Monday, June 20, 2011

It's Easy To Miss Something You're Not Looking For

Click the PLAY button and view the video before reading further.

You were baited into counting the number of passes for the white team, but you likely failed to notice the moon-walking bear.   If you're like me, you went back to the beginning of the video to make sure the moon-walking bear was indeed present in the video the first time you watched it.  Yes, the bear was there!  The same illusion can be played out in your own spiritual walk.  You can be so engrossed in your work for the kingdom that you fail to observe the spiritual abuse around you.

What is spiritual abuse?  A common characteristic of an abusive religious organization is that the real needs of the people for spiritual growth are lost in the never-ending quest by the leader to fulfill a "mission", The leader can be so engrossed in his own "vision" that he ignores the needs of the people he is responsible for.  At the crossing church, this is intentional!  The crossing's own "Code of the Samurai" is code that is memorized by leaders / staff & volunteers; failure to do so results in you being released. Code #7 states: we will not cater to personal preferences in our mission to reach the city. We are more concerned with the people we are trying to reach, than the people we are trying to keep. We want our back door working properly.

The idea of spiritual abuse is not a new phenomenon. In the Old Testament, God spoke against those who operated in their own authority while abusing the very people they were to bless. In Jeremiah 5:30-31 we read, "An astonishing and horrible thing has been committed in the land: the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule by their own power; and my people love to have it so. But what will you do in the end?"

In these verses God is bringing an indictment against the religious leaders of the Old Testament. We see the Lord's anger expressed against those who operate in their own authority. Consumed with their own ambition, these leaders have convinced the people that their power is divine. Yet in reality, these false prophets are merely wielding their self-imposed influence for personal gain, claiming they speak for God.

In Jeremiah 6:13-14 we read again of self-absorbed prophets and priests who are so preoccupied with their own needs being met that the needs of the people are being ignored. We read: "From the least of them even to the greatest of them, everyone is greedy for gain, and from the prophet even to the priest everyone deals falsely. And they have healed the brokenness of My people superficially, saying, 'Peace, peace,' but there is no peace" .

In Titus 2:1-8 Paul directly addressed the spiritual elitism displayed by the leaders among the Corinthian's. A crucified messiah does not allow any room for spiritual elitism.  Everyone (especially leaders) is to conduct themselves in a new life, above reproach, living in grace having put away judgement. The Corinthian leaders (in all their self-proclaimed knowledge), were abusive and judgmental, and put their own needs before the needs of those who followed them.  The Crossing leadership also has a history of being abusive, judgmental and causing division in families for their own personal gain in advancement of the "mission".   Paul rebuked the spiritual abuses displayed by the Corinthian leaders, what would Paul say today about the abuse & callousness demonstrated by crossing leadership?

There are many forms of spiritual abuse:
Authoritarianism: Rather than modeling and teaching obedience to God, let alone respect for the authority placed over you, abusive leaders expect believers to obey them. Councils of elders, deacons, etc., are expected to rubber stamp leaders’ intentions rather than provide accountability. It is documented that Eric Dykstra once fired his board of elders.  

Coercion: Rather than respecting freedom and conscience, as God does, and offering messages that persuade based on scriptural integrity & reason, abusive leaders use strong-arm tactics to coerce believers into overruling better judgment and following their demands.  During the crossing's code of Samurai giving campaign, Eric Dykstra required all followers to pledge money sacrificially to the crossing.  Eric and his leaders called people and required followers to turn in their pledge cards; those who chose not to participate were shunned. What healthy church would tell people they are not welcome to attend if they choose mot to participate in a giving campaign?

Intimidation: Rather than building up the church body in love, abusive leaders use threats of punishment, excommunication, and condemnation to force people into submission and continued church membership.  Crossing "counselors" are verbally and emotional abusive.  I'll give a horrifying example of how verbally abusive and callous crossing leadership has demonstrated itself to be:  A crossing pastor, while teaching a "leadership training" meeting (with approximately 50 in attendance) said of another pastors wife, "..... she has mouth herpes".  Yes, the pastors wife was present in the room!  Can you imagine how embarrassed and degraded she must have felt?  If this pastor would say this regarding another pastors wife in a meeting of leaders, even in jest, what is that pastor capable of saying about my wife, or any other persons wife - either in private or in public?  

Condemnation: Rather than refraining from judgment lest they be judged, an abusive leader condemns those who leave the church, (and those are asked to leave). The message is that believers will be ostracized and "condemned" if they deviate from the leader’s teachings.  One crossing staff "counselor" judgmentally labels people as "toxic".   My wife (Kim) and I have learned that this counselor also refers to Kim as "toxic" and discourages others from having communication with her.  It is widely known that while Kim and I were leaders of three separate teams at the crossing, we were very popular and very much appreciated by crossing leadership. Now that we have been ostracized, crossing leadership now refers to my wife as "mentally unstable" (in an attempt to discredit Kim and me). Slander is the evidence of a malicious spirit. The Bible says, “The Lord detests lying lips, but He delights in people who are trustworthy” (Proverbs 12:22).  The bible also says “Those who guard their lips preserve their lives, but those who speak rashly will come to ruin” (Proverbs 13:3). I cannot control slanderous words spoken by others, but I will protect the character and integrity of my wife with truth. Many broken people, have experienced this same pattern of judgmental & verbal abuse; and as a result have only experienced deeper hurts.

Classism: Christ was no respecter of persons. Abusive leaders are preoccupied with power, promoting church hierarchy, referring to and treating people according to their titles and roles. Those lower on the hierarchy are taught that their needs don’t matter. The abuse here well documented.

Conformity: Abusive leaders have the greatest hold over inexperienced, naive, and dependent individuals who are seeking a strong leader. These individuals suppress their objections to the leaders’ teachings for fear of being shamed or ostracized. Hence, abusive churches often appear unified, but beneath the surface there is discontent, anguish, whispers, rumors, secrets, and a desire among many to leave.  Read the blog "One Mothers Journey".

Manipulation: Rather than taking scripture in historical context, interpreting the Bible with the Bible and according to long-held Christian beliefs, abusive leaders twist scripture, add or remove words to convey their personal message rather than God’s intent.

Legalism: Rather than treating others with love, grace, and forgiveness, as Christ commanded, abusive leaders offer little grace. They communicate instead that one’s worth and the amount of love one deserves depend on performance and status in their church. Abusive leaders expect believers to make heroic financial, time, and emotional sacrifices for their church and its members.

Isolation: Rather than respecting family ties, community obligations, and friendships, abusive leaders are concerned that such influences will interfere with their control over believers, so they encourage isolation from family, friends, and the outside world, and wage war against the outside world. See Conformity above

Elitism: Rather than modeling and encouraging humility, abusive leaders beam with false pride and teach the same to believers. An attitude arises of, We’re it! We’re special! The leader instills that believers must protect the church’s image at any cost.  My wife and I can give several very personal examples of how protective the crossing leaders are of each other, while caring little about the hurts and needs of church attenders.

Being too busy is another form of spiritual abuse.  Being busy on a never ending quest to fulfill the leaders own "vision/mission" keeps followers from taking the time to become mature in their own relationship with Jesus Christ.  Jesus desires a relationship with His children, Jesus wants to walk with you & to talk with you!  He wants you to know His voice intimately.  Have you ever heard the acronym "B-U-S-Y" - Being Under satan's Yoke?  If you are so busy that you are not growing in your own faith walk daily, you are too busy and that is exactly what satan wants for you.  Satan wants you to be fooled into thinking you are advancing the kingdom by serving your "guts out", but in reality you are failing in what God desires most: for you to have a relevant relationship with the One who created you.   God is a jealous God and is not pleased when you idolize a "mission" above Him.  A church can become so diverged from solid Biblical teaching and grown so warped in the authoritarian rule of one man, that it has become a place of idolatry.

To my friends at the crossing, I submit this blog prayerfully and in all love, honor & respect. I wrote this with care and compassion in my heart & I hope it is received in the spirit of grace, not judgement.  Many families have experienced spiritual abuse at the hands of the crossing leadership and are no longer attending the crossing.  Other families are in the process of leaving.  Spiritual abuse in its extreme is called a cult.  The warning signs of verbal, emotional and spiritual abuse are documented and undeniable; and if left unchecked, the crossing will only continue to wreck more people, and potentially become a full blown cult.  While the crossing proclaims that good things are being done, it does not dismiss or excuse the spiritual abuse; it is wrong to ignore abuses simply because good things are being done. 

It is Easy to miss something that you are not looking for.  Now that you are aware of the moon-walking bear of spiritual abuse, you owe it to yourself to do something about it. Consider the following questions:
  • Do you feel burned out? Are you volunteering and giving heroically?
  • Are your own faith needs being met? Are you maturing in your relationship with Jesus daily?
  • Have you ever been told that you are "toxic" by a crossing counselor?  Have you been told that you have a problem with submission?  Have you been shamed or manipulated by a crossing counselor or leader?
  •  Do you feel isolated?  Do you internalizing the wounds caused by crossing counselors, leaders or pastors?
  •  Do you have the feeling that something isn't quite right at the crossing?  Why are so many families leaving the crossing? 

     The abuse must stop! If you attend the crossing, I challenge you to bring your concerns to crossing leadership and see how they address your concerns. If you've been wounded by a crossing counselor, leader or pastor; you are not alone.  I welcome you to contact me at  Your anonymity will be protected; I only wish to offer you Jesus Christ's healing power, support, and a healthy church where you can glorify the only One who deserves your praise, His name is Jesus!

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