Many of the comments have asked about the pastor. It is so hard to know what is true and what is not. I know many of his stories are exaggerated. I did not know by how much until we started doing some fact-checking.
What I do know is true is that there was a horrific church split from which my church (now old church) was formed. The pastor was accused of manipulation and being overly controlling. We now know that those accusations are probably true. However, the way in which the split took place was not appropriate. I was not there. However, some of those in my group were. The church called a meeting and invited all members, even those who hadn't attended church in years. There was a public meeting with the pastor and his family present. He was voted out - a close vote with a margin of less than 10. He and his family were then escorted out.
There were tape recorded conversations and even rumors of bugged offices. It was a horrible situation.
It's common knowledge that the pastor is paranoid. Everyone knows it. The pastor admits it. I always assumed it was from the church split. However, his family and those that grew up with him, say the pastor has always been that way. So I'm really not sure what caused it. I know that he is delusional because of his paranoia. He will do things out of his paranoia in attempts to take control. He makes up stories and lies. What is astounding is that he then believes the lies - so he can look you in the eyes and lie straight to your face. I truly believe he could pass a lie detector test.
I realize that my faith has been intertwined with my church. To some extent that is not a bad thing. However, it becomes a major problem when your church leader is not a godly person.
A friend sent me an article entitled "Is your Pastor a Cult Leader?" At first I laughed. But then I read on -
While many of today's evangelical pastors don't reject the foundational Christian doctrines such as the virgin birth, the trinity, the resurrection and salvation through Jesus Christ alone; they do however exhibit some of the following characteristics that are common to cult leaders.
1. Specially appointed by God (our pastor claims to be "called" by God. Not unusual for a pastor to claim. However, he sometimes says it happened at age 12, sometimes at age 15, and sometimes other ages. He can not give details of his calling and has never talked about his own faith profession).
2. The cult's adherents often expound the virtues of the leader and seek to cover the leader's sins and wickedness.
Some of the 'virtues' espoused by the defenders of today's cult-celebrity pastors include:
1. Attendance has increased under his leadership
2. Giving has increased under his leadership
3. He is a very gifted speaker and communicator
4. He is attracting and appealing to a younger audience that has been missing from our church
5. He is so personable
6. He is a strong leader (numbers 1, and 2 are definitely claimed by the pastor. He is seen as "attractive" although in a used-car salesman type way. He married a woman who inherited a LOT of money. So he wears very expensive suits and drives very expensive cars. He has the air of someone who is important).
3. Entangling Organization Structure: The less truth a movement represents, the more highly it seems to have to organize itself; the absence of truth seems to make necessary the application of the bonds of fear. Cults often demand total commitment by their converts to an organizational involvement that entangles them in a complicated set of human restrictions, giving the impression of passionate and often irrational devotion to a cause.
Many of today's cult-celebrity pastors rule with an iron fist of threats and intimidation. Some of these pastors don't like to be involved in the intimidation themselves so they leave it up to some of their deacons, elders, associate pastors, or ministry representatives. (absolutely. The pastor has no respect for organizational structure or rules. He completely ignores bylaws and rules that the congregation has established. If you dare question him, he reverts to rule 1 - he is called by God or accuses you of breaking confidence. But he does not take action himself. He hides himself in his home and calls himself "above" such worldly things. Instead his minions are the ones calling meetings and taking action for him.)
Biblically-minded Christians are often completely astounded by how committed the sheep will be to their cult-celebrity pastor. Even in the face of irresponsible, immature, unethical and even illegal activities by the pastor or ministry leader, the flock will passionately defend them with arguments and excuses that are completely irrational as they disregard the truth that stares them squarely in the face.
Those that question the pastor or ministry leader are guaranteed to be admonished by him and his leadership team to cease their criticism or find another church or ministry organization. (this is where we find ourselves now) Indeed this is kind of control and manipulation on the part of the leadership entangles many of the church-goers or followers because they don't desire to give up their freedom of speech, conscience or convictions. Neither, do they desire to leave the church in which many of them were raised, married, dedicated their children and even held funeral services for their parents and/or grandparents. The church members indeed find themselves entangled by fear that the truth with banish them from what they have come to love dearly ' the church.
This fear of banishment is what I've struggled with. I've come to realize that I'm "doing" church wrong. I've been so caught up in church that I've forgotten that I'm called to a relationship with God - not a church. And I'm not finding God in this church, and haven't in awhile. So for me and my family it is time to leave.
This week every member of my small group is resigning all positions of authority. We are seeking new churches. We have also committed to trying to meet for a Bible study, realizing that that our lives have been wrapped up in church. Just for my family, Husband often taught a Sunday school. He was also a deacon. I oversaw many of the children's ministries and was in charge of the toddler nursery. I was also a trustee. I taught a Bible study this past year. We've both attended a Bible study each year. So one weeknight a week was individual study. Wednesdays were fellowship and church. Munchkin's friends are church friends. Our babysitter is a church member.
I'm struggling now to keep myself in my faith because of the anger and sadness with church. And struggling with whether I need to get that issue figured out and resolved before I find a new church -- or whether finding a new church is the key to those issues.