Are you a puzzle piece or a an original? Think on that for a moment.

Fit in. We all try to do it at one point in our lives or another. School, work, church, home, sports, social groups, you name it. We’re all trying to sort out some kind of way we blend in. Add in the pecking order in each of these places and things can get downright complicated.  Sometimes we lose sight of our uniqueness as God created us, sometimes we allow others to take the reigns, to reshape us, to make us something God does not intend us to be.

What makes things so difficult about sorting out where we belong is that we all have very unique personalities, likes, dislikes, styles, quirks that make us who we are. Thankfully God made us each very individual and that’s a good thing. We all know if we were all the same this world would be very, well, “vanilla.” But it’s those differences that can actually make finding a place we are comfortable a real challenge.

Too often, our unique qualities and personal quirks that set us apart actually end up being enough of a spark that set others in a group off in a negative fashion. Our colorful stripes can trigger jealousy, insecurities, and some of the ugliest behaviors from others.  Unfortunately church groups and those claiming His Son’s name are not immune to exhibiting such behaviors. Some of the ugliest, most hurtful and egregious words and actions have been committed by church leaders devoid of God’s love for His sheep and by those who follow these wicked men.

For example, an experience I’d like to share on has been quite memorable in a particular church setting specifically with other women and the narcissistic leaders they manipulate. This was a very small, very controlling borderline cult in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist sect. We found this conservative group as we were searching for a conservative church home. It was the host church for our son’s school. At first we thought we had found our church home. Things began to unravel in just the first several months.

The veneer of this polished group, lead by a slick narcissist and backed by several handpicked yes-men began to crack and erode. Quickly we began to see and hear some very disconcerting behaviors from several female support staff. The gossip, the vicious backstabbing, the immature high school behaviors were astounding. But we so badly wanted to “fit in” that we ignored it. We also ignored warning signs God gave us of character assassination of others including past deacons and church founders, mind games, and countless problems and investigations around past students, staffers, and members during the 12-15 years this leader and his senior cohort and enabler had been in power. We ignored so much that, in the aftermath, many have asked how we could miss so much.

The truth is, when you so badly want to fit in where you are, you tend to be far too long suffering for your own good. You ignore warning signs God sends. Sometimes you put yourself and your family in such a compromised, spiritually unhealthy-perhaps even spiritually abusive situation that God has no choice but to rip you out of there before the group destroys you.

Sometimes when this happens the damage to you and possibly your family is so great it completely shatters your identity. It can drive you from the loving arms of God. The enemy uses groups and leaders like this to destroy sheep, and the flock as a whole. Satan counts on breaking you so far down that you have an extremely long road to being complete and whole again.

There is a very important lesson to be learned from these experiences. God has crafted us each as individuals, in His image. When we start sacrificing these special unique markings on our personalities in order to please Man and fit in, we are going against His plan for us.

Many nefarious leaders will use twisted, misapplied Scripture taken out of context to justify their actions and efforts to change and control people. These false preachers know they can manipulate people through fear, peer pressure, financial threat, emotional, verbal, and sexual abuse. We look at these abusive leaders and marvel at how anyone could get sucked into these groups. Some very successful, intelligent people have fallen prey to the tactics of these wolves and their Jezebels. Why? How can these leaders wield such power?

The answer is often very simple: People want to be loved. They want to give of themselves and their talents. They want to be part of something greater than themselves. They want friends. They want to…fit in, to be accepted. As they consciously or subconsciously search for where they fit, they will often sell off or compromise parts of their belief system and identity in order to meet that goal of acceptance. Bad leaders know this, as does the enemy, and they both use it to accomplish the goal of destroying the individual sheep, and ultimately the flock.

Church should be the last worldly bastion of safety for the Believer.  There should be a safe haven where folks of like mind and heart can gather together to lift not only praises but also lift up one another.  Church, as designed by God, is to be a cove to protect from the storms of the World  There should be a barrier that comes from worshiping together, praying together, bearing one another’s burdens, serving one another, uplifting, loving one another and lovingly help each other grow to fullness in Him.  There is to be a spirit of love, patience, kindness, forgiveness, long suffering, and healing toward our Brethren.  This is precisely what Christ modeled to us with His disciples.  Sadly, this has become far from the norm in many IFB churches today.

So, you may find yourself sitting there, asking how you can avoid a pit of vipers like this. You may even be one of the thousands each year whose hearts and lives-very identities-are shattered by spiritually abusive groups and leaders. How do you avoid becoming a wooly target for Satan and his troop of narcissists?

Strengthen your identity. Delve into Scripture. Know your Bible inside and out so no wolf in a preacher suit can twist and misapply God’s Word to control you. Find your value, your worth in the pages of God’s Word, not in the opinion and approval of Man. Stand strong on God’s Word when you hear teachings that warp and shred His teachings and laws. Do not be afraid to stand as David did against Goliath when a leader is doing wrong, teaching wrong, and hurting His sheep. Have the Godly character to not allow yourself to be controlled and used to damage God’s people.

Perhaps the toughest challenge an IFB Believer has is in taking that Scripture-mandated stand against the wicked who have hijacked a local church.  There is a tabu that is prolific throughout the IFB circles.  Satan has tricked the IFB sect into compliance to protecting and enabling wolves in preacher suits.

How can Satan take otherwise intelligent, Godly men and tie their tongues from speaking out to hold accountable a false leader who is ravaging what was once an effective church in a community?  Simple.  He uses misapplication of the “…touch not My anointed…” verse.

Those who do not know their Bibles well don’t know that this was a directive specifically to Israel.  It was never intended as a shelter for wicked, abusive leaders to cower beneath, yet that is precisely what they do.  Far too many good leaders in small communities across this nation are chided into silence by means of this false application of I Chronicles 16:22-23 and Psalm 105:15.  Sadly, they allow themselves to become complicit enablers of those who shatter His sheep and the demise of the flock at large.

To be a person of Godly integrity isn’t hard, but it takes tenacity and courage. To not be manipulated by fear of not fitting in and being accepted by Man.  Learn to be ok with being kicked out of a group because you have more Godly character and integrity than the leader of the group and all his minions, Jezebels, and enablers combined. Be courageous and secure in who you are, your God-given talents and stand strong in the fact that you are the son or daughter of the King of kings and Lord of lords. Don’t let fear of sinful men and women compromise who you are….and Who’s you are.

Dear friend, take courage for being who God has made you.  Take strength in standing for what is right.  Your promise for doing so comes from I Peter 3:14

“But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled;”

Selah.