Great is the art of the beginning, but greater is the art of ending.—Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Three years ago, I began telling my story of leaving Giant Church Incorporated. I could never have guessed what would come of that. I had the privilege of working with amazing people and organizations over the last few years.
I launched books into the world that pull back the curtain on abusive power dynamics, reveal the dangers of teaching man-made tradition versus history and discipling men and women differently, and I highlighted books which show how to create a culture of goodness within our churches. I served on the board of Tears of Eden, an online support resource for spiritual abuse survivors. I worked with licensed therapists and trauma trained coaches helping educate others about the effects of spiritual abuse.
All of it doesn’t compare to the fulfillment I feel when I think about the people who have shared their own stories of spiritual abuse. When someone finally shares their story of pain and abuse, healing can begin. Once it’s named and brought into the light, its power diminishes. Others can hold the story and sit in the ugliness of it with the survivor. Survivors realize they’re not alone and can share the journey of grief, anger, and healing.
Thank You, Giant Church Inc
I look back on my Giant Church Inc experience with deep gratitude. Without it, I wouldn’t be moving toward my dream. I’ve never been more clear about my work in the world. My desire to help people know God and themselves better and better and encourage them to live like it matters has always been there. But the passion to do the work and prepare to do the work is brighter than ever.
Let me remind you again that Giant Church Inc is the name I gave to a type of church or organization. My original definition is: a toxic, destructive system that glorifies power and image. It’s not about the size of the church, or necessarily a church at all. It’s the way a church, college, Christian organization, or political system operates.
I realize that spiritual abuse can range from small infractions to dangerous violations. I understand, too, that spiritual abuse happens in families as well and can be the most damaging. The following definition comes from WebMD which shows us how much attention has been brought to it in recent years. Any attempt to exert power and control over someone using religion, faith, or beliefs can be spiritual abuse.
Beware of Gatekeepers
God is not a bully. He does not coerce us into certain behaviors. Jesus never used his power or used the words of scripture to control others. When any religion, system, denomination, church, or leader attempts to oppress or power-over a person or people group, spiritual abuse is happening. When someone claims they have spiritual authority over another, it could be spiritual abuse. I say “it could be” because there may be some well-intentioned disciples who genuinely believe in the idea of spiritual authority, such as that of complementarianism. If someone lands there after prayerful and careful Bible study, and reading N.T. Wright, Beth Allison Barr, Aimee Byrd, Scot McKnight, Diane Langberg, as well as John Piper and Tim Keller, then it may be genuine. If they refuse to read outside of what their group or denomination has deemed worthy to read, be careful.
Our brother Paul said it best, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28 ESV) The ESV citation will thrill my Reformed brothers and sisters.
More Hope Than Ever
The veil has been lifted on what happens in the dark and behind the scenes at Giant Church Inc. With journalists like Bob Smietana, and podcasts like The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill and The Roys Report we can be sure the unveiling will continue.
I will continue to point people to Jesus, speak against injustice and harmful teachings, and help others in their healing journey – it will just look differently than writing this series.
I have more hope than ever for the church. I hope because I know those who are praying for the church. They’re not only praying, they’re being the hands and feet of Jesus. We’re passionate about growing in Christlikeness and helping others do the same.
Ultimately, my hope rests in God.
Our Father, who art in heaven,Matthew 6:9-11
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
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