Melanie's Experience

My husband and I were a part of a local church for a year and a half. We had been going to a church out of our area and were beginning to get involved, when my sister asked us to go to this one and interpret for her (she is deaf).

When we went, there was no service, therefore the Pastor and his family took us to breakfast. It was a great meeting, we liked the people and were impressed with the way they treated us. We decided to go to the service the next week. We did, and I loved the music. However, my husband was a little leery. He even said he felt strange about it, felt like a cult. He didn't like the way the Pastor and his sister whispered and such. At any rate, we continued to go back.

We got more and more involved. First he did, by becoming a youth leader, then I did with the Praise band. We had an incident that happened with another member and were called into the office of the Pastor. We had no idea why, but we went anyway. We had listened to someone vent and were told that it was gossip and slander. The pastor asked us why we didn't go to him and tell him what happened. First of all, we were new, we had been in other churches and had never experienced anything like this.

My husband made a point about the Pastor's family talking to each other about things he tells them. This set the Pastor off in a big way. He started yelling at my husband about being unsafe, and having communication problems. He shouldn't compare him with any other pastors (since my husband made a comment about him never seeing a pastor act this way before). He continued to abuse my husband verbally until it got so heated that we had to leave.

My husband never really recovered from that meeting. He chose to leave the youth ministry and let me continue with my own junk. He just stayed in the background and supported me. We were confronted on another issue and that was the icing on the cake. He felt like the Pastor had way too much control, and didn't want to be under his authority. However, he stayed because I was in the Praise band, and wanted to stay.

Well.. I interviewed for the job opening of Secretary to the Pastor and Youth Pastor. I got the job. I had experienced some frustration with the way things were handled in the Praise Band and other ministries, but this was the clincher. I always felt like there was so much criticism and such high expectations from people in ministry. There were many red flags for me, but I brushed them off as just being "people issues".. I never questioned..or asked. It was hard to trust anyone, because you were afraid of it getting back to the pastor. Two meetings were enough for me. It felt like a beating so I didn't want go through it again. I just kept my mouth shut and did what I thought I was supposed to.

The problem is.. the rules changed as time went on. Once you thought you were doing what you were supposed to, something would change, and all of a sudden you weren't. It was awful. I worked in the office for three months, hated every minute of it. I gained 10lbs and felt depressed every day.

He was the most critical, humiliating person I have ever worked for. He demeaned me..and told me I needed to work on detail from the moment I stepped in. It was awful. I finally quit. But before I quit, I felt myself slipping away.. not wanting to be a part of the ministries. I had so many confrontations..and so many conflicts that I was reprimanded for..I couldn't take it anymore.

I was scheduled to go on a leadership conference with the leaders before I quit. I told him I didn't have to go, since he was paying for the trip. He insisted I go. I even told him I didn't want to feel guilty about going, since I quit. He insisted that it would not be like that. The trip was the last straw for me. I saw some things happen that I couldn't believe.

When I came back..I completely separated myself. I started going back to my gym and working out..and stayed away from people. I was scheduled to go to the women's conference that weekend, but I didn't want to go. I didn't want to go to our Grace Groups.

I was spending time with some friends..drinking..and hanging out. My husband and I were falling apart. He finally confronted me... and I told him I hated Pathways.. I wanted to leave. We had a good talk, and decided we needed to step away from things.

One of the leaders called Tony and asked him about our status. Tony started asking him about things like.. why does the pastor have so much money? Why does he require tithing? Why does he have such a bad attitude if you ask questions? Why does he get so angry? I heard the conversation and knew what would happen. I had been on the inside long enough to know what the leader on the phone would do. He would call the pastor and tell him everything. I told my husband we should expect a phone call and a meeting. He said..fine. So the next day we got one.

I told the pastor we could meet on Sunday after church. He agreed. That night I came home from the gym around 10 pm. My husband was waiting and said he got a weird phone call from the leader he had talked to. I said.. he probably told the pastor everything and had to call you to ask forgiveness for being a part of the "gossip". My husband was like what gossip.. I just asked questions.

All of a sudden there was a pounding on our front door. I looked at my husband and said, "It's the pastor". He said, no way.. I said.. yeah's him. I know him. So he went to the door.. I stayed in the kitchen and prayed. My husband talked to them.. he asked them to come back at a more decent hour. The pastor refused saying we needed to discuss things now. He asked my husband why he thought they were there. My husband said,"damage control". He is always so honest!

So the voices start to rise..I enter. My husband puts his arm in front of me to keep me back and the pastor starts yelling at me telling me my husband has been gossiping and slandering the church for the last 8 weeks. I said.. um.. NO. I heard the conversation.. he talked to one guy.. that guy right there. My husband had brought the leader my husband talked to on the phone as well as another leader. He can never do anything alone. (Which totally contradicts the scripture he used against us, which is Matthew 18).

I told him that he didn't gossip, he asked questions.. and he was told it would remain confidential. I looked at the leader.. he couldn't even look at me. The other leader couldn't either. I then asked him what he was doing here.. we already scheduled a meeting..and this was inappropriate. He went on to say we needed ask forgiveness and repent. My husband was like.. for what? He said he didn't have a problem talking this over with the pastor, one on one.. however.. he didn't even know what he did wrong. The pastor was like.. you slandered.. and gossiped against leaders.. and the church. My husband said, um no.. I said some things I disagreed with in regards to YOU.. no one else. I can sit with you.. and talk with you about it. The pastor said..that's not good enough.

I stopped them and said..We are not going to your church again.. we will never go there.. get off my front porch now. He said.. Oh that's great..after all we've done for you. I said.. excuse me? I was more humiliated and demeaned in my job at the church than any other place I have ever worked.. now get off my porch now. He refused.. so I told my husband to shut the door. He did. The pastor kept pounding on the door. We were freaked out. We went into the den to pray..and cry. The phone rang. He said on the answering machine that he would have to take this before the church body since we were not adhering to Matthew 18.

I got the Bible out, and read it. He never came and talked to us one on one. That's what the scripture said to do. He never did that. He brought the leaders and accused us in front of them. He wouldn't let us reconcile with him. He wanted a public beating to take place.

So.. we called some people. We asked for help. We were told not to go in and talk to the leadership. We were told to walk away. My husband called him back the next day and asked if we could bring in someone from the outside. The pastor refused. He said he wanted to know if we would be there on Sunday to repent in front of the group. My husband said, not unless we can bring someone. He asked the pastor to leave his family alone..let him deal with it. The pastor said he would expect a phone call on Sat morning.

I went to the gym on Saturday morning, the pastor was there. He confronted me. He asked me if we would be meeting. I freaked out. I told him I didn't know. I had to leave. I went home, and came back a half hour later. He was in the parking lot, and came in after me. He proceeded to follow me and my friend around the gym on his cell phone. My friend was totally creeped out. She kept asking.."what is he doing". I said...trying to scare me.

So.. my husband called him back..said he would like to meet with him in public..alone, but we would not be meeting in front of the group. One of his leaders called back and said, my husband was in "transference"(some psycho babble he uses constantly to make people feel inferior).. and the pastor would not meet with him alone. That was it.

The next thing we found out was they had sent out letters Saturday to all the members of the church for an emergency meeting. They held the meeting Sunday night and they had about 7 or so people go on stage and proceed to talk about my husband and I. I guess the leader my husband talked to on the phone read the whole conversation from paper between him and my husband. I don't know what else anyone said. Neither one of us said anything bad about the church or the pastor because we were so afraid. It wasn't until that one night that he even said anything. So I guess they made up lies.

I know for sure one incident was a total lie. The pastor had my husband's best friend stand up in the leadership meeting and tell my good friend that I had said horrible things about her. That was a total lie. He proceeded to tell people in the meeting we were wolves in sheep's clothing, we sought to destroy the church. We should be treated as pagans and tax collectors. They should shun us, and not speak to us. If anyone had questions.. they should ask the pastor, not anyone else. It was the most degrading, humiliating thing either of us has ever been through. We still have people who give us dirty looks. It's really sad.

Now.. we know the truth.. we have read about Spiritual abuse..and we know that's what it was. He had several hundred people manipulated and deceived. He will not allow anyone to question his authority. He has no one he is held accountable to. He left a church in a town nearby. He actually sold the church and took the money. That's why he started one out here. There were only two families that came here from the church besides his own brothers and sisters. I found out that a lot of the members from his old church are still upset and feel he manipulated the board, and took the money.

He lives like a king. He has a beautiful home, goes on vacations every month..he has a SUV, and just bought a convertible Camaro. The last incident that happened was with the Sept 11th thing. We were gone..obviously, but this was the last straw for another couple who had doubts with our incident. They couldn't believe we did what we did.

They held a family meeting on Sept 11th, and collected $9,000 for six members to take back to New York. They collected donations from local merchants to go with them, and the money. The money never went. They spent some of it on an outreach.. and I guess used the rest for something else. There were questions.. from some of the leaders .. and they are still dealing with that.

But one other couple has now left.. and we were able to talk to them. They now see the whole truth. We encouraged them to get into counseling..a read a book called "The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse". They read it and now know they were being abused. They are still in contact with many people there. They left on so called "good" terms.. even though they got a blasting for not going in to meet with the Pastor. After they got outside counsel, they called and told them they wouldn't be back. They got a phone call and they lectured them for an hour about their "unsafeness".

It's pretty sick the lengths they will go to save themselves. It's still going on. All we can do is pray that people see the truth,and get out soon.

Because of HIm,


Posted March 3, 2002


August 23, 1997
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