Not all churches are the same, even churches that claim membership in the same denomination or organization include both good churches and bad churches. Every church has its own personality, character, goals, and objectives. Most churches that could be called “Apostolic”, are very wonderful places to worship at, and grow closer to God in. Unfortunately, many other churches fitting almost the same criteria as the wonderful churches, aren’t very wonderful at all. We do not live in a perfect world, this should not be a surprise. Experiences with bad churches. be they Apostolic or otherwise, can greatly damage a Christian’s perspective and respect for churches in general. Please realize that all Apostolic or non-Apostolic churches should not be judged by experiences from the existence of a few bad churches in their ranks.
CULTS: Offering help to gain CONTROL
Along the same lines, many organizations (including some Apostolic churches), offer help to the needy, and comfort to the hurting, as bait to gain the opportunity to acquire control of them. Many different approaches are used, such as intimidation, isolation, and excessive emotional/spiritual pressures. It doesn’t matter if the stated purpose of the group is self help (finding yourself, becoming whole), or getting a mansion in Heaven, if CONTROL techniques are used, the organization should be treated like a cult. To be fair, the majority of Christian churches today are not Cults by doctrine, the problems arise when the leader(s) of an individual fellowship (church, parish, etc.) decides that the ends justify the means. With this thought, it is suddenly okay to use fear and intimidation to “save” or “help” others. We disagree with this concept and hope to help others avoid this wicked snare. It doesn’t matter if the source is a self help motivational seminar, or a misguided church leader, the result from controlling tactics is still a loss of free choice.
Ten warning signs of a potentially unsafe church/leader.
- Absolute authoritarianism without meaningful accountability.
- No tolerance for questions or critical inquiry.
- No meaningful financial disclosure regarding budget, expenses such as an independently audited financial statement.
- Unreasonable fear about the outside world, such as impending catastrophe, evil conspiracies and persecutions.
- There is no legitimate reason to leave, former followers are always wrong in leaving, negative or even evil.
- Former members often relate the same stories of abuse and reflect a similar pattern of grievances.
- The group/leader will use intimidation techniques and/or public humiliation to retain members.
- Followers feel they can never be “good enough”.
- The group/leader is always right.
- The group/leader is the exclusive means of knowing “truth” or receiving validation, no other process of discovery is really acceptable or credible.
Philippians 2:12 “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” It is NOT the job of another (church/leader/pastor/priest) to do it for you!.
Ten signs of a safe church/leader.
- A safe group/leader will answer your questions without becoming judgmental and punitive.
- A safe group/leader will disclose information such as finances and often offer an independently audited financial statement regarding budget and expenses. Safe groups and leaders will tell you more than you want to know.
- A safe group/leader is often democratic, sharing decision making and encouraging accountability and oversight.
- A safe group/leader may have disgruntled former followers, but will not vilify, excommunicate and forbid others from associating with them.
- A safe group/leader will not have a paper trail of overwhelmingly negative records, books, articles and statements about them.
- A safe group/leader will encourage family communication, community interaction and existing friendships and not feel threatened.
- A safe group/leader will recognize reasonable boundaries and limitations when dealing with others.
- A safe group/leader will encourage critical thinking, individual autonomy and feelings of self-esteem.
- A safe group/leader will admit failings and mistakes and accept constructive criticism and advice.
- A safe group/leader will not be the only source of knowledge and learning excluding everyone else, but value dialogue and the free exchange of ideas.