as I’m now working for the most micro-managing person I’ve ever met. Last week, I got in trouble for something that my conscience is totally clean on. I refuse to apologize or even own it. I know what I did pleased God. I had just been praying that I didn’t want to fear my boss over God more and within a week, God has taken me to a place through this situation of being free of fear of what she thinks of me or any repercussions she might try to take against me… Fire me? Yes, please! Lol

        Anyway, I digress.

  8. Aleea on May 12, 2017 at 4:34 am

    Re: “I’m right and you’re wrong.”

    . . . .and since this is such a really cool topic to think about, I wanted to add that maybe we could all try to actually, really embrace our dissatisfaction, embrace our brokenness, embrace our suffering, speak it into being, and maybe find the Holy Spirit in the midst of it. God seems, in a healthy church structure, NOT as the guarantee that we’re right, but rather God is the mystery that dwells in the unknowing where we acknowledge our brokenness and our inability to have “the answers”. . . .But you see the polar oppositise all around in churches that claim certainty, that claim to have “the answers.” —And no wonder. People really like certainty, me too. We all want certainty, we love to know why we are right, we love a story that tells us that we’re the ones who got the hermeneutics and interpretations correct, but all that does is cover over our brokenness. Masking it. Marketing and soft selling certainty is what so many churches do. If we want to grow, I think we want to interrogate our unknowing and our beliefs, —WHY? . . . .Because our beliefs separate us from each other (from other people) and also from Christ. Our beliefs appear to be defense mechanisms against a real experience of Christ. . . . . As soon as I meet you, if you have different beliefs and practices from me, you generally think of me as weird. If you have different views on attonement, salvation, marriage, sexuality, or anything like that, we think, ‘Wow, you’re ______.’ . . . . And I either try to consume you —to make you like me— or you try to consume me —by all manner of approaches. . . . and if you can’t do that, you want to vomit me out, and I want to get you out of my social body too, because I can’t integrate your differences. Most churches and pastors can’t integrate the differences. We both want to do the same with each other. . . . . .What happens when we both reject this approach? The approach that says: someone is right and someone is wrong. If we can get beyond that, we can create a space where we each see ourselves through each other’s eyes, and we both encounter our own monstrosities. We both encounter our own beliefs and practices as weird, maybe even unbiblical and contingent, and in doing that we face up to the anxieties in our lives and give them a place to breathe. . . .It seems so much of what people believe they really don’t have factual grounding for, it comes from people’s personalities (—psychological trait needs, unbringing, make-up, etc.) determines what they will and will not believe. —Not the evidence and facts, people’s psychological make-up. . . .Again, many of these beliefs truly are defense mechanisms against an experience of Christ. Our relationships with Christ are actually profound and dynamic relationships with the psychological self too! Asking each other to really, seriously interrogate beliefs, to question some of the things that each of us hold most dearly …that’s massively difficult. That’s profoundly hard. But without spaces where we really see ourselves through each others eyes, we can’t grow, learn or integrate. We stay totally stuck in silos of the “I’m right and you’re wrong” mode. . . .Anyways, what a cool topic: future church . . . .What does it need to look like when it is psychologically, neurologically and theologically healthy??? I think, but who knows, if you can’t make fun of your beliefs now and then and have a really good laugh about them, now and then, you are not holding psychologically, neurologically and theologically healthy beliefs. We could easily ALL be wrong. Again, I am a fundamentalist and I use the nine-marks system (9marks.org/church-search) to find churches but I very often think to myself . . . . Wow, we have way too little fun and way too much “mental” in our ecclesiastical systems. . . . ha, ha, ha. . . .When people laugh together, they tend to talk and touch more and to make eye contact more frequently. It is so easy to observe. —Think about what happens when we really, really laugh. Our defenses are down. It is a very Holy-Spirit-like moment. We are completely open, completely ourselves when that message hits the brain and the laugh begins. That’s when new ideas can be implanted, grow and we can maybe learn!!! If a new idea slips in at that moment, it has a chance to grow. . . . Remember, we could easily ALL be wrong, —easily. For me, it is really easy to be wrong up against all the complexity, utter unknowing and nauance that is God and what He “said” and then what He “meant.” That makes church a r-e-a-l love test and it so seems God is always so concerned about the quality of our love, —no wonder.

  9. Aleea on May 14, 2017 at 6:53 pm

    re:Aly, T.L., Joann, et.al. re: previous posts “Am I Being Spiritually Abused.” I tried and tried and tried and tried again to respond to every one of you, each question. I tried so many times but the site will not post my posts there. I don’t know what it is because sometimes it will post comments with links, keywords, and the characters for proper footnote cites. Other times if will reject no matter how much I remove. I assume it is screening for spam comments and apparently it can’t tell the difference between a real comment and spam, but I don’t know that. I don’t know why it will not post. . . . .I just don’t understand the blog site restrictions. Sometimes the Word Press (the site software) allows me to post certain book titles, people’s names, longer posts and other times it has issues with everything and just rejects the post until I remove them all. Sometimes the site accepts longer posts and other times only very short posts. It’s not for lack of trying that I haven’t gotten back to any of you. I value people asking questions and commenting. I love it. . . . .Most often, I comment, click on the post comment button, the “processing arrow circle” appears that indicates that the comment is being published. The page reloads but my comment is nowhere to be found. The comment count on the post is still as though I haven’t commented at all. . . .I try that using editing about a dozen times and then assume it simply is not going to post. I just don’t understand but despite all the delayed, lost, multiple, etc. posts, it is so, so very meaningful talking with people here and I’m grateful that I get a voice despite all the posts that never post. Sometimes I can remove enough that something will post but then the post lacks real substance and other times it will not post no matter how small.

    re: statistics of Prophesy
    “But I have also challenged you on a couple things that you have yet to respond to.” . . . Aly . . . Aly I so, so tried. I love talking to people here and consider it a priveledge. . . .Why would I not respond in detail? Aly, I have enough material for a week long prophesy conference. All I was doing after awhile was just editing and editing only to have the site reject even those much smaller edited posts. . . .Otherwise, I would still be posting to you about anything you asked. . . .I looked at those prophecies with *primary source* evidence and I came to *my own* conclusions and if you care to understand in depth, you can see When Prophecy Failed: Cognitive Dissonance in the Prophetic Traditions of the Old Testament; and Prophecy and History in Luke-Acts, if you like. . . .They come to many of the same conclusions I do but I *never* even knew who they were until I *independently* came to my own conclusions with primary source evidence.

    “How are you qualifying your credible sources? What makes those scholars to you credible? What measure are you using to deem them credible?” . . . .Christians are preferred. Women are preferred because I often find they have way less ego and are way more likely to admit we don’t don’t know something than men who claim certainty about all kinds of things we just don’t know. Ph.D.s from major research institutions, published widely in their flieds in the peer-reviewed journals, hold professorships at major research institutions. In other words, when they say something other scholars deconstruct it and ensure it is accurate.

    “Aleea what is it you need most from us or your Christian sisters in general?” . . . .Prayer and prayer and more prayer and maybe even let me know you are praying. . . .I need people to seriously pray for me. You can’t fight my dragons just like I can’t yours (—although I would like to because so many seem so easy, as I am sure my dragons may seem to you) but prayer can help me fight them. Anyways, as always. —Thank you all.

  10. Rosie on May 27, 2017 at 10:25 pm

    I have checked out the church book store or church library before, to see what authors they promote for the congregation to read. It’s recently been my policy to avoid certain authors who preach for sordid gain. I didn’t know better a few years ago. But once I got away from commentaries & read & studied the Bible for myself & let the Holy Spirit lead me, my eyes opened! I realized I was in the domain of darkness. I was under false teaching! That was a little over a year & a half ago. I have been to churches here & there, But I’m just checking things out slowly. I am glad though, that I’m not depending on a preacher to teach me ultimately now. I am more reliant on God.

    I am finding the Church outside of 4 walls. There are wonderful Christians out there & we seem to find each other.

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