Tuesday, May 06, 2008


It's difficult to sit with someone over coffee and listen to them share the story of how their pastor has abused them, or how their church has mistreated them. Over the last few months alone I've heard stories that would make your head swim.

One friend shared with me a story about a pastor who encouraged a friend's husband to abandon his family simply because the man was a significant financial contributor to the church, leaving the wife and children helpless, destitute and without hope.

Another friend told me how her Church abused and shamed her when she came to the leadership after being victimized by one of their clergy. They turned against her, defended the pastor and ran her out of the town, literally. Now, years later some of them are showing up to apologize as that same pastor has been exposed and the truth of her allegations are brought to light. But her pain is still very real and her treatment by her brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ is still horrific.

Still another friend told me recently of how his pastor encourages him to his face and then from the pulpit does and says things that belittle him and marginalize him in the eyes of others.

I myself have seen pastors who will not allow Bible Studies to take place in people's homes because a qualified expert cannot be present to supervise. I've seen churches that suck the life out of people and use them up rather than encourage them and empower them to spread their wings and pursue the calling that God has placed on their life.

As pastors operate and lead from a place of fear, they squash the hopes and dreams of those within their own church. They consume people rather than release them. They oppress the very people they are supposed to be teaching how to soar.

If only our Pastors would learn the secret of letting go and empowering people to realize the potential within.



Anthony Mathenia said...

My experiences are limited to one denomination and just a few congregations but I have first hand knowledge of enough horror stories to last a life time:

--A child was sexually assaulted by a member of the congregation at congregation picnic. When this was later brought before the elders of the congregation by the parents they began to place the blame on the victim and ask why they didn't "scream out" according to Deuteronomy 22:23-24. The pedophile was never dealt with and went on to abuse others including abusing another child in the middle of a church service.

--A young single-mother, working multiple jobs, with three children, one with serious health problems, had alcohol abuse issues. A married man in the congregation began inviting her out to drink and took advantage of her substance abuse issues. He got her drunk and sexually assaulted her. When this matter was brought to the attention of the congregation elders, the single-mom was expelled from the congregation, publicly shunned, and cut-off from congregation assistance. The married-man did not even receive a slap-on-the-wrist and is still an active member of the congregation. The single-mom was not allowed to come back to the congregation for over a year as the elders had dictated that she had to come to each of the three weekly congregation meetings without absence - something that was very difficult due to her financial circumstances and her child's health.

I don't claim to be a prophet but on one occasion the Lord had me deliver a message to one body of elders. The word was from Jeremiah 23:

The Lord says, “The leaders of my people are sure to be judged. They were supposed to watch over my people like shepherds watch over their sheep. But they are causing my people to be destroyed and scattered. So the Lord God of Israel has this to say about the leaders who are ruling over his people: “You have caused my people to be dispersed and driven into exile. You have not taken care of them. So I will punish you for the evil that you have done. I, the Lord, affirm it! - Jeremiah 23:1,2

If you read the OT you'll see exactly how God feels about these abusive shepherds, particularly those that do not look after orphans and widows.

Praise God that we have been given Jesus, the Good Shepherd of our souls. May he lead us out of the religion's abusive sheep pen unto green-pastures!

Anonymous said...

Hi Anthony

I'm a single parent of 3 and have been treated just like the single parent you speak of. Thrown out of my church after being abused by a male leader there. I told the Pastor and he asked me to leave - with my poor kids who loved the church. The man lead the youth Group on the week I told the Pastor, what he had done to me. What was done to me was serious. I threatened to go to the Police but the Pastor persuaded me out of it.

Being vulnerable poor and without a man to defend me didn't give me a chance against the all male powerful dominated leadership. This was a normal church - not some cult. Things like this happen everyday. I could write a book about the many poor/vulnerable folk who I have seen get taken advantage of and spiritually abused.

I've had it now with traditional church. They are run like businesses with money, numbers and good reputation being more important than love, sacrifice and inclusion. I'm just one small insignificant easy to walk over and ignore single parent so I know I can never change anything. But I have to get out for good - it's been 17 years now I've tried really hard to fit and accustom myself to the churchs way of doing things.
Now I need to be free to do things the way Jesus did, and I'm meeting with my friends in a house and doing Bible study and prayer and reaching the lost and broken and loving them Jesus' way - and you know it's so easy and God shows up every time.

Do you have a blog? I would love to drop by.

PS Thanks Keith for this post. You are spot on.

God holds his own and doesn't let them go even through the most violent storms!

Praise His Name!!


PS I'm writing on this url now.

Anthony Mathenia said...


I'm sorry for your poor treatment - it hurts to hear.

If you have time please read the rest of Jeremiah 23 because after Almighty rebukes the bad shepherds he speaks of the good sheperd to come - quite right, quite nice. Also know that Jesus' own heart is for those that are "skinned and thrown about like sheep without a shepherd."

My blog is @ www.anthonymathenia.com

Yours in Christ -Anthony