Stupid Stuff I Did at My Former Church

Posted: January 26, 2015 in Uncategorized, When Church Hurts
Tags: , , , , ,

I am sure that if you were to ask people at our former church what I could have done differently, one of the top responses would be that I should have kept my mouth shut. Now, they might frame this statement with a bit more Christianese like, “Ellen should have accepted the leadership that God placed over her and done her best to serve and honor the Lord by using her gifts to support and bless the ministry of the people in authority.”

Yep, basically that’s saying that I was wrong because I spoke up and pointed out concerns rather than sucking it up and doing my best to make leadership look good no matter how many people were being hurt in the process.

I did have one woman who served as my mentor for several months who asked me, “Do you wish that you had not said anything?” The meaning behind her question was that if I had just kept quiet I would never have been spiritually abused. Asking questions, stating concerns, having an opinion that was not supportive of decisions made by the leadership were all things that were wrong in the eyes of many in the church.

But I don’t think that speaking up and pointing out the problem (over a period of approximately fifteen years) was where I went wrong. I did a lot of stupid things, but speaking up wasn’t one of them. Here are the stupid things that I did at our former church:

1) I trusted the senior pastor. I thought he was a man of integrity. I believed that the man on the platform actually believed and tried to live out what he preached. I thought that he would be honest, that he would value transparency, that he cared about people, that he would champion those who were being treated harshly, that he would demonstrate a more excellent way. I was stupid to trust him.

2) I played by the rules. I tried to follow biblically sound principles for dealing with conflict. And when others didn’t follow those principles, I continued to follow the principles of forgiveness, grace, long-suffering, patience, etc. I was stupid to do that.

3) I trusted a few members of leadership (besides the senior pastor) to have integrity and to follow sound biblical principles. I was stupid to expect that.

4) I believed that God wanted everything to work together for good – meaning that it would all work out in the end. I believed that in the end, the pastor and other leadership would come to their senses, see how the way that they had treated me had been devastatingly wounding, and that they would make every effort to bring about a God-honoring conclusion. I envisioned graciousness, forgiveness, unconditional love, and a clear demonstration of the tenets of our faith would be displayed as disagreements and hurts were healed. I was stupid to believe that.

5) I believed that the leadership, too, wanted everything to work together for good. I believed that the senior pastor especially wanted to work just as hard as I to seek a God-honoring conclusion of reparation and restoration. Stupid.

6) I believed I had friends at the church who would stand up for me. I believed that they would speak up on my behalf and that they would not stand for the ostracism that I had endured (had they known about it). I believed that they would not stand for us being tossed out of the church. But I was wrong. No one stood up for us. I was stupid to think that they would.

7) I believed that I was not worthy of receiving the pastor’s time and attention in order to resolve what was happening. For many years, the abuse had made me so afraid and so broken that I couldn’t bring myself to challenge the pastor face-to-face about the treatment that I had received. The few moments that he would pause and speak to me were so surprising that I never had the presence of mind to garner the courage to confront him in those public settings. I was stupid not to boldly approach him in public and demand explanations and apologies.

8) I believed that I had time. I believed that as I became stronger and experienced healing through counseling, through sharing my story with a few trusted “friends” and family, that I was moving ever closer to the moment when I would have the strength to fully engage the pastor and other leadership with the reality of the consequences of their abusive treatment. But it was when they saw my strength was growing that they had to get rid of me. I was stupid to think that they were ready to face their sin just because I was ready to confront them with it.

Perhaps you are thinking that trusting the pastor and leadership, believing that God would work everything together, having patience and being transparent are all noble and good qualities and not stupid at all. The thing is, to trust the untrustworthy – when they have proven themselves untrustworthy for years – that’s pretty stupid. To stick with people who consistently abused me for a significant number of years without a whit of remorse – that’s pretty stupid. To think that God would work it out so that I would stay in that situation with the potential to suffer abuse repeatedly – not too smart.

I just hope that others who read my story and follow my journey on this blog learn from my mistakes.

  1. Dear Saint,

    I just want to correct you, in a good way I hope. It is on your use of the word “restoration”.

    When we speak Biblically of restoration, we are saying that we need a process of repentance to bring us back into fellowship with God and His people because of “our” sin.

    Your separation is not because of your sin. It is because of the sin of leadership that you are separated from the flock. But Saint, you have never been separated from Christ. They can’t do it. He is with you always. He got you through this so you can help the healing of others.

    The ones that need “Restoration” back in Christ is the leadership who God entrusted you and others in their care and dishonored Christ. They are the ones who need “restoration”. They are indeed separated from the Father.

    What is the “act” that Yeshua states “that it would be better if a mill stone is hung around one’s neck”? It sounds like church leadership in both our cases has lost their “fear of the Lord”. How do you think our adopted Father thinks about what happened to His precious daughter?

    Again dear sister, Christ never left you. He is in fellowship with you now. He has you help healing others who are going through the same thing. He is healing you with a “new” ministry.

    Bless you Sister Ellen.

    Sheep and recovering Pentecostal

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