The Silence is Broken…Again

How many times does it take for people to speak up before those in authority do something about wrong in their midst? Silencing people through intimidation and warnings to be obedient to church leadership are all symptoms of a dysfunctional religious organization and it is apparently very effective. When members feel they are better off not knowing what is wrong, there’s something very wrong. When church members have the attitude that they wish they didn’t know and cry “ I just want to go to church and be left alone,” there’s a serious problem. When people close their eyes to sin and wrong on one hand, and on the other hand, claim to hold up the blood-stained banner against all wrong in the name of Christ, again, something is seriously wrong.

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” ― Edmund Burke.

A few weeks ago, I was harassed on social media by someone from my former church organization. It had to be. Who else would care that much? For about 4 weeks, whenever I shared from this blog on Facebook, the person or persons would launch a complaint to FB that it was “ objectionable content.” FB in their attempt to err on the side of the complainer banned all links and information from this blog.

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Loyalty Can Be A Killer

Loyalty can kill your spiritual and personal growth.

Loyalty is defined as :

a strong feeling of support or allegiance; faithfulness owed by duty or by a pledge or promise.

Here’s An Example:

Remember in 2010 when LeBron James left his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers, to go to the Miami Heat? He wanted to pursue a personal dream of winning an NBA championship and was convinced he could do it with the Miami Heat. The people of Cleveland were hopping mad. The big charge against him? DISLOYAL! Yet, he reached his goal twice, winning 2 NBA championships with the Heat.

And remember in 2016 Kevin Durant? He took the phrase “if you can’t beat them join them” literally and left the Oklahoma Thunder to pursue his dream of becoming an NBA champion with Golden State Warriors. They won back to back NBA Championships, and again the charge of DIS-LOYAL was bandied about. These men had only so much time in their careers and were perfectly capable of reaching those goals in the right setting. They were free agents. Their actions changed how NBA owners looked at players. They were no longer pawns to be traded at the whim their owners, but both of these men took control of their talents and their futures.

Your Talents Or Your Life

When it comes to spiritual and personal goals, as long as we have God’s approval, we are free as a bird to do as we please. Most people who are caught up in the culture of organizations that demand loyalty don’t realize it and consequently, don’t pursue anything that is personally valuable to them. They put their future in the hands of other men.

When people brand you as disloyal, it’s usually because THEY want you to do things for them. Their concern doesn’t involve YOUR growth, your personal goals, health, healing or welfare. Sometimes they just want the comfort of you being there for them. Maybe they want you there to use your talents (whenever they feel like it) and you being there makes you accessible. Again, it’s about them.

Make no mistake. When people want you to be loyal to them, their concern centers around them and not you.

When we left our home church after nearly 28 years to pursue God’s goals for our life. A couple we’d been close to, stopped speaking to us. I mean …just…stopped. They never contacted us again. I asked the husband about his wife’s lack of communication before we left and he said: “it just hurts too much, so she can’t talk to you”. So finally, I called her and the response was ” well, look who decided to call”. Huh? Clearly, there was anger or some problem. Any contact was our calls to them to say hello. They never said they were happy for us, never offered any help if we needed it…you know ,the usual cordial things people say, even though they knew this was a good move for our family.

Trust me. Learn to listen to the things people DON’t say.

They have not contacted us to this day and we don’t know why. Won’t speak to us.

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We figured out that the husband had dreams of higher aspirations and that somehow we must have been part of that personal plan. As a result, so he and his wife were not happy about our leaving. We were no longer pawns for his goals. Well, sorry, It ain’t that kind of party.

It took me a while to realize that this was going on in my own life. That these things I was seeing and sensing were not just coincidence and isolated instances. Yet, the feeling of duty, faithfulness, and obligation was deep because that’s who I was as a person, and unfortunately people who were more street-wise were taking of advantage of that.

Dudley Do-Right at your service.

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But when I realized that I could never do the things that God was calling me to do within my organization, we had to move on and work separately.

We felt God had given both of us a scripture: Colossians 4:17, See that you fulfill the ministry that you have received in the Lord. It became harder and harder to fulfill.

Our system was built on putting your future in the hands of men. The culture was loyalty to the church organization and its agendas and not necessarily spiritual growth and obedience to the Spirit of God. People waited on their Pastors for everything. They were trying to be “obedient” but sometimes it resulted in damage to their spiritual or natural lives.

Here are ways loyalty can go wrong:

Decisions about your personal life should not be based on allegiance to people. I’ve watched the show about drug addiction called Intervention. Sometimes the therapist and family had to separate the addict from the person they were loyal to (another addict) to get them to go to rehab. To the addict, it became all about their friendship, and leaving their friend, even though the friendship was killing them. In my religion, people tried hard to be loyal to their Pastor’s methods. How many times did I see people wait years and years for permission to date someone ( Yeah, you read that right) or move forward with their life until another person said it was ok? John could feel Sally is just right for him, but he can’t really find out for himself until the Pastor says “Go”. Sometimes that took years. And people would sit there and wait dutifully. Why? Because obedience to your Pastor meant you were good. Questioning meant you were just anxious, too eager and by default bad news. You don’t want that! If you, as the man, acted too eager, you could be saddled with a reputation of being over anxious and rebellious. What if you have to go to the Pastor again if the relationship didn’t work out? Do you want that reputation hanging over you? So you stay still. If you’re a woman and you have to wait on the man to approach you as was the case in my religion. You can know he likes you and that he took proper steps but still…the waiting game was imposed. If both of you decide not to wait then you’d be branded as disobedient and treated like you sinned.

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And then, on the flipside, if the Pastor had a particular method of putting people together, to make sure they get married, his own reputation seemed to be at stake if you failed. So the subject was not your happiness but the Pastor’s happiness. Some in our group were convinced they should go along with the program even if it wasn’t the right fit for them. They would “learn to love” the person or something. That’s just as crazy. One Pastor told me he didn’t want to put together any more bad marriages. Huh? What does any of this have to do with you or your “track record”? !! And why are you even involved like that? These people have placed their future in your hands and THIS is your concern?

Scripturally, loyalty and friendship should not be the basis for solving problems. That can be a problem. One time in a ministers meeting, we got on the subject of a minister calling another minister a liar. It wasn’t right to do without solid proof. Well, it was proven during the meeting that no one had lied. The entire ministry at the meeting agreed that the person’s statement was not a lie. Yet, the response to me, as one of the people who had complained about the accusation, was, “ See, what you need to do is ask yourselves why would someone of such character make an accusation like that?”

I don’t know. Maybe they have a bad understanding of what lies are,-who knows? They don’t have any proof.

The point is that this Pastor was relying more on “I believe them” because of their spotless reputation than any actual proof. He was taking the lazy way out. Don’t ask any questions or investigate the claim, just back the right horse. He was actually going to use the person’s past character as proof. Not cool. The bible tells us to not accept accusations against anyone except with proof. Yet this was the loyalty culture.

One time, a Pastor got up and explained that Christian unity was based on the following: “If I know this brother, and he makes a judgment on something, I have confidence in Him. I’m going to stand with that brother” Really? Based on his word alone? That’s not what the Bible says — at all. No Virginia, there is no Santa Claus.

Another story: I once went to a Pastor with concerns over problems I was hearing about in another congregation and I was gaslighted –big time.

“What problems?”

You know what problems.

“Do you KNOW that there’s a problem?”

No. I don’t have a smoking gun, but I’m sure you know things. Probably more than me. Well, a person in the congregation has been talking about it.

“They wouldn’t dare do that, they’d be too scared. They don’t’ talk about what goes on”

Or Else what? Would they be punished? What if something’s really wrong. What if the Pastor needs correction? I realized, he was trying to get me to drop it and doubt my information. So I did. I also realized that the bottom line was friendship.

I did interview one person from a congregation who ignored the “don’t ask, don’t tell” rule and started telling what horrible oppression they were under from an inexperienced pastor. So much so, that her sibling got physically ill from the stress. They tried to get help for years. But to no avail. They were trapped. Leaving would make them bad Christians and staying would be bad for their Christian experience. No Pastor would touch it until finally many of the oppressed members just left the church altogether to save their sanity and their health. But I realized this kind of protection of wrongdoing was not just a one-time incident, it was seemingly some loyalty code between some church leaders not to interfere with another Pastor’s situation. But if the people left they were branded. If they talked, again branded as disloyal to the congregation.

Life and Death should not be based on allegiance to people. Even personal decisions about life or death were ventured into based on how other people would feel about them. How loyal they were to the methods of the church. How many times have people passed away because they practiced healing in a way they thought would be acceptable to other people? Sadly, but out of fear of rejection or letting down a standard God didn’t require of them. A person recently wrote to me about people that had passed away following “the rules” which meant a “certain” way of following divine healing. I began to recall my experience with this.

As I looked around me, people who loved their families and cared about them were too frightened of being accused of being a bad Christian with very little faith (a horrible sin to our church) and not following the teaching on healing. At least the one that had been designed by someone long ago, a method of not accepting medical assistance. When an elder took the route of surgery for an illness he was treated very badly for it in our congregation.

Years ago, a person I was close to, had gone so far in their divine healing journey that the doctors could no longer help them. This person called me and wanted to know if they were doing the right thing. I don’t know what they were looking from me. I didn’t know what to tell them. It’s as if they wanted an assurance from me. I was not a minister at the time, but they were probably just looking for affirmation in a hopeless situation. I was hurt that they had so much doubt about their course of action. They had heaven to look forward to but I couldn’t help but feel that the culture of loyalty made her feel she had no choice but to go this route. The pressure to conform had a life-altering effect.

I also remember being at the bedside of a long-standing church member who was facing death if she didn’t get medical treatment. She said to me that the doctors were not God and that she was going to trust him to be her doctor because”that’s what we’re supposed to do right, Sis. Renee?” That cut me to my heart. Very unconvincingly I said, well you should pray about it and see what the Lord tells you. But her mind was made up and I knew it and it sadden me. Why are you asking me for “confirmation?” Why do you think that “that’s what we’re supposed to do”. How could she take a group approach to something that that was so individual? It always bothered me that I didn’t even feel comfortable telling her to abandon this and get a doctor. I didn’t like the lack of worth she put on her life or the questioning in her voice. She was looking for approval of her actions like she was asking about putting boots on when there’s snow. “ Right? Isn’t that what you do.” It haunts me to this day.

Be loyal to Christ and his Word, whatever the cost.