I have been following the implosion of a church in Illinois with great sadness. The situation is beyond belief really. The question I, and a friend who helped found the church, have asked repeatedly is this: How can people stay in these abusive churches when there is a track record a mile long that should have concerned them?
A good blog post on this subject of why people stay is at the Counter Thought site. Read it here.
It is important to note that abusive churches are not just those with some slickster celebrity pastor offering up heresy burgers and chasing out the old timers, not just those with top heavy layers of church government. . Some of the most abusive churches are those with suit-wearing, Bible-wielding (“We stand on the Word”) churches. These are often the covert abusers, and the true problem begins behind the scenes due to a corrupt power structure. Behind the scenes mafia tactics, requiring non-disclosure agreements from departing staff, handed out with dark threats, secret meetings, late night calls, smear campaigns, manipulation, and so forth. Something is very wrong at the top, back in the offices, and the damage flows from there, not primarily from the messages in the pulpit.
If the solid people who have been the prayer warriors, the backbone of the church, the founders of the church, are peeling off and leaving, this is a massive red flag. There is a sickness in a place like this. Staying enables the wrongdoers, and emboldens them. When truly godly people you have known for years are leaving, and you allow them to be labeled “malcontents”, without any interest in getting to the bottom of it, you are part of an abusive system. Stay at your own peril.
The key line in the blog post is here, I believe. “People stay in abusive systems because the desire for community has overwhelmed all other needs.” Valuing comfort over truth is always a dangerous thing to do. Your abusive church is spiritually dead, a church with broken walls and no roof, spiritually speaking. . Protect yourself and your family before it is too late.