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Welcome to readingremy.com

Glad you stopped by. My blog has evolved over time. It has served as a place for me to discuss topics found in my books. But other times what I discuss turns into a book, as it did with “Out of Exile.”

Because I’m both pastor and an addiction spirituality consultant, I interact with people on how God can help them overcome their problems in practical ways. My writing isn’t hyper-spiritual but down-to-earth, no-nonsense advice. 

My writing isn’t hyper-spiritual but down-to-earth, no-nonsense advice.

A common theme with me is helping people make a comeback. I like to look “under the hood” to find what’s wrong with our thinking, help get things rewired, and then encourage people to trust God to find a new life.

Much of my writing is to pastors; both to help them and to help them help others. But I think everyone can find things here that will help them.

I hope you’ll subscribe to my blog and like my Facebook page in the margin. And feel free to send me a note. I promise to read it and reply. If you sign up for my monthly newsletter, you can download my latest book, Out of Exile, for free.  Thanks for spending some time on my site!- F. Remy Diederich

Healing the Hurts of Your Past

I believe that words are powerful. Words can change lives if they are understood and internalized. Occasionally my words have caused people to change their lives and they will write to tell me. Nothing is more rewarding than when that happens.

That happened today when someone wrote back to me after reading the book: Healing the Hurts of Your Past.  I want to share with you what was said in case you know someone who might be looking to find some freedom in their life:

I have just finished reading your book “Healing the Healing Promo Image 2Hurts of Your Past”. On Monday 18th May I asked God for help. All sorts of bad stuff had come back over the past two years from ages ago to haunt me and make me miserable.

After I don’t know how much medicine, appointments with the psychologist, arguments with my nearest and dearest and so on I was at the end of my tether because it just would not get better. I asked God simply, “please help me”. I bought your book on Kindle a short while later. I have never believed in coincidences!

By Tuesday I had read about a third of your book and I felt so much better. By Wednesday I was pretty much cured. I have just finished it. (I hope that this feeling of liberation and joy stays with me – I will do my best to try to make sure that it does by following the suggestions in your book!).

Thank you so much for writing the book. I asked God for help and He pointed me in your direction. I am at ease with myself again. I am in your debt sir.

I’m guessing that this person’s feeling of being “cured” is an overstatement, but I’m glad my words helped send them in the right direction. Healing is usually a process, not an event. Is there someone you know that needs to read this book?

If you’ve read this book, or one of my other books, I’d love to hear back from you too!

Divorce, Remarriage, and Grace

Some people have found it hard to find any grace in Jesus’ words about divorce and remarriage. But if you understand the context of what Jesus was saying, you will see more grace than you might first think.divorce-remarriage

I’ve been teaching my way through Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount at Cedarbrook. In my younger years I’d often get hung up on each sentence. But by seeing the Sermon as a whole, the individual sentences make so much more sense to me now.

In regard to divorce and remarriage, it seems that the range of interpretation is to either take Jesus so literally that you must divorce your second spouse to return to your first, or hyper-spiritualize the text to an unattainable ideal that Jesus never meant for us to tackle.

But I think there is a reasonable third way that views the issue through a grid of grace. I’ll give you a snapshot of my thinking here and let you read or listen to my message if you want to hear more on this.

Religious Loophole for Divorce?

In approaching divorce and remarriage it’s important to remember the thrust of Jesus’ teaching. He wasn’t out to shame sinners. He was out to teach his disciples that an acceptable religion practice of the day was unacceptable to Jesus. Namely, using religious loopholes to hide their sin.

In that day, a man could essentially “annul” his wedding without cause with a certificate of divorce. So, in theory, you could get married many times and never have to admit to a divorce if you gave your wife a certificate. Sweet deal. (Meanwhile subjecting your ex-wife to shame and poverty).

But Jesus said: not so fast. God’s not fooled by your religious “work-around.” Call it what it is: adultery.You’ve broken the unity bond of marriage. This bond represents who God is. To break this bond undermines one of the ways we reflect God in this world. Don’t think your “certificate” gives you a free pass on sin.God knows the truth even if you fool others.

There is Grace for You

Jesus was speaking against hypocrites who wanted to hide their sin, not people who regretfully failed in marriage. To them he would say: Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Jesus was warning his disciples of what NOT to do when they follow him.

Jesus wants to help you start over. He is the God of second chances. He’s not out to shame broken people. He just doesn’t want us to play religious games. Call your sin what it is (in this case:adultery) find forgiveness, and then move on. God will work with you to make your second marriage a success if you let him.

Too often people elevate divorce and remarriage to be worse than other sins and let it taint their second marriage, always doubting its validity before God. It’s good to admit and own your failure. Make the amends you can. But then move forward. Life is too short to let regrets rob from you every day.

You can read or listen to the message here.

Creating a Positive Staff Culture

churchstaffA friend of mine recently told me how much they hate working at their church. They said that everyone on staff is miserable.

WHAT?  How is that even possible?

But this is true in more churches than you may realize. Today I want to offer some practical suggestions on how to create a positive church staff culture.

Many people join a church staff and assume it’s going to be upbeat, positive, and spiritually uplifting, only to experience the drudgery related my friend. Surprised? I sure was. Before I joined a church staff I just assumed it would be the best work environment this side of heaven. I mean, everyone is a believer. Everyone is nice, and positive, and friendly, right? Plus, you have the best mission statement in the world: to reach people with the message of Jesus. What could possibly be bad about working at a church?  More than you realize. Church offices can suffer from the same problems that exist in the business world.

When I asked my friend what it was he didn’t like about working at his church he said that there was no enthusiasm. Everyone just did their job and stayed out of each other’s way. He said he looked for excuses to work by himself because it was such a negative environment.  I asked what the senior pastor was like. He said he kept to himself and was often depressed. I thought that might be true. The senior leader always sets the tone whether that’s at home, at work, at school, or a church.

Five Ways to Turn Your Staff Culture Around

Here are a few recommendations for your staff that have worked for me through the years:

1. Meet with your staff individually each week. I’m surprised how rare this is. When I was an associate pastor I regularly had to ASK my senior pastor to meet. I never understood how you could have a staff and not meet with them on a regular basis. Even if you give them no direction (which you should), you show them so much value just by checking in with them each week. 

Suffering for Jesus shouldn’t mean going to work on Monday! Church offices SHOULD be the best place to work in town: the most rewarding and fulfilling. If your office isn’t, change it.

I check in with my direct-reports personally as well as professionally. I offer real-time feedback so they always know what I like about what they are doing or know my concerns. And I want to hear the same from them about me too. How can I improve if I don’t have a feedback loop?

2. Meet as a staff once a week. We meet for an hour and a half. Here is how we use our time:

  • Check in. One third of our time is just asking how everyone is doing. We go around the room (ten people) and everyone takes 2-3 minutes to give the highs/lows of their week. It might be mundane, funny or heart breaking. It’s all good. We do this in our elder meetings too. It sets the tone for the meeting (friendly) and puts everyone on the same level.
  • Share solutions. Staff meetings aren’t for problem solving. We try to solve problems in smaller meetings and then come with solutions to share with everyone.
  • Invite input. There’s always room for push-back. If our “solution” isn’t good, people have the right to say so and we will revisit it. When people have no say in what’s going on they feel invalidated and lose interest.
  • Pray together. We don’t take a lot of time, maybe five or ten minutes. But we bring church members, upcoming events, and ministries before God. After all, it’s his church. And it’s not a business. Prayer brings us together and creates a sense of intimacy among each other.
  • End on time. This is one of my golden rules in life. When you don’t end on time, people feel cheated. They feel taken for granted. Don’t do that.

3. Keep other meetings to a minimum. Other than staff meetings and one-on-one meetings with staff, we have very few meetings. I’ve never understood pastors that say they spend all day in meetings. I’ve never heard anyone tell me that what they like most about their job is the opportunity to spend their day in meetings!

4. Build relationships and have fun. Just like my wife and I regularly have dates and vacations, our staff regularly has team building events. We recently went  on an overnight at a church camp and each member took 20 minutes to share their life story. We played games and ate together. Simple stuff, but very bonding. We go bowling, take boat rides in the summer, go out for tacos or coffee to celebrate a success, do service projects together, etc. It costs a little money and takes some time away from work, but the payback is huge.

5. Keep an open door. Everyone keeps their doors at least cracked. It’s not a rule. It’s just the culture. It’s friendly. It says, “I’m available.” It can be abused. So be careful. But for some reason that’s not an issue for us. We are a “get-er done” kind of staff…very results oriented. But we know that we can always bop into someones office with a question, or a joke, or to make quick plans to hang out together after work.

Suffering for Jesus shouldn’t mean going to work on Monday! Church offices SHOULD be the best place to work in town: the most rewarding and fulfilling. If your office isn’t, change it. If you are the senior leader, you need to make the first move. If you aren’t, print this off and slip it under the senior leaders’ door!

Tell me what your office is like. What makes it great or what makes it drudgery? I’d love to hear back. What starts in your church office will naturally flow into your congregation…for good or bad.

How to Reclaim Your Church from Spiritual Abuse

nextstepsThis is part six in a six part series on spiritual abuse. Today I want to suggest steps a church might take to help them move on from a past with spiritual abuse.

Please read parts four and five before reading this post because my recommendations are based on the problems I outlined there.

The problems in MHC’s (Mars Hill Church) communications were for every issue, they denied, hedged, evaded and accused others for as long as they could. Then, once there was undeniable evidence, they made excuses, laid blame or made diversions by nitpicking the details. Even the few times they had a “buck stops here” moments or Mark Driscoll “accepted responsibility,” he blamed his elders and claimed he never knew. blogger

So the LORD will cut off from Israel both head and tail, both palm branch and reed in a single day; the elders and prominent men are the head, the prophets who teach lies are the tail. Those who guide this people mislead them, and those who are guided are led astray. Isaiah 9:14-16

A lot can be learned from a major fallout out like Mars Hill Church in Seattle. And a lot can be learned from Israel in the Old Testament. Some things never change. Israel dissolved. Ten tribes were lost to the nations. Mars Hill also dissolved. I was part of a church of 2000 in Minneapolis that dissolved after immorality was revealed in the leadership.

My point is that if you don’t handle a crisis well, your church may cease to exist. It happens. So please be careful how you handle a crisis. If you don’t want your church to dissolve from spiritual abuse, you need to take bold action.

Next Steps to Reclaim Your Church From Spiritual Abuse

These are the steps I recommend to church leaders if they want to get back on track:

1. Get outside help. Whether you realize it or not, your thinking has become distorted. You don’t see straight. If you did, the abuse wouldn’t have taken place in the first place. You need outside influence – fresh eyes – to see what’s wrong and make objective decisions. When spiritual abuse exists, there is a dysfunctional system in place that supports the abuse. Even if you stop the abuse, the dysfunctional system remains. Until the dysfunctional system is dismantled your problems will continue.

Hopefully you are part of a denomination. One of the primary roles of a denomination is to provide outside support and direction to a church in a time of crisis. Use them. If you don’t have a denomination, hire a consultant, or invite a respected church to help lead your church out of your mess. It’s humbling to ask for help, but it will give you clear, objective thinkers during a cloudy season and your congregation will trust you more moving forward.

2. Change up the leadership. Every position in leadership, staff and elders, should be up for consideration. It might require termination, resignation, paid or unpaid time-off, etc. New people need to be brought in who don’t share the tainted past.

Your denomination can help you with these decisions. Most people don’t like to take bold action like this. They are afraid of overreacting and regretting it. But my experience is that taking bold action during a time of crisis is what saves the day. People who try to walk the middle line, and please everyone, end up inviting the disaster they are hoping to avoid.

3. Review what happened. Abuse didn’t just jump out of a box one day. It developed over time. Think through how it came about. What were the steps that led you and others to compromise what you knew to be true, and/or allowed someone in authority to take advantage of innocent people?

4. Isolate the errors and false teaching. As you review the past and find the missteps, name them. List them out. Understand the depth of the error: relationally, spiritually, biblically, etc. 

Coming out of a time of spiritual abuse is not the time to be passive or equivocate. It’s time to clear the air as quickly as possible. People need to know that you see the problem and are doing everything you can, as fast as you can, to right the ship.

5. Tell your stories. The abuse happened in community. It needs to be processed in community. People like to think the consequences of abuse will magically go away. They won’t; not unless you take action to make them go away. You need to shed light into the darkness of abuse by openly talking about it.

One way you help that happen is by telling your story. When you tell your story you will see the horror in people’s eyes, validating your experience. For years you minimized the abuse. You told yourself that you were wrong and your abuser was right. They were smarter than you and you just needed to toe the line. But seeing the reaction of people who hear your story will help empower you. They will confirm what you felt deep down all along. Hearing their story will do the same.

6. Fully admit and own the abuse. This will help you to clean house and regain trust from the congregation.

7. Grieve the losses. A death has happened. Life has been stolen from people. Time has been taken. Relationships have been broken. You don’t skip away from these things. Most people don’t understand the importance of grief. New life can’t come to you, or your church, unless you embrace the sorrow and confusion of grief. If you try to move on prematurely, the wounds of abuse will get buried and fester and putrefy, coming back to haunt you in years to come.

8. Be patient with each other. Everyone heals in different ways and at different rates. Two people may have had the same experience, but because of their personality and past experience, one can rebound quickly while the other seems lost for a few years. There is no right or wrong way to recover. Don’t judge people for not recovering like you do. This will only revictimize the abused. Don’t rush things. Recovery times time.

9. Trust God. God is the god of resurrection. That’s his game. All roads lead to resurrection and renewal with God if you will consistently take his hand and let him take you there. But it’s a process. It took years for the effects of spiritual abuse to sink in. It may take years for it’s grip to let you go. Don’t give up. God is faithful to complete the work he started in you.

Coming out of a time of spiritual abuse is not the time to be passive or equivocate. It’s time to clear the air as quickly as possible. People need to know that you see the problem and are doing everything you can, as fast as you can, to right the ship.

The fear of being honest is that you’ll lose people. But you’ve already lost people. You’ll lose more either way. So the question is: do you want to lose people because you are not being fully honest or because you were fully honest? I think the answer is clear.

I hope these six posts have given you some insight into the problem of spiritual abuse and how to move on from it. I’m happy to answer any questions you might have. Thanks for reading!

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You Can Smell Spiritual Abuse

Stop-spiritual-abuseThis is part five in a six part series on Spiritual Abuse. Track back to read all the posts so far.

I left off on my last post talking about the dangers of minimizing spiritual abuse. If spiritual abuse is minimized, a church will be quick to move on and not give abuse victims the care they need to heal.

Victims will be made to feel like they are the ones at fault. They overreacted. They are overly sensitive, etc. This subjects them to abuse…again. This is equal to throwing salt on an open wound.

Don’t Create a Cover Up

I understand that it’s very hard to fully own something as ugly as spiritual abuse. No one wants to admit the depth of it. No one wants to own that it happened in their church. But if you don’t admit it – fully – you will only add to the tragedy. A church that is quick to move on chooses to sacrifice the abused for the sake of their own reputation. They mistakenly think that, by not admitting the abuse, they will be saved from the pain and shame of fully disclosing it. In their mind, it’s for “the greater good” that they minimize what took place and move on.

But creating a cover-up is a very sad legacy to afflict on your church. A few years back I took a team of people to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Houses were flooded up to two stories. The only solution to save these houses was to gut them, stripping them down to the studs. Once the houses were stripped, they needed to be sprayed down with an antibacterial solution, left to dry, and then rebuilt.

A church that is quick to move on chooses to sacrifice the abused for the sake of their own reputation.

It felt terrible to throw out totally new appliances and woodwork. But trying to save them would have allowed the bacteria to grow and would cause the ultimate demise and destruction of the houses. It was better to gut them and start over. 

This is a perfect example for what needs to take place after abuse has “flooded” a church community. You can’t soft-sell what happened. You have to own it and clean house.

You Can Smell Spiritual Abuse a Mile Away

What people don’t understand is how sensitive and perceptive survivors of abuse are. They can “smell” abuse a mile away, even when others can’t. They hear it in the teaching, the tone of people’s voice, the subtle manipulations used, and by what’s said and not said.

Let me use another analogy from my past. When my wife and I were first married, we lived in married student housing at the University of Minnesota. Before living there, I had never seen a cockroach. After living there I became very familiar with them! The roach population got so bad that the University resorted to monthly fumigation. All the residence would have to leave for the day while they set off a fumigation “bomb.”

That insecticide has a very unique smell. The smell is permanently etched in my brain. I smell it sometimes when I’m in apartment buildings and occasionally in restaurants. I’ll often mention it to whomever I’m with, “Can you smell the insecticide?” I’ll ask. They never can. I’m just super sensitive to it. But when I smell it in a restaurant, it’s a warning sign that the restaurant has a roach problem, not some place I want to eat!

It’s the same way with abuse. Once you’ve been abused, once someone had forced themselves into your personal space without your permission, you never forget it. Not everyone will see what you see or hear what you hear. They might call you oversensitive and diminish what you sense. But you know you are right. No one can tell you differently.

If you’ve suffered spiritual abuse in a church, you can’t go to that church if there is the slightest scent of abuse in the air. You know what others don’t: they haven’t fully rooted out the last vestiges of abuse. Instead of getting the abused to be quiet, they should be sought out and used as a “Geiger counter” to detect and eradicate any traces of abuse in the church.

Eliminating Every Trace of Abuse

The false teaching used to control people needs to be actively rooted out and corrected, not merely downplayed or ignored. Respected teachers from outside the church should be brought in to reset the biblical compass in the church. The errors that were used to perpetrate the abuse need to be spelled out and fully exposed so people understand the threat they are to God’s glory and the purpose for his church.

Bold action should be taken to get a church back on track. Spiritual abuse introduces a toxin to the lifeblood of the church and needs to be removed before it causes any more damage. I’ll talk about some possible steps a church might take in my next post.

If you found this helpful please “like” it and share it with the buttons below. I’d love to hear what your experience is as it relates to what I wrote today.

Don’t Minimize Spiritual Abuse

minimizing-abuseThis is the fourth post in my blog series on Spiritual Abuse. Be sure to track back to read the full series.

I will soon post how a church can take steps to recover from their spiritually abusive past. That is, once spiritual abuse has been uncovered, what steps need to be taken to get the church back on track?

But before I list out what that means, I want to discuss two concerns I have about how a church might mishandle spiritual abuse. I’ll discuss one concern today and another one on Wednesday.

Concern One: People will minimize the abuse and explain it away.

The problem with abuse is that not everyone sees it. If everyone saw it, it would be obvious and people would take bold steps to eradicate it. What typically happens is only a few people see it full blown. A few more people see a little here and there.  They are concerned, but not enough to “make waves” and say something. Most people don’t see it at all. They aren’t close enough to the source so it’s easily missed or explained away.

When stories of abuse come out, they are so easy to deny. There are usually many more people who haven’t seen it. They outnumber those that have seen it. Those who haven’t seen it talk about all the good that is happening. No one wants to think their leaders have gone rogue. They shut down concerns by warning people about being rebellious, or gossips, or negative, etc. The abused either shut up or walk away. 

…don’t let people talk you out of the fact that spiritual abuse happened or convince you that, if it happened, it wasn’t “that bad” because good things happened too.

One abuse survivor said she hesitated to say anything about her spiritual abuse because: She felt dramatic and whiny for mentioning spiritual abuse, like she was overstating what happened. DAYNA DRUM, OCTOBER 27, 2014, Relevant Magazine

As a pastor myself, I’m all for supporting your pastor! But I’m surprised how many people blindly support and protect their pastor even when there is strong evidence about their misbehavior. It’s important to give someone the benefit of the doubt (especially when I’m the one being doubted) but questionable behavior warrants questioning, especially when there are ongoing concerns by a variety of people over time.

Other people will justify abuse by saying the “end justifies the means.” That is, if someone made spiritual progress, by so-called “spiritual abuse,” can it really be abuse if they were helped? Yes it can. And I question if they really were helped, in the long run.

Learning from Sexual Abuse

Comparing spiritual abuse to sexual abuse might bring some clarity. Let’s say an adult coerces a minor to have sex. The minor is willing. They even enjoy it. Is it abuse? Yes it is. The fact that it is consensual and enjoyable has no bearing on whether it’s abuse.

What makes it abuse is that the adult violated the innocence of the minor. Just because the minor didn’t feel violated, or understand they were violated, means nothing. A violation still occurred. Something was taken from the minor that can never be recovered. That’s abuse.

The same is true with spiritual abuse. People can testify to the amazing power of a pastor’s ministry. They can have multiple people stand up and tell their story of how they came to God and were set free. But if their will was violated in any way…if the pastor crossed the line of respecting their right to choose, redirected the person to rely on the pastor and not God, or manipulated their choice through intimidating them in any way, it’s still abuse.

It’s often easy for people to misinterpret any change or impact as the work of God. When someone is under the mind-control of a persuasive abuser, they are easily manipulated into thinking that God is doing something in their lives when it is, in fact, the abuser.

My point here: don’t let people talk you out of the fact that spiritual abuse happened or convince you that, if it happened, it wasn’t “that bad” because good things happened too. When you minimize spiritual abuse you are telling the abused a number of lies:

  • You weren’t violated in any way, so get over it.
  • You don’t know what it means to be spiritual.
  • We aren’t concerned about what happened to you if it didn’t happen to us.
  • You are expendable. We don’t need to “stop the train” just because you were hurt.
  • You are overreacting.
  • You don’t have the right to question authority.

When people hear these things subtly implied, they are revictimized. I’ll talk more about this on Wednesday. The answer to spiritual abuse is to not minimize in hope of it quickly going away. The answer is to fully expose it and take responsibility for it.

If you found this post helpful, please “like” it and share it below.

How have you seen a church minimize abuse?

How to Recover From Spiritual Abuse

This my third post in a series on spiritual abuse. I hope you’ll track back to read my other posts: Recovery

What is Spiritual Abuse?
The Spiritual Abuse Checklist

Today I want to look at how to recover from spiritual abuse. Recovering from spiritual abuse is done on a personal and corporate basis. If you’ve been under the power of a spiritually abusive church or person, you need to take strong steps to find healing. But if your church has been spiritually abusive, then the church has their own work to do. I’ll address that in my next post.

Here are some possible steps you might take as an individual to find healing.

1. Remove yourself from the abuse. This seems so obvious, but surprisingly people remain in abusive environments for a variety of reasons.

  • Mostly they doubt themselves. Deep down they think this is their fault. If they were only a better person/Christian they’d see things clearly and see how they are wrong, just like everyone is telling them. Their “abuser” is right. They are just overreacting. So, false guilt plays a big role in keeping someone from leaving.
  • People will also doubt their ability to make it without the influence of their abuser. The abuser played such a big role in their life. Yes, they crossed boundaries, but maybe they needed to do that to keep them on the straight and narrow. In other words, they are quick to minimize and deny the abuse.
  • Plus there is the peer pressure. If your friends and family all say there’s no problem, who are you to disagree? You don’t want to be the only one leaving. Isn’t it better to keep quiet and go along…not make waves? But this is why you need to get out. You need to clear your head from this kind of thinking. Just because others don’t see the abuse, doesn’t mean it’s not there.

Think of it as being wounded in battle. If you are wounded, you don’t remain to keep fighting. Let others do that. You need to get to a safe place before it’s too late.

What if the church has “repented” of the abuse? Should you stay then? Maybe. I’ll
talk about this more in future posts. But unless the church does a wholesale admittance and cleansing of the abuse and establishes new leadership, there will be too many vestiges of abusive behavior in place and it will subtly eat away at you (and others).

2. Take a break. Part of the sickness of spiritual abuse is that it builds an unhealthy dependence on a person or church rather than a dependence on God. To help show you that you can survive with God alone, take a break from church. There was a season of five years when I didn’t attend church. This is probably more than the average person needs, but God did something in my heart that shaped me and prepared me for future ministry (ironically).

3. Get perspective. If you’ve been abused then most likely your thinking has been distorted. You’ve bought into some lies that need correcting. You need to put some distance in between yourself and your church for a period of time (if not indefinitely) in order to clear your mind and get back on track. A few ways to do that are:

  • Talk to friends from other churches that are known for being healthy and grace based.
  • Talk to a pastor from a healthy church.
  • Read about spiritual abuse to understand how it works.
  • Read about grace.

4. Get counseling. Abuse does a number on your soul. It’s a transgression that’s hard to quantify but is nevertheless very real. You need to sort it out with someone who can see the abuse clearly. Plus, it’s important that you understand what it might be about you that made you susceptible to the toxic thinking in the first place. I’ve found that people who struggle with insecurity and shame are especially vulnerable to the legalism promoted by spiritual abuse. They are naturally driven to want to please others to feel good about themselves. Abusers provide that.

5. Develop a strong devotional life. Spiritual abuse sets up a person, or church, as an intermediary between you and God. All the rules and requirements may have made you think you were on the inner circle with God, but it actually pushed you farther away. So work on developing your relationship with God through prayer, reflection, and meditating on scripture. 

Spiritual abuse sets up a person, or church, as an intermediary between you and God. All the rules and requirements may have made you think you were on the inner circle with God, but it actually pushed you farther away.

6. Establish healthy boundaries. Some people have trouble saying “no.” They feel obligated to go along with friends, family members, and people in authority. Hopefully you will look at these issues in counseling. But it’s very important to not just protect yourself from a toxic church, you might have to protect yourself from unhealthy people in your life too. Just like an alcoholic has to be careful not to let people back into their lives that could cause them to relapse, so does the person who has been spiritually abused.

People will come at you trying to minimize or deny what’s happened to you. They’ll say things like: “You are overreacting. It wasn’t that bad.” “You are just resisting what God wants in your life. You are being rebellious.” “They can’t be abusive. They are good people. They really helped me.” “The devil is using you to divide this church.”

Boundaries will help protect you from these attactks.

7. Reengage with a healthy church. Most churches talk about grace. But many churches talk about it better than they practice it. Visit a number of churches. Sit in the back and just listen and observe. Now that you’ve gained some perspective, look to see if grace is taught as well as lived out. Remember, abuse and legalism can be subtle. You don’t want to engage in a church that puts you on the hook to please THEM and not God.

Should you return to your old church? That would be ideal. If they have done their work to eliminate and repent of all abusive behavior, and you have found healing, then the best case scenario would be for you to be reunited with your church family. But that’s a big “if.” So be careful with that. Don’t be coerced to go back unless you feel good about it: you feel strong enough and you sense it would be a good thing for you.

You will undoubtedly be tempted to leave church forever. I understand that. I did that for many years. But I came to realize that God has chosen to move in the world through his church in spite of our brokenness. So I hope you will find your way back to church and become a fully functioning part of the body of Christ.

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This isn’t an exhaustive list, but I hope it gives you some of the first steps you need to find your way back to spiritual health. If you’ve had a successful recovery from spiritual abuse I’d love to have you share with my readers what helped you. Please comment below.

I’ll talk about this more over the coming days. Be sure to send me your comments and questions and “like” this or forward this post to a friend if you found it helpful.