Abusive Pastors

To help it grow, I recently joined another church of the same denomination that’s currently having services in the pastor’s home. I still wanted to attend events from my former church when it didn’t conflict with anything from my new church, but unfortunately my former pastor is mad about me leaving and gave me the ultimatum to be “all in” either his church or the other. That was in an unsettling text message that preceded a phone conversation that turned ugly. Knowing I was staying in the other church, he decided I should no longer be present at any event that involved his own church. He said my presence could cause negativity, though he wouldn’t say how so. It was then that I told him I thought some of the things he’d said were negative. So many things he said, many of them from the pulpit, made me feel uneasy. I had kept my mouth shut because I wanted to avoid a problem and just hoped he would quit saying the kinds of things that troubled me.

I want to get it out of the way that people should respect their pastor and I don’t encourage rebellion. But that doesn’t mean everything a pastor says should go unchallenged. Pastors are human too and they’re not infallible. Pastors trying to control the lives of their congregation is one form of abuse. One day my former pastor made an inappropriate announcement after an evangelist had visited the church. He’d found out some people put money together to give the evangelist, and it upset him that he wasn’t notified first. He said it was unethical for people give the evangelist money “behind the pastor’s back.” I don’t know who all gave him money, but I doubt they were being sneaky about doing this good deed. I’m sure they just didn’t feel they needed his approval, and they didn’t. (I’ve been told he has reacted the same way to people starting a Bible study without telling him.) This is something I said to him on the phone, to which he replied, “I don’t recall saying that.” I felt like saying I would tell him where to find it on YouTube, where his services are put, but I’m sure he knew what I was talking about (I doubt he would’ve forgotten that). He then said he had given money to the evangelist himself, and that the evangelist was the one who behaved unethically with the money given to him. Maybe the evangelist did behave unethically with some money given to him, but that wasn’t what my pastor said. He said some members of his church behaved unethically by not telling him they were giving the evangelist money.

It’s ironic that the pastor can accuse others of doing something behind his back, because saying things behind people’s backs is something he’s guilty of. I know of several cases, but one that involved me was him telling a woman from our church that she shouldn’t have given me a ride to the church for a social event that had been there. The reason is I’m not married to this woman, who happened to be nothing more than a friend, and she was told that “a guy shouldn’t be alone with a girl.” He never said a word to me, and I didn’t find out until weeks later. When I brought that up in our heated phone conversation, he said he was just looking out for me. He could have told us both that we may want to reconsider being in the same car to avoid a sinful temptation, in which case I would’ve told him I appreciate his concern, but nothing would happen. Instead he treated what he thought might lead to sin as though it were a sin. Months later this same woman said something that angered my brother, who went to the same church, and the pastor somehow felt this was a reason I should quit speaking with her.  I had no involvement in the petty dispute, so one day I gave her a text message about something I found on Amazon I thought she’d like. She replied, “Thank you, but Pastor told me not to talk to you anymore because of your brother, and I want to respect his wishes.” No pastor has any right to tell people who they can and can’t talk to.

I don’t know who from my former church may be reading this, and I hope none of them turn on me for criticizing “the man of God.” There are some people, hopefully none from my former church, who will side with their pastor no matter what. It doesn’t matter who’s right and who’s wrong. I’d like for everyone reading this to ask themselves if a pastor is in the right when saying members of his church need his permission to give money to an evangelist or start a Bible study, and forbids someone to talk to another person. If someone is honest enough to admit these things are wrong for anyone to do, I would next ask if that person thinks I should allow the pastor to continue behaving this way, or if I should I speak up about it. A while back the pastor said something I believe was an attempt to keep people quiet about his behavior. He said another preacher who recently visited told him he saw two black cats enter the church (I assume this was in a dream), and he felt God was telling him these black cats represented two families already in the church that were going to be causing some chaos in the church. My then-pastor added, “I’m not afraid to fight the battle, but I’d sure like to know there are some folks fighting with us.” I believe this “us against them” message was his way of looking for people to back him up if anyone spoke out against something he did or said.

I strongly believe the preacher who saw the black cats was mistaken, but even if there was something to it, it never should have been announced to the entire congregation. If anyone starts causing chaos, that’s the time to address it. The pastor shouldn’t have made a statement that could cause people to be suspicious of each other, possibly leading to gossip and division. Rather than prevent chaos, this could likely to cause it (fortunately it hasn’t). I think this so-called warning was complete nonsense and an irresponsible thing to say. That’s something else I confronted the pastor with on the phone, and then I asked him if he was going to tell people I'm one of those black cats. It wouldn’t surprise me if he did, and then I’d wonder who else would be unfairly labeled a “black cat.” The whole thing is sickening because I have nothing but respect for every family there and no matter who is targeted with suspicion, if it ever comes to that, it will be upsetting for me. Hopefully everyone knows it was a false alarm. It was said months ago, yet not one family has caused a problem that I’m aware of, much less “chaos.”

This is something I had to get off my chest, and writing is what I do. God willing, I will keep all of my friendships from my former church. If I wasn't welcome back in the church, I at least wanted to continue attending a monthly social event for young adults there, usually held at a restaurant or someone's house.  My former pastor doesn’t even want that. At one point he said, “You don’t want to go to church with us, but you want to hang out with us?” I made it quite clear that I did want to go to any service that wasn’t at the same time as a service at the other church, and even if I didn’t make it to any service at my former church, I would still like to spend time with friends from there. These people are important to me and I think of them as family. I’m someone who hates conflict and will do what he can to keep peace, so it brings me no pleasure to be writing what I am (I feel I have no choice). I believe there should be unity among members of a church, but I’m worried my former pastor is threatening that. I know for a fact that others feel the same and have considered finding another church. It’s sad, and much of it has to do with the pastor abusing his position. It’s a hard pill to swallow, and it’s not something I wanted to believe. I guess that’s why I’ve gone such a long time without saying anything.

To conclude this message, if you’re in a church where your pastor forbids you to do things based on his preference and won’t tolerate questioning of any kind, you should say something about it before it goes too far. Maybe you think your pastor has his position because God put him there, and God can’t be wrong. Well, King Solomon had his position because God put him there, and Solomon ended up doing great evil (I Kings 11:1-11). God is never wrong, but He does allow people in positions of authority to make their own decisions, whether good or bad. Like Solomon, the person may start out doing nothing but good. I have no doubt that my former pastor was once on fire for God, but something in him changed over time. Some of what he has said from the pulpit is alarming, and that’s not including so much else that happened behind the scenes. But getting back to something said from the pulpit, what my former pastor said he didn’t recall saying about giving money to an evangelist, it was said October 17, 2018. That’s for people from the church who want to hear it again on YouTube (start watching the sermon at nine minutes from the beginning [9:00]). He stated that when he was an evangelist himself and someone gave him money, whether it was one dollar or a thousand dollars, he would mention it to the pastor of the church he visited in case he wanted it put in the offering. (I guess he thought the ones who gave him money were unethical as well.) So had I set aside some of my own money to give this evangelist, I assume the pastor would've wanted me to first ask him if it should be put in the offering instead. Listen to it for yourself and let me know if you can interpret that any other way.

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