Friday, June 1, 2007

The Person Formerly Known As Your Leader

Bob suggests that, at some point in time, "the system" was working for us; while we may be questioning it now, there was a time when we were getting some kind of perks or rewards from it. Bob suggests that until we, as individuals and groups, honestly deal with the areas of our lives that made us enjoy the system at one point - and repent or receive healing in those areas - we will only replicate the same dysfunctional patterns and attitudes in whatever structured or destructured group we ended up joining or creating. Robert C. Girard

This is a response to what I have read in The People Formerly Known as Series. It is a repentance. I know than many of the other writers have used the Polemic “we” but I can’t do that yet. This is personal, a confession from my heart to all of you.

I am the Person Formerly Known as Your Leader.

I was the supporting cast in our church. I was not one of the “Main” leaders. I was never paid to lead. I had “leadership roles.” I (along with my husband) was viewed as one of the supporting pillars in our community of believers. I tried not to be one of the front leaders. I simply took the vision of the church, supported it, taught it, explained it, fought for it and promised loyalty to it. For almost 20 years my husband and I have been in this role and just recently we have come to see many things we never would have thought possible.

I am the Person Formerly Known as Your Leader

All this time I worked as your leader. I was at one time or another, your small group leader, your counselor, and your ministry head (nursery, new member development, etc). I helped at various times on the worship team, the prayer team, the nursery, the elder board, the college ministry team, the hospitality team, and I’m sure a host of other teams and positions.

I am the Person Formerly Known as Your Leader

Because of all this, I need to repent and ask your forgiveness. I was wrong. I thought wrong things. I believed wrong things. I modeled wrong things. I taught wrong things. I was wrong. I have sinned against you and the others and against my grace loving, mercy giving, all powerful, all loving God.

- I repent for teaching and modeling that the “covering” of our church, my leadership, and our network would keep you from going into rebellion or deception.

- I took your private confidences and passed them on to the other leaders regardless of my telling you that I wouldn’t. I told myself that this was an accepted practice to gain wisdom in dealing with your situation. Now I see it was probably mostly to garner, in some twisted way, the favor of my leaders, to show my loyalty and to gain a better placement of myself in their leadership system.

- I taught, modeled and practiced tithing. I taught you that if you didn’t tithe, bad things would happen to you and/or your finances. Now I understand the fallacy of this. It is a fear tactic – and it is not of God.

- I did not stand up and speak up when I heard and saw something wrong being taught, lived, or modeled. In this way, you, as people who respected me had neither voice nor protection. There were many times I should have spoken up gently/humbly to correct other leaders around me. I wrongly felt that it was up to God to correct and deal with them. That it was not my “place” to correct “God’s Anointed.”

- I wanted to be seen by leaders as loyal and mostly I wanted to be in what I perceived as one of the “inner circles of friendship.” I bought their friendship with flattering words, serving them unconditionally, not making waves, not challenging them and being disloyal to what I sometimes knew was wrong. I was a religious whore.

- I taught you that with leaders, you did not have the right to expect friendship or any sort of loyalty back. I told you that you should become what I had become, completely a servant. They owed you and me nothing. I have learned to watch out for “friendships” where I am the servant only. I have learned my “servanthood” was nothing more than trying to manipulate myself into prominence.

- I taught that the church was an Army and that we therefore needed Generals and Sergeants to lead us. (I of course saw myself as the sergeant – not the head but certainly one of the right arms of the head.) Again, I did not read my Bible.

- I taught you to despise other churches in our city. I taught you that they were not as enlightened as us, did not have as much of the Holy Spirit as us, could not worship as we did, did not recognize the leadership in our church and come under their apostolic leadership, and so many other things. I hinted at their pastors “weaknesses.” I judged their programs, people, leaders and lives as unfit for the true expression of the Kingdom of God and taught you to do the same. It is true that I did see many legitimate problems, and I still do but I had pulled back and decided I was done with the all but the select body of Christ in our area and encouraged you to also “not waste your time.”

- I practiced and taught you “shunning.” This is the practice of not associating with those who have left our body. I taught you to look the other way in the grocery store. To ignore their emails and be succinct and distant when they called you. I taught you that you could be contaminated by a perceived friendship with them, and instilled in you the fear that was in me, that I would be seen as disloyal.

- I taught you that when people left our body, they left their destiny. I thought that the only way they were to fulfill what God had for them was through our particular church.

- I encouraged you in total obedience to our leaders and total submission of ministry to their vision. I often referred to the church as being in the leaders’ “boat.” We were to totally get in this “boat” and leave it up to God and the leaders where and how to navigate this life. We were not to question this boat leader’s vision or direction as they were “hearing from God”. If you wanted to minister it had to be under their direct “umbrella.”

My pride, arrogance, manipulation and disregard for the scripture are detestable to me. In that I was your leader, role model, and teacher makes it doubly serious. I know of nothing else than to remove myself.

I am not beating myself up as to the point where I imagine that I did nothing right. There were many of you that I loved unconditionally. We showed hospitality, we modeled a good marriage, an open and honest life and when I needed to, I have asked your forgiveness. But the scope and magnitude which I see my own heart today is detestable to me.

So today, I ask your forgiveness. I know many of you were not directly under my leadership. So why do I ask your forgiveness? This is why. - Maybe in reading my “confession” you will come to realize that those in leadership above you who have inflicted so many hurts will someday come to realize what they have done. Maybe your prayers for them will result in them walking out of their own deception. Maybe the grace that you show to them will be a signpost for them to follow. Maybe in not hating them you will be able to love and pray for their blinders to fall off.From my heart to you, I am so sorry, please forgive me. And please forgive those who also have been your leaders.

A Person Formerly Known As Your Leader

30 comments:

Anonymous said...

Erin Word has left a new comment on your post "The Person Formerly Known As Your Leader":

Found you via Grace - and I have to comment on a few of your posts.

I love how you articulate these things:

- I took your private confidences and passed them on to the other leaders regardless of my telling you that I wouldn't.

- I wanted to be seen by leaders as loyal and mostly I wanted to be in what I perceived as one of the inner circles of friendship...I was a religious whore.

- I practiced and taught shunning".

Me too. There are a lot of people who understand your journey - I'm one of them.

Bless you.

Anonymous said...

Heidi has left a new comment on your post "The Person Formerly Known As Your Leader":

Wow, this is incredible. It brought tears to my eyes. I will be linking to this post...and please keep writing, your story is one we all need to hear.

Mary said...

Thank you for your humility and vulnerability in posting this. I've done everything you described - it was like reading from the pages of my leadership experience.

You're right, we must "honestly deal with the areas of our lives that made us enjoy the system at one point - and repent or receive healing in those areas" lest we just repeat those mistakes again and again.

Be encouraged. You're on the right road.

just me said...

Mary,

I have been reading your blog also. I find it incredible that practices such as this are so common. When I started realizing how wrong these were I spent weeks crying and mourning. To find others that are also coming out of this and walking away is more comfort to me than you know...or maybe you do. Thank you for your honesty.

I'm just grateful for the whole ocean of His grace to bathe our wounds in and hopefully the wounds of others.

Erin, again, it is good to have another journey mate.

Heidi, you are so gracious to me. Thanks.


Former Leader

Robbymac said...

Former Leader,

My respect and admiration of you knows no bounds. God bless you for taking the risk of posting this.

Wow. Just... wow. Thank you.

malegra said...

Oh, what a heart cry of mine. I ache for the people I hurt and abused, both knowingly and unknowingly. I’ve apologized and repented to those I’ve seen. Some won’t talk to us. “My pride, arrogance, manipulation and disregard for the scripture are detestable to me. In that I was your leader, role model, and teacher makes it doubly serious.” Yes. That line says it all. Oh please, forgive me.

I don’t often beat myself up for my past. I did what I thought was right with the knowledge I had; I know better now; the future lies before us. But it’s hard for me to trust that Father is in control sometimes, when I see the people who have seemingly left their relationship with Him because of the hurts I helped cause in them. I hope that Father can communicate to them how very sorry I am for how I treated them. It’s certainly one of those situations where I shout my mantra, “He is big enough to take care of this, beyond me.”

Peggy said...

Thank you for your courage and humility. Your leadership in this way is a blessing. My prayers have long been in this vein...may there be many more of our leaders who begin to wake up to our problems...so that they can be addressed and the body healed.

Bless you.

Anonymous said...

I'm teary-eyed too. That was very moving. Thank you for your honestly and vulnerability. It made my day.

Anonymous said...

Having been the perpetrator as well as the recipient of what you have so perfectly described, I now am stuck at where to go from here.

I know repentance is the first step. How can one even begin to make restitution or amends?

Thank you for sharing your journey. Just got off that path myself but would never have been able to express it as well as you have.

Anonymous said...

Thank you I just bought a book called pastoral politics and I am hopeing to heal further from it You confessing helped me to confirm that what I had been was manipulated by leaders such as yourself but I also know

i am wicked so 'i just want us all to get better and
'i am glad you are leading the way to healing in our Jesus

yisraela said...

I'm just wondering why ... if this is a confession... that no name is given to it? Thanks

just me said...

Yisraela,

There is so much of a backlash against us here from leaving our church. We are still hoping to be able to personally talk to many of our friends. I just did not want this to go out with my name on it as of yet so as not to anger people any more than they are.

It is impossible to say what I said in the confession and not admit that other leaders are doing the same in our particular church. I don't wish to "out" them at this time.

As I talk to people, one on one, that were here under my leadership, believe me, I am putting my name to it. I just wish to do it personally.

I think also that there may be hidden fear in me for speaking about other leaders like this. I'm still working through the anonymous aspect of it.

Former Leader

Messy Christian said...

Hello Former Leader,

As a person who has suffered much under the hands of Christian leaders - to the point of turning back on the church - I really appreciate and am touched by your honesty. Honesty that I was denied from my own leaders.

I'm glad that there are some Christian leaders out there who are willing to admit that they've done wrong.

That said, I am sure the congregation has done some wrong too, and I too repent of the hurts I may have caused leaders.

Thanks for being honest, and I understand why you're anonymous. When I left my church I had quite a fallout too. My two best friends turned their backs on me.

Stay strong and know that there are some of us who understand.

Love from Malaysia, South East Asia,

jul said...

I could so relate to much of what you wrote here. We left a church a little over a year ago, in which we led a small group for 4 years and were fiercely loyal to the pastors (even though they were largely strangers to us). I shudder to think of some of the things we taught people, the things we honestly believed about God.

I'm so thankful that God doesn't count our sins against us! And so thankful he is now revealing to us so much of his heart of love and grace for us and all his people. It's been a life-changing experience for our family.

God Bless.

Barb said...

Jul,
Thanks for reading. I clicked onto your profile and immediately saw the movie Mozart and the Whale - one of my all time favorite movies. I plan to browse a bit on your site too.

CD-Host said...

I run a blog for people from a wide range of denominations that are being disciplined. In your statements I'm hoping they can find peace for the people that will never say that to them. I like to let people know when I refer to them on my site and I quoted you here.

heydadd said...

What an incredible statement!
All I can say is dittos. I am you, you were me. Yes, all those meetings. People problems, money problems, what a list. All the posturing.... It literally sickened us to realize what a phony show it was. It was all about The Sunday Show.

Barb said...

Heydad, thanks for commenting. The father away I get from it the more insane it seems.

Wondering what comes next said...

This is a remarkable post, thank you, you have encapsulated the awful feeling that dawns on us when we leave an abusive group in which we ourselves have climbed quite high up the ladder and realise we became abusers of others.
“I wanted to be seen by leaders as loyal and mostly I wanted to be in what I perceived as one of the “inner circles of friendship.” I bought their friendship with flattering words, serving them unconditionally, not making waves, not challenging them and being disloyal to what I sometimes knew was wrong. I was a religious whore”.
The myth of spiritual covering held us in bondage for over twenty years and saw us compromise the very foundations of our own family as well as teach such a profoundly corrupt principle.
Wow! where do you start?…learning to forgive yourself, rebuilding self image, rebuilding your faith, trying to reestablish your relationship with God.
I think if I have discovered anything over the last year It’s that it takes time and you have to give yourself time. There’s no rush, the world isn’t going to end tomorrow (contrary to what a lot of us have been taught).
My wife and I are reading your blog and will subscribe to the feed. Thank you very much for your comments on our blog.

Barb said...

Wondering and Wife,
I will leave a message on your blog too today. I finished reading late last night and could not put a thing down on paper that would make sense. We resonated with so much of what you said and we cried through much of it. Our situation was not as extreme as yours was but the enemy was the same one you battled and are battling. Thank you so much for reading here too. I have found so much comfort from people online - many of whom I have refered to on the sidebar.

meg said...

I am an Australian woman who along with my family, left a christian cult nearly 4 years ago. Our leaders committed the same abuses that you have listed here, and more. We were there for 20 years. They aren't going to change, every time they are confronted with somebody who disagrees with them, those people are submitted to even worse unholy behaviour. These men are psychopaths at worst, character disordered at best.

Ours has been a long and difficult journey. I have been going through your blog with interest, but was taken up short at this post.

You have listed some really serious abuses, and being able to admit to them is good, but you can't then mitigate them by your statement...

"I am not beating myself up as to the point where I imagine that I did nothing right. There were many of you that I loved unconditionally. We showed hospitality, we modeled a good marriage, an open and honest life and when I needed to, I have asked your forgiveness. But the scope and magnitude which I see my own heart today is detestable to me."

You have deceived, lied, betrayed your friends, taught people to hate and fear, and put them through the hell of spiritual abuse. YOu can't then pronounce yourself as honest and loving. Your actions prove that you aren't honest and loving. I don't see how you can reconcile the two.

I don't think I can keep reading your blog, this post was really too hard to process, I read with anxiety, pounding heart and churning stomach. I felt like I was coming out of the cult all over again.

Please understand that however you meant this confession to come across, there are many victims of abuse who trawl the internet looking for help and encouragement because they simply can't find it in real life. To suddenly have to face an abuser making a confession and expecting others to forgive them regardless of who is reading is very difficult. Your sins were not against me, but they were the same abuses I faced. The internet was a lifesaver for me, but not every place which appears safe seems to be that way.

I also don't think you are in a position to be asking others to forgive their own leaders when you don't know anyone else's situation.

You can't take up the position of humbly confessing, and then suddenly switch and become the advisor and encourager of other sufferers of abuse.

A confession of this nature needs space all on its own. Its one of those 'selah' things, that can't be rushed, and certainly mustn't be mixed with any self-assessment or discussion of your own feelings otherwise it becomes about you, not the people you have hurt.

Barb said...

Meg, thank you so much for leaving a comment. As you can see from above the comments left have been positive but I could never be sure that this was the entire story. What of those who read it and did not leave a comment? I do wish to respond to you but not to defend myself. Could I simply elaborate a bit on what I am thinking as I read your post?

First of all I am so sorry that this post brought you any more grief than you are already experiencing. Please believe me that was never my intent.

You said: You have listed some really serious abuses, and being able to admit to them is good, but you can't then mitigate them by your statement...
"I am not beating myself up as to the point where I imagine that I did nothing right. There were many of you that I loved unconditionally. We showed hospitality, we modeled a good marriage, an open and honest life and when I needed to, I have asked your forgiveness. But the scope and magnitude which I see my own heart today is detestable to me."

You have deceived, lied, betrayed your friends, taught people to hate and fear, and put them through the hell of spiritual abuse. YOu can't then pronounce yourself as honest and loving. Your actions prove that you aren't honest and loving. I don't see how you can reconcile the two.


I, in no mean meant to mitigate any of my abuses. They were wrong and I was totally in the wrong. I truly believed with one side of my brain that what I was being taught was right and the twinge of the Holy Spirit in my life was just ignored. I am not pronouncing myself as honest and loving but during that time I did some honest and loving things. As we have gone around and asked forgiveness of those we had hurt everyone of them told us that we were not the problem and in fact were the ones they felt were loving in our group. I just knew that they did not know my heart and that I still needed to ask their forgiveness. Maybe this is just more of my own blindness and deception. I don’t know.

I don't think I can keep reading your blog, this post was really too hard to process, I read with anxiety, pounding heart and churning stomach. I felt like I was coming out of the cult all over again.

I’m so sorry. I have felt similar feelings and although I’m sure my experience was not as bad as yours may have been I do recognize the symptoms and have dealt with them in my own life.

I also don't think you are in a position to be asking others to forgive their own leaders when you don't know anyone else's situation.

I did ask others to forgive their leaders. It is in the last line of my post. You may be right, I have no right to ask you to do anything. It is only that I am acutely aware that my own heart was changed and therefore it is possible that other leaders will also come to recognize that they are wrong. I desire this so that others will not be hurt as you have been. I also feel that forgiveness is primarily for the one who is hurt not an excuse for someone to go unpunished for their behavior. I also have since realized that while our church practiced these things in some degree that true cult places practice the very same things but to a much higher degree. And so you are right I truly do not understand someone coming out of a true cult and therefore have no right to speak into that situation directly.

You can't take up the position of humbly confessing, and then suddenly switch and become the advisor and encourager of other sufferers of abuse.

Being in a group that abuses to some degree is a funny thing. You may be helping the abuse along but you are also suffering the abuses yourself. I also hope that I don’t come across as one who is in the role of an advisor or encourager. I have used this site to simply write my story and share what has been helpful for me. I know I’m in no place to put myself in any sort of leadership. I’m still not sure of my own heart and whether or not I could ever trust myself in any sort of leadership position. I’m sorry if in any way I have come across as being sure of anything to tell anyone what they should or should not do.

In the fact that a confession like this needs its own space – you are so right. It is not right to mix the two. But I wanted to be totally honest about who I was at the same time. To not admit that I was also part of the problem was dishonest. The blog is truly about me. It is not to do anything more than to give a voice to someone who experienced what I did. When I came out of our church I was so encouraged by others blogs who had the same story because it made me feel as if I was not alone and crazy. That was the reason for my blog and it continues to be so today.

I’m sorry I have hurt you today. I do appreciate you letting me know how you feel and pray that Father be very close to you as you walk through your life.

Anonymous said...

"You have deceived, lied, betrayed your friends, taught people to hate and fear, and put them through the hell of spiritual abuse. You can't then pronounce yourself as honest and loving. Your actions prove that you aren't honest and loving. I don't see how you can reconcile the two.'

Meg,
Can you honestly say that you didn't hurt someone at your old church? Even if it was indirectly by not standing up for them? Did you ever distance your self from people that the leadership told you to? Were you in some way completely deceived in some area that you later woke up to when you decided to leave that church? Have you ever hurt someone's feelings, and later regretted it?

Now, were there moments in your time there that you truly loved and were honest with the people you were with? I'm sure there were too many of these times to count.

Former leader seems no different. Is it remotely possible that Formerleader may have thought she was doing the right thing by teaching the things that she did? It looks to me like she not only taught these things, but she practiced and lived under them as well (which may be the difference between formerleader and your old churches leaders), otherwise she would not have left her church so beat up and hurt. Could you see for a moment how Formerleader could thought she was saving herself and her friends from the vices of the enemy? She was deceived, and did things she is ashamed of, but ultimately she did them out of love and trying to protect the people around her. Can you really stick to your previous statement that she can't have been both deceived and loving at the same time?

"The internet was a lifesaver for me, but not every place which appears safe seems to be that way."

If you came down this condescendingly on someone like formerleader who openly admitted her own mistakes, what makes you think that anyone would trust you with their own story? How many people are reading your comment that have made similar mistakes in their old churches and you just condemned? For instance, I personally hurt people at my old church. I shunned people made snippy comments about people and events because i knew i would get a pat on the back from the leadership. My motives were not even remotely as pure as Formerleader's. Would you condemn me as well to never having a moment where i could have been seen as loving and honest towards people? Would you tell me that i never loved my parents? my sisters? my friends?

People make mistakes, but that does not make them completely evil, completely wrong. People can do both good and bad at the same time. people are complex and i know that you can see this. So please take a moment and rethink what you have just proclaimed about someone that you know so little about.

Tyler Rosenquist said...

I have done many of these things too. I know the only reason I didn't do them all was because i wasn't in for long enough -- had i been in for 20 years i would have done as much and worse, I am certain. I have also been the victim of many of these -- but praise God they were what drove me out of the system. Had I not been subjected to what I was doing and turning a blind eye to, I would still be that religious whore.

We have all sinned, and where there is knowledge of that sin and repentance, there is redemption, just like for every other sin.

Thanks for writing this.

Keith said...

Barb,

Thanks so much for your comments on my blog.

I found this post while perusing your blog. I could have written exactly what you have in this post.

You will heal. Just soak in God's grace and be at peace.

Peace be with you!

nessie said...

Hi Barb

I came across your blog while reading SCL. I am honestly ambivalent about what you've posted here, but much of it is the excitement of seeing someone casting off the shackles of some of the 'worldliness' of church systems, and focusing back on God, and the Truth.
Thank you for blogging about this. I understand that it's a personal journey, and I'm interested to continue reading through and seeing where you have come from and where you see God taking you. I don't have many answers in life, but I know that God loves us. Keep blogging.

Barb said...

Nessie, thanks so much for leaving a comment here and at the other post. Just to know that God loves us is pretty much enough I think. You are starting off in life far better than what I was at your age!
Blessings on your life with Father too.

Jules said...

Thank you so much for this post.

Jules

Carolyn said...

Hello, my name is Carolyn. I appreciate your confession. It helps me to see the need to pray for my "leaders" while I heal. Thank you, and God bless you.

Barb said...

Jules, I'm sorry, your post got by without me seeing it. Thank you for commenting. I hope it was healing.

Carolyn, I'm so sorry you have leaders like this to even have to pray for. I ask the Father today to be close to you during this time.