Heathens and Tax Collectors

7/24/20222 min read

You’ve finally made the decision to speak out and leave the church. Now what? In high-control organizations whether it be a church, business, or non-profit when control is the game abuse is the weapon of choice. The desire and need to control people recently written about here is a good description of how most control-oriented leaders are full-blown narcissists or have narcissistic tendencies.

Genuine caring leaders don’t exhibit these behaviors. They lead with humility, and they lead by example. The world of evangelical Christianity is littered along the way with leaders that were so control-oriented that they eventually lose control. We know the worst of them, Jim Jones, David Koresh, and the obvious religious cults. Koresh was so adept at controlling people that he could even convince men to surrender their wives over to his wishes. It is pretty sick stuff.

There are lower-level control freaks as well, but freakishly controlling, nonetheless. Mark Driscoll the pastor of the Mars Hill empire out of Seattle is well known for his demanding style and take-no-prisoners approach to church leadership. Thankfully it ended in an implosion, but it left a large wake of crushed and wounded spirits behind. If you are a weary traveler on this journey from spiritual abuse, I highly recommend Christianity Today’s podcast, The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill.

It is a gripping tale of one man’s meteoric rise to fame and celebrity pastor-ism. Driscoll said some good things, and he had some good ideas, and how he did church brought a lot of people to hear of Jesus in the very dark Pacific Northwest. The question I’m plagued with, and the podcast does a great job of addressing, was it worth it in the end? They say, “examine the fruit” but is the fruit rotten?

A ministry that has a trail of dead bodies behind it is not a ministry in my opinion. Jesus never damaged and destroyed people. He loved them even when the love wasn’t returned, or if they walked away. “And Jesus looking at him, loved him, and said to him, ‘You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me” (Mark 10:21).

In legalistic, authoritarian churches, the authoritarian pastor thinks he is loving I suppose, but the damage done by them is not easily overcome. When someone leaves this type of church, they become, in the eyes of the “church,” a heathen and a tax collector in most cases. Excommunication is almost always the result. But what does this mean? In normal, healthy churches this means they have deemed the person unsaved and now eligible for evangelization. In unhealthy churches, it means they are shunned.

In the article linked above, you will see the unhealthy version. Just as with the Mars Hill examples you have controlling leaders issuing the decrees and edicts for the people. He, after all, has the bully pulpit and the domineering personality to pull it off. The availability of resources is impressive in how to identify these types. Don’t allow them the control they so desire. It is best to leave as quickly as possible, and seek help from knowledgeable sources and those that have been through it.

Reach out to us here if you need anything, we would love to help.