A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

A Demeaning Spirit of Giving

I recently spoke with a woman who spent a good year of her life (with her small children) destitute. She made the incredibly brave decision to leave her abuser and take her children with her. You and I and all of our sweet readers would agree that this took miraculous courage. Others might not. My friend ran into some who were supportive, some who were suspicious of her and some who downright discarded her (most of us know this kind of agony). One of the most difficult and unexpected struggles my friend had, were the ways in which others “gave” to her. She writes this:

The clothes we were given weren’t nice enough to go to Goodwill .  . the cans of food wouldn’t fit into any recipe I could come up with. We got the unwanted stuff. And every offer for help felt suspicious — like people were drawing boundaries around the kids and me for fear we would take advantage of them. We had people bring us meals with their little kids staring at the little place we lived, with pity in their eyes. I had been trying to teach my children gratitude NO MATTER WHAT. It was hard.

Another friend tells me that she was offered places to stay under HEAVY contingencies and for short periods of time — not enough time to catch her breath. Again, almost as if the offers were safe-guarding the offerers, making sure that the victim was not going to “use” them. (She had to show that she was willing to work, help paint the house, clean, etc). This friend said to me, “I just wanted rest. I wanted someone to say, ‘You are safe right now. We will help you. You truly DO have family.’”

Another woman wrote me this today:

My power was about to get shut off last winter and I asked my church for help.  They acted like I had asked for a million dollars!  They had to think about it and pray about it and run it past everybody.  It took several days.  They never even got back to me about their decision.  On the last day I had to pay before it got shut off I called the church secretary.  I was humiliated and felt like I was begging or bugging them. She said that the associate pastor had taken the time to go to the drop box that day and pay the $116 to keep it from getting shut off.  I was still behind another month.  The church just got me out of the hole for a couple of weeks.  They let me know that they could not help me again.  Of course, they post the weekly tithe and monthly need, including the amount they’re short, in every single bulletin.  Right after Christmas last year they spent over $1000 on perennials! 

I went through a short period like this, as well. While I was grateful for what I was given (and there were some very big givers), the spirit in which it was given sometimes felt demeaning. It did not help my situation at all. However, it has spurred me on to great, great prayer over hopes that God will give me the resources to help other women and children who find themselves in desperate situations upon leaving their abuser. Sometimes, we need to help be a bridge from brokeness to beauty. A restful, unassuming, peaceful, hug-filled bridge.

39 Comments

  1. Desley

    Thank you for special reminder to financially care for the victims of domestic violence as much as possible. I know two such ladies right now, one who is living off of a measely $300 p/month, rent included. I am amazed at the strength this woman demonstrated when she left her country home, and the financial stability she had with her abusive husband to keep herself safe. I continue to be amazed at her die-hard gratitude to the Lord even amidst the sub-standard conditions she is living in – and though she has no idea what the future holds.
    This really was a needed reminder.

  2. Wendell G

    Wow! It is heartbreaking to see the priorities that some churches have as well as the lack of true compassion in some Christians. I too have seen how Christians will give their last fruits to God. They will give the broken down, dirty and completely useless things and convince themselves they have done someone a favor.

    I know that budgets at some churches are stretched thin and that there are a lot of charlatans out there that go from church to church panhandling, but you can carry that suspicion too far, especially when it comes to someone you have an established church/parishioner relationship with! I thank God for those who give without requiring anything and without judging the circumstances of the one in need. Any church that is so concerned with their flowers that they ignore the obvious needs of their people is no longer part of the eklesia in my mind. They are not a church, but a social club, catering to appearances; a whitewashed tomb, as it were.

    • Wendell G

      Forgot to check the little box again so I can get notified of comments…my bad.

  3. Pepe

    How convicting …and appropriate….I know this terrible situation and pray that whenever I am able to help I will check my own attitude and demeanor.

    Presently our family is supporting the adulteress and the children she and my husband had. It is painful …and it is also sacrificial . I try to get my attitude from feeling used to the one of giving in love. It is difficult

    I have had my past giving taken advantage of ..and in my husbands lengthy deceit and use of my honor and trust of him the two of them took huge advantage of me and our family

    He never intended to leave me but to ‘add ‘ to what was ‘missing’ in his relationship with me. I believe when a husband will not engage in his marriage that he makes his OWN “needs’

    This may appear to be a separate issue. I have always tried to give without any strings attached or any kind of attitude…

    I believe that many times this has become corrupted in church venues because of abuses of those who parasite who do not really have the ‘need’ that is so desperate among the wounded.

    Jesus Christ STILL provides ..though I remember in my past single life it was often a state of waiting upon him til the very last minute! It was difficult but I now know that experience that he never failed .

    Yet this kind of treatment toward desperate women in the situation your friend was in is simply despicable and shameful to the Lord in my opinion.

    The purchase of flowers for the ‘outside of the cup’ is just another demonstration of the way the world has entered into the ways of the body that claims his name.

    How sorrowful that someone did not oppose this act that demonstrates to the world the false values that override the compassionate helps that we see in Jesus Christ’s life.

    The offers to stay with others is one that is very generous …it is easy to understand the way they feared a permenant guest since there are those who would take advantage…it is too bad this issue did not get discussed openly with all the fears and reticence out in the open.

    It takes a lot of time to adjust and to get on your feet in this situation especially with children.

    I wonder if those who offered the help were not pressured into it rather than having the kind of relationship with the Lord that would have made this a gracious and loving offer all around.

    IF someone is not equipped to help then perhaps they should speak up about what their limitations are instead of denying them ..then the one receiving would not have to pick up on such discomfort.

    It seems to me that their offer was well meant but not really according to their ability to trust and live by the confidence of the Lord providing but that they felt that THEY were the providers for themselve and that of those they help.

    Giving grudgingly …or out of guilt is not giving and does not bring blessing to either the giver or the receiver.

    That is one reason I am trying to trust GOD to help me give to the OW ‘s needs with the right attitude about it …even as it has been a ‘drain’ I have also seen that over the many years where her activity stole from me my husband’s love , affection and attention ..and our children lost out from his time ..and energy ..the funds he took from all of us ..

    The reality is that GOD continued to provide for us all through my husband’s work …I once asked the Lord to help me not to lean upon my husband’s work in my attitude but to remember that the Lord is my provider…not easy in times of plenty oddly enough.

    I believe that my husband , though cheating on me and stealing from our family for over many MANY years …he did not leave and he did not fail to continue to pay the bills and keep us fed and housed.

    It is not ideal …but despite the woeful sins against the Lord and our marriage and family GOD provided for us who were unaware of the way we were being sinned against!

    Amazing …I now am so thankful that when I was lonely and abandoned relation ally …thinking it was a ‘necessary’ part of his need to work …that I made the effort to daily stay in fellowship with the Lord as I went on growing in my faith ..despite my husband’s rejection of the faith and me….often I was without any other fellowship except with the Lord. ..as churches often displayed lack of true interest in the Bible and seemed more interested in church ‘growth’ ….

    God makes a way where there is no way …and it is hopeful people will realize and mourn the loss of blessing which comes with the wrong attitude of heart in ‘giving’.

    I hope your friend is able to forgive and live in leaning upon the Lord as these kinds of experiences are difficult but can be useful to our dependence upon the Lord no matter what others do…or do not do.

    • MeganC

      Dear Pepe — First, let me say that I am not sure I understand your situation entirely. But, it sounds as though you are still living with your husband . . . and that he has a girlfriend . . and that you all are supporting the girlfriend and her children (???). If this is true, you have had some incredibly dark days. And I am so sorry. And it sounds as though you, not only stayed in close fellowship with Christ during this time, but you have grown despite your husband’s grand abuse of you. I honestly don’t know how you do it, friend. You are in an agonizing position.

      Thank you for your helpful comments about giving. I especially appreciate this:

      It seems to me that their offer was well meant but not really according to their ability to trust and live by the confidence of the Lord providing but that they felt that THEY were the providers for themselves and that of those they he

      This really helps me to see that people are trying — doing the best they can. Thank you, friend.

      • Pepe

        Thank you for taking the time to reply with such a compassionate and understanding shoulder! It is often the case that those who have gone through the fire can relate to the ways it hurts….and thus can offer the most understanding comfort….guess that is how you are more like Jesus …HE was surely a receiver of scorn, unjust treatment and arrogant regard from many so sure of their own righteousness…

        Keep on working out your salvation in His care….you are precious !

    • Pepe, thank you for sharing so much of a personal struggle with us. It sounds like a very difficult position to be in. Please do not be hard on yourself as you navigate these waters. It’s an impossible situation and not one that you created.

      I think that your giving is a very different task from what Megan was talking about- you should not be rebuked for struggling. What you are doing is merciful, but it is completely understandable that it would cause you pain as well. In such a broken situation, it would be unnatural if this did not cause you pain.

      My prayers are with you.

      • Pepe

        Thank you Jeff and Megan for your compassionate replies…brought tears to my eyes…which is a very seldom experience oddly for me….Sometimes I feel like I am such a glutton for pity ..and then I recall how many people have it SO MUCH WORSE.

        Dealing with infidelity however is a very VERY painful experience …married so many years to find out I was second and third so much of the time …shut out of what was really going on …but the worst for me was the infidelity that was having children while not considering how this kind of CHOICE was so hurtful to our children…

        Not only have I gone through what many betrayed spouses have to feel ..despite it not being true…that we are not “enough’ but our children cannot help but wonder why their father “NEEDED” children by another woman….

        So many memories of me telling them that the reason their father was late coming home or not available was because he loved us and had to work hard to support us all!

        I came by this attitude from my own family of origin ..and from ministry teachings…led me to believe the wife was to support her husband but that translated that the family was to support the husband’s career and job

        This is massive error and so many families suffer because of this upside down paradigm

        I am thankful for THIS site which is rare among all I have seen …it is not a case of bashing genuine believers so much as a need to acknowledge the way false teachings and humanism have replaced God’s word in many ways in the ‘visual ‘ church while those who are loving and endeavoring to follow the Lord are not necessarily welcome there.

        Just for the record my husband no longer is seeing the OW but he continues to try to father the children by way of making sure they have their needs met despite that large amount of support we send…far more than is required by law….since he does not want them to suffer lack …

        However the children have often called to ask him for food because the mother is not using the resources wisely …and she does not work full time as yet…

        She is going back to school to become …wait for it…..a SOCIAL WORKER!

        Don’t get me started….ugh..

        Onward soldiers of the cross …put on your armour and your hip-wading boots these days…!!

        Anyway…one thing the ministry that I used to be a part of did emphasize was if we were going to give anything for those in need to have it in NEW or like new condition …preferably purchased …something like the ‘golden ‘ rule’ …

        They also did something called “ACTS FIFTH AVENUE ” on a regular basis giving people the opportunity for a venue to exchange what they did not want , outgrew or got tired of …all in like new condition…an open door policy for people to come and brows and take what appealed to them …what they needed..

        This was a great way to provide an opportunity for those in need not to feel in the spotlight as they ‘shopped’ for something without charge…

        It is sort of like we are to work so that we have to give to those who are in need….but that includes working in the word so that we have that bread of life to offer as it may come to mind …at least that has been one thing I could give when I had little else.

        It is helping me now as I go on despite the painful ways this adultery has struck home.

        Thank you all for your compassion and love that you offer so freely as you confirm to those who have been wounded that their pain is nothing to sneeze at

        I have read many site dealing with infidelity and one of the very frequent comments is how isolated one feels since it is not a topic that is comfortably spoken of and many who have tried to share it with people not aware of all of it’s aspects and deep pain …do not know how to respond…

        Often sharing with those unfamiliar with it causes more pain as there is just little depth of experience and knowledge in how it feels and what is useful to say

        I have heard some say that they have experienced death of a loved one, rape and other such damages yet the infidelity hurt more ,.and lasted longer …closure is still on the horizon but I am learning more about how God works us through stuff now than I thought I ever would !

        Thanks again for your supportive words ..they MEAN SO MUCH!

        Glory to GOD for HE is our refuge and redeemer from all of life’s trials…

      • MeganC

        Pepe — Thank you for sharing your story. I just cannot believe all you have been through. And, you are so right (and I have heard the same thing), adultery is PAINFUL. And it does last a long time. Sometimes, I think it is because it isn’t just betrayal; the betrayal is coupled with the death of a dream of a beautiful, spotless marriage. Hopes dashed; vows so easily crushed. It is unbearable. I am praying for you today, my sister.

    • Anonymous

      I am sorry for your situation Pepe. : ( So many painful things in your life. You are right about the giving. The Word says that “the Lord loves a cheerful giver”, and I think He loves the giver who is cheerful, not just about tithing or giving at Church, but in every avenue of life. Thanks for sharing.

      • anon

        Pepe,
        I totally understand the pain and hurt you are in. I was married for 10yrs to an adulterous and abusive man. My heart was literally split because I didn’t have time to heal and trusting him again was almost demanded of me. Not only that I had to give my body him as a way to make what he did all better for him. And him being with her was always on my mind while having sex with him. Nothing but torture. Well i’m single now and it turns out that his partner is the one of women he committed adultery with. My heart goes out to you and I know and trust that the Lord will heal your heart. And bring you back to wholeness. Mind, body, soul and spirit.

  4. Great post, Megan. Justice is about elevating the oppressed, and that means giving with a God honoring attitude.

    I will again plug the book “Generous Justice” by Tim Keller which deals with this topic.

    • MeganC

      Adding it to my list RIGHT NOW. :)

      • Jeff S

        This is kind of a spoiler for anyone who plans to read it, but it’s just a good story to share. In “Generous Justice” Keller tells of how his church had a single lady with children living next door who was far behind on all of her bills. The church, convicted that they needed to help, gave her enough to cover all of the bills. A few months later they went back to her and found she was still behind on her bills because she’d used the money to buy presents and nice dinners for her children. The elders at the church were irate. This kind of thing basically confirmed how giving to the poor can backfire.

        But Keller comes back to the story later in the book and said that they decided to talk to the woman more. In doing so they found out just how burdened she was for her children. She had a giving and tender heart toward them and just wanted them to have some happiness. The church recognized that this was a GOOD desire, if acted upon wrongly, so they sat down with her, worked on her financial planning, helped her make a budget, and had some of the adults at the church take the children under their wings and spend time with them. Then they gave her more money. The second time was much more successful- her children were happier and she was on track to taking care of the bills and being able to become financially independent.

        And so the point is, we often just can’t fire-and-forget- write checks and hope for the best. Real justice means getting involved and having compassion, not pity, and that’s something we just do not like to do in our culture.

      • MeganC

        Jeff — I completely get that. When the kids and I were struggling and someone would give us money, I was watched. I remember buying a new doll for my 7 year old (she is now 9!). The kids had lost all their toys. The “giver” noticed the new doll and reprimanded me for not spending the money on our “needs”. It was pretty much awful.

        But, then there was a time where we received a check in the mail to help us get from one state to our home-state. There was a note that said, “Can’t wait to hug your neck” and it was never spoken of again. It was just so simple and so loving and it wasn’t fussed over. I felt freedom in that giving!

  5. Still scared( but getting angry)

    Yes. I love the post and desire to give what is really needed. One of the homeschool groups will ask for a food shopping list from families that they want to help. They want to get the food the family normal eats, not the store brand canned green beans that no one likes. ( well, in my home no one eats canned green beans but we devour beets and in other families I am sure it’s reversed! :P) My church and friends were so good and gave what they could. I did feel the expectation from acquaintances that I took too long to start looking for a job and was extravagant to have pets( cats that we’ve had for years and my kids needed to not lose another thing) The judging…that is hard to take. I pray that I don’t and always remember this and give without judgement.

  6. Katy

    I feel convicted of this attitude. Before me and the kids escaped, I probably would have been afraid to let a family move in with us, just because I’ve watched some friends get taken advantage of that way (I mean people who aren’t in serious need, not in danger, they just don’t want to work or the have drug issues etc)
    So this is one of those things where I *want* to help another woman in my shoes…but the logistics of it make me nervous. Even now, knowing what we went though, I’m scared to throw open the doors of my house and let strangers live with my children and me. I struggle with what would be a wise course of action.

    I feel strongly that I want to have a safe place where a woman could escape with her children with no pressure to perform or pay the bills. I am thinking of paying off my little house, and then using it as a shelter and moving my kids to a new place. This has been on my heart for a while. I wish we all had the resources to have a little guest house in the backyard for ppl in need, you know?

    • Jeff Crippen

      Katy – Yes, it is a dilemma. Over the years we have offered to let people live with us. Most all situations have turned out very well. But one dare not be naive about this. Some cases can be more than you can handle. And you do have to consider that in some cases there might be an abuser who just might endanger you and your children. So sometimes there might be other forms of help we can give. I do often wish I could build a great big fortress type retreat with really nice apartments where recovering victims and kids could live securely. But then that wouldn’t be very anonymous, would it? I do know that the best think we can do for abuse victims is listen to them and believe them. And a local church congregation, even if not very large, could really do a lot for a victim.

      • Pepe

        Before I married I lived with some other believers in a house where we opened the doors for fellowship meeting and classes….we had some people who were just too inclined not to move on ..and we tried to help those who wanted help while learning to work or find some training,

        This is not something I would recommend to a woman with children …or any woman alone….despite the desire to help …it is just not wise.

        In biblical paradigm it was the family ..of origin and the extended family that took upon themselves the care of widows and orphans,..and a godly father was a guardian of his daughters as any man approached him desiring to marry his daughters…thus he protected his daughters from being drawn in my men whose intentions were not right and whose character went through a rigorous examination .

        How I wish this were the case in this day and time it is SO needed…if a young man was not of good character this process might awaken him to his need to learn …if he was inclined he might be taken in under the ‘wing’ of the men of the family to help train his character …like a mentorship.

        Since the ways our culture has long since cast off such ‘formalities’ lacking the understanding of the use and protective purpose of such rigors….women are on their own in terms of determining a man’s true intentions and their own worth!

        Both the lack of knowledge of the way we were meant to function …women emotionally vulnerable and men sexually vulnerable [visual] have been exploited.
        There was a time when young men were not allowed to enflame the emotions of a young woman ..and it led to a dual to defend her honor if there was any kind of abuse of her heart.

        Thus a father would stand between a would be suitor so no man of low character could work her emotions through his whining or various other appeals to her feelings.

        Today’s young women are led to believe that it is flattering if a man is “wowed’ by her physical appearance….and many times that is all that is felt is important …surrendering too soon to young men who have not been taught that it is indeed DEGRADING of them to ‘drool ‘ over the total strangers appearances…And it is degrading for a young woman to feel flattered by such attention

        I don’t know about anyone else …but I wish I had KNOW this when I was a young lady

        Our cultural history in these areas literally was directed into this morass of moral decay ….but that is a lengthy tail …connecting the likes of Darwin, through the pseudo sciences of Kinsey and Masters and Johnson …and John Dewy …each with a phalanx of cohorts that led to less and less respect for the God of the Bible .,and the tidal wave of Humanism and secular paganism deguised as , a sly entrance into even church doctrine

        Reading ‘The Long War Against GOD ” by Dr Henry Morris III which is very revealing ….so many books on this subject my eyes are ‘falling out’ but indeed ,..explains a lot about what has happened to our present culture …UGH!

  7. Ah yes, well do I recall the “giving” from my church when I was a young single mother escaping abuse – and old wringer washing machine that threw sparks, and clothes I’m 110% sure they would not have put on their own children. I think in some quarters there’s a real “deserving poor” mentality, or us “tainted women” must be grateful for whatever we get – anything is good enough for us. I’m sure Jesus would have wanted better for us. One person did slip the pastor some money in an envelope to be given to me, and the gratitude made me cry. I think a form of judgment that was quite hard to take was the way some of the men acted…really, as if they thought I would leap on them and rape them or something. While this is quite amusing in hindsight, it felt really demeaning at the time.

    • MeganC

      Oh, yes . . . the old “she’s single now and so she is a threat to my marriage” attitude. :( So awful. And I have heard other women talk about this phenomenon. Sigh.

  8. Anonymous

    Well, leave it to the “c”hurch, not to give to the poor and the needy or care for the children. What does the Word say? “When you have done it to the least of these, you have done it to Me”. I would guess that means whether good or bad. So, let them eat their judgment.

    Here is some quick info. Most power companies offer assistance (perhaps through the Red Cross) for at least one bill per year, and more if needed. You just need to call your power company and ask them how to apply, and then apply for it. The same goes for other utilities.

    Sometimes the health department also gives support for these types of things. Just check with them.

    Some Churches have soup kitchens and some have Clothing Closets within them, for the needy to come and actually “select” what they want or need. You DO NOT have to attend there to receive from them. Just look in the yellow pages and start calling Churches, until someone with a closet answers the phone. The clothes are usually nice and most do not even allow the kind that are not even fit for Goodwill.

    This is what I do in my community. If a young woman comes to my yard sale, which I have annually, and she looks in need, I just give her things. I ask her what she is looking for, and then I just fill a sack or two or three and give them to her. I include toys and DVDs, books, etc., as well as clothing. If she comes and I don’t know, then I just say, “if you see something you want or need and cannot afford it, just let me know”. Sometimes the children are the greatest indicators. They will grab a toy and mom will say, “No, I don’t have enough money for that today”, and I just give it to them. I have given lots of care in the way of food, clothing, etc., to young mothers, including spiritual support and help. I have been used by some, but who cares? Everything I own belongs to God anyway. I have even had some who felt comfortable enough to call me and say, “I don’t have any food and my children are hungry. I need meat”, and I make a run to their home. I have given nice quilts and bedding to moms too, so their children can stay warm. When I have my sale, I have a free table, just to help people. I put old t shirts there, for use as rags, etc., but I don’t sell anything that is not wearable. I also have “free” items, just to be nice. This is a great way to help out those in your community who are in need, and you will find out who those people are, very quickly.

    We are also thinking about starting a “Widow’s Table” in our home, where we have widows in once a month for a meal and fellowship, just to help them. Maybe, I should pray about having a “Single Mother’s” one too, or at least alternate them.

    Just some suggestions for ways to help out.

    • MeganC

      This is great, Anon. Thank you for these suggestions!

    • Barnabasintraining

      Those are excellent ideas!!

  9. Diane

    Great post MeganC. Heartbreaking, convicting, made me cry, made me think of the times I have given like that…not thinking –would I like to receive that?

    Anonymous wrote~

    “Some Churches have soup kitchens and some have Clothing Closets within them, for the needy to come and actually “select” what they want or need. You DO NOT have to attend there to receive from them. Just look in the yellow pages and start calling Churches, until someone with a closet answers the phone. The clothes are usually nice and most do not even allow the kind that are not even fit for Goodwill.”

    There is a Mission in our area that is like that. They are very particular what they give away and insist it is in new, or nearly new condition. And they get a TON of donations. There is a huge Christmas drive with all new toys donated…nothing used. You can come and just shop for free. Same thing with clothing. I have not yet found a church in our area that advertises that sort of thing. We are great supporters of that Mission. I really like the fact that they care about the dignity of people, and make it as easy and free flowing as possible to people in need, knowing it is hard to ask for help sometimes.

    As far as churches go, I want to be hopeful but am not very…in terms of the giving dept. I read (with disgust) about one church in a neighboring state of mine with a somewhat famous pastor. This church is in the wealthiest county in that state. They had posted on their website how they were recently approved to get donations to give away from a big box store. They stated that once a week the donations would be picked up by a team at their church and taken TO their church for one day only….so members could come and take what they wished. Whatever was left would be taken to their local mission. I was disgusted. Evidently, if I was understanding correctly, the members got first choice of what was donated and what was left over was then taken to those in need.

    This–from a church in the wealthiest county in the state. It made me sick,

    • Wendell G

      **Warning: Tongue in cheek comment**

      Well Diane, their members have to get SOMETHING in return for their investment of tithes and offerings!

      **Tongue in cheek mode off **

      When my daughter went through leaving her abuser, I don’t think her church helped her much at all and she was on staff. This was a very large church also, but like so many others, it seemed that abuse victims were off their radar and not worthy of help.

      You know, I have found so many of the churches with the most generous heart have been the smaller churches with a demographic of lower middle incomes and below. Their buildings may be small and modestly furnished. To them a crowd was 20-100 people, but their hearts were big and generous. They truly gave out of their need! I’m not saying that there aren’t big churches that are very generous, but it seems to go with the territory that the larger the church, the harder it can be to get them to help.

  10. Katy

    I’m starting to wonder if huge churches are not God’s idea for his body. It seems to me that the bigger the church, the less it knows or cares about its members. And that does not make sense, since it seems to me that churches are supposed to be a group of believers who serve each other and the world. The huge churches collect their mandatory tithes, pay their massive mortgages and light bills and media/advertising – and the downtrodden won’t get a red cent or even a listening ear or helping hand. Something about this is really wrong.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Katy – myself and our elders have discussed this very thing many times. Our church has maybe 60 people. We are fortunate that our building is debt free because even without a mortgage payment we just barely pay the bills, which we keep at a minimum. We scratch out heads in wonder when we see people flocking to a church and in a small, non-growing town like ours, how a church even gets to be the size of 200 or more. Christ is not popular. His truth is not popular. So what is bringing all of these people to these churches? Are we better than our Lord? We are not in a rut. We have implemented outreach ministries like ESL classes for Mexican people, and this resulted in 2 or 3 more coming to our church. But not crowds. The abuse ministry is not going to attract the average church-goer, as you know. So, our question remains unanswered: what is it that brings the thronging masses to some churches? I have to conclude that in most cases it is a fleshly, performance and entertainment environment and certainly cannot be a place where the oppressed are rendered justice and the wicked are exposed. Notice Paul’s philosophy of ministry:

      (1Co 2:1 ESV) ESV 1 Corinthians 2:1 ¶ And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. 2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, 4 and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. 6 ¶ Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. 7 But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

      In other words, most professing Christians today probably have their “faith”in some message that is not the gospel but which sounds good in human terms. And this because some silver-tongued, charismatic personality knows exactly what to tell them to gain a following. If Jesus did not have a big following when He was here, we should be very suspicious of popular people and places today even though they claim the name of Christ.

      • Wendell G

        But Jeff, Jesus did have throngs following Him, until He started preaching the hard, nitty-gritty of life :-). As long as He was feeding them and performing miracles, everyone wanted to be near Him, but when He started to teach things that actually held people responsible, or were “hard” to hear, they dropped Him like a hot rock!

        I think you are right that it is a consumerist attitude among church goers today. What is in it for me? Will I be entertained? Will I hear a soothing message that I am alright and can just walk out, having heard a motivational speech that I will forget by the time lunch is over?

      • Jeff Crippen

        Yes! And then, if people follow someone who gives them all the goodies, it is only later that they inevitably will find that this wonderful leader with this great message starts hitting them in the face and abusing them. But hey, as long as they keep getting the “bread” it does seem that they are willing to put up with it, just as the Corinthians did.

      • Barnabasintraining

        There are exceptions to that, though. I’m thinking of Emmanuel Baptist of Enid, OK where the pastor there has come out and publicly stated that divorce for abuse is biblical. He is also heavily involved in abuse outreach in his town. As for entertainment, per se, being a factor at that church, I couldn’t say. I do know they have a policy of “reverse giving” where anyone in need may take freely from the offering plate as it’s passed. I would think abuse victims would be greatly helped by that alone, but it seems like they should be helped beyond that too. However, that is a huge church.

        One factor there is that they are in the Bible Belt, which for good or for ill is going to have larger churches no matter what they preach. It’s the large churches in spiritually cold places like the North East and the West Coast/North West (i.e. Mars Hill) that worry me the most. Or the ones that are large because they make that the goal, instead of doing whatever God commissioned them to do as a body.

      • Jeff Crippen

        Thanks Barnabas for the balance. Yes, there are exceptions. Boy, I bet that pastor got hammered when he announced his position on divorce!

    • My church is in a very thriving area where there are lots of new families moving in. It is only three years old but increasing in membership- I think our regular attendance is easily breaking 100 now. It will never be a megachurch because our pastor has it hard-capped at 500. He aims to never grow beyond that number and is already training a new pastor to start a new church as our numbers grow. We don’t have a building yet, but when we do he and the elders are considering the benefits of having multiple church bodies meet in the same location with completely different elders, pastors, etc.

      While I’ll admit that our church has fantastic music (I’m only marginally involved with the music, so I can say that) and works hard to create a comfortable place to worship, it’s far from flashy. We still meet in an elementary school cafeteria. Yes, our pastor has said “if you need prayer this morning, there will be someone standing at the ice cream box”. :) I would say that our growth can be attributed to the area, the welcoming and caring atmosphere (which captured me), and the newness of the church.

      But this church (and my last church, which I liked very much) are plants from “Perimeter” church, a large PCA church in Atlanta. I don’t know how big it is, but I’m sure it qualifies as a megachurch. Both pastors of my current church used to work there and have good things to say, but both think it is important to keep this church smaller for the reasons you state, Katy.

      I think both large, medium size, and small churches have their struggles. I know there are several Megas in Atlanta, though I’ve never visited any, and I think this has a lot to do with the dense population of a large metropolitan area. Some (possibly most) of these no doubt have grown by marginalizing the Gospel, but every person I’ve ever met that’s come out of Perimeter has been a solid believer with a great foundation. That speaks very well for the church.

      And yes, my church allows divorce for emotional abuse.

    • Wendell G

      Have we ever stopped to consider that one reason we have such big churches is that we equate success with size? Size is something tangible. You can see it and feel it, so to speak. It breeds a kind of excitement and caters to our pride.

      I grew up in a very small church and it seemed we always wanted to be like the bigger churches. They were “successful”. They had hundreds of baptisms every year and huge budgets (and buildings). Everything was shiny. They had huge programs for all ages.

      In a worldly sense, these churches were successful, but I always wondered what they were like in a spiritual sense. Did the senior pastor have time for anything else but preparing for his sermons, so that they would be delivered with the requisite introduction, three points, transitions, illustrations and invitation (all in under 30 minutes)? Did he really know his flock? Of course not. How could he? He had a staff for that, yet in so many cases the staff was even unapproachable. In so many cases, you would see the glitz and the glamour, but you wouldn’t see a lot of getting down and dirty with those who were addicted, homeless, abused, abandoned and sick.

      I equate a lot of those churches with what Jesus described as the challenges of the rich. While the rich faced the danger of trusting in their wealth over God, so many of the larger churches have the challenge of trusting in their huge numbers. They want to preach to the middle, lest they offend anyone. When they offend large groups, their numbers go down and so do their contributions, thus not only endangering their large structures, but also their appearance of success.

      I want to find a church that takes James 1:27 seriously. “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this; to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” NASB. I consider victims of abuse in that group because they are in a sense widowed and orphaned by their families, friends, churches and especially their former abusers!

      • Jeff Crippen

        Right on, brother! Preaching to the middle. Exactly. Here in Tillamook County we have lots of dairy farms. When it is milking time, usually twice each day, the milkers herd the cows into the parlor, give them their shot of grain, milk them, and send them out again. You have to move right along. In my opinion, many churches are just that – milking parlors. Give the herd a bite of what they really like, milk them, and the whole thing is over right quick. Everyone is happy. Of course in a dairy farm the members of the herd have to produce milk or they are culled. I will let you run with that application!!

      • Wendell, I think you are absolutely right in most cases. I’ve even read Mark Driscoll say something to the effect of “there are not many bigger churches than mine that I can learn from” (don’t remember the exact quote, but that was the idea).

        I’ve also heard fellow members from large churches says similar things and look down at smaller churches. At the least, if you are on the leadership at a mega church and are not actively testing yourself and your staff to make sure you are not falling prey to consumer Christianity, you probably are.

        I know there was one really big Christian popular pastor recently who stepped down from the ministry because his church got so big and he didn’t want it to be about him. I don’t remember who it was, though, or what ended up happening. I know Francis Chan also did this, but there was someone else if I recall correctly.

      • Jeff Crippen

        I really like the idea that your church has of deciding on an upper cap size and then doing church planting. Very good. I don’t think it is impossible for a large church to be a biblical church, but when wealth comes into the picture, you have the Laodicean model and temptation. Power and money and fame always corrupt – or at least they certainly lurk with constant temptation. The Lord tells us to beware when all men speak well of us. Christ said that just as He was hated by the world, so his followers would be. The servant is not greater than his master. The church grew very explosively on the day of Pentecost, but very soon persecution spread it throughout the known world. Small assemblies cropped up in various locales. Jesus told His disciples that WHEN they were persecuted in a town, they were to move on to the next. In light of all of this, we do have a right and even an obligation to be very, very wary of large, successful, wealthy entities that claim to be Christian churches.

        And to bring the pointing finger back around 180 degrees, myself and my own small church need to make sure we don’t love this world more than Christ.

      • Wendell G

        Amen Jeff! No church is perfect and there are large churches that do very good work! I think we all need to remember to be faithful with what God has given us, no matter how much or little it is.

      • I’m actually reading this book right now (among others):

        It’s not very well written (imo), but the idea is certainly interesting. It’s about a non-Christian who starts a church purely based on his ability to run it like a business. While it suffers from the typical Christian issue of portraying non-Christians in a very simplistic light, the story is pretty good thus far.

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