OHMY Goodness!! Just last night I was was reading the book “To whom shall we go” written by Cardinal Timothy Dolan of NYC. Page 77 chapter 5 “How Do we allow God to Love us” and he speaks about John 13:1-15 about Jesus washing the feet of his apostals on Holy thursday and how we cannot EARN Jesus’s love, that he gives it freely. All I can say is AMEN eh…
If you decide to skip out on the Tupperware party held by the preacher’s wife, and someone pulls you aside at church next Sunday and quotes “do not give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing”, run like hell.
If hosting Tupperware-type parties is looked at as a frivolous waste of time, run like hell. If hosting a birthday party for your six-year-old is seen as a frivolous waste of time, run like hell. If having coffee with an old friend, or getting a manicure, or even having a quiet time is seen as a frivolous waste of time – or is simply impossible because you’re doing so much church-y stuff – run like hell.
My ex-pastor once told a friend of mine that she was off to “worship her Madrigal god” when she performed in a mandatory (as in, her final grade depended on it) concert for her college singing group instead of working at our church property one evening. Never mind that she’d worked there all day… and had been putting in 12 to 16 hour days all summer long… Three hours were going to jeopardize her standing in heaven. (To be clear, my pastor did use a joking tone, but we all knew he was displeased.)
There could be a whole other post on “the use of ‘humor’ by leaders to wound/humiliate”.
I will take exception to one thing you said.
I’ve been involved in founding several Orthodox churches, one thriving so well it spun off a mission in another city.
I don’t know how it is in starting a Protestant congregation, but an Orthodox start-up requires a lot of time and energy. It’s not for everybody. And I’m not sorry I have done so.
Also, Orthodoxy is a life-style. It’s not just a 1 hour Sunday Morning thing.
My point is that being deeply involved in a church is NOT necessarily a sign of being spiritually abused, though I understand your experience has made you cautious.
Here is what I think the difference is.
I’m guessing that if one of the members of your church held a party or a social event and you decided that you didn’t want to go, it wouldn’t be an issue.
I’m also guessing that if you said “Hey, I’m not going to be there this Sunday because I’m going out of town to visit family” you wouldn’t hear “did you get advice (ie permission) on that” or “you need to change your plans to be back on Sunday”.
The issue is not amount of time, I don’t think. Some people decide that church is where they want to devote their time. The issue is, who has control over that person’s decisions, the person or the church.
Devote your time sure…but if you even begin to think differently….you will lose their approval & next your friends. Abuse can be very, very subtle. Healing can take years & years. Be very wise.
Dixibehr…it seems to me the difference here is that the warning sign is this: if your piety is being judged by your excessive involvement in the church as a REQUIREMENT then that is a warning sign. If someone chooses of their own volition, without it being a requirement to being considered “Godly” in the eyes of that church, then that is OK, that is their choice. I didn’t hear Elizabeth saying not to do this. I heard her cautioning against the involvement being viewed as equal, in the eyes of the church, to how serious you are about your commitment to the church.
This is spot on. LOVE this series.
Very good series! We have been in both types of churches. There is a big difference in atmosphere, even with similar amounts of time spent at church. Because in the one case. you had to spend that time in order to be spiritually OK in the eyes of others, but in the other case, we participate whenever we can because we are welcomed, loved, and enjoy what is going on there. Nobody at our current church would judge us for missing meetins or services. It’s a very come and go church anyway, people often split their time between that church and “home” churches elsewhere in the city. But in the abusive church, you miss a “cell group” meeting and you’re getting phone calls. Miss more than one, and you have to have a serious talk with the pastor about your priorities. We left there, much as we loved the people, when there was total lack of understanding that with a newborn and a low income, we just coulnd’t drive 40 minutes each way multiple times a week for all these meetings and activities.