Yesterday was a very sad and disturbing day for me. As I’ve mentioned several times before, very shortly after accepting Jesus Christ as our Savior in 1983, my wife and I began attending an independent fundamentalist church in the area and we continued there for eight years. There were many good things about our stay at that church, but there were also many negatives. The pastor was a martial arts enthusiast who lorded over the church through intimidation – physical, psychological, and spiritual. His exaggerated macho swagger was caricaturish. In hindsight, I can say with confidence it was a spiritually toxic atmosphere. I’m ashamed we stayed as long as we did and I’m especially ashamed I allowed my increasing bitterness and our eventual exit from that church to draw me away from the Lord for many years. Men will always fail us but the Lord is our Rock.
Shortly after I returned to the Lord a couple of years ago, I was made aware of some terrible accusations against my former church via an internet report. Many years after we left, the pastor handed over the pastorate to his son who is also heavily involved in mixed martial arts fighting and the church was subsequently embroiled in multiple accusations of sexual abuse and cover-up spanning a couple of decades. None of this was surprising to me given the atmosphere at that church.
Yesterday I came across the blog of one of the victims and a post she wrote last year detailing some of the abuse. I knew this person when she was a pre-teen during the period she was abused at the church and I also knew her abusers (one of whom was around 40-years-old at the time and the other was an individual who was close to her in age and abused her as a child and later as an adult). Argh!!!! I was sickened, sickened, sickened as I read her accounts of repeated abuse. I was angered by the cover-up orchestrated by the church “leadership.” I’m grateful the former victim is now following the Lord after walking away from Him but my heart was very heavy about the sin that engulfed that church and the pain that was inflicted. The son continues as pastor with his father at his side as pastor emeritus although many of the members I knew have left.
We’re all aware of the abuse of children by pedophile Catholic priests but, unfortunately, there’s also been abuse within evangelical churches. Beware of churches in which the pastor is a spiritual bully and there is little if any credible oversight. Make sure checks and safeguards are in place in the children ministries at your church. I was a Sunday School teacher for six years at the church in question and there were ZERO protocols in place protecting children. In God we trust, all others have fallen natures.
I’m not a district attorney so all of this must be filed under “accusations” but as I said, the alleged crimes fit the circumstances as I remember them.
I pray for this woman and the others who were abused at my former church by those they trusted, that they give their pain and anger over to the Lord and draw ever closer to Him. I pray for the abusers, that they sincerely repent and beg the Lord for forgiveness.