Happy new year to all our readers! Sorry to break it to those who (as last year) predicted that we would not see 2014, not sure if they meant the site or the authors – but all are still alive and well!
Lots of new posts are in the works, but for now we continue the series (based on this article) on marks of an abusive church.
The third characteristic of abusive churches is the rigid, legalistic lifestyle of their members. This rigidity is a natural result of the leadership style. Abusive churches require unwavering devotion to the church from their followers. Allegiance to the church has priority over allegiance to God, family, or anything else.
Among our supporters we have two women who have lost their husbands to SCOAN, someone who lost their fiance and many others who have lost brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, sons and daughters to TB Joshua’s ministry. Beth, as a one time disciple of TB Joshua reports that “Contact with my family and friends was totally forbidden without written permission from him. Any desire to make contact was taken to be an indication that you wanted to return to your old life.” For Hattie, another ex-disciple, the impact of SCOAN on previously happy families was one of the main things that led her to rethink her involvement. She says “Within the families I knew who were involved, there was relationship breakdown, depression, isolation from the wider Christian community and rejection of family not involved in SCOAN. All as a direct result of SCOAN involvement“.
The article continues:
Often members are required or pressured to attend Bible studies five, six, or seven days a week. There is a requirement to do evangelism; a certain quota of contacts must be met, and some churches even require members to fill out time cards recording how many hours they spent in evangelism, etc. Daily schedules are made for the person; thus he is endlessly doing the church’s ministry. Former members of one church told me they were working for their church from 5:00 am to 12:00 midnight five days a week.
Beth confirms this: “We were expected to work all hours of the day running the church, practicing music/editing videos/writing materials/having meetings. Service days involved even longer hours: starting at 6am to process all the sick people who came for healing and often going on into the night. We often fell asleep on the choir stage in full view of the church due to the exhaustion. Disciple meetings were frequently called in the middle of the night and we were expected to attend. ”
Members of such churches frequently drop out of school, quit working, or even neglect their families to do the work required by the church. There are also guidelines for dress, dating, finances, and so on. Such details are held to be of major importance in these churches.
Almost every young person we know of who has gone to SCOAN has done so at the expense of their education, and in some cases against the will of their family. When they have left, it has been hard adjusting when all their peers have continued their education, started careers and families etc.
In churches like these, people begin to lose their personal identity and start acting like programmed robots. Many times, the pressure and demands of the church will cause a member to have a nervous breakdown or fall into severe depression. As I reflect on these characteristics I think of Jesus’ words concerning the Pharisees who “tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger” (Matt. 23: 4). What a contrast from the leadership style of Jesus who said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. . . .For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:28-30).