Some years ago, I was thrown out of a church because the pastor falsely accused me of things and wouldn’t allow me to even say I hadn’t done what he accused me of. He told me that if he said I did it, he was a Man of God, and God had obviously talked to him about me and revealed the wickedness in my heart. He also preached that I would walk out of church the night he kicked me out and immediately go and cut my hair and wear pants and makeup. I felt like I was betraying him by NOT doing those things, proving that he was a false prophet. I hadn’t done anything wrong, and I believed THE Truth, so I didn’t cut my hair or put on pants. I simply found another Oneness church and tried to act like nothing had happened.
The new pastor told me to just forget about what had happened and move on. But I couldn’t. What happened had created a lot of questions and doubts in my mind, things that I needed to work through and discuss. I needed time to heal. They wanted to act like there was nothing to heal, and that hurt worse.
I always felt condemned for not doing crazy things in church. After being kicked out, something disconnected. I went to church, and would shake “under the power of God.” I’d never done that before. People would tell me how close I must be to God. I didn’t feel close to God. I’d been kicked out of a church, but they didn’t know that, so I felt like a hypocrite. I also knew the shaking wasn’t God, it was me wrestling hard to reconcile what I believed was The Truth with what I had seen, heard, and experienced that blared that it wasn’t. There was such a deep grief and so much condemnation associated with praying, fasting, and studying the Bible… and especially with worship. The new church was very pushy about how much I should worship and exactly how we should and shouldn’t worship. That didn’t help me at all, because so much of what he told us we needed to do seemed unnatural or just plain weird or wrong to me.
It took me years to untangle what had happened in the church I was kicked out of. I had been happy in a way, and spoke in tongues often and danced a lot. When I was kicked out, even though I went to a different Oneness Pentecostal church (where the pastor assured me I was fine), things just weren’t the same. I doubted pretty much everything I was feeling, because the pastor who kicked me out said I was backslid and terribly wrong. If that were true (and of course it must be- he was a Holy Ghost filled preacher) then what I had felt, and the speaking in tongues and the worship I was doing must be all wrong, too. How could sweet and bitter water come from the same source, after all? I almost ‘got past that’ but then with all the show and people really hurting people in the altar of the new church, I started re-looking some things.
At the same time, I went through a time when every time I tried to pray, I’d pretty much immediately fall into heart wrenching grief and start sobbing and speaking in tongues. I knew that wasn’t right. There is joy in the Holy Ghost, and what was happening couldn’t have been considered intercession. I’d focus on God and say “I love you” or think of a recent service or have a happy thought that I’d be able to stay in that church for the rest of my life… and suddenly start bawling, when I hadn’t been sad before that word of prayer or that thought of thankfulness! A week of that would have been one thing, but that went on for a month or more. And I couldn’t seem to pray at all at church. By the end of that time, I knew something was terribly wrong, but I didn’t know what (or wouldn’t admit it) for a few more years.
For the last few years, there have been many false accusations and labels placed on people in my former church. There was a lot of spying and gossip.
The pastor bragged about the spying from the platform, and encouraged people to tell him if they even thought something MIGHT be wrong with someone else. He said if they didn’t tell him, they’d have blood on their hands. So people, from the oldest to elementary school kids, would go in alone or in groups to say they thought they saw someone do this or that. The person they told on would then be called in and chewed out. They were not asked if they did it, or if they denied it they’d be told they were lying. There was no escaping the hurtful words.
I’ve sat in my former pastor’s office sobbing uncontrollably many times as he, my ‘shepherd’, my ‘man of God’, my ‘pastor’ would tell me that I didn’t deserve anything but hell, that I was worthless, that I could leave like the other “garbage” (‘backsliders’ were called “garbage” and the churches they went to were called “trash cans”).
In all of this, even when I was sobbing, even when I tried to say something to defend myself, he would continue to pound on me with his words. Where is the mercy or the compassion in that?
If any pastors or leaders read this, please consider. I didn’t leave a Oneness church because I didn’t believe the doctrine. I left because the church stopped believing in me. I got to a point where if I’d stayed I would have stopped believing in God, because the God they preached and showed through their own lives was an angry, hateful, distorted god, not a God of love and mercy.
Mt 18:1 At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? 2And Jesus called a little child unto him… 6But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. 7Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!
1 Jn 4:7 Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. 8He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.
I’m not bitter. But some things need to be heard. For too long in churches like the one I left, members didn’t have a voice. It’s time someone listened.