Category Archives: church

Left Behind: letting go of your friends from an abusive church

abusive churchNow that I’ve released my latest book, Broken Trust, I regularly hear from people stuck in an abusive church or who have just left an abusive church. One question I often get is: What do I do about the friends I leave behind at my former church? I feel so responsible for them. I don’t want to leave them “to the wolves.”

Leaving an Abusive Church

Leaving your friends is one of the hardest parts of leaving an abusive church and it’s what causes many people to stay (when they should leave). When I left an abusive church I didn’t know what to do about my friends who stayed. I wanted to rescue them. And they kept asking me why I was leaving and encouraging me to just stay.

Then I read some advice that said the best thing you can do is have NO contact with friends from your previous church. At first I thought it was terrible advice. It sounded extreme. But over time I realized the wisdom of it. When you stay in contact with people at your former church it only adds unnecessary drama to your life and the lives of your friends. There are the continual updates about “what they did/said this week” and it only leads to gossip and confusion.

You Can’t Decide For Your Friends

It’s important to let people make up their own minds on whether to stay in their abusive church or leave it. You can’t make that decision for them. Their experience isn’t your experience. You need to respect that.

If you compel your friends to leave, they may resent you and eventually return.  Then suddenly YOU are the bad guy. But if you leave and stop communicating with them, that makes a powerful statement. It shows your friends how serious this is to you. It also gives them the freedom to hear from God on their own, without your influence. You have to trust that if God spoke to you about leaving the abuse, he can speak to your friends as well.

What To Tell Your Friends

There is no recipe that “works” in this situation. It’s like a divorce. You are just trying to make the best of a very bad situation. Personally, I would tell my friends that stay in the abusive church something like this:

“Friend, I’m leaving the church for these reasons (list). I don’t want to sway you to leave and I’m not going to defend my reasons for leaving. I’m sorry to have to say this but I’m not going to be in contact with you for an extended period of time. I don’t want to cause any dissension in the church or be a stumbling block in your faith. I leave you to make up your own mind. For this reason, it’s best that we don’t talk for a season until we are all settled on what’s right for us. I love you. I’ll be praying for you and the church. I’ll miss you. I’m not doing this to hurt you. I believe it’s the best for everyone.”

I understand that this is hard, but there’s nothing easy about an abusive church. I believe that drawing these firm boundaries are necessary. You may not agree with this approach. That’s fine. Let me know what you have found that has worked better for you.

If you are looking for practical answers to help you to deal with an abusive church situation you might want to check out Broken Trust and read the reviews from people who have already read it.

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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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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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Best Books on Spiritual Abuse: Broken Trust Tops the List

What are the best books on spiritual abuse?

I’ve sent out a few copies of my upcoming book on spiritual abuse, called Broken Trust. I’m grateful to see that one reviewer (Stephen A. Smith) put it on the top of his list of fifteen books on spiritual abuse. Here is his list in the order that he recommends them:

Best Books on Spiritual Abuse (libertyforcaptives.com) 

  1. Broken Trust: A practical guide to identify and recover from toxic faith, toxic

    Stephen A. Smith

    church, and spiritual abuse by F. Remy Diederich (this title available from Amazon Sept. 18, 2017)

  2. The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse by David Johnson and Jeff VanVonderen
  3. Twisted Scriptures by Mary Chrnalogar
  4. The Heresy of Mind Control by Stephen Martin
  5. Churches that Abuse: Help for Those Hurt by Legalism and Authoritarian Leadership by Ronald Enroth
  6. Coping with Cult Involvement by Livia Bardin
  7. Spiritual Abuse Recovery: Dynamic Research on Finding a Place of Wholeness by Barb Orlowski, Ph.D.
  8. To Be Told: Know Your Story, Shape Your Future by Dan Allender
  9. Leading with a Limp by Dan Allender
  10. “Spiritual Authority” by Hal Miller (an article @ http://www.home-church.org/scc/authority.html )
  11. The Wrong Way Home: Uncovering the Patterns of Cult Behavior in American Society by Arthur J. Deikman, M.D.
  12. Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend
  13. Families Where Grace is in Place by Jeff VanVonderen
  14. Forgive and Forget: Healing the Hurts We Don’t Deserve by Lewis B. Smedes
  15. When God’s People Let You Down by Jeff VanVonderen

You can visit Steve’s helpful website here. 

If you would like a free copy of Broken Trust to review on your blog, please contact me here.

If you are not a blogger but would like to be on my launch team, please see the details in my previous post.

 

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Making Progress on Book About Spiritually Abusive Churches

Here’s a quick update on the new book I’m working on. It’s a book that helps people in spiritually abusive churches identify what’s wrong with their setting and what to do about it.

Four Changes

I’ve invited people to read my first draft and give me their honest feedback. It’s been very helpful, causing me to make the following changes:

  1. Change the name of the book to reflect a primary feeling associated with experiencing spiritual abuse: Broken Trust.
  2. Eliminate half the material I suggested. It didn’t flow with the main purpose of the book, which is to give practical “how-to” steps” for people in spiritually abusive churches.

  3. Soften my approach. I’m a straight shooter and most people appreciate that about my writing. But people who have suffered in spiritually abusive churches have been shot at enough. I need to be more careful with my words with this audience.

  4. Answer more questions. People in spiritually abusive churches are hurt, confused, and often full of guilt. They don’t know what to do. It seems that everything they do is labeled as wrong and incurs the condemnation of many. They want answers, so I included a whole chapter on FAQ’s and gave more detail to many questions I had already answered.

These changes will make the book much more readable and helpful. If you would like to receive advance drafts of the book, email me here and I’ll add you to the e-list.

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Toxic Pastors and Why They Are Not Confronted

Why is it so hard to confront toxic pastors? If they are clearly in the wrong, it seems like it would be the obvious thing to do. But if you’ve ever been in a toxic church, you know how hard it can be.

Here are ten reasons why people don’t confront toxic pastors.

Ten Reasons People Don’t Confront Toxic Pastors:

  1. You don’t want to be accused of being rebellious. Toxic pastors make you feel like disagreeing with them is equal to questioning God. And we all know that bad things happen to people who question God, right? The Old Testament has more than enough stories to give you pause. You don’t want the ground to open up and swallow you, and you don’t want to be labeled a rebel, or God forbid, having a “rebellious spirit.”
  2. You get filled with self-doubt. Toxic pastors make you feel like YOU are the problem. They say things like, “The reason you disagree with me is because you aren’t as spiritually mature as I am. You need to trust my leadership and submit to my authority like the Bible tells you too.” That can mess with your mind. They turn things around and before you know it, you are asking for THEIR forgiveness when it should be the other way around.
  3. You fear losing your circle of friends. Sometimes we tolerate a toxic church simply because that’s where our friends are. When I left a church, after being there for seven years, I lost my entire network of friends.
  4. You don’t want to lose your equity investment. If you have a home mortgage, you have an equity investment. Each month that you make a payment, your equity, or ownership of the house, grows. But if the bank foreclosed on you, you lose your equity. All that investment would be lost. That happens in relationships too. You feel that you’ve invested so much time and energy into the relationship/church that you don’t want to lose your investment. So you try a little harder, a little longer, hoping it will work. You even tell yourself that God will reward you for persevering. So you invest another year, but the system doesn’t get any better. Now you’ve lost another year and your equity has increased which makes you feel even MORE obligated to stay.
  5. You like to be liked/needed. If you are a good performer, the toxic system can be very rewarding. You feed off of the praise. Or, maybe you simply can’t handle the thought of the church people not liking you if you leave. Your low self-worth keeps you trapped.
  6. You fear losing your salvation. They had you convinced that their way was the only way to God. Even though you know they are wrong, you fear falling away from God without their strong input into your life. You’re not sure you can make it on your own.
  7. You fear exposure/humiliation for leaving. You know if you leave that your name and reputation will be trashed by those in the church. You’ve seen it happen to others who left the church and you don’t want it to happen to you.
  8. You fear being wrong. What if they ARE right? After all, what do you know? You don’t know the Bible like they do. And the pastor and his/her followers seem so convinced.
  9. You lack boundaries. You were raised to believe that people had the right to impose their thoughts/beliefs/will upon you. You don’t feel like it’s your right to question others. You are used to being violated. You think that’s your lot in life, so you let it continue.
  10. It’s not worth your time. You are so sick of the craziness that you are just done. You don’t think talking to the pastor will change anything, just aggravate you more. So you up and leave. End of story.

As you can see, confronting toxic pastors isn’t so easy. There are lots of reasons people fail to follow through on their intentions. It takes maturity to stand tall and confront the madness. Someone has to do it. Why not you?

Can you think of other reasons that people don’t confront toxic pastors? Leave a comment below.

If you need help in confronting church leadership, see my post on how to confront a toxic pastor here.

If you have encountered a toxic pastor, let me know about your experience. I am in the process of writing a new book on how to handle a toxic church experience and your insight would be helpful to me. Email me here. Thanks.

 

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