C’mon Baby, Let’s Do the Twist

Posted: December 22, 2014 in Uncategorized, When Church Hurts
Tags: ,

My husband and I were talking over the weekend about it being the one year anniversary of our being tossed out of the church. He again repeated to me that “None of this would have happened if things had been handled correctly in the first place.”

And he’s right. Because it was in the mishandling of what should have been dealt with easily that turned a tiny little snow flake into a giant avalanche. And that mishandling was based on a very slight twisting of the truth.

That’s how many spiritually abusive situations begin. Take a little truth – a truth that is a bit uncomfortable – and twist it to make the person who has pointed out the problem to be the problem.

Let’s look a little more closely at the beginning of my story at our last church.

I am a musician. I have a degree in music. Over the years, I have worked with every age level from pre-schoolers through adults in many music venues. Back then, I was working part time for a small Christian college. I taught music courses, directed the choir, and was in charge of a small group of student musicians who would travel with the president of the college to perform at various functions. This group of students also provided worship leadership and counseling at various events for churches, camps, youth groups, etc. and it was my job to prepare them for all aspects of their ministry.

We were fairly new at the church when they hired a full-time worship leader/choir director and he immediately began asking me to assist him in leading worship, arranging music, communicating with other musicians, leading a women’s worship team, and, of course, singing in the choir. He “wined and dined” me by playing up to my love of music, singing, playing and just plain being helpful. As time went on, he asked me to do more and more. And as others saw me in the role of assisting him, they began turning to me for advocacy.

For example, when they were rehearsing with him, they would often ask him to help them with a particularly difficult harmony part. He would always so, “Sure! We’ll come back to that!” But he never would. They would ask him at the end of the rehearsal to go over the part again, but he would be out of time and need to get going. I would end up helping them and then later would try to kindly suggest to him that it would be great if he would honor their requests for help as the person in charge because I didn’t want to be seen as usurping his authority. “Sure!” he would reply. “No problem! I’ll make sure to do that!” And then he wouldn’t.

You can read more about that situation in Part Three of my story which is in the menu on the left side of my blog page, but suffice it to say that over time, people became more and more unhappy because they were feeling so insecure and unprepared to stand in front of eight hundred people two or three services a day to lead worship when they didn’t know what they were doing.

Some of the most memorable moments, though, were when he told me that, “Ellen, if you look good, I look good, and if you look bad, I look even better,” and when he completely set me up to fail one Sunday when he had put me in charge and then ran off and told the senior pastor that I was the problem. Again, read Part Three of my story for that mind-boggling scenario.

After speaking with him about helping people to be more comfortable over several weeks/months, and getting promises of change but no actual results, and then being “set up,” I finally asked for a person in leadership to join me in speaking with him. It was obvious that my attempts to address the issues one-on-one with him had failed.

I spoke with the leader whom the senior pastor directed me to and she appeared to be as concerned as I about the situations that were taking place and agreed that a meeting with the worship leader was needed.

It was at this point that this person in leadership decided to bring in the entire personnel committee for a meeting. And it was obvious when I entered the room that they had met with the worship leader first. And that he had twisted everything around – all of the concerns that I had shared – to make it look like I was the problem. I was difficult to work with. I was trying to wrest his job from him. I was making mountains out of molehills.

I was denigrated in that meeting. I was yelled at in that meeting. The ostracism began in that meeting when I was told that I could no longer participate in music or worship under his direction. They absolutely did not want to acknowledge that he needed some mentoring and guidance in working with volunteers under his leadership.

Walking out of that meeting in tears, I then communicated again with the senior pastor (he had directed me to the leader who set up the meeting with the personnel committee) and explained that I had been attacked, yelled out, and judged; that the worship leader had twisted everything around and turned the committee against me.

And that was the first time that he did not respond.

Looking back, I now see that the only explanation for my pastor to not respond – not even to say, “I’m so sorry that happened” – was the first indication that he was aware of, and probably the impetus behind, what was going to be said and done to me in that meeting. He didn’t respond because he didn’t want to help “fix” a situation that he had orchestrated.

What he didn’t plan on, as I have said before, is that I would stay. What he didn’t plan on was that I would actually live a faith that endures all things. That forgives. That trusts that everything works together for good.

And so, as time went on he had to continue to be the catalyst behind every spiritually abusive situation that I endured. And he could never respond when I asked for help. Because he was behind it. Perplexed and mystified each time when I continually tried to “work it out” rather than just taking my toys and marching off to another church.

Twisting and turning. Twisting and turning.

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