Dear Patrick Zukeran,
My wife and I are going through a bad experience in Church at the moment and your Abusive Churches: Leaving Them Behind article has/is really helping us. Thank you.
We are from a city in England called ______.
Three years ago we planted a church with another family, for about two years everything was going well and the church grew in numbers.
My wife and I were elders and my wife was also praise and worship leader. We gave our all to promoting the church even to the point of exhaustion, we were out at least four to five nights per week and as our Pastor taught we were sacrificing everything for the Church.
We met in a community centre and every Sunday we would be the first in setting up all the relevant equipment up, sound equipment etc. We would also be the last out after tidying up etc.
Our Pastor would at times bring us a teaching which was often a rebuke for not doing things according to what he thought was right. We would voice our concerns and opinions and be labelled unteachable and told everything he was saying was in the word of God and we should use it as the final authority in our lives. If we did not then we were rebelling against God.
We would often feel a heaviness in the atmosphere when in his presense. My wife would be told that it was up to her and her worship team to usher in the presence of God and would often be told that there was no anointing on her voice. She would often come home and end up in tears because she could not give anymore.
She led the service once with a broken elbow, another time with a collar around her neck she had pulled her muscles, we were always told we had to sacricfice family time for the church as this was honourable to God and we would be rewarded for our works.
Anyway after almost three years we decided to step down from our positions as elders, we just could not give anymore!!
We were told that we were breaking a spiritual covenant with the pastor and the first lady of the house (his wife) and this had to be done in a way that would cause the least amount of pain and disruption to the church.
I addressed the church and said that we were stepping down from Eldership because God had blessed our business and we did not have the time to serve them any longer, we told them that we did not want to hinder what God was doing and wanted to step aside so that God could raise up new elders to help carry the vision forward, it was very tearful and emotional because we had planted this church and were about to step down from our position. It was also emotional because we were hurting for everything that we had been through, the constant rebukes etc. The Church applauded us for our service and on the outside everything looked ok, one the inside we felt/feel for the rest of the church and for the well being of the Pastor because he will not take any counsel and the church are absorbed by his character.
On one occasion in a meeting with my wife and me, he walked out because my wife and I said that we felt that the church as a body was not growing because everyone in our church, apart from two people were already Christians and we should concentrate on the lost. We were told that we were so insensitive and how could we hurt his feelings so much.
Anyway enough of our problems and experiences I expect you have heard all this before, again we would like to thank you for helping us through your writings.