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Abusive discipleship and control techniques in our churches

First of all, does God need to use manipulation to get us to do what He wants to? He gave us a free will to choose freely to do what is right (or even what's wrong). Else it wouldn't be love, would it?

Now how do you feel when you realize that slick carsalesman talked you into buying that car that you didn't really want, that is actually too expensive for you? Don't you feel cheated? (If you got a genuine good deal on the right car for you, you most likely won't feel "buyer's remorse".) How are you going to react next time you have the option of "consulting" a car salesman for advice? You probably won't trust "them" and preferrably NOT deal with one, will you? Why is that? For one, I suggest, because we simply don't like to be manipulated and "taken for a ride." We feel especially hurt when we come to the bitter realization that the person just used our weak spots to get us to do what suits his selfish ends. Secondly, I believe that we tend to generalize, that is, to turn a single experience into broad, generalizing statements, such as "All car salesmen are bad!" Now does that mean all car salesmen are bad? No. There certainly are some who are ethical, having realized that on the longrun they will do better if they sincerely have the customer's needs in mind, if they try to serve them and give them a fair deal. But unfortunately there are many unethical car salesmen - and they leave a bad taste for everyone.

How about Christianity?

A person can have a "wonderful" workshop or church experience ...guided by the same controlling and manipulating techniques used by destructive groups. They can even come to have a genuine relationship with Christ - but when they later on realize they have been manipulated ...won't they feel cheated and get "turned off" to Christianity? How much moreso will someone like myself who has come out of a controlling group be repelled by such circumstances? After leaving the Unification Church in 1993, I went back to Germany and joined an evangelical church in my home town. Already struggling about being able to trust God again who allowed me to "suffer in this group so long although I was always asking him for guidance," my red flags just jumped up when I observed the church leader using guilt and other 'tools' to get his congregation to give more, to attend more regularly, and to conform to the churche's views. From numerous testimonies of other Christians I have had to learn that unfortunately these unhealthy practices are penetrating our churches. They are not biblical - although leaders will often use Bible verses taken out of context to justify their demand for obedience and their warped view of unity. In short: It presents a bad and incorrect image of God and Christianity!

Christianity is about FREEDOM - freedom to choose God, to love and be loved, freedom from the control of sin (Rom 6 - no longer slaves to sin), freedom from the penalty of death, freedom from guilt and fear, freedom to realize our god-given potential. THAT's why it's called the GOOD NEWS, isn't it? So as Paul was always speaking out, teaching letters and writing letters to dispel false teachings that were enslaving believers all over again (do not allow yourselves to be taken captive..), let us speak out and correct what is wrong in our own rows! It's up to us to correct what is wrong because WE are the church! God gave you a mind to discern - use it! If you have been burnt by abusive discipleship, perhaps a principle that helped me may be of use to you: "Don't throw out the baby with the bath water!" Truth remains truth, whether we believe it or not! Test everything and keep the good. If you see abuse or control in your church, do your research, check the practices against the Bible and SPEAK OUT, like Paul did!

So how do we reconize controlling techniques?

Read Mary Alice Chrnalogar's book on "Abusive Discipleship". I will soon publish an excerpt here. Mary Alice is an experienced counselor who has worked for over 15 years with controlling groups, having come out of one herself. She's a very warm-hearted, sweet Catholic woman, living with her spiffy, energetic mom "down South"!
Check out her page & book review!

Mary Alice's home page
e-mail: lazareth@chattanooga.net

or write: PO Box 8021, Chattanooga, TN 37414

E-mail me your response

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