How I survived spiritual abuse…(a personal testimony)…

20 Jul

Writers note: Grab a comfortable blanket, a cup of tea and a snack. This is just my story that will maybe help a brother or sister in the Lord who may be struggling as I did after escaping an abusive church system. Feedback is always welcomed!

…I received a phone call two days ago from a family member who had also been a church member at the ministry that God delivered us from. This ministry was so spiritually abusive that the members who were able to escape ended up looking like refugees from a concentration camp – in the spirit realm. Anyway, this phone call was to let me know that my former pastor and his wife sold the church (for a half million dollars), packed up the few members who were willing to abandon the lives that they have in that city, and moved south. I do not know which city that they have gone to, but I know that they are in Florida – Floridians, beware! I at first wondered why they would suddenly, after almost 20 years in the same location, sell all, pack up and leave their children, grandchildren and extended families? Then I decided that it is not my issue. Finally, what settled on my heart was what about those who were “left behind”?

For the average blog reader this may not apply, but there are countless numbers of Christians out there who have entrusted their lives, their souls, their spirits, their families and their livelihood to someone who has spiritually abused them. You may think, “why their souls and spirits?”, well I say that because in our naivete we tend to trust the Pastor rather than to acknowledge God for ourselves; spiritual abusers make us think that they have a greater connection to God than we ever could and we buy into that philosophy out of spiritual ignorance. Once you come out of the abusive system, there may be a sense of, “Now what, where do I go? what do I do? Who can I trust?” I know this because I was there. Hang in with me while I take you on a journey of my survival of spiritual abuse.

I remember avidly searching the Word of God when I first left the ministry hoping to find something that would explain to me why I felt the way that I felt. I believed that something was wrong with me because that is what we had been taught; that those who left were in direct disobedience to God because He had placed us in that ministry. At the time, I would encourage my husband to keep going to church for I felt that I was the one with the problem, not him and certainly not the Pastor and ministry. I felt that my spirit wasn’t right. Because of my ignorance of the Word I could not find reconciliation for my feelings, so I stopped searching. I would only pray because it was all that I knew how to do. There were no answers forthcoming from God, I thought, my church “family” had turned their backs on me…including my parents at the time, my blood family had long ago turned their backs on me. I had no outlets, no one to talk to, no one that I thought would understand my point of view. I was spiritually adrift.

At the time I was pregnant with my youngest son and I remembered acquiring a copy of the book, The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse by D. Johnson & J. VanVonderen, and I read it voraciously, often times grabbing my husband and begging him to read passages in it, because in it I saw our former ministry and ourselves. By the time I finished reading that book (in one day) I was a puddle of tears. However I knew then that it was not me, and certainly not God who was flawed, it was that church system and the man who ruled over it. I did not know at the time that it was a pervasive spirit that had taken over a lot of churches making them dens of iniquity. Ironically, despite this new revelation I still partially blamed myself. I had always been a fiercely independent young woman, I had traveled to many different countries exploring on my own. I had met many people of differing cultures and languages and was able to interact with them seamlessly. In the world. When I gave my life to Christ I let all of my worldly knowledge go, along with that went my instincts. Usually I could smell a predator coming a mile away, and I would pride myself on my instincts and street smarts. Since I am being honest here, I *never* really liked or trusted my pastor fully, there was just something a bit smarmy about him. I did really love his first lady though, and I loved and trusted my mother who brought me into the ministry.

While I could sit here and say that the ministry was all bad because of my personal experience, that would be a lie. Many good things came out of it to include:

  • Meeting my awesome husband!
  • Really learning how to minister to others who have yet to learn of Jesus Christ.
  • Learning love, patience, temperance, kindness, meekness, humility.
  • Learning to give of myself without expecting anything in return (selflessness).
  • Gifts and callings are without repentance and I got a lot from many of the sermons delivered.

However, the bad definitely outweighed the good in that place. The irony is that when I first joined the ministry many unsaved people warned me about both it and the pastor, but being quickly indoctrinated into the ministry I dismissed their concerns as envy that I was into God and they weren’t. Foolishness! So back to my main point, how did I recover?

  1. The first thing that I had to do was to get real with myself and understand that I did nothing wrong in trusting the supposed man of God. It was he who was in err; however, I was naive and ignorant in the ways of God and depended on someone else for my spiritual direction instead of seeking it for myself.
  2. A big mistake that I made was retreating. I did not want to talk to anyone about what happened in that ministry, and how violated I felt. My husband and I were both victims, but I blamed myself because it was my fault for “bringing him there”. I should have found another pastor to confide in or possibly a counselor. I did neither, but I did begin to pray to God more, even when it hurt, I prayed.
  3. Forgive, forgive, forgive! Not only the pastor who betrayed the trust that I had placed in him for my spiritual welfare, but the others who I considered family who turned their backs on us as if we never existed. I had to realize that they too were under the same demonic influence that I was, so they walked lock step with the direction of their leader.
  4. I did not join or even go to another ministry for a while. I believe that this was important for my recovery because for one I had an extreme distrust of pastors and ministers for a while, and also because I did not want the bitterness that I held for my former pastor to carry over somewhere else, and until God healed me I would not be good for another ministry. Another reason was because I did not want to expose our children to just any type of ministry. I prayed constantly for the place that the Lord wanted us to settle. It was not overnight, it took years.
  5. I sought restoration. This was crucial for my spiritual recovery, and was not to be entrusted to just anyone; I had constant encouragement from my husband, but I knew that he had his own pain to deal with, so many times I would fast and pray for God to restore my faith in Him and that He would heal the brokenness. I knew that only God would be able to restore, rebuild and renew me, and He did, but again it was not an overnight process.

I knew when I married my husband that he was called to Pastor, and even after we left the abusive church system he would not acknowledge the call that God had placed upon him. At the time I didn’t blame him because he did not want to become what we had escaped from. With years of nurturing through the Word of life and the ministering to his spirit, I can see how God has changed his mindset. We also understand now why God had us go through what we went through; we had to understand this end time ministry to help others during this great falling away. Many people are walking about as spiritual abuse victims, afraid to speak out or seek help. For those in my former ministry who were left behind, my prayer is that they will seek the true Savior, and that their walk will be in Him from this point forward. What God is saying to those of us who are/have been victims of spiritual abuse:

Gal. 5:1, Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free , and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.


Jer. 29: 11-14, For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.

Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you.

And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.

And I will be found of you, saith the LORD: and I will turn away your captivity, and I will gather you from all the nations, and from all the places whither I have driven you, saith the LORD; and I will bring you again into the place whence I caused you to be carried away captive.

A Pastor’s Wife


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15 responses to “How I survived spiritual abuse…(a personal testimony)…

  1. Keith

    July 20, 2011 at 9:48 PM

    So many people are suffering through this right now. very nicely written.

  2. steelerkid

    July 20, 2011 at 10:23 PM

    Hi, Sister Pastor’s Wife.

    I’m very sorry that you had to go through this and I’m glad that you can stand victorious over that moment. This blog may have been long, but it was worth it. Please, keep writing!

  3. Evette Wagner

    July 21, 2011 at 9:33 AM

    We were in that same boat. It’s a very painful thing. When I think back on it, the signs were all there, but in my ignorance I chalked it up to “all churches have their good and bad”. Thank God in His Grace, and Mercy He showed us the truth. As of now, we are still not attending a “church”, however, as I continue to study the word I’m hopefully that the Lord will continue to guide us as to what’s next, so to speak. Thank you for sharing your story, let’s everyone know, it was us. 🙂

  4. Evette Wagner

    July 21, 2011 at 9:34 AM

    I’m sorry that last line should read…let’s everyone know it wasn’t us…it was the wolves in sheeps clothing.

  5. iampastorswife

    July 21, 2011 at 10:41 AM

    Thanks Bro. Keith and Steelerkid sorry about the length LOL! Sis. Evette, the statement or mindset of “all churches have their good and bad” is right. I know that I have felt the same way before, but my former pastor had us thinking that WE were better or above most other ministries or that they were beneath us or less spiritual. *smh* Yes, thank God for His grace and for giving us the victory and the testimony to carry. In due time, your family will know where you belong; as I stated it took us years because God had to root out the bitterness, the hurt and pain, and send ministering angels to tend to our spirit. I hope that you consider your writing ministry because it really is!

  6. Rory Westray

    July 22, 2011 at 4:44 PM

    Merely wanna say that this is very useful , Thanks for taking your time to write this. “Guilt is a rope that wears thin.” by Ayn Rand.

  7. brdavision

    July 25, 2011 at 11:43 AM

    Keep sharing your story Sister Pastor’s Wife……It’s the truth that will set people free…..

    • iampastorswife

      July 25, 2011 at 2:56 PM

      Pastor Davision,

      Thank you for your support and encouragement. Sometimes when writing these pieces it is difficult because you literally have to regress both spiritually and emotionally to express everything that you experienced during that time. It makes the difference between being “in your feelings” per se, and really laying out what God wants you to in order to reach others. I truly thank God for the feedback that I have received, it lets me know that our experiences have not been in vain, but we lived them so that God can be glorified through us! God bless you Sir, I will be visiting soon, I’ve been reading, but – I have finals this week, so please pray with me lol.

  8. Dion

    July 31, 2011 at 8:46 PM

    I enjoyed this piece of writing. Great points. I would just like to add. If we were to examine many of the very public cases of spiritual abuse closely, almost all the victims were children, not adults. Most (not saying all), of the adults were clearly enablers. An extreme example is Jonestown. Every one of those adults, made a clear choice with a tragic result. Many warnings signs, but marched on to slaughter. Literally. When many of us are decieved, we lay blame on the culprits amazing slick talent to do so, when In fact, they are not very slick or cunning at all. What’s sade is we have another Jonestown at Eddie longs church. I have researched both and the parallels are striking. The only thing left to do is declare himself God and pass put Flavoraid. The poison already consumed. What’s terrible is I could run into his church and yell fire, with no evidence of a fire, and get people to follow me to safety. But with all the evidence in the world against him spiritually, morally, folks remain in volumes. I am at the age where I am no longer surprised by what people will do. I am however still surprised and amazed at how people react to clear cut satanic activity. Especially us black folk. We ask more questions of “who made the potato salad” than the obvious….lol. Please let me be clear…..Im not blaming the victim. I am just trying to spotlight the responsibility of the victim

    • iampastorswife

      July 31, 2011 at 9:22 PM

      Brother Dion, I definitely appreciate your response! I have to disagree with you about the cases of spiritual abuse however; don’t get me wrong, if you are speaking of primarily the Catholic churches then yes there are innumerable cases of physical abuse against children, and there are others in denominations outside of Catholicism who are victims as well. You can look at case studies though of adults who have been the victim of spiritual abuse and you may be surprised by the result. These would be the the public cases, and not counting the ones who never say anything. That is important and they are the ones who I am reaching out to in this blog. Again, not to minimize what has happened and is still happening to young people in ministries, but you have adults who are literally spiritually dead because they have been victimized in church. I have a question, what do you mean by the adults were “enablers”?

      The People’s Temple is definitely an extreme case. Mr. Jones mixed politics with religion and on top of him being extremely charismatic and a drug abuser, he was able to woo both men and women to destruction. I think that puts him on another level than these abusive pastors in your local church. I try to stay off of the topic of Mr. Long, he is a clear abomination and I agree with you that his followers are drinking his FlavaAid. They are what Craige likes to say, under strong delusion. Again, he is a very charismatic man, and people want to believe that he is innocent while ignoring what is right in their faces. I would like to believe that the average church-goer, if their pastor was caught up in a sex scandal would see him for what he is. Yet in the average church the spiritual abuse is much more subtle, as I have detailed in this and other blogs.

      As for responsibility of the victim, unless you have been there it is hard to take that stance. I consider myself to be a reasonably intelligent woman, and I am married to a very intelligent man, but when you are young and naive in Christ it is easy to put your trust in the man who is supposed to be of God. In hindsight, I absolutely take responsibility for not seeking God for myself and putting my trust in man to discern the Word for me. That is the result of spiritual immaturity. Unfortunately, there are many wolves out there seeking whom they may devour. If I knew then what I know now, I would not have this testimony, and I am supposed to strengthen my brother (or sister) once I have been delivered. That’s my prayer and it is what I try to do through my writing. I hope that this helps to clarify both my experience and my position. 🙂

      Thanks again Brother for your post, and you know you’re good with me!

      Pastor’s Wife.

  9. Terry

    September 6, 2012 at 5:07 PM

    Awesome read on the blog it brought a lot of clarity to what i was feeling and what me and my wife have been through in the pass year I didnt know that spiritual abuse had been going on for years until i came out and started to do research

  10. Samantha

    November 1, 2012 at 9:53 PM

    wow, this article sounds like my journey out of an abusive system! I too read the book “The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse” and it was like they were writing about my life! I have been out of that system for 3 years now and while I struggled for 1 1/2 years before I left, it was the best spiritual decision I ever made (with God’s grace of course). I can see God’s hand working throughout my life in regard to growth in and desire for the Word, which is our only true guide : ) Thank you for sharing your story, it is an encouragement to others who have been set free!

    • iampastorswife

      November 4, 2012 at 5:14 PM

      Hi Samantha,

      Thank you too for sharing your testimony. Yes, the abusive system has become a plague in God’s churches but I have heard from many people who, like us, have been delivered by His grace. I thank The Lord that you have been able to move on a restore your spiritual health and I pray that He continues to keep you in perfect peace and use you to encourage others who have experienced the same thing. I appreciate you visiting the blog and taking the time to comment.

      God bless you!


  11. Linda B

    April 4, 2016 at 12:50 PM

    I read your sentence about it feeling
    like we must spiritually and
    emotionally regress to be able to express
    our feelings concerning what
    happened to us. I’m torn between expressing
    myself to help others in their struggle, and
    wanting to forgive
    and forget and go forward without looking back.
    I feel I have
    forgiven but now I sense the Lord is
    asking me to help others
    who have gone through this or will go
    through it. I feel
    guilty for remembering the abuse I
    endured for over two
    decades, and yet if I totally forget I may
    neglect sharing my
    victories with others who need the help I needed
    at one time.
    In other words, we must remember that even
    though we
    ourselves have received healing from the Lord,
    and have had
    victories in overcoming these things, someone
    else is suffering
    spiritual abuse and needs us to help them
    our experience will be the answer they need.
    being spiritually abused did not end with us.
    In the last days there
    will be many wolves in sheep’s clothing.

    • iampastorswife

      April 4, 2016 at 5:00 PM

      Hi Linda,

      The bible in Revelation states we are overcome by the Blood of the Lamb and by the word of our testimonies. It is important for us to express what has happened, and how God through Jesus Christ delivered us. The power that drew you to this blog and compelled you to comment is the same power (Holy Spirit) that will enable you to share your testimony to lead others to healing and salvation. Never be ashamed of the gospel, because it is the most awesome power we possess! Be blessed sister and be strong in the Lord.



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