Abusive Churches pt 3

3. Rigid, Legalistic Lifestyle

The third characteristic of abusive churches is the rigid, legalistic lifestyle of their members. This rigidity is a natural result of the leadership style. Abusive churches require unwavering devotion to the church from their followers. Allegiance to the church has priority over allegiance to God, family, or anything else.

Often members are required or pressured to attend Bible studies five, six, or seven days a week. There is a requirement to do evangelism; a certain quota of contacts must be met, and some churches even require members to fill out time cards recording how many hours they spent in evangelism, etc. Daily schedules are made for the person; thus he is endlessly doing the church’s ministry. Former members of one church told me they were working for their church from 5:00 am to 12:00 midnight five days a week.

Members of such churches frequently drop out of school, quit working, or even neglect their families to do the work required by the church. There are also guidelines for dress, dating, finances, and so on. Such details are held to be of major importance in these churches.

In churches like these, people begin to lose their personal identity and start acting like programmed robots. Many times, the pressure and demands of the church will cause a member to have a nervous breakdown or fall into severe depression. As I reflect on these characteristics I think of Jesus’ words concerning the Pharisees who “tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger” (Matt. 23: 4). What a contrast from the leadership style of Jesus who said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. . . .For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:28-30).


~ by pennymaxwell on July 28, 2008.

3 Responses to “Abusive Churches pt 3”

  1. Hi Pastor Penny!

    My husband and I are new to Freedom House Church and we can’t say enough how much we just love it here! We moved from Ohio in February and searched for quite a while before finding this place, but we finally feel like we are home. 🙂

    Thank you for taking the time to blog about this subject. I come from an abusive church of sorts I guess. It actually took me a while to realize what was going on. I began to question the way some things were being handled with money and some other things and was quickly “hushed” by the leadership. We decided to find another “home” not long after that. Coming from a small town, I would see members of the former church at the mall or at local coffee shops on a semi-regular basis. Most of them chose not to speak to me, but the few brave souls who did told me to repent and come back to church. I let them know that we had not stopped serving God and were just at another local church, but the idea of serving God in any church but theirs just didn’t seem to register. So sad. Anyway, now that I look back on our experience, I just thank God that we were not hurt more by this well-meaning group of people. I’m even MORE thankful that we have found a new place to come and rest and be fed and stirred to live our lives OUT LOUD for Christ.

  2. Rachel, everything you are saying is exactly the sort of thing I have been talking about. It does take a while to see sometimes because as Christians we want to believe the best but I think you just know when there is that something that is off. You will see that the more I post on this subject the very thing you wrote about is one of the signs of “abuse”.

    It is great to have you at Freedom House!!!

  3. Penny: I grew up in a church of well meaning people with a pentecostal background. Unfortunately I saw people who were trying to to live right but have such a negative view of who God is. I found myself always viewing God as an angry man who was waiting for me to make a mistake and then punishing me for it. It took me years to change my view of God really loving me. At times when I go back to minister in song to these people I see such a depressed group of people that are not excited about what God is doing in their life, but a group of people who are trying to hold until Jesus comes. I think this is such a sad commentary on legalistic churches and lifestyles.

    Jesus came to bring us freedom not bondage. As males we were told “Don’t drink, smoke or chew or go with girls who do.” This is focused on the negative and not on the freedom that a life in Christ gives us. Thank you for addressing this point in your blog. I want unstoppable favor and a faith that is alive….that no person can negate…miracles..that comes with expectancy. I hear and feel that expectancy and am glad to be associated with people who feel the same! Blessings on you and Troy!

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