Spiritually Abused in Church? What is Your Story?

Many people wouldn’t be reading here if they hadn’t been abused in some fashion.  Those who’ve never been abused, or abusers themselves- wouldn’t know what it felt like, unless they, at some point, felt the sting of it themselves.

It’s my personal belief that all abuse hurts a person spiritually. It’s not likely there will be physical abuse in a church setting, but there, abuse will occur at the very heart of our soul, sometimes driving us into self-condemnation, guilt over false accusations, shaking our spiritual beliefs, and foundation of our faith to the very core.

Our reaction to this may come first as shock, followed by anger and indignation. And soon after, if we are lucky enough to remove ourselves from the abusive situation, we may lapse into a feeling of rejection as we become isolated from former brethren.

My own personal journey through the pain of spiritual abuse was absolute bewilderment and a mind numbing core of hurt that pierced the deepest places in my heart. Even with Christ there to carry me though this, it was without doubt, one of the worse experiences of my life. How could I ever trust “church people” again, now that I knew the truth? Might they not all be like that? I isolated myself from churches, not wanting to take another chance at exposing my deepest feelings to those who were going to reject, falsely judge and hurt me.

My experience with spiritual abuse wasn’t an isolated incident that merely “hurt my feelings”. Instead, without  going into details, it was a long, complex series of abuses that continued over a period of time, that finally culminated with a yet another betrayal, this time even more serious than the others. With this came the  realization that I had to get out. The abuse was affecting me spiritually and emotionally, and there was no other choice but to leave. I couldn’t change anything by staying.

I went through this alone. There was no one to talk to about what happened. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so alone, betrayed, falsely accused,  and rejected in my entire  life. It’s very hard to describe the feelings I had. I’m not sure there are even adequate words. Maybe something close would be like when someone closest to you died, and there is at first shock and then the grieving process sets in after that, but even that doesn’t quite fit, because when I left the church where I was abused, the only one who I felt had died, was me.  The ones who abused and condemned me wrongly, basically for their own false perceptions, went on, justifying themselves together, and continued on apparently oblivious to the havoc created in my life. (Only later, have I found there are many others who were going through, or had gone through a similar circumstance, but at the time, there wasn’t the ground swell rising up of voices on the Internet to expose this “best kept secret” going on in churches all across America). I felt like I was the only one.


Next came the feelings of bitterness and resentment at those responsible for abusing me. This was a small church, so my betrayers had once been my closest friends. Well, at least some of them. The pastor was an enigma…at times he seemed compassionate and real, but most of the time he had a bully pulpit, and made a practice of calling out those who had committed what he felt were infractions in such a way that everyone knew who he was pointing his finger at. He had his little group of favorites, especially those who curried his favor and fawned over him. That wasn’t my style though and maybe he sensed that.

I knew in my heart what they did was wrong, and I also knew my resentment was wrong. I knew I needed to forgive, that I must forgive, but I didn’t know how I was going to be able to do that, the pain I felt went so deep.

Jesus said, unless we forgive others, our father can’t forgive us. That’s a big order sometimes. But unforgiveness is destructive, both on the offenders but also on the one that needs to extend forgiveness. I think this issue of unforgiveness is truly very misunderstood, but I think our own spiritual growth will be stunted if we fail to forgive and, instead,  allow a root of bitterness to grow in our hearts and become twisted and ugly.

Think about that. If we allow our hearts to become cold and bitter, then Satan has won the round and we will end up more like those who abused us…hypocrites. I don’t want to be like that and neither do you. We need to keep short accounts with God so our prayers can get answered and so that we can move forward in our walk in the
Spirit, leaving ugly emotions behind us. That is the victory over spiritual abuse.

It can be done, but only through much prayer and communion with Jesus in worship, asking for help and laying all burdens at the foot of the cross, for truly, we can do nothing without him.

Jesus bless all of you going through these struggles and I thank God who will give us the victory as we turn fully to him.

Since that time, many years ago, I have studied the phenomena of spiritual abuse in churches, in depth, inside and out, and from every angle. I know what makes it tick, and the games people play in church, all the way from the pulpit, to those in other “leadership” aspects of the church, all the way to those who sit in the pews. There is a pattern to these things, even from church to church, from one denomination to another, in one way or another. I have arrived at this from not any disconnected “psychological analysis”, but from personal experience with scripture and an intimate relationship with my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who by His mercy and grace brought me out of it.

If you have been spiritually abused in a church, by the pastor, or another church member, or even the group. You may tell your personal story here, anonymously. Just post it under the comment section here and I will create a post from that, leaving out the parts you choose, (names, places, etc). Your privacy will be vigorously protected. E-mail addresses, personal names will never be released to others, nor will any other privately communicated information. If you would like to talk to me personally, send an e-mail to SpiritualAbuseSanctuary@hotmail.com. I will be glad to talk to you. Skype chats can also sometimes be arranged. I am not a psychologist,  nor do I give medical advice, but I will be happy to listen to hurting people who have been through spiritually abusive situations in church, or in the home.

~God bless you,


15 comments on “Spiritually Abused in Church? What is Your Story?

  1. What a great and compassionate article, dear Scarlett. ❤ I am impressed!!

    And, by the way, it seems your and my abuse experiences in church were very, very similar! 😛

    Love you in HIM,

    • Scarlett says:

      Yes, Susanne, ours and many, many others. One can only imagine the hundreds, or thousands of Jesus lambs that have been wounded by these apostate, spiritually dead churches.
      How sad indeed what has become of the church our LORD JESUS intended for His people; a mere sham, a caricature of the real and true church. And no wonder why the world laughs and mocks Christianity because of these powerless “things” called “churches” that bring not glory to the LORD, but reproach upon His Holy Name. Still we know that the LORD will have His CHURCH, His ecclesia, and Satan will not be able to stop it.
      May grace and peace be multiplied to you dear Susanne,

  2. Frankie says:

    Scarlett, thank you for your kind words! 🙂 When I was reading your response, I felt like I was coated with peptobismol to prevent any more stinging from the hurt. Re-reading your words are very healing and so are the other well thought out responses you post for people who have gone through bad experiences. Again, thank you! God bless you, Scarlett! ^__^

  3. Grace says:

    My first experience with abuse from the church was after my husband of 29 years bought a gun and attempted to kill me. It was horrible, and the Lord miraculously rescued me, the police were called, my husband was arrested, and convicted. A 2 year restraining order was issued by the judge. I physically shook for many weeks after this occurred. Before calling the police on the right after the incident, I called my pastor, who had been counseling my husband. He told me not to call the police, because it was just a cry for help. But my son in law had already called them, and the police were there immediately.

    My husband confessed to our pastor everything he had done, and even that he had been planning to kill me for a very long time and make it look like an accident! Knowing this, my pastor still insisted that I go thru marriage counseling with my husband! The pastor felt that with the proper medication, my husband would be safe! I was still traumatized and refused – which caused my pastor to yell and me, and from that point on he refused to acknowledge me me I attended church. (my husband had been ordered by the judge to stay away from me, so he was not permitted to attend church) Any attempt that I might make to initiate contact with my husband would have rendered the restraining order null and void.

    The rejection I suffered by the church and even christian friends was so heartbreaking that I many times wished I had been killed that night, because the heartbreak I have suffered by the church in the 10 years since has been very hard to deal with at times.

    Not long after my husband tried to kill me, I left my church and attempted to attend my daughters church. I sought impartial counseling from their pastor, a man I respected. My daughters came with me to meet with him. He was very critical and also suggested marriage counseling! Then he confessed that my husband had also paid him a visit and warned him that i might possibly seek counsel from him! My husband had told this pastor that I was mentally ill and deranged!!! And that I was just ‘using this as an excuse to ‘get out of my marriage’!!! It was horrible! My daughters assured him that this was an evil lie, but this pastor had already made up his mind. I felt betrayed and hurt by someone I thought could give me wise counsel……and we all realized how devious and evil my husband really was!

    In the ten years since, the Lord has brought about a tremendous healing to myself and my family. I am now divorced, and my children are all happy and married. But they no longer have anything to do with their father, and neither do I. He refuses to acknowledge the divorce, and insists that he is a good christian and i am in the wrong for getting a divorce.

    I found another church but just a few years after being there, I was invited to lead the worship, (since i already led the worship band). Some of the older folks refused to allow this because I was ‘a woman – as well as divorced’……..They felt this was unacceptable, so I just continued to serve leading the worship band. Last year I was working four jobs to make ends meet. I missed a few Sundays due to illness, (the first time I had missed any time whatsoever, in a number of years.) The pastor was very angry with me and said I had problems with ‘consistency’. I told him I had never missed any time in several years, but that working so many jobs was wearing down my health……(the church never paid me for leading the worship band.) He talked to me as if I were a bad dog and said i had problems with consistency, and that I would never lead worship the worship band again!

    I’m still in shock about this. And it hurt my heart so badly, but the real healing came when I not only forgave but began to pray for blessings on him as well.

    I am so thankful that Jesus came to heal the broken-hearted! It is only the enemy that tries to steal, kill and destroy…..we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, and it is important to keep that in mind.

    God bless!

    • Scarlett says:

      Grace, I am very sad that you’ve been through this terrible ordeal, and “trial by fire”. The divorce was no fault of your own and you shouldn’t be blamed for leaving. I believe in some cases, such as yours a divorce is the only way to get the civil and legal protection you need for your own physical safety, not to mention your spiritual safety- from an obviously deranged man.

      As for the wrongful suffering caused by these pastors, I am sad to say many give unscriptural counseling that condemns the victim. There is no godly discernment with these men. This is because the entire structure of “church” as we’ve known it is upside down from the top to the bottom. It is an apostate Nicolaitan system, and not the one the LORD established in the early church. I hope you will do an online study of the Doctrine and Deeds of the Nicolaitans, the thing that Jesus said he hated in the book of Revelation to study this issue, and why Jesus said He hated it! These modern churches all operate under this false Nicolaitan system.

      I would also encourage you to watch the recent videos I posted here on this blog. The LORD has recently been bringing me into fellowship with other spirit filled believers according to the principles laid forth by the Holy Spirit as shown forth in the book of Acts. We still need godly fellowship in one accord with such true believers. That is the true meaning of “assembling together”. After all, the church is not a building….it’s supposed to be us!
      This is a series of six short videos and I would suggest to pray and study through the book of Acts, and especially 1st and 2nd Corinthians for starters for yourself, and ask for the Holy Spirits guidance as to what He would have you to do.

      I am glad you were able to extract yourself from that mess, and move forward in forgiveness and healing. Yes, it is very traumatizing and painful not only while one is going through it, but the aftermath as well because of the pain of betrayal by the very people we were taught to trust. It is however a process as the LORD begins to bind up our wounds, and pour in the oil and the wine.

      Your testimony is a blessing, and I want to thank you for sharing your story so that others who are going through similar spiritual crisis’s can see that they are not alone, and that there is hope, deliverance and healing through Jesus Christ our LORD.

      Peace and grace to you,


  4. Scarlett says:

    Frankie, consider this a blessing in disguise, since the handwriting is on the wall. You’ve just had the cold, heartless, selfish nature of these people, (church), revealed to you.

    God will heal you from the sting of this rejection, but the real issue is not the rejection itself, it’s why you would even keep trying to get back in and expect a loving response from these people when they have no love in their hearts except for themselves.

    You are obviously not able to grow spiritually in this place, (how could you learn truth, or expect life from corpses?), so why not leave it since it’s spiritually dead? Consider rethinking church, and what you’ve been taught/ accustomed to by their traditions? Begin to read the Word of God for yourself and pray that the Holy Spirit to teach you the Truth. Not as they taught you, but to worship in spirit and the truth that is in His Word. And begin to pray, not to saints, but to Jesus.

    All churches these days are aberrant, and have been for nearly the last 1,700 yrs. . All of them, no exceptions. There are 6 videos in this series. Please listen to each one and you will begin to understand what I am saying is the truth, according to the Word of God. And then seek fellowship with others who love one another and God and have seen the reality of these churches who are only a “form”, a counterfeit, if you will. They are a dead, backslidden intellectual form of what is real, but have not the life of God in them as the real, organic Body of Christ. Then you will be so glad you left, even if it took something like this episode you describe to cause you to leave. After all, why be a revenant, when you can be alive?

    Jesus bless you,


  5. Frankie says:

    I recently left a youth ministry. I remember the first few sessions I was new there, I was helping decorate the parish. I accidentally stepped on a ribbon then one of the coordinators had a nasty verbal tone against me. Later that day, I invited my mother to the Parish hall to celebrate mother day along with all other moms in the parish. What broke my heart is when my mother told me that majority of the women ate the food and she was lucky to get a taco on her plate, one of the church coordinators who had a heap of food on her plate had the nerve to physically take away my mother’s food off her plate and was left with nothing at all. I also wanted to play/contribute to the church band with my harp, they said yes and gave me a date when to rehearse.. when it was several day to rehearse, they turned me away and told me to speak to the other band member, that band member turned me away and told me to ask the same person that turned me away the first time… Then an announcement was made ‘if you play an instrument, talk to Martin” which I did, they had a guitar player join the band which left me very sad. I called them, sent them e-mails and facebooked them and asked them in person three times and was avoided/turned away.

  6. Scarlett says:

    For those who may be following this or have been abused in church, and wondering about how to handle your feelings, I happened to come across this very good article on the same issue, and how to be able to forgive those who hurt you; http://www.recoveringgrace.org/2012/08/the-subtle-power-of-spiritual-abuse-chapter-8-revictimizing-victims-contd/
    I was glad the author included a mention of how to forgive and still keep a safe distance from your abusers. Something the church sometimes doesn’t seem to understand.

  7. Scarlett says:

    Note: From the large amount of “hits” on this blog every day seeking posts concerning spiritual abuse, and apostasy in the church, I know there are many reading this and other posts even though they may not comment.

    It takes much strength to live for God these days, and in doing that, it may take moving away from the abuse rather than staying in it and thereby condoning it, (whether one’s spouse stays or not).

    After I thought and prayed about your comment, anon, the next morning this came to me…it concerned the wedding of Cana, where Jesus did His first miracle. The wedding party needed wine, (symbolic). Mary told the servants, (which I liken unto the servants of God), “Whatever He,(Jesus), tells you to do, do it”. And that’s what we should be about doing, no matter what the cost, or what “they”, will say about it. For it’s better to obey God than man. Obviously, just because the leadership handles things a certain way in church doesn’t necessarily mean it’s from God.

    • pam baker says:

      What did u do about the abuse

      • Scarlett says:

        Pam, I left. That’s all I could do under the circumstances. A little later, I realized the LORD JESUS wanted me out; that what was going on in that church wasn’t right in many different ways.
        If you are sure you’re being spiritually abused in your church…leave. You will not be able to reform this church, all you can do is abandon it. If a church body is not listening to the LORD, they most certainly will not listen to you.
        Continue to seek Jesus in His Word and prayer. He will not fail you. Healing may not come overnight, but it will come.
        May the LORD JESUS bless, comfort and strengthen you,

  8. Scarlett says:

    This is so very heartbreaking. But, I’m sorry to say this type of incident you’ve described that has caused you such pain is far from being a rare occurance in churches these days.
    It’s not my place to advise you as to what course to take, because each person has to choose their own path, but I can tell you I can relate to what your going through in a very personal way. And, I want you to know that it does help to talk to others who’ve gone through -or are going through such painful situations in the very place where they need to feel love, acceptance and understanding from one’s brethren.
    The apostle Paul when it came time for his martyrdom did indeed warn that after his departure, savage wolves would enter in, not sparing the flock. These last days are to be marked by apostasy in churches, that is to say, a falling away from the pure gospel of Jesus Christ.
    It is a pastor’s duty to shepherd the flock of the Lord. A true shepherd will protect the flock and not allow wolves to attack them, and not play church games of pandering to the financial or buddy system in the church.
    A true shepherd should tell the congregants from the pulpit that attacks, and gossip will not be tolerated in the Lord’s house. It’s about as simple as that from my perspective of how the scriptures read. But only Jesus can heal the hurts, and take the sting out, but even that takes time. Just know that here, you are among friends. And I sincerely hope your story will encourage others to come and share and minister to one another. I’m not sure how it works this way, but sometimes just talking it out, when no one where you live understands, can be very cathartic and healing.

    *Addendum, some final thoughts:

    Finally, when we are involved in a church, and that churches way of doing things, it may seem “normal” to us. And it is normal, in the sense that we become accustomed to the programs, systems, routines, and order of “doing church” in whatever particular fellowship we happen to be in. But let’s say something happens,…. or, we start to notice that doesn’t seem quite right, or perhaps nagging doubts set in, and one feels like there is something amiss, even if we can’t put our finger on it. This is the perfect time to take a step back and take a good hard look at what we are involved in and begin praying and asking the LORD if, indeed, this is the pattern He wants for His Church. After all, it is His church. Let’s obey the LORD in whatever we’re doing. Man made doctrines and traditions of men making the Word of God of no effect, have indeed crept into many churches rendering the church and the LORD’S servants in the church incapable, hamstringing them from being truly effective in His work. Obey Jesus! Amen!

    Grace and Peace be multiplied to you,


  9. anonymous says:

    I’ve been involved in churches for thirty years and have attended my current church for the last 6. Eighteen months ago I experienced a verbal attack by a layperson in a rage. This was followed closely by sneering, mocking and my ministry efforts disparaged; gossip and anonymous critical notes and a further verbal attack by a friend of the first abuser, a lady who didn’t even know me. I was a volunteer ministry director at the time, and as a confident, competent Christian woman I think the attacks were motivated by jealousy and low self esteem by the persons concerned, particularly as I was a relative newcomer to the church. However they still had an awful effect on me, even though I knew I was not to blame. It is with great grief that we experience hurt in the church because it is so unlike what Christ desires for our behaviour and affects our unity and purpose and witness.
    Myself and another witness reported the rage attack to the pastor at the time. Unfortunately because the person concerned has strong connections to the ministry team,(including financial connections) there was an attitude of pandering to the attacker. I expected that the incident would be dealt with, instead it was trivialised. Apart from speaking to the person concerned, there was no pastoral follow up, no accountability expected of her and no expression of remorse. A culture of “blame the target” prevailed, which undermined the credibility of the pastoral team as a whole. As long as the church programs continued to run, it didn’t seem to matter about the character and behaviour of some of the people running them. There was no pastoral follow up or discussion with me after the attack. Not until about six months later did one of the pastors spoke briefly to me about it and expressed surprise that I had not gotten over it.
    To me the rage attack was as serious as a physical assault would have been. I would like to ask the pastors concerned that if a man walked in and punched one of them, would they disregard it? I was hurt, upset and felt alone and betrayed and that I didn’t know who to turn to or trust. My sense of belonging to a church family was lost. The only reason I am still there is that my husband has good friends there and really wanted to stay and at present I don’t even have the trust to start again somewhere else. Nobody understood the depth of the hurt. I stepped away from ministry in that church because I felt undermined and not supported enough to continue.
    I have involved myself in other pursuits elsewhere, which has helped me somewhat. I’ve struggled with forgiveness, because there was no remorse and no accountability required of the person concerned by the pastors. I have since learned that this was not an isolated incident but that the same person has been responsible for driving others from the church in the past.
    What are we to do? Christ forwarned that there would be wolves in sheeps clothing ready to devour the flock. Satan is forever working to destroy churches. I have prayed that through all this God will use the whole situation to His glory. He doesn’t waste anything, even our hurts. Perhaps I am still in this church to ensure that if the same thing happens again there will be action taken and much more positive outcomes for everyone. I’ve tried to pray for the people concerned but must admit that I don’t find it easy. I don’t wish them evil and just pray that God will reveal Himself to them so that they might understand Him and His ways more fully.

    Thank you for providing a forum for this discussion. I hope that by sharing my story I will encourage others to feel that they are not alone. Out of all this I think there needs to be a change of culture in some churches, to have a process in place for mediation when disputes occur and whilst stressing forgiveness, to not be afraid to call to account those whose behaviour is repeatedly causing hurt within the flock.

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