Suffering for Truth: When churches force members to leave

Have you ever gone to church leadership because of some alarming things being taught in your church? Were you shut down for having a "tone," even though you humbly and scripturally presented your concerns?

As the Great Falling Away continues in our beloved church communities, it seems that even those who once were thought "solid" are not immune to the yeast of false teachings and rogue leadership bent on silencing concerns. Often, they'll play the "tone card" to do this. It may have happened to you.

A friend of mine allowed me to re-publish her testimony, and it's one that might stir a lot of emotions for many of you. What happened to her and her family is very sad, but what her family is doing now serves as a tale and a trend you are going to be hearing a lot more about in the year ahead.

Suffering for the Truth    

                                                  By Jenna Guerette   (Originally published at Truth or Trend)

Ever since I was a child, I always found it important to stand up for the truth.  I'm talking about the truth that is only found in Scripture.  My childhood church turned emergent during the 1990's.  I noted that something was wrong right away.  My family had held on there for years because of our friendships that we had there.  We knew that if we left we would lose them.  (Sounds like great friends eh?)  I was only taught Arminian doctrine.

Eventually, there was a complete exodus of most of the members of this church.  The next church my family attended went emergent and word of faith.  I didn't know these terms back then.  I just knew something was wrong.  During my time at this church, I got married and had my daughter.  My parents and siblings continued to attend along with us.  One Sunday the pastor of the church announced that any who disagreed with the direction of the church could find their way to the nearest exit.  He said that he was leading the congregation south and we were welcome to head north.  Not surprisingly, we left that church.

My husband and I were left extremely discouraged.  We decided to try a church that a family friend had recommended.

Once we attended there, it was like a breath of fresh air.  The pastor preached from God's Word.  He spoke out against Rick Warren, The Secret, Oprah, and The Shack.  He taught us about the errors of the Emergent Church , mysticism, and contemplative prayer.  For the first time in my life I felt like I belonged to a church family.  My husband, my parents, and I got involved in the church.  Our pastor introduced us to "The Way of the Master."  My husband began an evangelism ministry that was fully supported by our church.  He and a number of other men went to the "Ambassador's Academy."  Every Friday night they would go out and share the gospel.  This ministry was thriving.  We had friends, ministries we loved, and the truth from the pulpit.  Life was great!

After being at the church for a number of years, things began to change.  Our pastor became cold and distant.  He took a six month sabbatical and wrote a book.  His wife (who called me frequently) became inaccessible.  The church had an elders' board.  This was a un-elected board.  The men on the board simply appointed new elders.  The head elder was always one of two men.  No others on the board would ever have this position. Our pastor became known as a "teaching elder."

Strange things began happening.  The evangelism ministry was called into question.  The elders wanted the open-air preaching to stop.  Apparently, there were some complaints from our community about this ministry.  The men in the ministry were adhering to all the laws and bylaws for our community.  This was just persecution.  An executive decision was made by the elders to dissolve the evangelism ministry.  The people in the ministry could still go out and witness but they could not use the church's name when witnessing.  They were to be completely separate from the church.

Around this time, a group named "Life Action Ministries" came to our church.  Prior to them coming, they sent a promoter.  It was kind of like what the circus would do in the old days.  Believe me, this was no less of a circus.  One of the men that came, spoke in detail about an adulterous affair he had had while on a business trip.  He credited "Life Action Ministries" with reviving him.  The whole thing was carefully scripted to elicit emotion from the congregation.  I knew that something was wrong with this ministry.

When their team visited our church eight weeks later, I was astounded.  They used every method of Charles Finney to manipulate the congregation.  They also endorsed Keswick Theology.  They believed that each Christian had to reach a crisis moment in their life.  At this point of crisis, they could achieve a second blessing or filling of the Holy Spirit.  The main speaker admitted that he had these revivals down to a "science."  He took many verses out of context in order to achieve his goals.  Microphones were set up at the front of the church so that people could go and confess their sins openly to the congregation.  People were told to write down their idols on Styrofoam cups.  They were then to come to the front of the church and crush these cups with their feet.

A cursory look at the website of "Life Action Ministries" revealed that they had no problem with mysticism.  They had numerous books for sale.  Including those by Henry Blackaby, Priscilla Shirer, Jim Cymbala, Gary Thomas, and Mark Batterson.   They also quoted Catholic mystics such as Henri Nouwen and Brother Lawrence.  Here is a link to their beliefs -  Through two visits to my church they raked in about $62,000.  This ministry has long tentacles.  They are involved in the SBC, Moody, and The True Woman Movement. This ministry received a cult-like following at my church.

The women in my church decided to attend a True Woman Conference in 2012.  As I looked at the list of speakers, I became alarmed.  Priscilla Shirer was one of the speakers.  I've already outlined the problems with this woman in a previous blog post.  I contacted the True Woman organization regarding my concerns with this speaker.  I was told that this conference wasn't for a woman like me.  I also brought my concerns to my pastor ( teaching elder) and the head elder.  They weren't going to stop the women from attending but they would go over what mysticism was with them.  They appeared annoyed that I'd brought this to their attention.

Unfortunately, I soon learned that the women in my church were reading "Jesus Calling" and "1000 Gifts."  I discovered that the church library had books by Henry Blackaby and Richard Foster.  I became alarmed.  I brought my concerns to my pastor.  I was told that he and the elders couldn't police the church.  They had too many strings on their violin to deal with it.  If I kept bringing disunity to the church then I would find myself in a home church.   I also tried to ask questions about Tim Keller and John Piper.  Both of these men do not believe in a literal six day creation.  They were constantly being quoted by our assistant pastor.  I wanted some clarification about what to do with this errant belief.  My pastor - teaching elder- told me to have grace for this error.  He also hoped that I would have grace if he ever "fell." My husband, family, and I were puzzled by these words.  My Mom and I had used Facebook to try to warn the women of the church about Priscilla Shirer and to bring attention to these mystical books.  We soon found out that this was unappreciated.

On St. Patrick's Day 2013 my family was kicked out of our church.  My husband and I were not present that day.  My husband had to work and I was home with our son who was sick.  My husband had been trying for 8 months to be able to meet with the elders board regarding the evangelism ministry.  They were still against open air preaching and my husband wanted them to show him from Scripture where it was wrong.  Instead the elders used a back door approach to get rid of us.  They decided to kick my parents out.  Three elders surrounded my parents.  My daughter and brother were present.  They did this in a back pew at the end of a service so that everyone could see it.  They told my parents that they were no longer welcome to worship with them.

One elder expressed that his wife would miss my children.  The elders didn't like us warning the flock on Facebook.  Facebook wasn't to be used as an outreach or for evangelism.  They were also appalled that my Mom had shared a sermon by John MacArthur about the seven year tribulation.  Our pastor - teaching elder- had his own, very original thoughts regarding the end times.  We were to accept these and no other teachings.  Also, the head elder expressed three times that he had no problem with lectio divina, contemplative prayer, and mysticism.  He also expressed that the church was going with "Life Action Ministries."  He acted aggressively towards my parents.  He yelled at them saying, "Do you think you're smarter than me?"  Our pastor - teaching elder- was out in the hallway.  He was waiting for their report.  Finally, the horrible interview ended.  These elders had the audacity to end it in a prayer about unity.  They mumbled something about an official meeting where my parents could plead their case.  Unfortunately, they neglected to give the time and place.  As of this writing, my parents have heard nothing from any elder or leader from our former church.

We were absolutely stunned.  I walked around like I was in a fog.  My husband was working 14 hr. days, 7 days a week.  I received 2 calls from the youth pastor of the church.  Each one, I let go to the answering machine.  I was in shock.  I sat down to write a letter.  I put nine hours into it.  Everything I said was backed up with proof.  My husband and I sent it to our elders and a few selected friends.  The only letter we received back from the elders was one full of personal attacks.  What we said was true but our tone was critical.  We were also told that we were responsible for the loss of numerous friendships for our children.  I was stunned. The next Sunday, a congregational meeting was held.  They stated that my family hadn't been kicked out.  Bits of my letter were read out of context.  A man who had eaten numerous dinners in our home, slandered my Mom and myself in front of the church.  A trusted friend told me what happened at this meeting.  All in all, the meeting was a complete snow job.  It was my family's word against the elders.  The elders were anointed by God.  How could they be wrong?

Since this horrible event, we have tried another church in our community. At this church, we were frozen out.  Apparently, they had heard our story from the elders at our former church.  They made sure to make us feel unwelcome.  We also experienced errant teaching while we were there.   Finally, we couldn't handle their unkindness towards us any longer.  So we decided to start a home church.

Another couple who had also been kicked out of our former church began joining us.  They were dismissed for Facebook infractions as well.  Each Sunday we meet in our home to sing and listen to a sermon podcast.  We also share in communion.  It has been a time of growth.  We have learned so much about doctrine.  We'd never been taught doctrine at all.  We were always told that it was divisive.  Finally, we understand doctrine.

I'm hoping that through sharing this that I can get over the trauma.  Perhaps some of you have experienced this type of abuse.  That is all I can call it - abuse.

Romans 8:18 " For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us."