Opinion Editorial –
- written by a Former Member of the “Church” - all opinions belong to the author. The views stated belong to the author only and may not necessarily be the views and opinions of this Blog.
Many times this has been discussed, but it can never be discussed enough. Why is it that members of the splinters put up with the spiritual abuse that is blasted at them by so-called “ministers” in the Churches of God?
There is no doubt that there are many disgruntled, unhappy members in the Splinter groups. And there is also no doubt that this is for good reason.
The PCG has been well-accounted for extraordinarily horrendous policies involving separation of families (including minors) for dissenters. The RCG has been well-accounted for their “All things common” financial policies, and fantastically failed prophecies, that have scarred members both financially and spiritually. The COG-PKG has been time and time again convincing members of the time of the end, with failed date after failed date, pocketing money for lavish expenses, whose leader was convicted with tax fraud. The LCG, with a new leader at the helm, continues to assert submission to it's members to church government – while refusing to tackle serious issues brought up by it's members who see widespread carnality within it's ranks. The other splinters not mentioned are certainly not immune. From controversies to scandals, to ministerial misconduct – there is never any shortage of spiritual abuse within the churches of God. Whether or not it's minister-to-minister, minister-to-member, even church-to-church – or even church-to-world, the levels of carnality, wickedness, and dare we even say just plain evil have been accounted for factually for years on this blog, on the Ambassador Reports, on other COG-related blogs and websites, and other media sources. And yet, though more than a few leave, many decide to sit, stay – and pay.
What is it then that is the glue that keeps them sitting? What is it that holds them in what they have themselves said is miserable, discouraging, depressing conditions?
A Place of Like-Minded Community
The biggest reason that has been mentioned by Splinter Members over and over again has been because of community. The church that they are in – regardless of doctrine, teaching, disagreements, and authority issues – is their place of community. Many times their immediate families are members of the church as well. Many times long-term friendships – some lasting decades – are members in the church. To even think of not seeing them or spending time with them every week would seem to be nothing less than traumatizing. Members are also aware that in most Church of God congregations, shunning ex-members is strictly practiced within the church. It is a very real threat that if they leave the church, they will lose contact with everyone they have ever known. “No one in the world understands me, or can relate to me or my issues and beliefs”. Indeed, loneliness and depression is an extremely real threat to those who leave the church – and it can be more than enough of a deterrent to leaving the church, that members are willing to put up with spiritual abuse than risk losing lifelong relationships with the only people they've ever really been close to.
The Threat of Marital Division
Just as big a reason is spiritual unity between a husband and a wife in the church. Perhaps one of them has come to realize the level of spiritual abuse that has been endured for years – even decades. Perhaps one has become so frustrated that they feel like leaving. However, this individual is well aware that the consequences of leaving the church may have dramatic, traumatizing, life-changing events for not only the individual, but the spouse, and most importantly, the children of the married couple.
Spiritual divisions within the family can create dramatic tension, disputes, and arguments that can lead to grudges, separations, and even full-on divorce situations, that can cause lasting damage to children – not to mention bitter and drawn-out divorce proceedings. Many times on consideration of the dreaded road that leaving the church could put them toward, the spiritual abuse inflicted by the church seems to be a better option for them then losing their family – and potentially their children. Not to mention, possibly their house, car, and other possessions.
A Desire to Worship How They Believe is Proper
The third reason that a member may decide to stay is because of how they want to worship. Most members will tell you that they stay because they believe that they have a desire to keep the Sabbath, and the Holy Days in the common and accepted manner of their church. Their surroundings, worship style, and messages are predictable, and familiar. They do not have to worry about unfamiliar doctrinal messages coming from the pulpit, which would nearly certainly happen in another Church of God Congregation. They do not have to worry about losing their “place” in the church, whatever that “place” might be. And regardless of how spiritually abusive their ministers may be, the truth is, they are more comfortable with what to expect with them than they would be with someone new, where there's no certainty of expectations in anything.
What to Do, What to Do?
These are primary reasons why many splinter members of the Churches of God make the grudgingly depressing decision to stay. But these aren't the only reasons. As one member recently said in response to such a question in a popular Church-of-God related blog, paraphrased - “It is enormously complicated, you can't just get up and go”. And that's true. Uprooting ones self and starting over is one of the most difficult and scary things anyone can even begin to consider – and the consequences of those actions can change the entire course of life. How does one even begin to make the right decision? How does one even begin to know what to do?
Don't Decide on Your Own Strength and Power
In situations like this, it can be extremely easy to forget that you are a believer in Christ. If you're debating with yourself what to do – you can't stand your church, you can't stand being treated the way you are being treated. You know it's wrong, you know it's not Christian – you see with your own eyes the carnality, and you are frustrated at the actions you see all around you with disbelief – you seem overwhelmed and overpowered. Don't decide what to do on your own strength and power. Immerse yourself in prayer. Ask God to guide you, to lead you, in a loving, caring, and fatherly way through the jungles you find yourself trapped in. Remind yourself of the promises of His Word to you. That he promised He would never leave you, nor forsake you. That He promised that all things work together for the good to those who love Him, according to His purpose. That God's plan is to prosper you, and not to harm you – to give you a hope and a future. That God is good, all the time – and his goodness never fails. And that He is a merciful and loving God. And when you put your trust in Him – then you can be strengthened by knowing that God is faithful to His Word, and that God WILL make a way, where there seems to be no way.
Place your Burden on God's Hands. Then Let God work.
More than anything – give it to God. Give it to God in prayer, and do something that is extremely hard in this situation – trust Him. Trust Him that all things are going to be okay. And when God moves you in a certain direction – don't be afraid. Trust. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and mind in Christ.
Through trying to figure out your path in life, one thing is sure. No person should ever be subject to spiritual abuse by those who are trusted as representatives of Jesus Christ. No person should have to be subject to wickedness, carnality, and evil inside the Church. There's enough of that outside to last anyone a lifetime. If you are one who feels you are spiritually abused, trapped, and no idea where to go, or what to do – it can be easy to want to throw your hands up in frustration and resign yourself to your circumstance.
Perhaps you're not used to hearing this – but Jesus Christ loves you, and He died for you – and He does not want you to be burdened by spiritual abusers and oppressors. You believe in Christ. Go to Him. Talk to Him, heart to heart – brother to Brother. And then follow the advice of a well known scripture in Exodus 14:14
“The Lord will fight for you; You need ONLY to be Still.”