Friday, February 23, 2007

How Can I Discern Whether I'm in a Healthy or Abusive Fellowship?

Posted by Hannah at 2:53 PM

Very interesting article on Adventures in Mercy Blog.

I actually went and read alot of what was posted in that entry on her blog, and its truly scarey when you read about such organizations as this. You hear alot of families getting hurt from what seems like very unhealthy bodies of fellowship.

On the they did a very interesting article on what is a healthy compared to an abusive fellowship.

The article starts out:

Abusive fellowships are often the most exciting Christian gatherings around -- filled with dedicated, committed, enthusiastic leaders and members. Do not let enthusiasm and sincerity be the basis for approval. More often than not, abusive fellowships cannot be recognized by mere outward appearance.

I can see people getting sucked in by the enthusiasm of the environment! They seem to be the answer you have been looking for. Its kind of like that saying you hear about, "If looks to good to be true it problamly is!" I think looking for a church home needs to be viewed like that also.

It also seems like when you first met your abusive spouse! Its exciting and promising, but once you marry you find out what it really involves. Their outward appearance and show was all a deception.

Its a short article, but I will take out a couple of points I liked!

In healthy fellowships members commonly maintain friendships when friends leave the group. Abusive fellowships tend to view almost everyone who leaves as a backslider and they view most other Christians as not committed or saved. Healthy fellowships do not consistently tell derogatory stories about those who leave.

In healthy fellowships the leaders prove themselves to be trustworthy in order to be trusted. In abusive fellowships the leaders must be trusted because they are the leaders. To not trust them is to sin.

These first two really hit me. Its much like abusive relationships within the home. If you have friends, family, etc that don't go along with the abusive spouse's way of thinking, or they seem to have you question your spouse's motives/actions (because of what they have seen or heard) at times you are asked to cast them out of your life. Abusive fellowships also ask people to isolate themselves from others that don't agree with their teachings. To not trust your abuser is insinuated as sin as well.

In healthy fellowships the confession of sins and "bearing of one another's burdens" is a personal matter that takes place in the context of a larger "family" relationship with other Christians. In abusive fellowships sins are exposed by (or to) leaders and pressure is often applied to confess to the group.

In healthy fellowships secrecy and independence in personal matters -- before God -- are acceptable as long as sins are confessed in private. In abusive fellowships secrecy or independence in personal affairs are scorned, and all areas of life are to be exposed -- even those that do not touch moral issues.

In healthy fellowships we are encouraged to love and bless our enemies. In abusive fellowships showing hatred for our enemies and speaking defamatory of them is acceptable. And often the occasion for "rallying the troops."

Abusive leaders seldom practice this scripture:

"...when ridiculed, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered we respond gently..." (1 Cor 4:12, 13)

The traits above on the abusive fellowship almost remind me of the 'walking on eggshells' at home that we do! Past sins are never realy forgiven always brought back up in some form or fashion. Rallying the troops could be getting the children to side with them, or calling friends and family to tell them what an awful person you are to almost win allies! You are NOT allowed your personal opinion, or even to disagree without punishment of some kind. It could be outright rage, silent treatment, manipulative hurt feelings, mocking, ridicule, etc.

Non-abusive leaders rebuke members only for grave public sins, as a last resort (Matthew 18:17). Abusive leaders often publicly rebuke or ostracize members who simply disagree with leaders' opinions. Usually vis-à-vis sermon illustrations or applications, etc.

Non-abusive leaders do not encourage people to leave the fellowships because of differences of opinion. Abusive leaders often assume the right -- unilaterally -- to tell or encourage members who do not agree with leaders' opinions to leave the fellowship.

Non-abusive leaders do not view members as "lacking spiritually" simply because they do not participate in numerous fellowship activities. Abusive leaders view as "spiritually lacking" those who fail to attend most all their fellowship activities. Some even mandate the number of meetings members MUST attend.

Non-abusive leaders do not discourage members from reading information critical about the group. Abusive leaders often control negative information about the group by either discrediting it or by dissuading members not to read it.

Abusers often torment those that disagree with them. Hammering them with this grave sin they have placed there. If you do not agree with their 'leadership' there is something gravely wrong with you, and you will pay the price until you repent of these! Of course they are never truly repented of well enough. If you prove your point they tend to attempt to discredit you with legalistic remarks, crazymaking, diversion, mocking and just deciding they have no clue what you are talking about since the conversation never took place.

Non-abusive leaders do not judge your hearts, but they leave that to God. Abusive leaders constantly judge hearts, motives, and intents. They basically assume -- rather, usurp -- the place of God.

Get rid of leaders and replace with spouse - sounds like home for alot of people! They will tell you what you feel, your motives, your intents, where you are heart is at, and of course they are right even if you disagree.

Read the article for yourself - as I said it is short and sweet, but very powerful! If you have more time the blog I linked to has some interesting comments about some well know organization that seems to be getting their attitude handed back to them on a plate!

Got any opinions on either? Would love to read from you!

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