Spiritual Abuse-What are the Signs You may be in an Abusive Church?

Who gave these churches the right to change the way God set up the church?  Back then, as a newbie, I tried to make excuses, such as, “Well, they’re doing some things right”…and, “these are different times we’re living in now, and after all it looks like they do love the LORD”.

When I first came out of the spiritually abusive church, I felt I must surely be the only one in the world that had ever experienced such abuse and betrayal in the “house of God”.  Some day soon, I hope to get around to posting about what happened there in the “full, unedited version”. But not just yet, …at this time I just feel led to tell a few incidents that happened during that time period, as a new believer, I realize I was being groomed to be conformed…not into the image of the Beloved, Jesus Christ, but being groomed to be conformed into a counterfeit, an apostate, a Pharisee.

There’s a lot to tell from the very beginning that should have been warning signals. Yes, I do believe very early on the Holy Spirit was showing me in the Word,…….that the church I was involved in at that time, was controlling, biblically “off”, legalistic,  and trying to get me to conform to their system, their “ways” of doing church, and it was a controlling man made system full of man made doctrines and traditions of men that really had little to do with the pure worship of God.

I had gone into this church as a new spirit-filled believer, wanting to serve Jesus with all my heart and ability. I was studying the Word of God, and was like a sponge to learn more.  I started wondering why this church didn’t bear any resemblance to the early church in the bible in the book of Acts. 

As you can see, those are the excuses a novice might come up with who has little or no experience in how things work in the apostate, organized church system. Jesus doesn’t change by the whims and times of man, He, is the same, yesterday, today and forever. That’s one of the awesome things to admire, thank and love Jesus for, He’s not capricious.

Anyway, after the initial love bombing was over at this small church I had joined, the grooming and subtle controlling began. You know it’s amazing….no matter how small the church, there seems to be a set of unspoken “rules” that as if by magic, become operable. You can count on it……

With me, I was in this to be real, to love and serve the LORD, but I had a lot to learn about the way the “church did church” and expected its members to “do church”.  Meanwhile, I was getting little memo’s in my study time in the bible from the Holy Spirit, concerning these issues in the church. For example, this one…



12As many as desire to make a fair shew in the flesh, they constrain you to be circumcised; only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ. 13For neither they themselves who are circumcised keep the law; but desire to have you circumcised, that they may glory in your flesh. 14But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world. 15For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature. 16And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.”Galatians 6



Now, see, it’s pretty plain- in the context of what the Spirit was showing me, that even modern-day churches don’t demand their congregants to get physically circumcised, but they do try to bring them  back under the law, and into the bondage and conformity to legalism. They want you to conform to their pattern, so “they can GLORY IN YOUR FLESH”. So, that in your outward appearance, you’ll look and act JUST LIKE THEM! The problem here is that it’s all superficial, like Jesus accused the Pharisees, of looking like whitened sepulchres, only inside they were full of dead mens bones.

Something else the Holy Spirit was showing me in the Word of God about that time was this, that went along the same lines and was confirming the other scripture………..



14But their minds were blinded: for until this day remains the same veil not taken away in the reading of the old covenant; which veil is done away in Christ.

15But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the veil is upon their hearts.

16Nevertheless when one shall turn to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away.

17Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.

18But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord. 2nd Corinthians 3.



Legalism! Being practiced in the household of God! And the LORD was trying to show me in His Word that this was not His way…that I was free in Him and  showing me not to allow myself to be brought under the bondage of their system. You see, if “your veil is taken away”, you be able to see clearly, and have the “eyes to see, and ears to hear” that Jesus has provided for those who love and obey Him and His Word.

You would be surprised how many churches are doing this in one form or another, and believe me, they will not take kindly to a new member who comes in expecting to remain uncontaminated by their system and doctrines.

If you’ve come to this page, I’m assuming that you may be in a church situation that doesn’t seem right, and in fact may be an abusive church. You see, what I’ve described IS spiritual abuse, but inevitably, if a new member doesn’t conform, it’s not going to be a matter of if, but when, the spiritual abuse becomes very up front and personal, and directed toward you. That’s when decisions have to be made…and you either succumb to the manipulation and fear, or…you leave.

I pray for each and every person who comes here with such a burden on your heart, that you will be set free and healed from all legalistic, man-made bondages. Jesus loves you and wants you to be FREE to love and serve Him in the Spirit, free of the shackles of Nicolaitanism.

As I said before, when I came out of the apostate church I felt so alone, and like there was no one in the world to talk to that understood. Just know that here, you will find brothers and sisters that care, and you CAN talk to and share your experiences, and you will not be ostracized, or condemned. Talking, sharing, and praying together about the  spiritual abuse we’ve suffered is very cathartic and healing, and this is basically what this blog is all about. 

May Jesus bless you~


10 comments on “Spiritual Abuse-What are the Signs You may be in an Abusive Church?

  1. […] Spiritual Abuse-What are the Signs You may be in an Abusive Church? — Spiritual Abuse Sanctuary […]

  2. Susan Dumbill says:

    I live in the UK and have been watching TBN UK for some time now. Some of the 30-60 minutes presentations from known teachers etc seem fine, but I have an uneasy feeling about TBN as an organization.
    Also, I have found several of the people who staff their UK London based Prayer Line quite distant, almost cold. Their advice seems ok initially, but it seems to be ‘standard’ response, rather than a personal one.
    I can’t quite put my finger on it, but either something is very wrong, or they’re just significantly lacking the personal, caring response. I honestly don’t think that all of them are really that bothered about us as individuals, but rather maybe more concerned about keeping the TV Channel going, as if they’re being told how to do it. But sheep are individuals, with different personalities and needs. I honestly feel very un-cared for by them, and don’t think I’ll bother calling their prayer line again

    • Scarlett says:

      Hello Susan, thank you for visiting this blog. Well, I could write a book about the Apostate Churches here in the US, which would also include all the TV channels like TBN.
      TV time and running a channel or a church is very expensive in terms of massive amounts of money to keep it going. The TV big shots usually have a prayer line or call center because they know that brings in the money. The old line about “partnering” or “planting a seed”, or….offering to send you a prayer cloth, bible or CD. It’s all geared to garner donations from the faithful sheep.
      All that said, Susan, you really don’t need them nearly as much as they need you…(money). Study your bible earnestly, and spend much time in prayer, and you’ll find the Lord will minister to you in a loving caring way because He knows all about you and your needs. He is faithful to provide.
      It’s good to find a like minded Christian to fellowship and pray with, even on a weekly basis, meeting in others homes for shared meals, worship, prayer and fellowship like the early church is much better than any prayer line, or church building.
      God bless you very much,

  3. Shannon says:

    We left our church several months back. Everything is somewhat fresh but the Lord Jesus has been so tender and graceful in working with us. Mainly myself.

    Because of my background and loses, I see now that I was a vulnerable catch. We earnestly wanted to love and serve him at that small church. It took me to the point of an emotional breakdown to see I had to repent. I had to choose life. I really stopped reading the Bible. I didn’t even truly pray. I wanted to escape. Anxiety and bouts of depression consumed me. Especially anxiety. And this is an eye opener. I was also a staff member.

    So I am still grasping for information on this subject. God is healing me. And one way if by information. We have found a great church farther away. I am stillfresh on pain and anxiety. Trust issue. But I also learning g to live life again.

    Thank you

    • Scarlett says:

      Dear Shannon. I’m so happy that you found the courage to get out of that abusive church. It’s hard to leave when you know ahead of time, you will be ostracized for doing so. It will take longer to heal than you may believe, so give yourself plenty of time and rather than jumping into “church service” right off the bat, spend more time in deep prayer and bible study. Ask the Holy Spirit to be your teacher…praying daily for wisdom and discernment. You will be surprised what the Lord will begin revealing to you about your church and many other needful things.
      Thank you for visiting my blog.
      God bless you and your family,

  4. Maria Tatham, a gentle iconoclast says:

    Hi, Scarlett! I think that people expect the Nicolaitan thing – that is, to be led by a man instead of the Lord and so, being comfortable with what they know (are used to) or even uncomfortable or hurt, they experience turmoil they can’t understand and sometimes – often? – stick around. The problem can be complicated and if we or someone we know wants godly counsel this would be to seek the Lord with all their heart and ask to be led by His Spirit through His Word.

  5. The sad thing is that there are crazy legalistic churches…and on the other side of the coin, churches which don’t care about sin at all. There are prosperity churches, which send people to hell with their sweet and clever lies, and there are Bethel style demonic/new age churches glorying in false signs and wonders.
    Few churches teach that we read the word and seek to obey Jesus Christ…because we know him and adore him and are so very thankful for what he suffered in life and on that cold hard cross in front of his gloating enemies. Thus, we must all get to know his word so that we can test every single word we hear from every single source…and if what we hear is false, we flee with no consideration for the temporal cost. I have many friends caught in the Bethel church lie, so I examined the scriptures to see what was true…and this is what I found:

  6. Laurie Hopper says:

    Hi Scarlett,

    Your story is my story. I went through the same things and in the end I knew something was not right and began asking Jesus what that was. In the beginning I felt loved and embraced and unity of the Holy Spirit, but once I was in leadership and as I sought Jesus He gave me an eye opening experience. I looked at myself and could see that I became like them not like Jesus. I also felt very far away from the Lord and I noticed I was struggling with sins I never struggled with before. The Lord spoke to me and told to get out! And repent! I did! I also felt persecuted in my own church by clicky groups.
    I could see clearly that this was not the body of Christ but the Tares that He speaks about that the enemy has planted that poison you and make you sick. It took me a while to get close to Jesus after this break. Because I had my husband come against me with the scripture to not forsake assembling together.
    I felt there were evil forces tgat camd against me even my friends. I was very confused when I came out but then the Lord began to travel Himsel to me in scripture. The word now looked different to me than it looked while I was in church. Like I was blinded and now could see what he speaks about in regards to false teachings and preaching another Jesus.
    I tried to attend 2 other churches but felt that He was not there. So now I seek Him on my own and I study the word with a few women that don’t know Him yet.
    I have been out of church for a year and feel better and closer to him than I did in the church system. Scarlett I have been studying Revelation and I believe that Babylon is the church system man made commandments. The Lord Jesus tells us to get out before we participate in her sins. I first thought this spoke of another religious system but now I see that He maybe speaking about all of the church denominations that man has created the Lord is calling to Repentance. I’m so glad I found some people to talk to about this. I have felt alone through all this. Thanks so much for sharing.

    • Scarlett says:

      Hi Laurie…your and my stories are the stories of many well meaning believers. Some of them were able to see through the deception and leave; but others are still trapped in manipulative, abusive systems that keep them in spiritual bondage and fear. We must pray for them.

      After much study and prayer, I have come to the conclusion that the root of the problem is what Jesus called out in the book of Revelation about hating the doctrines and deeds of the Nicolaitans, which boiled down, means the “clergy-laity” religious hierarchical false church system that puts the “leadership” under the control of man, rather than the Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit of God. You will NEVER hear this preached about in churches. Why? They would have to expose themselves and the truth would get out, rather like Martin Luther exposing the corruption of the Roman Catholic Church.
      It’s good you are teaching, and doing an outreach with a couple other women. I pray the Holy Spirits presence will be there and that they will accept the Lord Jesus as Lord and Savior and be filled with the Holy Spirit.
      May Jesus Christ bless you and them as you follow on to know Him in greater measure,

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