Living Free in the Spirit of Christ

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Spiritual Abuse and House Churches

Politics in the church is merely the flesh using the world system

Politics in the church is merely the flesh using the world system


Published on: Jun 14, 2009

Left Foot of Fellowship

A few months ago I was asked to leave a house church because I refused to qualify my statements with “I believe,” or, “I think,” or “In my opinion.” My response was that I already qualify those statements that I am unsure of, but I would not qualify those statements that I was certain of. I left the fellowship as they requested, because it seemed that the egos of the group and leadership were a fragile group. If my contributions were unwelcome, then I would rather go where I was wanted.

The experience prompted me to read a couple of books on spiritual abuse. First I read, “Twisted Scriptures” by Mary Chrnalogar and then “Healing Spiritual Abuse” by Ken Blue. The first book is difficult to read but has nuggets of truth. The latter is clear and concise and I recommend everyone read it. Before they gave me the left foot of fellowship I had listened to an incredible testimony on Tuesday Conversations by Kyle Knapp with David Clute who suffered spiritual abuse and founded Aquila House Ministries. The podcast has since been deleted to my regret, as well as their website. The salient point of the podcast that I remember was that David found recovery when he realized that the spiritual abuse he had experienced was the same as what was practiced in cults. In studying how people were delivered from cults he found the path for spiritual healing from church abuse.

What is this cultism that is found in churches, and to my surprise, house churches? Please do not misunderstand me, I am not talking about satanic cultism, although it can reach that extreme. I am talking about the gamut of “us four and no more” to the total “accountability” groups – a needless activity since we are already accountable to God Himself! One may also call it church politics. But spiritual abuse is specifically abuse by trusted leadership, although it can happen from anyone in any kind of authority.

Spiritual abuse reached its height in the “shepherding movement” of the 1970’s which took control of others in the tiniest details of their lives. It is also noteworthy to know that the modern “cell groups” used by many denominations came from a book by communist Douglas Hyde, “Dedication and Leadership: Learning from the Communists” in 1966 in which he urged Christians to adopt the cell group. This was picked up by the shepherding leaders and has remained to this day. The communists used cells as a way of brainwashing those who disagreed with them. Most cell groups that I have been in were merely appendages to the pastor’s agenda, increasing the control of the pastor over the congregation.

Personal Experiences

Curiously, my first experience of spiritual abuse occurred in the beginning of my walk with Christ. I gave my life to Jesus back in 1985. The man who led me to Christ started a house church in 1987. He invited me to be part of his ministry. Of course, his intention in starting a house church was not along the Frank Viola lines of “Reimagining Church” but merely as a starting for an institutional church. It was foolish of me to accept any kind of “ministry” position since I was only two years into the Lord. Likewise, he had only been in Christ for about 7 years, and also lacked spiritual maturity. But the power he had on me was the very truth that he was the one that introduced me to the Living God.

When I accepted his invitation, he began with a rebuke to me regarding my personality and character. I should have recognized the red flag, but the experience of God was so profound, I accepted the rebuke in humility. I had just lost my job and place to stay (an apartment over the gym was part of my salary) because the owner fired me for telling a child with cystic fibrosis that Jesus could heal her. So the offer of compensation for “working” in his house church was room and board. However, “room” was a couch in the living room since they had asked others to participate in their “ministry” and given them the rooms instead of me. Board never came to pass. Instead of feeding me as promised I had to rely on an elderly woman who had fallen in love with me, a feeling I did not share with her, but I accepted her feeding me as the only source of food given me. Sleeping on the couch caused me considerable sleep deprivation due to the late night parties that the congregation had in the living room.

The fellowship eventually broke up when the “pastor” realized that he had gone too far with the “identification with Christ” message that he was getting from Kenneth Copeland, and he began calling himself, “God.” A shocking pronouncement that no one challenged because the whole fellowship had already drifted into cultism. A cultism that was unintentional by everyone concerned. This man had and still has a personal drive for worship. He loved the power and prestige he had over the small congregation who all wanted to imitate his charismatic personality. His abusive behavior towards me, was not intentional, however. It was because he was, and still is, selfish and self absorbed. In my most recent correspondence with him, he told me that he was going to be a one man “5-fold ministry” band, which shows his continued ignorance of the true body of Christ even 20 years later.

It was many years later when I realized that most men calling themselves “pastors” are no pastors at all. The man who led me to Christ is an evangelist, but no pastor. The desire to control others is in so many church leaders. When I left for Bible School, the pastor of the last congregation that I attended sent me a letter upon my graduation telling me that I had to return to his congregation and submit to his authority. Like I was going to move back to New Orleans when I had already met my future wife and was settling down in Dallas with her!

In another congregation, after graduation from Bible School and marriage, the “pastor” of the congregation that my wife had attended (and thus I attended with her) lived only a few blocks from our home. When Linda had her hysterectomy she was bed ridden for three weeks. This man never once stopped in to see how she was doing nor pray for her recovery. Yet he drove by our house every day! Instead, he called and asked if we could take care of his dog while he went on vacation. It was this man’s insensitivity that caused me to realize that most men in the pulpit did not have pastoral gifting — administrative perhaps; teaching perhaps; musical song leading perhaps; but not pastoral. We left that congregation in search of something better. Sadly, we heard years later of some friends who had remained with this man for 20 years who finally left because he wanted to institute a discipleship program and insisted that everyone had to go through it before they could participate with him in his ministry. They felt that personal relationships that lasted 20 years should count for something, and realized that they were not friends, only resources to him.

In the last congregation that Linda and I attended before going back to house churches a guest speaker had the pulpit while the “pastor” was on vacation. He made the public statement that if you don’t tithe you are going to hell. This was too much to remain silent, so when I got home I sent him an email explaining not only his error but the damage his statement created. He did not reply. Instead he went to the “pastor” who confronted me and demanded that I never address a guest of his like that again. Instead I should go through him if I have a complaint. My response to the “pastor” is that Jesus told us to go to our brothers privately if we have ought, not go through a middle man of a “pastor.” He could not argue with that, but still told me to refrain nonetheless.

All these stories share the common theme of spiritual abuse: control. It is the desire of men to control other men. As I said before, it is often not an intended abuse. It is the consequence of pursuing other ends. The house church that asked me to leave wanted to control what was said in the gatherings, even though no sin nor insult occurred. The man who led me to Christ wanted to be a kingpin and still does. The pastor of the congregation I last attended Bible school wanted to control me as part of his arsenal. The pastor who lived next door to me controlled everything even to the point that when the board of directors asked him to step down, he fired them and kept the business. That last pastor wanted to control what was said to his guests.

The Flesh and the World System

The bottom line to all abuse is the flesh. The flesh is by nature selfish and self serving. Whether because of insecurities or ignorance, spiritual leaders who abuse others do so for selfish reasons, thus to serve their flesh.

The world system was created to serve the flesh. The two go hand in hand. It should also be remembered that religion began before the world system and was the first system created to serve the flesh. When Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, they sewed fig leaves together to cover their nakedness (Gen. 3:7). It was their effort to hide their transgression, or to correct their error. This is the heart of all religious activity today. The world system developed from hardness of heart when men no longer cared what God thought. That beginning is seen in the attitude of Lamech who thought that he could do whatever he wanted (marry two wives and murder a man) because God showed mercy on Cain (Gen. 4:24). Through his children, Jabal, Jubal and Tubalcain, the crafts of world civilization began for personal gain. The world system and religion merged together at the Tower of Babel where the post flood descendants of Noah sought to “make a name for themselves” with a tower that “reached unto heaven” (Gen. 11:4).

What this means practically is that the organization of religion is intrinsically linked to the world system. Organization in of itself is not inherently wrong, but the tendency to lean towards personal agenda and gain is tied to organization. Every business where money is transacted is intrinsically a part of the world system. Hence every congregation that gathers together with paid clergy is using the world system to further the Kingdom of God and is inclined to spiritual abuse. Even house churches that establish one person as a leader of the group, or a group of “elders” is at risk of spiritual abuse, such as I had experienced. Even though money is not part of the gathering, control is when such leaders are designated.

Servant Leadership

Am I saying that there should be no leadership nor structure? Not at all. Kingdom leadership exists, as does structure. Structure and hierarchy are not the same thing. Hierarchy is top down management of control and is the world system. Kingdom leadership is anonymous and is known by service. Many Kingdom leaders begin as anonymous servants, but when recognized for their service they are given titles. When those titles are accepted, servant-hood ends and hierarchy begins.

The organic church has no titles. There are functions, and those functions can be named, of course, but when we take on the titles of the function, we are at risk of the flesh. In another post I spoke about organic pastors that I have known. These men know that they are pastors, but they do not claim the title nor sit in any office of pastor. Rather they function as pastors caring for the people that God brings to them on a personal level.

Denying self and bearing one’s cross are antithetical to controlling others. As soon as you assume a position of control of others you are no longer denying self. Even God does not control anyone. He grants us all freedom to accept His gift of salvation or to reject it. Even when we accept His gift of salvation, He does not stop us from sinning, nor does He try to control our lives. The idea of “Spirit controlled” living is a myth. What is really meant is that we voluntarily obey God because we know His ways are better than our own. For God to control us would be for Him to remove our very lives. For freedom is the essence of being alive. No matter how sophisticated robots may be programmed, they are not alive because they can only make choices according to their program. A program for self destruction would have to be added to the robot for it to commit suicide. But no such program was put in us by God. The very fact that we can choose death is proof that we are living creatures and not robots.

Word of Warning

Many people are leaving the paid clergy systems. Some for the right reasons, others for the wrong reasons. The right reasons for leaving are numerous. They tend to focus solely on basics of the faith; little opportunity exists to serve freely unless one jumps through the right hoops; the shallow relationships that can not grow deeper due to the structure of the system; and other reasons are good reasons for leaving those paid clergy systems.

But many are leaving because of a sense of having been abused. And they think that they will find a safe haven in house church fellowships. And they might. However, my point in this post is that spiritual abuse is not because of the religious system. It is because of the flesh. And wherever you go, the flesh has occasion to predominate. House churches are not exempt from the flesh. Organization is not the world system, but is used by the world system.

John told us what to watch out for.

I Jn 2:15-16
15 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. (KJV)

Any person demonstrating a desire for personal gain (lust of the flesh) through believers, or longs to acquire more things (lust of the eyes) by believers or wants personal recognition (pride of life) from believers is operating by the world system, which benefits that person’s flesh. Whether you see them in the paid clergy or house church, they are potential perpetrators of spiritual abuse.

Post Script June 15, 2009

In the comments below a reader called, “Provender” included his website address. I took the time to go through his or her’s website and was greatly impressed. This topic is not one that I focus on all the time, but I have realized that it tends to touch all the other topics I often address.

Provender’s website is a resource for spiritually abused people. On the site are many links to other sites that address different aspects of spiritual abuse. If you need further reading on the topic, I encourage the reader to look at this site. I hope the resources there will be used by the Lord to bring freedom to you. My focus is freedom for believers, so I can see how spiritual abuse puts so many in bondage. After looking at Provender’s site, I am shocked in the realization that spiritual abuse is much more wide spread than I realized. So to read more on the topic, go to Provender’s site by clicking on his name.

Comments to Original Post

Amy
Submitted on 06/15/2009
Alex,
Thank you for sharing all you did here about your past experiences in congregations and House Churches. I am sorry you had to experience such painful things.

Of this blogpost, my partcularly resonated with the whole section on “Servant Leadership.” I was thinking “Amen!” and “Bingo!” to it.

Blessings,
~Amy 🙂

Alexander Douglas
Submitted on 06/15/2009 at 8:01 pm | In reply to Provender whose comment is gone.

Provender,
I took a look at your website, and it would seem to me that you are in a better position to comment than I am. My stories are nowhere as bad as others that I have heard about. My interest in posting this blog is to help the general awareness of the problem. If you are right, perhaps we will see paid clergy becoming more frantic as numbers dwindle for their business. That might be a catalyst for further abuse. Thanks for your comment.

Alexander Douglas
Submitted on 06/15/2009 at 8:04 pm | In reply to Amy.

Amy thanks. My worst experience was when I first got saved. But I do not have pain or regret for it was because of my confusion as a new believer. A confusion that got worse when I encountered all the different denominations. But my faith from the beginning has always been in Jesus Christ. For I would not be a Christian if I had not been transformed by His Spirit. And while confusion had been an obstacle, I always saw Him as my Pastor, and He has always taken care of me.

Alexander Douglas
Submitted on 06/16/2009

This came to me in an email. This is from Nathan, David Clute’s brother. No personal information is given, and he makes an address to everyone, so I decided to add it to the comments.

Hi. I am Nathan, brother of David, of the sons of Zebedee.

Regarding Alex’s email:

I find your discussion ironic, because shortly after I left the abusive religious group I was in, the very first book I came across was Spiritual Abuse by Ken Blue. About a year and a half later, I came across Twisted Scriptures.

Regarding David’s email:

I think it is taxing to continually be on the front lines in the warfare against cults. We all can use a little time to recuperate and re-evaluate the war plans and whether the current strategy is the most effective one in achieving our battle objectives. There is a saying, “There are many ways to skin a cat.” I don’t know that I like the saying because I own two cats, but anyhow, the point is there are several ways to get a job done. Especially if you feel you aren’t meeting your objectives. Come up with an exit strategy for your current campaign, but that doesn’t mean you’re giving up in the war.

To all:

It is a major theological issue: why does God allow human suffering? Why does God allow evil? Isn’t God all-powerful? I think the real question should be can God use evil to bring about good? (Think Nebuchadnezzar, the slavery of Joseph, good ole Daniel in the lion’s den)

Battles are won when we turn the focus of the fight inward. Job remained suffering and in anguish until he changed his attitude about the situation. Once he stopped cursing the day he was born and whatever else he was cursing and started blessing God, in spite of his oppressive “friends”, suddenly his fortune changes. God will put gold in the fire, until it is tried and purified. Too often we worry about how to put the fire out or any number of things outside our control. Just take an office – – people argue about who adjusted the thermostat. Maybe no one did – – maybe God adjusted the weather. Meanwhile folk argue and still wear a hot sweater instead of figuring out what they can do (sometimes easily) to make a difference. Never give up. Write your story. Do a podcast. Keep praying. Keep talking. Keep thinking. Everybody came from a different situation, so everybody is going to act a little different. But when you give up hope, you give up on yourself. The battle is inside.

Undeserved grace be with you all.
Love,

Nate

Alexander Douglas
Submitted on 06/16/2009

This came to me via email from my friend Doug, who gave me permission to post his letter as long as I remove identifiable information to protect all in involved. What encourages me from all the emails that I get from victims, they do not want to increase the damage, and all have a spirit of reconciliation. Thank you, Lord for the beauty of your saints! Here is Doug’s letter.

Alex:

I thought your message here was well put and obviously expresses your frustration in what you have experienced. My experiences come from the IC setting through the years.

I was one the leaders of a building committee for a church embarking on a $15 mil. building project. I continually butted heads with the pastors and elders. My experience was in the law and in real estate development. They had no business experience. I was continually overruled. The final straw came when they held a secret meeting when I was out of town picking up my daughter from a 6 week mission trip in Europe. They made major decisions at that meeting knowing that my voice would have been very persuasive to do otherwise.

When I returned, I was asked to appear before the elders, many of whom were my personal friends. Basically I was given the left foot of fellowship. My “friends” sat there with their heads down unable to look in me in the eye. They knew the hard work I put in and they knew I had no agenda other than to do my best for the church. The leadership had control issues and they all knew that, but didn’t have the guts to speak up and support me.

I then helped start a [name omitted] Chapel on the beach on [place omitted]. It grew and grew. The pastor and his wife became close personal friends of my ex-wife and I. Ultimately the pastor and my ex-wife had an affair. I was unaware of it. He left the church unexpectedly after one evening service and turned the church over to the young assistant pastor (25 years old). I suspected the affair and confronted my ex and the pastor. They both denied it. I went to the young pastor with my evidence (emails, cards, etc.) He was more concerned with the impact this news would have on “his” church than what was going on. I became disgusted and left. (Note: My ex and is now married to the former pastor).

I then helped start another [name omitted] Chapel in [place omitted]. The pastor there was a very sincere man, but a control freak. He led worship as well even though he wasn’t a musician. He self taught himself the keyboard over the space of a few months so he could lead worship. It was so bad, he told me stop standing during worship unless he instructed all of us to stand. Ultimately he gave me “permission” to sit in the back and stand if I wanted.

I’ve seen house church folks who get on power trips as well. Like I’ve said before the functions in a church are natural and arise over the course of meeting together. Words like pastor, elder, etc. are really verbs not nouns. When you meet with a group regularly you know who is pastoring, who is eldering, evangelizing, etc. No one takes titles, we all know who is doing what by their God given gifting and functioning.

I truly believe that God has used these experiences that you and I both have experienced to lead us in the direction He wants for us. The good part is that both of us listened rather than succumbing to the man made system of control and spiritual abuse.

One of my favorite songs is by Jason Upton called Freedom. If you haven’t heard it, you should get the album and listen to it. It is very appropriate for what you and I have experienced. Since God led me out of the man made system three years ago, I have experienced tremendous freedom in the Lord.

God bless you for your devotion and commitment to God’s directions in your life.

Kat
Submitted on 06/18/2009

Alex,

Sorry to be so late in commenting (you know it’s not like me). 🙂

You WILL see lots of stories of spiritual abuse on the Internet and it seems there’s no end to it. But I have, frankly, run nearly out of tolerance level for more abuse stories — not because I don’t believe them, but because I’ve actually been around people who have developed entire ministries around spiritual abuse and who haven’t recovered themselves.

I did link Provender to my site because there is always someone who is just realizing the abuse they have been through. But I want to move on — and I HAVE moved on. Would like to add something proactive here. Two people have brought some other things to my attention that I think are just GREAT.

For one, I think we are susceptible to spiritual abuse because the Cross, the kingdom of God, and the eternal purpose of God are rarely preached and — even when they are preached, they are little understood. The Cross has already been mentioned in the post. And I think we know that the Cross is key to entering into the kingdom of God. But how many understand the eternal purpose of God? I think when you understand the framework of all the things that serve that eternal purpose, it’s much harder for anyone to move you around the room.

For starters, I would like to add this link to a series by T. Austin-Sparks on that eternal purpose, titled “The Great Transition from One Humanity to Another” that you can find here: http://austin-sparks.net/english/books/great_transition_from_one_humanity_to_another_the.html
I offer this because I believe that abusive churches lack a proper foundation and vision for starters.

Secondly, someone on another site just posted a series of links to parts 1-4 of “The Spontaneous Church” — geared toward house church but with applications to other kinds of leading from the Lord and a better approach whereby to avoid the abuses and stupidities of much that calls itself “house church” today.

A friend and I were discussing where we are in relation to the church and neither of us has been led into a house church yet. Many of the things “church” purports to be of prime importance were never given as THE thing the church must be founded on — such as the Great Commission, the Sermon on the Mount, assembling ourselves together. What do the scriptures say: “Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build.” Some of us have been led to others by the sheer leading of the spirit without ending up in a group of people in a house.

The church of God is not based on “getting a bunch of people together” as I have writte elsewhere. It is based purely on the leading of the Holy Spirit, and ours is not to pre-digest for others what that looks like in operation, but to steer others continually to the Author and Finisher of their faith who is able to lead them to the fellows of His choice.

This is a great topic you opened up, Alex. I hope that you will see the relevance of my post to it, for maybe it looks like I’m coming at this sideways. But rather than remain in our after effects, why not look at our foundation anew and ask where we got off track that this happened to us? Let’s get back on track, get our vision straight again, and follow Him!

Alexander Douglas
Submitted on 06/18/2009

Kat,
Thank you for bringing up the Eternal Purpose of God. I have not read T Austin Sparks work on the topic, but I am working my way through some other books of his. I read Vernon DeFromke’s, “Ultimate Intention”, which addresses the same point. I agree that congregations need to point their focus there, for that is what Paul said to the Corinthians in that we look not on the temporal but the eternal (2 Cor. 4:18).

However, I do not see that as stopping spiritual abuse. For those who abuse have not embraced the cross, and you can not see the eternal purpose unless you live on the other side of the cross. Likewise, those who are abused have not found the cross because their eyes are on men, not Jesus. Thanks for your feedback. It is always highly esteemed.

Eileen
divinebetrayal.com/

Submitted on 06/18/2009

What’s interesting, too, is how MK’s (missionary kids) and PK’s (pastor’s kids) are often subjected to spiritual abuse their whole lives and sometimes they give up on Christianity because there was no Christ in what they were taught, only the flesh!

My husband and I experienced the “left foot of fellowship” too (great expression!) and my friend who is an MK has just written her memoir about her experiences growing up in Brazil and the U.S. in the 1940?s. She escaped “the system” with her faith relatively intact, but struggled with spiritual and sexual abuse she had received in that particular denomination. Her book is at divinebetrayal.com, and I think God will use it to bring hope to people who have been through spiritual abuse and other forms of abuse at the hands of “shepherds” who are really “wolves in disguise.” Blessings, eileen

Alexander Douglas
Submitted on 06/18/2009

Eileen,
Thanks for your feedback. If you are new to my site, welcome aboard! How true regarding MK’s and PK’s. Those poor kids often rebel against God because of the legalistic discipline forced on them for the sake of appearance. Fortunately I know many MK’s and PK’s who did not experience abuse because their parents esteemed Jesus higher than appearance. Thanks for the link. As Kat said in her comment, we don’t want to stay in the resenting of victimization for long and we must move on. The power of God’s goodness in our lives is enough to wash away all pain and grief if we give it to Jesus and live according to his directives. Forgiveness in my life is a daily activity just as repentance is a daily activity. They are no big deals, merely the things we do all the time to continue forward in this fallen world.

Kat
Submitted on 06/18/2009

Alex,

You are right that knowing God’s eternal purpose doesn’t guarantee that a “church” won’t be abusive. You’re also right that neither the abusers nor the abused, in many cases, know the Cross. I know of no way to guarantee that people in leadership/mentoring/pastoring will know the Cross. For that reason it seems good for the “end users” to be equipped with knowledge.

Knowing the eternal purpose of God and also understanding the ways of God is a good defense against being tricked into wasting our time with agendas, programs and people that drain us for purposes contrary to God.

Someone described recently all the places he and a friend went where they were abused by leadership. I said, “You know the solution to that, don’t you? Don’t go there.” My remarks didn’t go down too well. He was on a loop: “I must go to church for help; church doesn’t help; I want this contradiction to make sense anyway.” Why is it so hard to feel good about choosing freedom?

Alexander Douglas
Submitted on 06/18/2009

Kat,
You’re right about not wasting time on agendas, programs, etc when one knows God’s eternal purpose.

Your comment “don’t go there” is hysterical. Great question, “Why is it so hard to feel good about choosing freedom?” The eternal purpose is the answer to that one. Knowing that God’s primary interest is that we be and abide in His Son as His children is freeing. The “endless loop” that creates abuse is to believe that we have to be part of their system at all. Discovering the family through organic Spirit led relationships replaces the phony relationships with real heart felt relationships. Also, the system distorts our understanding of God Himself. He is not worried or upset about anything. The system tries to convince us that we have to work for God to have His pleasure. And we do not. God does not need our work. Anything we do for God is because of our love for Him and nothing else.

DVB
Submitted on 06/19/2009

Alex,

“Spiritual abuse”–the victimization of another by the misuse of religious, clerical, pastoral, or priestly authority–certainly makes secular headlines, but it can hardly be called news. Perhaps the first mortal victimizer of mankind was Nimrod-bar-Cush (Gen. 10:8), the son of Cush (Ham’s oldest son) and great-grandson of Noah, who lived during the 2nd generation after the Genesis Flood and the 13th generation after Creation. Since the beginning of his kingdom (Gen. 10:10) in 2182 BC, Nimrod (meaning “Let us rebel!”) strove toward ascendancy among men and became a “mighty tyrant in the face of Jehovah God” (Gen. 10:9). In fact, the Jerusalem Targum says:

“He was powerful in hunting and in wickedness before the Lord for he was a hunter of the sons of men, and he said to them, ‘Depart from the judgment of the Lord, and adhere to the judgment of Nimrod!’ Therefore it is said: ‘As Nimrod the strong one, strong in hunting, and in wickedness before the Lord.’ ”

Since we, like Solomon, are aware that there is “nothing new under the Sun,” how then should we live among such leaders? Not as victims, but by heeding the words of the One Who is greater than Solomon, the Lord Jesus Christ, Who said, “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake” (Matthew 5:11). Peter’s words are also relevant here: “But, and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye; and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled, but sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear, having a good conscience, that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good manner of life in Christ” (1 Peter 3:14-16).

Though we may find ourselves serving under a “Nimrod” authority, let us always remember that Christ is our true Shepherd and let us always live our life in submission to Him.

—DVB

Alexander Douglas
Submitted on 06/19/2009

David,
That is a great explanation of my statement that religion and the world system became merged at the Tower of Babel.

And we do have the Great Shepherd of our Souls to carry us through such abuse and to heal us from our abuse. My only addition to your comment is that we may be caught up in such experiences, but we do not have to remain. And we can be alert to coming abuse to bypass it.

Len kloth
Submitted on 07/06/2009

‘ Spiritual authority’ This is one of the books that was used as a foundation for the Shepherding movement back in the 80?s.-here are specifics;

Below are a few statements in this book that I don’t see New Testament support for.

Page 22-23 under “First Lesson a Worker Should Learn Is Obey Authority”: We are under men’s authority as well as having men under our authority. This is our position. Even the Lord Jesus on earth was subject not only to God but also to other’s authority… A Christian worker ought to know who is above him. Some do not know who are the authorities above them, hence they do not obey. We should not be occupied with right or wrong, good or evil; rather should we know who is the authority above us. Once we learn to whom we must be subject, we naturally find our place in the body.

Page 71 under “Be Fearlessly Subject to Delegated Authority”: People will perhaps argue, “What if the authority is wrong?” The answer is, If God dares to entrust His authority to men, then we can dare to obey. Whether the one in authority is right or wrong does not concern us, since he has to be responsible directly to God. The obedient needs only to obey; the Lord will not hold us responsible for any mistaken obedience, rather will He hold the delegated authority responsible for his erroneous act. Insubordination, however, is rebellion, and for this the one under authority must answer to God.

Page 180-181 under “To Be in Authority Often Means Loneliness”: In learning to be in authority we ought to be sanctified before brothers and sisters. Many legitimate things we cannot do and many lawful words we cannot speak. We must be sanctified both in words and in sentiments. According to ourselves we take a certain attitude, but among God’s children we will be sanctified. Even our fellowship with brothers and sisters must have a limit beyond which we will neither be casual nor frivolous. We should rather lose our liberty, we rather will be lonely. Loneliness is the mark of authority… The opposite of holiness is commonness, not sin. To be sanctified is to be different from others….The sparrows fly in flocks, whereas the eagles fly singly….To be in authority requires restraint; one must sanctify himself. Others may but you cannot; others may speak, but you cannot….You may feel lonely and miss the fervor of the crowd; nevertheless, you dare not mingle with the brothers and sisters in joking and jesting. This is the price of authority. Unless we sanctify ourselves like our Lord we are not qualified to be in authority.

Page 182-183 under “To Be in Authority Requires Restraining One’s Affections”: I will show myself holy among those who are near me.”…There is a much severer discipline applied to them than to the people in general…. As has already been mentioned, the opposite of holiness is commonness. Holiness means that others may, but I cannot. What the disciples may do, the Lord does not. What other brothers may do, those in authority cannot do. Even lawful affection needs to be put under control; otherwise death can be the consequence. The people of Israel died because of their sins, but priests may die because of not being sanctified….Those who serve are anointed by God. They should sacrifice their own affections, denying even legitimate ones. All who would maintain God’s authority must know how to oppose their own feelings, how to lay aside the deepest of their affections towards their relatives, friends and loved ones. The demand of God is exacting: unless one lays aside his own affections he cannot serve God. He who is sanctified is God’s servant; he who is not sanctified is a common person.

Page 184 under “Sanctified in Life and Enjoyment”: It is therefore a matter of enjoyment. Others may enjoy, but we cannot. Others may rejoice in pleasures (for wine speaks of rejoicing), but we cannot. People serving God are under discipline that they may be able to distinguish between the holy and the common, and between the unclean and the clean…. The higher the office, the stricter the demand. The degree of nearness to God becomes the degree of His demand. Of him to whom God entrusts more, the more will He demand. God especially concerned with whether of not His servants have sanctified themselves.

Page 185 under “Authority Is Based on Sanctification”: Authority has its foundation in sanctification… You cannot represent God if you maintain very liberal and loose communication with the people. The higher the authority the greater the separation.

Page 191 under the chapter “The Conditions for Being Delegated Authorities”: To be in authority is costly; such ones need to be sanctified from the rest and be ready for a lonely life…. As soon as one becomes too common, he is dropped from the work. His usefulness is gone, and his authority is lost.

Its about controlling people, legalism, a very dangerious form of fundamentalism

King George 111 used Romans 13 against the colonists in the revolution. Romans 13 was the bases of ‘divine right of kings’ to rebel against them, was to rebel against God, a nifty arrangement. He was told “If Kings rule by divine right, then let them rule in heaven!”-Thomas Jefferson

Watchman nee’s book is a return to the authoritarian legalism of ‘kings,’ dangerous, medieval, scary.

I know who I would agree with, between Watchman Nee, and Jefferson!

I invite comments;
Len

Alexander Douglas
Submitted on 07/06/2009

Len,
I am a big fan of Watchman Nee. However, I fully agree with you on this matter. His works degenerate into cultic control in his later writings. His early works are wonderful, but his desire to control others and the legalism that goes hand in hand with it, are disturbing. I have read that book twice, and both times it grieved my spirit. Those who have not developed their discernment will use this and other works by him to control others. Your comments are irrefutable. Thanks for your input.

Ken
wickedshepherds.com

Submitted on 09/06/2009

Thanks for your words concerning “Spiritual Abuse and House Churches.”

It’s so true.

Most people bring the exact “church system” right into people’s houses. It’s the same disgusting, hypocritical mess under a new roof.

Ken

Alexander Douglas
Submitted on 09/11/2009

Ken,
I am at a point now that I am convinced that the entire concept of ministry is backwards. Gathering together has become such a sacred cow that it prejudices all that we read in Scriptures. The so called “5 fold ministry of Ephesians 4:11 is not for the saints but the lost. The body edifying itself in love in verse 16 is the gathering, if such a thing is needed.

anon
Submitted on 12/10/2010

Seems the earliest church had from the start bishops, presbyters, priests, and laity, as well as orders of widows and virgins. This is witnessed to in the New Testament and the earliest writings of Christians in the Apostolic age (see for example, the writings of Clement of Rome, Ignatius of Antioch). It’s worth noting that these titles were the titles of servants and slaves, of course, but it is also worth noting that there were abuses even then and, crucially, the authority to check those abuses. Perhaps your readers would be better served by exploring an apostolic church like the Orthodox Church rather than endlessly trying to invent a utopian model that never existed and will never work.

Alexander Douglas
Submitted on 12/11/2010

Anon,
The bottom line on abuse is the desire of some to control others in what they think is right. This control is increased when people organize in leadership positions. I don’t think bishop, elders, presbyters and priests were titles in the first century church. Neither were widows and virgins considered “orders”. The idea of “clergy” vs “laity” was non existent in the first century. How could such a distinction be made when all were understood to be a “priesthood” of Christ? You are right, however, that abuse began in the first century. The apostle John warned of Diotrophes who loved the preeminence. People sought to set themselves over others because maturity is a process. The essence of spiritual maturity is to humble oneself and be a servant to all. But maturity is a choice and many never choose maturity because humility is found in those who embrace the cross of Christ.

Organizing has its benefits, but it also has its pitfalls. The main pitfall is abuse of others by those who want the preeminence. If there is no organization, the influence of those who do not embrace the cross and seek preeminence is minimized. But in organized groups it becomes magnified. Thus the tendency is for those who desire dominance is to seek organized groups where they can ascend in dominance. I highly doubt that your apostolic fellowship is the same as the first century since the gathering of the saints into households was not an organized event but rather a gathering of friends at home.

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