Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Good article from Charisma


Churches that abuse people part 2

My comments will be in this color.

Uncovering Churches That Abuse People
by Henry G. Sheppard

The following questions come from the book: Recovering from Churches That Abuse, by Ronald Enroth, Grand Rapids, Michigan, Zondervon, 1994.

1. Does a member's personality generally become stronger, happier, more confident as a result of contact with the group?

In an abusive church, the use of guilt, fear, and intimidation to control members is likely to produce members who have a low self-image, who feel beaten down by legalism, who have been taught that asserting oneself is not spiritual.
One of the first disturbing characteristics to be reported by relatives and friends of members of these churches is a noticeable change in personality, usually in a negative direction.

I must say that it was a downward spiral emotionally and spiritually. It got to the point where I dreaded Sunday's. If you questioned anything you were made to feel inferior. There were also a lot of legalism issues in this church. It was amazing how dramatic our personalities changed after we left this church. Especially my wife's. It was even noticed by other family members and friends, some of whom still attend this church.

2. Do members of the group seek to strengthen their family commitments?

Nearly all unhealthy churches attempt to minimize the commitments of their members to their family, especially parents.
Young people may be told that they now have a new "spiritual" family, complete with leaders who will "re-parent" them.
Church loyalty is seen as paramount, and family commitments are discouraged or viewed as impediments to spiritual advancement.

This was a big one for me. You were expected to be at church anytime the doors were open. Some people have a family life and fulltime jobs. You would get the "look" or asked where you were on Sunday night or Wednesday night. It was almost a scolding of sorts. So in their own way, they were saying that your family was not as important as being in church.

3. Does the group encourage independent thinking and the development of discernment skills?

Control-oriented leaders attempt to dictate what members think, although the process is so spiritualized that members usually do not realize what is going on.
A pastor or leader is viewed as God's mouth piece, and in varying degrees a member's decision making and ability to think for oneself are swallowed up by the group.
Pressure to conform and low tolerance for questioning make it difficult to be truly discerning.

I saw a lot of stuff go on that truly bothered me. There were times that people were up front being prayed for and others would grab their hands and tell them to lift them up in praise. I'm sorry, but that's between you and God. Not another person.

4. Does the group allow for individual differences of belief and behavior, particularly on issues of secondary importance?

A legalistic emphasis on keeping rules and a focus on the need to stay within prescribed boundaries is always present in unhealthy spiritual environments.
Lifestyle rigidity in such groups increase a member's guilt feelings and contributes to spiritual bondage. This rigidity is often coupled with an emphasis on beliefs that would not receive great attention in mainstream evangelicalism.

This church was very legalistic. I remember hearing a sermon one time that said you should abstain from alcohol. My Bible says nothing about drinking alcohol. It does however speak about drunkeness. I myself am an alcoholic. I choose to abstain. But a glass of wine with dinner will not send you to the pit of hell folks.

You were also told not to listen to secular radio stations. Not to go to R rated movies. Wasn't the Passion movie rated R? Oh yeah, but that ones okay.

A gal one time got her tongue pierced and was told that she could no longer be on the worship team. Give me a break. This was a young gal too. I think God cares about what's on the inside, in your heart, not whether or not you have your tongue pierced. I could go on and on about this one but I won't rant. People are different. What's the problem with a piercing if they are a follower of Christ?

Why major in the minors?

5. Does the group encourage high moral standards both among members and between members and non members?

In intense, legalistic churches and religious organizations, the official, public proclamations usually place special value on high moral standards.
In some instances, there is a double standard between those in leadership and those in the rank and file membership.
Abusive churches tend to have incidents of sexual misconduct more often than most conventional churches; leaders sometimes exhibit an obsessive interest in matters relating to sex.

I never saw any sexual misconduct. I did however see a "dress code" imposed on youth group worship leaders. I have to agree that today some kids dress not so good. I would tend to confront the issue with that person and suggest that maybe that would not be appropriate to wear while you were leading worship. But this was really pushing it in my opinion.

The church I attend now is very casual in dress. I remember a guest preacher come in one Sunday morning and he had visible tattoos on his arm while he was behind the pulpit. He was not told to cover them up or go get a long sleeved shirt on.

6. Does the group's leadership invite dialogue, advice and evaluation from outside its immediate circle?

Authoritarian pastors are usually threatened by any outside expression of diverse opinions, whether from inside or outside the group. When outside speakers are given access to the pulpit, they are carefully selected to minimize any threat to the leadership's agenda.
Coercive pastors are fiercely independent and do not function well in a structure of accountability.
For the sake of public relations, they may boast that they are accountable to a board of some sort, when in actuality the board is composed of "yes-men" who do not question the leader's authority.

There were a lot of "yes-men" on the boards I saw. I also saw a lot of them that finally saw the light and resigned from the board. Some even left the church altogether.

7. Does the group allow for development in theological beliefs?

Another hallmark of an authoritarian church is its intolerance of any belief system different from its own.
They tend to measure and evaluate all forms of Christian spirituality according to their own carefully prescribed system, adopting an "us-versus-them" mentality.

This church believed in their doctrine alright. Their emphasis was on the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the speaking in tongues thing. It just seemed that that was the whole emphasis of the services. Again, why major in the minors? Isn't it about your relationship with Christ that matters the most?

How about more emphasis on servanthood? Loving others like Christ.

8. Are group members encouraged to ask hard questions of any kind?

A cardinal rule of abusive systems is "Don't ask questions, don't make waves."
A healthy pastor welcomes even tough questions. In an unhealthy church disagreement with the pastor is considered to be disloyalty and is tantamount to disobeying God.
People who repeatedly question the system are labeled "rebellious", "unteachable", or "disharmonious to the body of Christ".
Persistent questioners may face sanctions of some kind such as being publicly ridiculed, shunned, shamed, humiliated, or disfellowshiped.

I remember a time when I was ready to leave the church and I was. I sent an email to the Pastor telling him we were leaving and why. His reply was to bring him the keys to the church. My wife was not ready yet so we ended up staying and suffering for another year. I was told that I did not take management or supervision well. I guess that could be "rebellious" or "unteachable". Funny thing is, I have never been told that by a manager before. I have always been a model employee. Even when I was a drunk I received high marks. But to this pastor I was unmanageable.

9. Do members appreciate truth wherever it is found even if it is outside their group?

Whether they admit it or not, abusive churches tend to view themselves as spiritually superior to other Christian groups.
This religious elitism allows little room for outside influences. There can be no compromise with external sources, who, the leadership will say, really don't understand what is going on in the ministry anyway.

All I can and will say about this is that it was this denominations way or the highway. Constitutions and bylaws, yada yada yada. Legalism issues and doctrine issues are crap.

10. Is the group honest in dealing with nonmembers, especially as it tries to win them to the group?

Sometimes abusive groups illustrate a "split-level religion". There is one level for public presentation and another for the inner circle of membership.
The former is a carefully crafted public relations effort, the latter a reality level experienced only by the "true believers".
Recruitment tactics are usually intense, even if they are not actually deceptive or fraudulent, they can be manipulative or exploitive.
Sometimes high pressure religious groups are evasive about there true identity: "We really don't have a name, we're just Christians."
A healthy Christian group should have no qualms about revealing who it is and what its intentions are.

I did not really have any issues in this area. I never saw any dishonesty in the leadership or any attempts to decieve.

11. Does the group foster relationships and connections with the larger society that are more than self-serving?

First impressions are not always correct. Sustained contact with an unhealthy church, however, will usually reveal a pattern that is consistent with the characteristics we have identified.
Members will be requested to serve, to become involved, to sign up for a variety of activities that, upon closer inspection, appear to maintain the system and serve the needs of the leadership.
Abusive churches thrive on tactics that promote dependency.
Emphasizing obedience and submission to leaders, these churches often require a level of service that is overwhelming to members, resulting in emotional turmoil and spiritual breakdowns.

Bottom line here is, we were expected to be at the church for every single service and that to me and my family was overwhelming enough. It did result in emotional and spiritual turmoil and so we left.

My only suggestion to you is this. Pray about it if you feel you are in an unhealthy church. Don't try to change the church you're at and cause an uproar in that congregation. Simply pray about it, seek wise counsel from others you respect or admire, and move on.

I thank the Lord for leading my family to where we are at now and I thank our new Church Family for welcoming us with open arms, wounds and all. We have grown so much in the past year with you. Thank you for allowing us to serve in areas we are gifted at.

I still pray for my old church too. We still have many friends there. How could you not after 10 years? May we all show our communities the love of Christ and may they see Christ in us.

Churches that abuse people Part 1

This post is going to be hard to write due to the nature of it but I feel compelled to get my feelings out in the open about this. I will not mention names, the name of the church, or the denomination.

My wife and I attended this church for over 10 years. We saw a lot happen, especially in the area of Youth Ministry. In the 10 years we were there, we saw 5 adult couples come and go as the Youth Pastors. My wife and I being the 5th couple the last two years we were there. I can't say for certain about one couple, but I know for sure that 4 of them, including my wife and I were Lay Pastors. Meaning we were not paid. We felt the call to work with teenagers and willingly did our service. There was a period of time between the 4th couple and my wife and I where the youth group was student-led and these kids that led the group are to be commended. They did an awesome job. Patty and I sat in and observed and felt the call at that time to work with them.

Well 10 years later, the 5 couples do not attend this church anymore and 3 that I know of, including ourselves are involved in youth ministry at other churches. That should say something right there and I think it points to the leadership of this church. I can only comment on the experience Patty and I had though.

We also saw many others, people that were leaders in the church and on the church board leave the church. This was a red flag for me. However, Patty did not see it at this time. I suffered through another year of being there until my wife finally felt the same way I did.

I can only describe what happened to us as a form of spiritual abuse where there was a very legalistic approach to everything and the leadership was very authoritarian in style.

We finally left and found a wonderful church that we are being fed at spiritually as well as emotionally. I can't tell you the spiritual growth that my family has had in this past year.

My next post is an article I found on Spiritual Abuse that asks 11 questions with the author's comments after the questions. I will put my comments under his in a different font color to better explain what we went through.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

How well do you really know me? Click on the link and find out.



This article is from one of my favorite websites www.theooze.com run by Spencer Burke. A lot of the articles I post in my blog are from this site. It is a story about him leaving the pastorate at a megachurch and how and why he started this website. He is also a part of the emerging church movement. Enjoy!


Saturday, January 28, 2006

Compassion Ministry

Today was an awesome day. Our church, Vineyard Community Church of Gilbert AZ, does a Compassion Ministry the last Saturday of every month. Today my family participated in this awesome ministry. We met at the church at 10 am and drove into the "hood". We went out to these rundown apartments and knocked on doors and handed out info to the folks inviting them to an empty dirt lot across the street. The flyers were in both english and spanish, as most of the folks who live in this area are predominantly hispanic and poor. Pastor Jack gave a brief talk about why we were there and also invited people to accept Christ and to come up for prayer or healing. After that, we handed out bags of groceries and clothes and toys to these folks. Some of these people probably did not even have food in their cupboards at their apartments. I am honored to be a part of a church that does this on a regular basis and will defintely do it again. We should give to those in need. That's what it's all about. I just had to share this because it so blessed me and my family to be a part of this outreach.

Church Inc.


Friday, January 27, 2006

U.S.R.S.F. (A funny joke for the day)

United States Redneck Special Forces

The Pentagon announced today the formation of a new 500-man elite fighting unti called the United States Redneck Special Forces.

These Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Okalahoma, Tennessee and Texas boys will be dropped off into Iraq and have been given only the following facts about terrorists:

1. The season opened today.
2. There is no limit.
3. They taste just like chicken.
4. They don't like beer, pickups, country music or Jesus.
5. They are DIRECTLY RESPONSIBLE for the death of Dale Earnhardt.

We expect the problem in Iraq to be over by Friday!

Have a great weekend everyone.

Grace, or what is this crap and why is it on my hands?


Thursday, January 26, 2006

Blindside Photo

Same tour with Blindside supporting the bill. This show was at the Marquee Theater. Good and sweaty night was had by all.

P.O.D. releases Testify CD

I just bought the brand new P.O.D. cd today that was just released on Tuesday. This photo was taken two years ago when they toured with Blindside. Hardcore all the way my friends. From left to right in the front row is my daughter Shannon, myself, Anthony and Matt. P.O.D is seated right behind us. I won tickets to the meet and greet and they signed a bunch of stuff for us. Great guys too.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The average man has both great value and great power. More than he ever dreamed. He may not realize it. But it's the power to influence and change human lives. It's a power in every home seen or unseen.

Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.
Phillipians 1:27 NIV

Monday, January 23, 2006

The World Through the Eyes of a Dysfunctional Domicile


Saturday, January 21, 2006

All Around Me

"All Around Me"
My hands are searching for you
My arms are outstretched towards you
I feel you on my fingertips
My tongue dances behind my lips for you
This fire rising through my being
Burning I'm not used to seeing you
I'm alive, I'm alive
I can feel you all around me
Thickening the air I'm breathing
Holding on to what I'm feeling
Savoring this heart that's healing
My hands float up above me
And you whisper you love me
And I begin to fade
Into our secret place
The music makes me sway
The angels singing say we are alone with you
I am alone and they are too with you
I'm alive, I'm alive
I can feel you all around me
Thickening the air I'm breathing
Holding on to what I'm feeling
Savoring this heart that's healing
And so I cry
The light is white
And I see you
I'm alive, I'm alive, I'm alive
I can feel you all around me
Thickening the air I'm breathing
Holding on to what I'm feeling
Savoring this heart that's healing
Take my handI give it to you
Now you own me
All I am
You said you would never leave me
I believe you
I believe
I can feel you all around me
Thickening the air I'm breathing
Holding on to what I'm feeling
Savoring this heart that's healed

Me and several other runners


Making Sense of Church

A book recommendation. I haven't read it yet but I plan on it. The description of the book sounded like it should be a very good read.


Friday, January 20, 2006

The Church of the Self-Righteous


Wednesday, January 18, 2006

A Good Husband

A husband who wants to love his wife as Christ loved the church makes the decision that she is worthy of honor, high respect, and a top position in his heart and life.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

A very good rant

I could have written this myself because this is exactly how I feel. If you read any of these articles, please read this one.


The Zen of Culture


Worship in A Night Club?

Sure, why not?


Monday, January 16, 2006

Response to Recent Criticisms of the Emergent Movement

I support and believe in what the Emergent Church Movement is all about. They have been criticized at times, especially by the Christian Right and several unmentioned denominations. Here is a link to their response to these recent criticisms.


Sunday, January 15, 2006

Finish Times

Well I finished in 2:40 and Patty and Maureen in 3:40. I actually feel great at the moment. Although a bit tired from the long day and the great meal we enjoyed a few hours ago. Maureen was very excited about finishing her very first race. I am happy and proud of her. This was Patty's third and she was a trooper supporting her sister. I myself could have done better had I pushed myself. But I had a blast. I do think my time would have been much better had I been more up front. This was a HUGE event with 35,000 people and there was just no room to move. It was harder than some of my longer training runs I've done so far because I was darting in and out of crowds of people. We'll see what the full marathon does for me on February 19th. It will be a much smaller affair and the setting will be much more relaxed. Time will tell. I'm just sitting up now waiting for Shannon to call from work so I can pick her up. Patty's already in dreamland, sound asleep. Catch ya'll later. Good night!

PF Changs Rock & Roll Marathon and Half Marathon

Well? It's done. We all finished. I feel pretty good right now for having run 13.1 miles although I am a bit sunburned. Patty walked it with her sister Maureen who was doing her very first one. They actually ran some too they said. They both looked real good afterwards. I am proud of them both. I never did see Obie and Jen though. I looked for them. But to tell you the truth, this is a huge event and it's kind of hard to find two people out of about 35,000.

I started in the very back with Patty and Maureen. They did a wave start this year which was a little bit different that last year. There were 24 corrals and we were in 23. This year they only released 1 corral at a time so we didn't even hit the starting line until at least a half hour after the gun went off. But we will receive a real time based on our chip we wore on our shoes. I finished somewhere around 2 hours and 30 minutes. I forgot to turn my watch off after I crossed the finish line and didn't realize it for awhile. The official times will be posted by 7 pm on their website. I could have done much better, but it was so crowded dodging in and out of all the walkers. I'm glad the full marathon I will be running in in February is much smaller. Patty and Maureen think they came in around 3 hours and 30 minutes. we really won't know for sure until after 7 PM tonight.

I'm already showered and cleaned up. Patty's getting ready now. We're going to head out in a bit and enjoy some good old PF Changs chinese food. Yummy yummy! Will update later tonight! Blessings to you all.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Cultural Refugees in Gay Nightclubs


Emergent Church Movement


Friday, January 13, 2006

The Blame Game

I received a devotional book from Patty this past Christmas from one of my favorite Bible Teachers, Joyce Meyer. I would like to share this one with you.

No temptation (no trial regarded as enticing to sin), [no matter how it comes or where it leads] has overtaken you and laid hold on you that is not common to man [that is, no temptation or trial has come to you that is beyond human resistance and that is not adjusted and adapted and belonging to human experience, and such as man can bear]. But God is faithful [to His Word and to His compassionate nature], and He [can be trusted] not to let you be tempted and tried and assayed beyond your ability and strength of resistance and power to endure, but with the temptation He will [always] also provide the way out (the means of escape to a landing place), that you may be capable and strong and powerful to bear up under it patiently.
--1 Corinthians 10:13
Years ago, a comedian's favorite punch line was, "The devil made me do it." The audience roared. Why did people laugh so hard? Was it because they wanted it to be true? Did they want to absolve themselves of responsibility for their actions by pointing to an outside force?
It's always easy to blame someone else or outside forces for our actions. We hear people all the time who tell us, "My father never said a kind word to me." "My cousin abused me." "People in our neighborhood shunned me because I wore old and patched clothes." "I never had money when I was growing up, so now as soon as my paycheck comes, it's gone."
Those statements are probably true, and they may explain why we suffer. Those are terrible situations, and it's sad that people should have to go through such pain in their lives.
Yet we don't have the right to blame other people or circumstances for our behavior. We can't use them as an excuse to stay in bondage. Christ came to set us free. In the opening verse, Paul makes it clear that all of us have our own set of temptations, and for each of us, the circumstances may be different. But the promise God gives is the certainty of a way to escape, regardless of our circumstances. The escape is provided, but we must make use of it.
On the morning news, the reporter showed a restaurant that had caught fire. One woman stood within sight of the back exit but she didn't move. She stood twenty feet away and screamed. A coworker rushed back inside and grabbed her. She fought him, but he finally managed to drag her out.
Isn't that sometimes how it works with God's people? We know the way of escape, but we seem paralyzed. Or we blame someone or something for our inability to move. Or we think, Here it is again. I know I should learn how to deal with these situations, but I'll give in just as I've always given in. I'm too weak to deal with this right now.
Our weakness is one of our greatest excuses. We may be weak, but God is strong, and He is willing to be our strength. If we will trust Him and take the necessary steps of faith, he will help us break free from our bondages.
What we need to understand is that Satan takes our circumstances-no matter what they are-and uses them to build strongholds in our lives. he'll use whatever he can-our sense of weakness, our problems from childhood, or the wrong things we did when we were twelve years old. If the devil can darken our minds-make us think we can't possibly win-we've lost. We need to keep reminding ourselves that we serve a victorious God who has provided the spiritual weapons we need to tear down the devil's strongholds.
One more thing: When we give in to the temptation, aren't we subtly saying that God is not able to help us? We don't enjoy taking full responsibility for our actions-or, in many cases, our inaction-but we need to. we need to stop feeling sorry for ourselves, shifting blame, and ignoring situations. we need to believe the promise of God that declares He is faithful and will always deliver us in plenty of time. we don't need to live in fear, always feeling that our problems are too much for us to handle. We must have a "can-do" attitude. One that says, "I can do whatever I need to do whenever I need to do it." Sometimes we are even tempted to blame God for our troubles, but we must remember the words previously quoted: "...but God is faithful...and He [can be trusted] not to let you be tempted...beyond your ability and strength of resistance..."
That's God's promise, and He lays His reputation on the line with that promise. God never abandons us or leaves us helpless. We can be like the woman who screamed but wouldn't move. Or we can choose to say, "Look! There's the door of escape! Thanks for providing it!"
Our problems are personal and they are often internal. They involve our thoughts and our attitudes. The results-the outward behavior-flow from those thoughts and attitudes. If we keep our mind turned toward Jesus, and if we listen to His voice, we know there is an escape route for us-always.
Father God, forgive me for blaming You, my circumstances, or other people for my failures. You are the Way-Maker for me in every temptation. I'm going to trust You to tear down the devil's strongholds in my mind, in Jesus' name. Amen.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

My next tattoo?

Ready, set, let's Rock & Roll

So the PF Changs Rock & Roll Marathon and Half Marathon are approaching very fast. Sunday morning I will be gathering bright and early with 31,000 other folks to run a long distance. Some think we are crazy, some are impressed. People do it for various reasons. I'm doing this one for fun. I know I will finish. I've already run 15 miles in my training and that was just last weekend. I'm a little bit lighter this year, and am feeling absolutely great as far as my conditioning. I do not have any aches or pains whatsoever at this point. I am going to test this run/walk strategy in the half to see what I can do. Will I get under 2 hours? I don't know. Great if I can, great if not. I'm just having fun. February 19th will be the real test. Another full marathon, my third. I do think I am more ready for this than I was for the previous two though. I will start my fundraising after the half this Sunday.

Work is going great. I am so enjoying being the Cooperative Program Manager now. I drove out to Arizona City day before yesterday to relocate the weather station there. I tore it out in the morning and had it installed at the new site in the afternoon. Then I went back out today to finish up and do the siting with the GPS.

God is good my friends! Thank you Lord for all You do for us.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

How to "serve" and "love" all people

This folks, is what it's all about. I honestly believe that this is how we should act towards all. Christian or not.


Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Jeremiah 29:11-12

"For I know the plans I have for you", says the Lord. "They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. "

Bill OReilly vs. David Letterman

Alright, I'm not a big fan of Bill OReilly. But I do think Letterman did well against him. Watch the clip and decide for yourself.


Have Mercy

In this day and age when Christians are judging the liberals, maybe they can follow this guys lead. I can only pray that I can treat others in Christlike love and forgiveness. I'm not there yet, but I strive for it everyday. Lord, help me to be more like You. Give me compassion and love for the wandering and the lost. please read the article. It's awesome.


Tuesday, January 03, 2006

The Ideal Seminary

From Brian McLaren's book "A New Kind of Christian" pages 161-162

I guess things bring me back to that question you asked me about a few weeks ago, about my ideal seminary. At the spirituality point of the triangle, I'd have students study historical theology--as much like a story as possible, focusing on how various theological systems produced various universes or models of reality. I would have them integrate the theology of an era with its art, architecture, liturgy, spiritual disciplines, economics, science, forms of community, and family life. I'd want them to see how human beliefs literally create a way of life. That way of life is what I mean by spirituality.

Then we'd try to face today's world and challenges, and drawing from the Bible, with twenty centuries of "Christian universes" to learn from, we'd help students construct their own model of reality, their understanding of the universe and story we find ourselves in. And--this is SO important--we'd teach them that their model isn't reality; it's just a model. It must always be open to correction, adjustment, improvement, even revolution. Otherwise, we stop being disciples and become know-it-alls. We stop being seekers and become defenders.

To keep our imaginary seminarians in the seeking mode, we'd spend a lot of time studying contemporary culture. We'd have to. I'd send the students out to exegete movies and art galleries, concerts and sports events, shopping malls and bars, video game parlors and campgrounds, synagogues and mosques. we'd come back from these adventures and talk about what we've seen, what's going on, what it means to be a Christian in our world.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Total Running mileage for 2005

Drum roll please............................................................................................................................................

455.5 miles. I keep a running journal and log all of my miles. I ran 88.2 miles in December alone. I feel very ready for my upcoming marathon in February. I am also looking forward to running the Half Marathon at the PF Changs Rock & Roll event on the 15th of this month as sort of a trial race for the marathon. I'm feeling pretty confident in finishing the full marathon in under 5 hours this year. We'll see how it goes.