Friday, 20 September 2013

Don't Be Shy

Pride, they say it comes before a fall. Fair enough I say, but what if it comes after an achievement? 

Us Brits are famous for our understatement but perhaps modesty and self-effacement can be taken too far. After all, how can we be encouraged to move forwards if we don't recognise what we have achieved in the first place? Is it so bad to be extremely pleased or overjoyed with what you have accomplished in life? Is that being proud in a negative sense?

I'm not asking you to make yourselves the centre of attention every single day. Or in every situation to constantly and forceably brag about your lifetime achievements. All I'm asking is, that you give yourself a good pat on the back, and not feel afraid to say what you're good at, or what you succeeded in doing in life against all the odds.

Let's not be ashamed to celebrate positive pride. Grab a beer or your favorite tipple, take the load of your feet, and tell me all about it. Don't be shy.  

So, what are your proudest moments or achievements in life?
What is the most successful thing you have done against all the odds?

Or feel free to leave a link if it's something you've already written about.

I love to hear your comments, views and opinions. 

Friday, 6 September 2013

The Abusive Church - Part 2

Busy doing Nothing
Before you knew it, and regardless to your day-job, every spare minute was being taken up with evening church activities. Mondays were ordained as a free day, Tuesdays was choir practice for those who wanted to be tormented by the Pastor's rude, authoritarian son. Wednesdays was bible study where you were constantly bombarded with information and any poignant questions would be danced around until the lesson had finished. Thursdays was Cell Group where the church folk met in each other's homes on a rota basis. Fridays was youth meeting, followed by cleaning the church and then all-night prayers until 3am. Saturdays was street evangelism and Sundays was church from 8.30am to 10pm. 

Non-attendance of these meetings was frowned upon. People were exhausted and tired. You were discouraged from attending private family functions or events not related to church or having associations with unsaved friends. 'God' had to be put first. Any complaint would result in you being labeled as a weak and lukewarm Christian.

Warning 3
The key tactic here is to keep people constantly occupied and distracted. You don't have any time to think, decipher information or do any research for yourself. If your ability to think is taken away, you are more likely to accept information given to you. 

Money money money
We gave money constantly. At every meeting, at every church service, sometimes 2 or 3 times in one day. We tithed 10% of our gross income and there were additional times when we were told to give a 'sacrificial' offering, even if we didn't have it, so that you could be 'blessed by God'. I saw that offering basket more times than I saw my own family. We were told that if we did not give our money it was as if you were robbing God. Now, the bible has a lot to say about giving to the poor but I never heard the leader breathe a word about that. What was actually going on with hindsight, was that he was accepting money from a load of people with far less than him. The opposite of what the bible says. 

That church was freezing in the winter and the roof was always leaking. But I guess that's what happens when bad money mismanagement comes into play. Or was it?

Warning 4
People should be free to give. The minute there is an element of pressure, guilt, blackmail or even bribery ie: 'give so that God will bless you', alarm bells should be ringing loud and clear in your head. God doesn't work that way.

Behind the Mask
This pastor was one hell of a force to be reckoned with. He was extremely charismatic and well known within the community. He was liked by many people who were not part of that church and he played the Jekyll and Hyde game very well. One of his tricks was to suddenly and openly tell the congregation on a Sunday morning that God has spoken to him, and some unlucky bastard was to be ordained as a leader ie: missionary, evangelist, elder, teacher, deacon etc. In reality he was falsely giving you a formal position within the church by name only. You actually had no authority, influence or power at all. Obviously you were not allowed to refuse that position because it came from God. I was unfortunate enough to be given a title which meant more meetings and more of an insight into the politics going on behind the scenes. 

I remember the case of a very well respected and extremely popular leader who got on very well with the Pastor and his family. 

At a certain point they wanted to step down from one aspect of their duties after a few years. The Pastor tried to persuade them not to and refused to give his blessing. When this leader politely stuck to their guns the Pastor ominously said 'OK... we'll deal with this on Sunday'. He actually waited several days to publicly denounce this person in front of the whole church, as though they had done something seriously wrong! They were now silenced, gagged - in other words, not allowed to speak as a leader.

This well-liked leader was immediately ignored by most people after the service ended. People simply turned their heads and walked away. People were too afraid to ring them at home or make contact. This leader was shunned for weeks until the Pastor reinstated their position. 

Warning 5
The power that social isolation can have on people who have cut off their family/friends, not to mention the outside world and made their whole social life revolve around a church like this can have devastating psychological and emotional effects. Yes, you can leave at anytime but where would you go? Who would you turn to? And remember what I said in:
The Abusive Church - Part 1
it was drummed into you that God had put you in that church. 

Headless Chicken
There came a point where myself and my partner no longer believed in the Pastor's version of scriptural interpretation. We presented him with a small document of our findings and handed it out within one of the hierarchy meetings just like we were supposed to do. The Pastor agreed in front of all the ministers and their wives to discuss our concerns at another meeting. 2 weeks later he obviously changed his mind. We received a damning letter which I can only say sounded like it came from a demented man. He stated the following which I have put in quotes:

"I take it to be an act of gross misconduct to me and anyone of intelligence in the meeting" furthermore "without submitting it to me for approval or disapproval", "I think you should have asked for them back and re-presented them in the proper manner if approved". This Pastor continued by stating 'I do not take it lightly, anyone trying to embarrass me in front of the people that God gave me to lead', "was it a try to pull a fast one" 'I do hope that this was a genuine mistake" and 'you are setting up trouble for yourself in your local church and may the Lord help you". 
We of course responded in a godly way to all letters BUT this Pastor wanted blood.  He sent a second letter commenting "disrespect is and will always be discouraged" and "there is a way of doing things which shows respect for leadership and in turn will promote those in "followship" and "I have already informed those present at that meeting this would not be discussed on any level, therefore no need for you to trouble yourself further". 

Now, I have not written 1/5 of what this Pastor said but wanted to give you a gist of his mindset when someone disagrees with him. In the Pastor's third letter he stated "You owe me an apology, not just to me but to all who were present in that meeting", and "you have offended me, you did not cause division because I stopped it in time" AND "you having to leave on issues as these do hurt me in the guts". It was also confirmed and made very clear that he had stopped people contacting us.

All those wicked words spoken ONLY because we had a different point of view over scriptural interpretation.  

My Experience of Pentecostalism
I've seen marriage forced upon couples who were not ready for it, they only wanted to date to see if they were compatible, but are now divorced or separated especially when re-marriage was deemed as sin. I've seen many people suffer with mental illness due to the emotional abuse they suffered. Many have cast God aside and dare not venture into any type of religion. One particular woman died because she refused to take her medication on the premise that God would heal her.  I've seen many false prophets claim God told them to do this or that, but it's ironic how nobody never claimed to do a miracle or raise the dead, simply because they couldn't produce the evidence. I've seen fearless men from the rough and tough streets of London turned into whimpering fools. I am disgusted to my stomach to have been in a private meeting when it was announced due to rumours, that another Pastor from another congregation had made a woman pregnant, and this was being hushed up by the hierarchy.  Nobody was to say anything. I'll never forget it as long as I live. And I will never have anything to do with that church or Pastor again. Shame on every Pastor, for every evil they have done. GOD IS NOT MOCKED. 

Warning 6
Places like this and people like this Pastor can only exist because people like YOU or ME fund it with our tithes, money, offerings and most importantly, our time. Do you think autocratic or authoritarian leaders would exist if none of us ever showed up? You can't manipulate, control or abuse nothing, so to speak.  
Vote with your feet. Hit the floor running. Trust your gut instinct. And don't be afraid to challenge things that you feel is not right. 
I hope I was able to help someone. 

If you missed it, you can read Part 1 here:
The Abusive Church - Part 1 

It would be great to hear your views, comments and opinions on anything regarding this topic. And feel free to express your views. 
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