Out of the numerous statements highlighted in this book, I have chosen this particular one to focus on today. As I read this, I thought to myself: He gets it! He has seen what I have seen. I have seen so many naïve seekers of truth fall prey to churches that abuse, and these churches thrive with contaminants to God's Ways and Truth. Some of these toxins found in these churches are, submission to the point of control rather than with an appreciation of partnership (that magnifies Christ), dependency on church leadership, and obedience are necessary for subjugation and just as Mr. Enroth has noted. Add to this mix a young growing pastor not handling correctly teachings on "sin and death" or neglecting to assert their church members with their righteousness in Christ Jesus - which in many churches is practically non-existent, severe imbalances that reek of cult material cannot be silenced.
Add to this mix, once again, a bible teacher-leader with "friends" assigned to sniff out and gather information from church members (or affiliates), who relay partial information that is used to "judge" an individual while the information is never confirmed or solidified, and you have church abuse hitting the fan once again. When a situation as just described happens, the stench of "gossip" is another toxin among church leaders who want to control, and add to this mix once again a young growing pastor - thin-skinned and easily offended, and you have a recipe for disaster. When problems as these thrive, this highly contaminated yeast affects the whole batch. When these pastors and board members jump to conclusions while dealing injustices with serious misinformation, cult material becomes blatant and clear. You have a church in deep trouble - a church Mr. Enroth describes as: Manipulative and fostering dependency.
These churches with young and inexperienced pastors in the mix, and who become puffed-up while calling spiritual well-seasoned believers into account, are misplaced and need time to get some life-experiences for an overall bigger picture that allows the eager-to-control to relate on a level that benefits the whole. Scripture, and our early church leaders knew what they were talking about, knew the problems that would occur with pastors who are young. Timothy was young as scripture tells us, but most early church members were unschooled in the books of the bible, unlike we are today. To place a young Timothy over our churches today, unless there are a bunch of growing babies in the church as was the situation in Timothy's church, would be disastrous to say the least and it happens far too-often today.
God calls us today to move on from the elementary teachings of scripture and on to maturity. A church that requires rituals of it's members like a "One, Two, Three" dance number of submission that will gain them acceptance, is a toxic church at their roots. With oppressive and manipulative agendas as these and that create dependency from it's members, rallies very close to a cult and is certainly an abusive church. The weak in the church will always do their dance, but a spiritual believer will see through such reckless and contaminated abuse of it's members. An unwilling individual in the church who will not conform to rules of dependency, submission and oppression, is automatically judged as in rebellion.
In my viewpoint, and this formed after years of careful and objective observance mixed with interactive experiences with Christian churches of denominational and non-denominations of deficiencies, it is always the root of a problem responsible for infecting the whole. The root of a given problem lies with it's pastoring and leaders, the ones who like to control but without the balance of teachings of righteousness that encourage it's members with growth and confidence in Christ.
One church I attended faithfully for several years seriously lacked in encouraging believers with who they are in Christ, recognzing and encouraging the fuller potential of it's members. The recognizing is so vital but when a pastor or leader only has a hammer in their pouch everything they see looks like a nail. The necessary training in righteousness referred to as a result of correct handling of the double edge sword of The Spirit, rarely and in most cases where spiritual immaturity among it's leaders exist, will such messages for spiritual growth be heard or taught.
Anything of self-righteousness found in dance steps or works of the flesh to gain acceptance is pure sin. "What is not of faith is sin (Rom. 14:23)," and any believer who feels they must work their way to acceptance, will never win the favor of God on their lives.
When a church body lacks sound teaching on the law of the spirit and life, and this setting the stage for our freedom in Christ as believers, freedom from the law of sin and death (Rom. 8:2), and messages of sin, death, and condemnation overpower a church body - over power with "sin issues," we can be sure church abuse is at the very core of other emphases. With long-time members not realizing their worth in Christ for oppressive churches as these, they reek of church abuse and if you are not growing and being encouraged with who you are in Christ and your fullest potential as a part of The Body of Christ drawn out of you with caring and skillful leadership, then let this be a red flag that most likely church abuse is the undercurrent of this church.
Problematic churches as these need to be called to the carpet and better yet, need the carpet pulled out from under them. Spiritual abuse is the catastrophe of catastrophes because genuine seeking hearts usually keep on keeping on while blinded by a whole lot of smoke screens. If society recognizes and has accepted abuse of anyone as a crime, where does the church get off thinking it's above spiritual crimes of oppression and abuse against The Body of Christ?
Keep in mind we are talking about "abuse" which is well defined throughout this posting. But a leadership sense of order with God's Direction is certainly needed with any church institution and this with plans of action for it's vision. But with hearts inspired (not forced, manipulated, or controlled), a welcoming agenda for advancement of God's Kingdom and individual spiritual growth, is a most encouraging viewpoint. But abuse with intimidation skills and the like, is nothing short of a spiritual crime.
If you are a loyalist to one of these churches, one that focuses on messages designed to pin you to the curse of law, sin and condemnation, one that empties the power of the cross in so doing (The Book of Galatians explains well), rather than the message of the spirit and life, maybe it's time to reconsider new directions that encourage you as steadfast in Christ. Maybe it's time you surround yourself with a non-oppressive, healing and edifying lifestyle of friends and supporters of who you are - in Christ.
Maybe it's time to grow up and put aside all that is oppressive and keeps you from your relationship with Christ, an identity you have yet to discover in Him, and which He desires you to live - confidently.