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Why do people stay in unhealthy churches?


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#1 shinyhappypeople

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Posted 05 July 2011 - 04:40 PM

I found this list of signs of a healthy/unhealthy church. I decided to evaluate the Pit of Narcissism and Perversion, um, I mean "church" I grew up in (age 3 to 18).

Out of the 28 signs listed here, I was able to evaluate 20 of them (8 of them I just didn't know. Remember, I was a kid/teen so there was much I wasn't privy to).

So based on what I remember and was aware of, my childhood church scored a whopping 80% UNhealthy with a heavy emphasis on profoundly narcissistic leaders, cliquishness, "us vs. them" mentality, and bashing other churches (this happened so regularly that I genuinely suspected many Baptists were going straight to hell). ::shudder::

Of the 6 signs that I said the church was "healthy," some of those were borderline, but I was trying to be fair.

My mom has verified most of my observations, which makes me wonder why the heck she dragged us there year after year after stinking year. Thanks, mom.:tongue_smilie:

Why oh why do people stay in unhealthy churches? Why-why-why-why???

#2 snickelfritz

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Posted 05 July 2011 - 04:45 PM

Inertia? Better the evil you know than the one you don't?

#3 OnTheBrink

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Posted 05 July 2011 - 04:46 PM

For the same reasons people stay in abusive relationships. They think it's not the abuser who's wrong; it's them. They deserve the abuse. It's all they know. If only they'd _________ better, things would be better in their lives. They're frightened to leave. They'd lose their "support"/friends/community.

Bottom line: Fear.

#4 Avila

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Posted 05 July 2011 - 04:48 PM

I think they were visiting the church I grew up in when they wrote that.

I agree with Fear as being the main element. My grandparents stayed because my great-grandpa helped found the church, lots of my grandpa's family was there, and he honestly was raised with it and couldn't see the abusive side clearly. My grandparents were always on the outer circle anyhow, because my grandma was not originally from that church. There was an element of making people feel like the feeling of being uncomfortable was part of being Christian because the truth should make us uncomfortable. And there was a feeling of superiority promoted, as in look at all we are sacrificing for the Lord. The sacrifice bound people together, made them feel superior and made them suspicious of anybody else who wasn't suffering the same things they were.

I loved my grandparents very much, but I left their church at 12 and never looked back. And my grandma quit going after my grandpa died.

#5 Joanne

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Posted 05 July 2011 - 04:48 PM

The abuse dynamic functioning on an institutional level.

The function of cultishness itself.

Vulnerability.

Lack of awareness.

Rigidity.

Looking for easy, "pat", formulaic answers to life's issues (death, parenting challenges, sickness).

Mental illness.

The seductive nature of some abusive churches (The No Greater Joy Ministry, for example, is terribly seductive).

A good book to begin recovery (not for you, OP, you've clearly BTDT and have the T-shirt):

http://www.amazon.co...09902314&sr=1-1

#6 happi duck

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Posted 05 July 2011 - 05:06 PM

interesting list, thanks for posting!

#7 JadeOrchidSong

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Posted 05 July 2011 - 05:27 PM

I was in a church for 5 years and we left because the pastor is (now still) obsessed with baptizing people even when they don't know what it really is. He would harass people by incessant phone calls (at all hours) or uninvited visits until they agree to be baptized. Once they are baptized, they are off his radar and free to go wherever they want and the harassment stops right away. Some people never attend any Sunday services or Bible study and they show up one Sunday and are baptized. Then they disappear and never come again (mostly probably because they never know what gospel is). I wrote the pastor an email calling him a stumbling block for people's spiritual growth because of what he did. Many people already left because of him. People who stay there are in a very unhealthy relationship with the pastor and the church. They stay because they want to be in an exclusively mainland Chinese church and that church is the only one in that category. There used to be over 100 people. Now there are less than half of that. It is so sickening that I feel nauseated thinking of it. I can't think of anything more sickly than this.

#8 tjlufkin

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Posted 05 July 2011 - 05:30 PM

There really isn't any fear worse than believing that you are risking an eternity in Hell. That's what keeps people in churches like that. Especially if you have kids. You think long and hard about whether it's really them or if it's you because if you are wrong...

Needless to say, we've BTDT.

Also, you can have an abusive church and a healthy church in the same denomination so it's not necessarily that that particular denomination is abusive. Our unhealthy church was in the same denomination as the church that was so healing and nurturing that it changed our lives and the way we see God and the Church itself.

Edited by tjlufkin, 05 July 2011 - 05:33 PM.


#9 Happy

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Posted 05 July 2011 - 05:34 PM

I haven't read the list you posted...I'm going to post my thoughts then go read it.

We are in an unhealthy (by MY definition) church. Why are we staying?

We remember when it was healthy a couple of years ago.
***We have strong Godly relationships with people there.***
We are trying to be part of the recovery of this body. We are in a small leadership role so we can make an impact. Hopefully. Maybe. :001_huh:

My definition of an unhealthy church is one where people are not taught powerful lessons from the Bible--superficial teaching, where one or two people have all the power and no one ever questions them, where there is no VISION or momentum. For our little church, we just need some direction, focus, and leadership. A new preacher for our empty pulpit would be the an improvement.

Okay...off to compare my list with the posted one. My apologies if I'm waaaay off base.

#10 Laurie4b

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Posted 05 July 2011 - 06:00 PM

Some reasons:
Social pressure: I think we tend to overestimate our individual power to choose and underestimate the power of whatever group we're in to shape our thinking and behavior.

Spiritual superiority: abusive churches nearly always (maybe always) paint themselves as superior to others. Even people who aren't by personality arrogant can be seduced by the lure of spiritual superiority.

A sense of certainty/control/predictability: spiritually abusive groups often give you a handy-dandy list of external requirements to follow (even if they are unobtainable). That can feel comforting to people whose lives have chaos in them and can feel more comfortable to people than the freedom and responsibility to discern and choose.

Fear: fear of going to hell if you leave and fear of social repurcussions if you leave

A mixture of truth and falsehood: Sometimes I think a person sees that some truth is there, but can't distinguish that from all the falsehood mixed in. It can feel like knowingly throwing out the baby with the bathwater, I guess.

Ignorance of options: somewhat related to the above: it might seem like a binary choice: either God here or not-God out there. I know I want God, so I stay. Not knowing a lot about other options that might include God and freedom may be part of the issue.

#11 Ellie

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Posted 05 July 2011 - 06:16 PM

A friend joined a church which turned out to be unhealthy. She joined because she was going through a second separation/divorce and wanted to be sure she did the "right" thing, which this church was more than willing to do. She put herself under the authority of the men who made up the deaconate, thinking that if she became more submissive things would go better for her. She allowed other church members to take advantage of her because they seemed like such godly people, and it must be she who was in the wrong because otherwise she wouldn't be going through the separation/divorce.

This church didn't allow women to speak in church, not even in Sunday school or church membership meetings (if they had questions, they had to ask a man to ask the question for them). They couldn't receive communion unless there was a man to serve them.

I could go on...but I won't.

She stayed there for about five years. She eventually left the church (sad story about that), divorced and then married a man who was an abuser. I wasn't surprised.

#12 Kelli in TN

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Posted 05 July 2011 - 07:04 PM

***We have strong Godly relationships with people there.***
.



We stayed so for so long because we loved the people there so much. We had worked hard side by side with these dear friends and the thought of ripping ourselves away was crushing.

We did leave though and since then many of those dear friends have left as well. We've scattered to different churches depending on what we were looking for, I miss being together in church with all of them to this day, even though I am happy and love my church family now.

#13 CaladwenEleniel

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Posted 05 July 2011 - 07:07 PM

.

#14 TheAutumnOak

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Posted 05 July 2011 - 07:07 PM

There really isn't any fear worse than believing that you are risking an eternity in Hell. That's what keeps people in churches like that. Especially if you have kids. You think long and hard about whether it's really them or if it's you because if you are wrong...

Needless to say, we've BTDT.

Also, you can have an abusive church and a healthy church in the same denomination so it's not necessarily that that particular denomination is abusive. Our unhealthy church was in the same denomination as the church that was so healing and nurturing that it changed our lives and the way we see God and the Church itself.


:iagree: I just am non denominational...


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