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Welcome to readingremy.com

Glad you stopped by!

I’m a pastor and author, plus I consult in an addiction treatment center where I help people consider how God might join them in their recovery.

My goal is to help people overcome everyday problems in practical ways with God’s help. I purposefully write and speak in a way that makes God approachable and understandable.

I hope you’ll subscribe to my blog and “like” my Facebook page in the margin. As my way of saying “thanks,” please download the Kindle version of my book, “Out of Exile” for free right now.

Feel free to send me a question. I promise to read it and reply. Thanks for spending some time on my site!- F. Remy Diederich

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Why Can’t I Forgive? – the secret to forgiveness

Forgiveness is one of the most spiritual acts you can do. Nothing makes you more like God than when you forgive. But a question I often get is: “Why can’t I forgive? I tried and it didn’t work.”

Why Can’t I Forgive?

There are many reasons why forgiveness doesn’t “work.” As I’ve said in other posts, and in my book STUCK, we often have a wrong conception of what forgiveness is. Forgiveness isn’t forgetting, excusing, trusting, reunion, conditional, or a feeling.

Another reason we can’t forgive is we try to do it on our own. We don’t include God in the process…and it IS a process. Again, I outline this process in my book STUCK. From admitting your anger, to grieving your loss, to reframing your offender, and more, God needs to be a part of every step. It’s a great lesson in prayer, asking God to help you with each step.

Why Can’t I Forgive? The Secret to Forgiveness

But there is a simple mistake many people make that prevents them from ever forgiving: they put their focus on what THEY are trying to do (forgive) and not what GOD wants to do in them.

Let me explain. The average forgiver knows they need to forgive to honor God and move on with their life. But the problem is, they are so hurt, when they think of forgiving their offender, all they can do is think about how they were offended. They barely make it out of the gate before they get thrown off their game.

Look at the wedge in this circle. The wedge represents the loss in your life. This is what was taken from you. Most people want their offender to put back what they took. In some rare cases they might be able to do that. But even then, there is still the hurt that they did it in the first place.

In most cases your offender either doesn’t want to restore what they took or they are unable to. Yet you keep expecting something from them: restoration, repentance, humility, a sincere apology, etc. That’s probably not going to happen, and so it just makes it really hard to forgive them.

Instead, what you need to do is bring your loss to God. Rather than focusing on your offender and what you want from them, ask God to fill up your loss. Ask HIM to restore you. This might sound simplistic, but it is the secret to your being able to forgive and move on.

You see, as long as you feel the loss, you will suffer lack. You will be deficient, and deficient people aren’t forgivers. Forgiveness is a generous act and generosity comes out of the overflow of your life. You will never overflow with forgiveness by focusing on your loss or your offender. But if you ask God to fill up your losses, he will do that and more. Then you will be able to offer forgiveness and move on with your life.

Why Can’t I Forgive? God’s fullness is the answer.

The apostle Paul prayed that we might be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:19). That’s what it takes to forgive others. And when you are filled to God’s fullness, Paul says that God is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20).

The truth is, you CAN forgive. You just need to put your focus in the right place.
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Free Book on Spiritual Abuse and How to Overcome It: Broken Trust

Free on Kindle

Today on Kindle, I’m offering a free book on spiritual abuse, my latest book called, Broken Trust...a practical guide to identify and recover from toxic faith, toxic church, and spiritual abuse. 

Amazon.com lets me give my Kindle books away for free every so often. I hope you will take advantage of this offer and tell your friends.

If you prefer the paperback version, you can order it for a 25% discount by clicking this link. I’m able to offer the price break because this link bypasses Amazon.com and goes right to the publisher.

Could you do me a favor?

If you download and read Broken Trust, would you be so kind as to review it on the Amazon page? Books live and die by their reviews. The more reviews a book has, and the better the rating, the more the book pops up in Amazon search.

Much appreciated!

People are saying good things about Broken Trust!

I’m pleased at the response the book has gotten after just three weeks. Here are two examples:

One of the best books I have read on how to process and deal with broken trust in churches by those in authority…It has practical applications on how to move forward in your life and finding peace that passes all understanding in your situation! This is a must read for you if you have undeserved hurt by other Christians and leaders. R.C.

I wish I had found a book like this 25 years ago. Remy does a great job unraveling the mystery behind spiritual abuse, toxic churches and how these churches cloak abuse under the guise of spirituality. Almost every page of the book I was thinking, “that’s my situation exactly” or “that has happened to me”. People are just now beginning to understand what makes these abusers tick. Thank you Remy for filling in the blanks and helping me connect the dots. M.U.

Free Book on Spiritual Abuse

Don’t be shy. Download the book and let others know too. Post it on your Facebook page. The free Kindle is only available for two days.

 

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New Book on Spiritual Abuse: Broken Trust – Now Available

A new book on spiritual abuse.

I’m happy to announce that Broken Trusta practical guide to identify and recover from toxic faith, toxic church, and spiritual abuse, is now available for sale in paperback and on Kindle.

I’m excited for people to read it. I believe its practical nature will give many people the answers and direction they’ve been looking for.

Where to Buy Broken Trust:

Broken Trust Endorsements

…a “MUST READ for all pastors, spiritual leaders, and prospective church leaders!” Mark Halvorsen, Radio broadcaster

I will send a signed paperback copy of the book to the first 20 people who post a review on Amazon.com

This book is a cup of cold water in the desert! Remy “hears” the stories of victims, legitimizes what happened to them, and goes to the root of the problem. Liz Tinnea, ourunseenhope.com

This book will be an invaluable tool to enable congregation members and those in authority to understand the reality of toxic groups and cults and reach out in love to their victims.  Emily Walker de Villasenorfaithafterdeception.wordpress.com

As a victim of a toxic church, this book touched me personally and gave me hope in my Savior that He can heal the wounds caused by church leaders, it is just going to take time. Jim BrangenbergRadio Talk Show Host iWork4Him

Spiritual abuse and Toxic church is a complex maze, fraught with danger. Broken Trust offers a safe passage for those lost on the journey…Remy’s gift of writing is in his clarity and connection with the reader founded on sound biblical principles and personal healing.  Bill Huxley– Counselor, Psychotherapist and Survivor.

As a spiritual abuse survivor and blogger, I have now read dozens of books about this topic. Many are academic in nature, or very dense. I am comfortable saying that this book provides the clearest, simplest, most helpful coverage of spiritual abuse and recovery.” Stephen A. Smith, libertyforcaptives.com

You Can Help Spread the Word

All abuse is hidden, including spiritual abuse. The best way to dismantle spiritual abuse is to drag it into the light. I’m asking you to help promote this book to help defeat spiritual abuse.

I truly believe that people will find freedom from spiritual bondage by reading this book. Would you help get the word out?

Here’s how to help:

  1. Buy the book for yourself to educate yourself on spiritual abuse.
  2. Buy the book for friends who have expressed concern about their faith community.
  3. Post a review on Amazon.com. The more reviews, the more encouragement you will give others to buy it. Plus, it will rank higher on Amazon’s list and be more visible for book searches.    I will send a signed paperback copy of the book to the first 20 people who post a review on Amazon.com and let me know.
  4. Post a review on your blog or Facebook page with a link to the book.
  5. Make it available in your church lobby for sale.
  6. Put a link to the book on your blog or website.
  7. Interview me on your radio show or podcast.
  8. Like this post and share it on Facebook or in an email.

Thanks so much for your support! I look forward to hearing back from my readers.

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Abusive Pastors, Understanding Why They Do What They Do

If you’ve been subjected to spiritually abusive pastors or leaders, you might wonder how that is even possible. Aren’t spiritual leaders supposed to be the ones who have their lives together? After all, how can they lead you into a healthy relationship with God if they don’t have one themselves?

According to NetCE,[i] there are three primary traits that cause people to spiritually abuse others:

  1. Narcissistic traits/tendencies, resulting from a deep insecurity. For many who spiritually abuse, having spiritual knowledge to hold over people becomes a way to meet their need for inner security or self-esteem.
  2. A genuine belief that one is doing “the right thing” (rarely an intent to harm). Many who act out in spiritually abusive ways genuinely believe they have found some type of “answer” and desire to share it with others, likely unaware of the subconscious insecurities that drive them.
  3. Skills in the language of love, emotions, trust, and intimacy.[ii]

These three traits create the perfect storm of spiritual abuse. It starts with insecurity.  In my opinion, shame is at the heart of the abusive pastor’s insecurity and narcissistic behavior. Shame is an inner gnawing that convinces them that they don’t measure up. Their deep sense of inadequacy is then transformed when they find the “truth,” but not always in a good way.

Abusive Pastors are Well-intentioned Dragons

Coming to faith can set you free, but it can also be misused to justify your much-needed sense of superiority. Your shame seizes the opportunity to exalt yourself over others, but you don’t see what you are doing because you think you are helping people find the truth like you did. Your leadership is tainted from the beginning.

Abusive pastors are often well-intentioned dragons, forcing their will on people thinking they are doing people a favor. When people resist, the pastor doesn’t think he/she is at fault. It’s the person’s lack of faith or spiritual interest. So, the pastor either increases his/her control over their member or dismisses them as unworthy.

In their classic book, The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse, authors Johnson and Van Vonderen make this observation:

There are spiritual systems in which…the members are there to meet the needs of the leaders… These leaders attempt to find fulfillment through the religious performance of the very people whom they are there to serve and build. This is an inversion of the body of Christ. It is spiritual abuse. (p.23)

It’s sad to see people use spiritual leadership to meet their own emotional needs.

Confronting Abusive Pastors

In my new book, Broken Trust, I suggest that if you are being spiritually abused, you should either confront your abusive leadership or leave the church. Unfortunately, it’s often very hard to confront abusive pastors because they rarely see their faults and are very defensive when confronted.  

Converge Magazine wrote an excellent article looking at the ministry of a nationally known spiritual leader and why he needed to be confronted.

The greatest difficulty in ministering to abusers is this: they don’t believe there is anything really wrong with them. Their skills at self-deception, combined with their distortions of thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes, fortifies them against recognizing their soul sickness.[i]

If you are waiting for a spiritually abusive leader to see their sin and change, you might be waiting a long time.

Helping Abusive Pastors

In Broken Trust, I include an entire section to help pastors dismantle their spiritually abusive church. Some pastors are evil. But many pastors stumble into abuse for a variety of reasons…as I mentioned, often related to their shame.

Many abusive pastors choose their tactics thinking they are serving God and believers. They don’t realize they are doing much harm. They are no different from well-intentioned parents whose poor leadership ends up hurting their children.

If you are suffering under the ministry of an abusive pastor, I hope you will confront him/her. But if you can’t confront, then I hope you will leave their ministry. One way or another, they need to get the message that their tactics are hurting people.

This post was adapted from Broken Trust…a practical guide to identify and recover from toxic faith, toxic church, and spiritual abuse.

[i] https://convergemagazine.com/real-love-mark-driscoll-14786/2/

[i]  NetCE offers Nationally accredited Evidence-based CME / CEU / CE for healthcare professionals.

[ii] Understanding and Treating Spiritual Abuse. Jamie Marich, Ph.D., LPCC-S, LICDC-CS, www.NetCE.com

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Spiritual Abuse and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Spiritual abuse and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

In my last post, I mentioned five lessons I learned from spiritual abuse survivors in the writing of my new book, Broken Trust. One of the lessons is that post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is more prevalent than you might realize among survivors of spiritual abuse.

In writing Broken Trust, I purposefully sought out input from survivors of spiritual abuse. As I heard back from these people, they shared a common experience. Many of them were easily triggered by words and experiences that the average believer finds normal.

For example, singing a popular worship song in church, hearing a particular Bible verse quoted, or even being introduced to a pastor might trigger a “fight or flight” response: a sudden panic attack or intense anger. Possibly both.

Here is a brief video that discusses this phenomenon. 

What I find troubling is the guilt that often accompanies this experience. People often conclude that their negative response to these spiritual inputs mean that something is wrong with them. They must be defective to have such an adverse reaction to a spiritual experience. It makes them question if the accusations from their abusive congregation were right.

Maybe they are the problem.

PTSD doesn’t have to come from one powerfully traumatic experience. It can come from the slow drip of the stripping of your dignity that happens with spiritual abuse.

Maybe they were wrong to leave.

Maybe they are hypersensitive and unreasonable.

It reminds me of my experience after leaving a spiritually abusive church. I was unable to attend worship services any place for five years, even though I tried many times to return. I didn’t have panic attacks, but the services seemed superficial and inauthentic. I left the services more irritated than inspired.

I don’t think I suffered from PTSD, but my experience helped me relate to what I was hearing from others. My bad church experience deeply affected me. It changed me. It wasn’t something I could just “get over.”

Spiritual Abuse and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Stephen A. Smith blogs about spiritual abuse at libertyforcaptives.com. He wrote an article called, “Crock Pot Trauma” that I recommend you take the time to read. Here is an excerpt from his article:

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-IV) classifies and describes various anxiety disorders, one of which is post traumatic stress. Part of the classification of post traumatic stress is the reaction to the traumatic event:

  • Triggered panic attacks
  • Agoraphobia (fear of being trapped, or loss of control around people)
  • Avoidance of places or people which remind us of the traumatic event or situation
  • Restricted expression of affect (difficulty feeling happy or loved)
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Trouble with nightmares or lack of sleep
  • Hypervigilance
  • Exaggerated startle response
  • Flashbacks
  • Inability to function in relationships
  • Sense of a foreshortened future
  • Feeling trapped, detached or estranged from other people.

While not every spiritual abuse victim suffers these symptoms, some do. I have experienced all of these symptoms during the past five years—and I know folks from my former church and other cult-like groups who have experienced similar symptoms. Indeed, the church consulting agency that helped our church disband recommended that the church be shut down entirely. They did this because almost every member of the congregation was traumatized when they entered the church building. In a manner of speaking, we were all spiritual POWs now set free. Yet many of us still carry psychological chains.

Sometimes it takes very little to rattle those chains. Situations which trigger my feelings of panic include: seeing a police car turn on its lights behind me; reading the same translation of the Bible that my former pastor favored; being late to an event by even one minute; encountering an authority figure; hearing the old hymns that my former church used to play; walking into a congregation of less than 100 people; participating in an event which has a formalized dress code; grocery shopping; and flossing my teeth. Yes, in my former church we even had a theology of flossing. Our pastor equated flossing with spiritual maturity.

What I’m hoping you’ll see is that PTSD doesn’t have to come from one powerfully traumatic experience. It can come from the slow drip of the stripping of your dignity that happens with spiritual abuse. If you have experienced this kind of abuse, you are not defective. You don’t need fixing. You need healing. Your soul has been ravaged. It’s not your fault, no matter what others say or what you might feel.

If you have experienced some kind of spiritual abuse, please consider that you might be suffering from PTSD. It’s a very serious condition that requires outside help from a professional.

In Broken Trust I wrote:

Spiritual abuse will convince you that it is selfish to think of yourself. You are conditioned to feel guilt whenever you put your needs before the needs of the organization. Seeking help might even imply that your spiritual leaders are wrong, and you don’t want to make that accusation. But if you want to regain wholeness, it’s imperative that you get very “selfish” right now and seek the healing you need. Chapter Fourteen: How to Recover From Spiritual Abuse, Broken Trust

The impact of spiritual abuse won’t just go away on its own. I hope you care for yourself enough to seek help.

 

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Five Things I Learned from Spiritual Abuse Survivors

I finally finished editing my latest book, Broken Trust...a practical guide to identify and recover from toxic faith, toxic church, and spiritual abuse.  I learned a lot from the spiritual abuse survivors who helped me write the book. I want to share a few of these lessons here.

This is my sixth book, and by far, Broken Trust is the most collaborative effort. I have my own spiritual abuse story, but everyone’s story is different. To help broaden my frame of reference, I sent out over a hundred copies of the book, at various stages along the way, to get people’s feedback. I didn’t want to give a slanted view of the topic and my only hope in avoiding that was to get regular feedback from spiritual abuse survivors. Spiritual abuse is a sensitive topic. I didn’t want to mishandle it.

I am grateful for the advice I got from so many people. I included survivor input throughout the book so my readers would get a broader view of the problem.

What I Learned from Spiritual Abuse Survivors

As I think back on the writing process, here are a few of the more important lessons I learned from the spiritual abuse survivors who helped me with the book.

  1. Words matter. When talking about spiritual abuse, you are speaking about something that has torn people apart on the inside. I have a direct approach in my speaking and writing. Most people appreciate this, but I didn’t want to be reckless or sloppy with my word choice. It’s easy to misinterpret the intention of words on a page. I had to change my approach with this book, softening my words and explaining my intent with greater care.

    When talking about spiritual abuse, you are speaking about something that has torn people apart on the inside.

  2. Tone matters. The concerns of spiritual abuse survivors are typically marginalized and dismissed. They are used to people trying to get them back “in line” with trite quotes from the Bible or cliché spiritual answers. This shuts them down because they don’t feel heard. I went out of my way to see things from the perspective of the survivor and speak to them, and for them, with empathy. I wanted them to know that I was on their side and not out to “fix” them.
  3. PTSD is common among spiritual abuse survivors. PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) is something we often think of in terms of war veterans. That was my first exposure to it. But it was clear to me that spiritual abuse survivors suffer from this too. I’ll write another post on this soon to say more about this important topic. I think this is one of the biggest reasons survivors of spiritual abuse have difficulty returning to church or relating to pastors. There are just too many triggers that take them back to a dark place.
  4. Spiritual abuse is broader than the church. At the end of my editing, I had a former Jehovah’s Witness tell me that she loved the book, but it was hard to read it at times because of how often I referred to the “church” or to “pastors.” She said that those are two words that JW’s rarely use and it was a bit of a stumbling block. She requested that I use words that encompass a greater number of people who might suffer from spiritual abuse than just those in a Christian church. I would have never thought of that on my own. I went through the entire book and did as she asked. It now is much more inclusive of all people who have suffered spiritual abuse.
  5. Spiritual abuse is more common than we realize. People often lament that fewer and fewer people attend church. They assume that people are increasingly choosing to not believe in God. I disagree. I think church attendance has dropped, not because people have quit believing in God but because church leaders are often condescending, close-minded, and heavy-handed in their approach. There was a day when people would put up with that. No more.

The Generosity of Spiritual Abuse Survivors

I’m surprised by the number of people who wanted to help me with my book. They were grateful that someone wanted to help people in their situation heal. Many people were willing to freely give me their input and advice. It was a true team effort. It gives me great confidence, in releasing this book, that people will find it helpful because it’s filled with wisdom from a variety of spiritual abuse survivors.

Broken Trust is available for pre-sale now and will release on September 18th in paperback and on Kindle. If you read the book, I’d appreciate your reviewing it on the Amazon page. If you are a blogger, I hope you will review Broken Trust. If you have a podcast or radio show, I’d love to speak with you and your audience. Thanks for considering these options. Spiritual abuse is not a pretty topic, but it needs discussing. You can help with that!

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Reflections on Francis Chan and We Are Church

Francis Chan is getting a lot of press these days talking about why he left his mega-church a few years ago and started a house-church movement called We Are Church. I’m not sure how I feel about what he’s up to. I like his ideas and passion, but they may not work for everyone. I think  we should sit back and observe before we form conclusions either way.

I want to start by saying that I like many things about Francis Chan. I appreciate his willingness to think outside of the box and do the unconventional thing. I appreciate how he doesn’t seem to have been seduced by the trappings of fame (well, initially, but he recovered). He’s gone out of his way to live modestly. And I like his passion for God and his unwillingness to compromise what he sees as the truth.

So please don’t mishear what I am saying here. I’m not concerned about Francis Chan as much as I am concerned about how people might misuse his words.

Finding a Better Way

In the article linked above, Francis said he felt that his mega-church was all about Sunday and only focused on his gift of teaching. He thought it was a waste of money. His new church has no staff and no building. It costs nothing and everyone gets to use their gifts.

Who can disagree with this? Church shouldn’t be all about Sunday or one person. And why spend millions of dollars on a building and staff if you can do it for free, right? I can see all the heads nodding as people wonder how so many Christians can be so foolish to attend a church that has a building with staff.

Is it Fair to Compare?

But, let’s think about this a bit. Why is it that Francis can lead this church for free? Well, his fame has produced various streams of income. I don’t knock him for that. In fact, I think it’s great. Most pastors don’t have an outside income to support them. I’m sure we all wish we did. But we have to realize that Francis is in a unique position that enables him to do what many churches can’t do. Most churches need to pay for their pastoral staff.

We Are Church (WAC) has no building, just people meeting in homes like in the first century. How long has this been going on? A year or two. Is it sustainable? Can it grow? Before we judge WAC to be a better way, it might be wise to wait a few years to see if it succeeds or fails. A lot can go wrong in house churches. It’s a wonderful idea in theory. I beat this drum for many years. But it can get very messy, very fast.

Frankly, most people want a building to house their faith community. I know. My church was in a theater and then a mall for seven years. No one cared in the early days because we just loved Jesus and starting something new, but we reached a tipping point where our space stopped working for us. Working out of temporary facilities puts a tremendous stress on an organization.

Francis Chan is Unique

It’s not fair to think that every church can do what Francis Chan is doing. He is one in a million. He has name recognition that might draw people from around the world to join him. He’s going to draw a higher capacity group of people than your average local church. There will be leaders who show up just for the opportunity to work with Francis Chan. Francis might be able to mobilize a million people in five years in house churches, but the average house church never grows beyond fifty people.

Will it Come Full Circle?

My guess is that, in time, if Francis is successful, he will need to hire staff to manage the church, otherwise it will implode in chaos. And he will also need to build a building to house the staff and his need for training facilities because renting them will be too expensive.

Do you see where this is going? In ten years he might have a building, a staff, and a few million-dollar budget. It’s very possible that he goes full circle, back to something that resembles a mega-something.

So I have to wonder why, if he didn’t like the church that he built, why didn’t he redesign it and not leave it? He had a staff, a building, and a gift for teaching people what church should really be all about. Couldn’t he have led them into this deeper life rather than leave them? Maybe he just needed time to sort it all out. I can appreciate that.

Is Francis Chan a Hero?

My concern in all of this is not what Chan does. I’m actually fascinated by his bold idea. I just don’t think it’s fair to make him out to be a hero….not yet. He’s just one man trying to make church work, like most of us. God bless him in his effort, but we ought to be careful not to trash our church model just because he’s trying something new.

I’ve gone through the same cycle from mega-church, to small church, to house church. With each move I thought I was so wise and belittled the previous church. But I’ve come to believe that the model isn’t what makes the church: it’s the people and the mission of the church. Are they committed to developing followers of Jesus or not? Are they committed to loving and serving like Jesus? That’s the goal. I don’t think it matters how you get there.

Will People Use Francis Chan as an Excuse?

I hope people won’t use Chan’s comments to justify leaving the church. I’m just afraid they might point to what he’s doing and say, “See, that’s the way church should be done.” But in reality, they won’t attend that church or any church. It’s just a good excuse for why they’ve given up on church.

It’s easy to point out the problems with church. It’s harder to engage and offer some solutions.

Maybe Francis Chan has found the solution. I hope he has and does amazingly well. I really do, then in ten years we can follow his example. But I question if what he’s doing is reproducible because there is only one Francis Chan. Please don’t project his expectations for church on your church.

Let the Dust Settle

My recommendation is that we don’t jump too quickly on the Francis Chan bandwagon because when people are in process, they will abandon the new wagon as quickly as they abandoned the previous one, leaving you without a leader.

Let’s see what happens, and learn from him.

Give Francis another five or ten years to let the dust settle on his thinking on church before you start quoting him. He might not agree with what he’s saying today in a year or two.

 

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