The Signs of Spiritual Abuse

Charismatic Captivation -- Authoritarian Abuse & Psychological Enslavement in Neo-Pentecostal Churches, by Dr. Steven Lambert -- Available at:

Wholesale abuse and misuse of authority is an integral part of the very foundation, fabric, and functions of an ever increasing number of church groups today who are engaging in the most insidious form of hyper-authoritarianism by which they are dominating, controlling, and manipulating their followers for personal gain and private kingdom-building. Being able to readily identify the signs and symptoms of authoritarian abuse and psychological enslavement is absolutely essential for every believer in their quest to know and be personally related to the Great Shepherd, who is the Prince of Peace and the true "Guardian of our souls," rather than the thousands of counterfeit  shepherds claiming to be the proxies of Christ.

Are you one of the many loyal and sincere church members who faithfully and cheerfully attend, support and participate in a local church, but have a nagging, persistent inward "thought" that "something is just not right here?"

Each time it rises within you, you peer around the room at the faces of fellow-worshipers caught up in seemingly heart-felt worship, you tune your ear to the soothing, melodious music crescendoing upward, and listen intently to the inspiring exhortations flowing from the lips of the various leaders on the platform...then...once begin to chastise yourself...and "take authority" over those terrible carnal, negative thoughts, and command them to leave your mind. Now! there! no more of that! Right? Right!

That is, until the next time...and it happens all over again! You are enthralled in blissful worship and praise, focusing entirely on the Lord and His Magnificence. You begin to feel that familiar, but awesome sensation of His Presence filling the room and settling gently upon you. And then...BOOM!...there it is AGAIN!!—that still, small inner voice, telling you He is pleased by your expression of love, adoration, and praise; it is a sweet savor which He has received from your heart to His. But, still, He wants you to be aware there is something wrong here...with the leadership...their teaching, their "leadership" attitudes and methods, their motives and ambitions, their personal life-styles, their earnestness regarding ministering on His behalf to the needs of the hurting, needy multitudes for whom He died.

Is it possible this really IS the Lord speaking to you? Is that possible? And then you go through the drill once again, looking, listening, analyzing. "But," you reply inwardly to the voice, "look at all these people here, the volunteer workers, the ministers, the musicians and choir! they can't all be wrong! and there wouldn't be this many people here if it wasn't of God! Look at this wonderful building, its furnishings and decor, the instruments, all the regalia, all the money it cost? God has to be endorsing this, otherwise the money for all this would not have come in! Listen to the inspiring music and messages by the leaders! And look at all the people who've been blessed! This CAN'T possibly not be of God! God! what's wrong with me? why do I think such horrible thoughts?" you cry silently within.

Then, you begin realizing, somehow, somewhere along the line you began losing your joy, your zeal for the Lord. It used to be you could hardly wait for the services and to be involved; now it is drudgery to go at all. You used to have such a light and blissful feeling as you worshiped the Lord in the services; now you just go through the motions, feeling heavy, staring placidly toward the platform, sometimes wishing you were somewhere else. You used to be able to "look past" the leaders, and focus only on the Lord; now, all you see during the service is people, people behind the pulpit, people on the platform, and people in the pews. You used to feel God's love and pleasure with you; now it seems all you feel is unworthiness, guilt, and that nothing you do is ever enough or pleasing to Him.

"What on earth has happened to me? What's wrong with me?" you ask yourself. "Is it just me?" Then, you begin to look around the room and study other long-time members. You compare how they are now to how they were when they first came. Is their life, as it should be, appreciably better, or have they and their family experienced an inordinate share of tragedies, seemingly inexplicable difficulties, and reversals? By and by, you begin to realize that many of the other members have lost their "first love" too, their zeal, their enthusiasm, their joy in serving the Lord, and that, though Christians, like everyone else, certainly experience adversity, many of these members' lives have been on a gradual, downward spiral, instead of advancement and blessing.

Does this scenario sound familiar to you? If so, don't think you're alone—it's repeated several times every week by multitudes of sincere, faithful, and trusting believers. They've had this inward intuition for quite some time that something was just not right at their church or in their group, but just couldn't put their finger on precisely what it was. The teaching "sounded" right, all the right things were being said, good things were happening, many members were being "used" in various "ministries" of the church. Still, this nagging sense something is awry persists.

Often, these are the symptoms of a church or group laboring under the heavy-hand of hyper-authoritarianism. That is to say, the leadership is dominating, controlling, and manipulating their followers as a means of exploitation for their own personal gain and private kingdom-building. Wholesale abuse and misuse of authority is an integral part of the very foundation, fabric, and functions of such groups.

Exploitative abuse of authority occurring in groups where these hyper-authoritarian systems of governance are instituted come in various shapes and shades, ranging from members having to receive the approval (usually referred to as "witness") of their spiritual leaders to date and/or marry, to virtual sole dependence upon the supposed superior spirituality of group-gurus regarding every detail of their personal financial matters and requiring their leaders' approval for virtually every significant expenditure. Commonly, in these groups there is constant allusion to the members as "dumb sheep" who must be "led" by the shepherds, ad nauseam. The definition of the term "led" in these groups is that the "dumb sheep" cannot trust their own judgment or ability to receive direction from the Lord for the important decisions of their lives, but must rely instead upon the transcendent wisdom and spiritual acumen of their "personal pastors."

The proper role of human under-shepherds is to lead people to the Great Shepherd, Jesus Christ, and teach them how to be His disciples, in submission to Him and His authority. Hyper-authoritarian leaders, instead, lead people to themselves, and indoctrinate them to be their followers, in total submission to them and their authority. In essence, these dominating shepherds teach they are the church-members' de facto lord, master, and savior, rather than Christ. They indoctrinate members to believe the spiritual leaders of the church themselves are the members' "spiritual covering" (a totally false and patently unbiblical concept), and any member who ever leaves the church will be "out from under" their "covering," be without any covering or what they call, "uncovered," and will experience terrible curses and other horrible consequences as a result. From the pulpit often come "horror stories" about what happened to such-and-so person or family, who were so spiritually bereft or rebellious as to leave the group without the blessings and approval of their "spiritual authority."

In these groups, the "authority" of the "shepherds" is absolute, sacrosanct, and inviolable, that is, without reprisal. Any semblance of anything other than total and unquestioning obedience to the desires and counsel of the church's leadership chain is considered rebellion and insubordination, and simply is not tolerated. Members live under the constant threat of being branded with the Scarlet Letter "R" for "Rebel," openly denounced and shamed from the (bully-)pulpit, and consequently shunned by the "covenant-community" (church) for failure to comply with the unwritten, unspoken rules and expectations established by the leadership. An oppressive performance-based approval and promotion system keeps members in constant internal turmoil and fear as they jump through all the hoops the spiritual taskmasters put before them, in an attempt to seek their leaders' approval and favor.

Moreover, members are indoctrinated and compelled to accept the leadership-set agenda of the group, regarding which they have next to no real say, as their personal burden and responsibility, and thus to commit their time, talent, and most importantly, their tithe, to its successful completion. Sadly, most never see past the spiritual smoke and mirrors to realize that the so-called "church" to which they have sworn allegiance and promised their wholehearted and unflagging support is nothing more than the personal "business" of its leaders, and not only are they free labor like the Goshen-Israelites during their captivity in Egypt, but they actually pay out of their own resources for the privilege of being a participant, i.e., member.

The following are some of the common signs and symptoms, or common characteristics, of authoritarian abuse manifest in hyper-authoritarian groups, churches, networks, and ministries, especially those identifying themselves as Charismatic or Pentecostal. It simply is not feasible to elaborate extensively on each of them in an article such as this. However, I have addressed most of them in various books, booklets, and articles I have written on the topic, though nowhere more extensively and expressly than in the featured book of this website, Charismatic Captivation. Bear in mind that the list is by no means exhaustive, and that these are somewhat general rather than exact descriptions. Many variations on these basic themes exist in authoritarian groups. Bottom-line is: any ministry in which more than a few of these signs of abuse are manifest should alert you to the fact that it is an organization that espouses hyper-authoritarian doctrines and employs abusive practices, regardless of how large, popular, or well-known it and its leaders are.

  1. Apotheosis or de facto deification of the leadership — exalting them to God-like status in and over the group, often to the extent that the leaders become a "mediator" between the people and God;

  2. Click here to see a perfect example of this in a video of a Charismatic cult-leader who blasphemously teaches his congregation that what he speaks is "an oracle of God." In fact, this heretic teaches that HE HIMSELF is an oracle of God! In this video, he singles out a congregant (who ostensibly is a lawyer) and seemingly commends for his study of the Word of God but only as a disingenuous springboard to tell the man (and the congregation) that what he (the cult-leader) says is of a surpassing spiritual import and efficacy than what he (and the entire congregation) will receive from study of the Word of God. What the cult-leader couches in an ostensible compliment, is actually a disguised rebuke, as long-time congregants who understand the cult-leader's methods and parlance understand very well.*

  3. MLM-like multi-level authority/government hierarchy (chain-of-command);
  4. Absolute authority of the leadership to the extent that the effect is a suspension of independent thought and Berean-like examination of Scripture to verify the correctness of the teaching of the leadership;
  5. No real accountability of the leadership to the corporate body, resulting in a repressive monarchical (autocratic, dictatorship) or oligarchical form of government;
  6. Hand-picked sub-leaders, based on their demonstration of submissiveness to the ultimate leader rather than on the basis of their leadership skills, spirituality, and anointing and appointment by God;
  7. Pervasive abuse and misuse of authority in personal dealings with members to coerce submission;
  8. Paranoia, inordinate egotism or narcissism, and insecurity by the leaders;
  9. Abuse, misuse, and inordinate incidence of "church discipline," particulary matters not expressly mentioned in the Bible as church discipline issues;
  10. Personal materialism, covetousness, and self-aggrandizement by the leaders, particularly when the personal lifestyle of the leader(s) is well-beyond the median lifestyle of the membership and that lifestyle is underwritten primarily from donations received from the membership;
  11. Members and/or sub-leaders must make a "spiritual covenant," sometimes a signed covenant agreement, pledging their total and everlasting commitment and financial support to the leadership and church/ministry;
  12. Partitioning of the congregation into smaller groups that are led by internally "raised up" and appointed lay-leaders who have not been anointed or appointed by God for leadership within the church, i.e., Fivefold Ministers;
  13. Financial exploitation and enslavement of the members, often by requiring or coercing them to donate well-beyond their means and Biblical principles;
  14. Inordinate attention to maintaining the public "image" of the ministry and bambasting of all "critics";
  15. Doctrinal demeanment and devaluation — the Biblical requisite of espousing and teaching "sound doctrine" in accordance with Scripture is demeaned and devalued in order to justify or suspend evaluation of unorthodox or unproven doctrines and private interpretations of Scripture taught by the leadership;
  16. Theological incompetency by the leadership, especially with respect to the accepted rules of hermeneutics and Biblical exegesis employed in the formulation of doctrine, giving license to twisting and adulteration of Scripture in order to provide proof-texts for unorthodox and self-invented doctrines;
  17. Spiritualism, mysticism, and unproven or anti-biblical doctrines;
  18. Abuse and misuse of prophetic giftings as a means to dominate and intimidate;
  19. Devaluation, disallowance, disregard, and displacement of the true Fivefold Ministry within the church;
  20. De facto legalism, or works mentality, and its resulting loss of the "joy of salvation," though "freedom" is forever preached from the pulpit and the church is constantly touted as being a "safe church" by the leadership;
  21. Esotericism — hidden agendas and requirements revealed to members only as they successfully advance through various stages of "spiritual enlightenment," which in fact is really unorthodox, unproven indigenous doctrines;
  22. Isolationism — corporate and individual, especially with respect to exposure to outside ministry sources;
  23. Performance-based approval and promotion system of members predicated on "proven" "loyalty" (i.e., submission) to the leadership;
  24. Devaluation, suppression, and non-recognition of members' bona fide God-given talents, abilities, gifts, callings, and anointing, as a means of subjugation;
  25. Requiring members to perform menial tasks, such as cleaning toilets, setting up chairs, and acting as the leader's personal valet or slave, as a supposed means to humble them and teach them to "obey their leaders" or to evaluate their willingness to "submit to authority;"
  26. Constant indoctrination with a "group" or "family" mentality that impels members to exalt the corporate "life" and goals of the church-group over their personal goals, callings, objectives, and relationships;
  27. Members are psychologically traumatized and indoctrinated with numerous improper fears and phobias aimed at keeping them reeling in diffidence and an over-dependence or co-dependence on their leaders and the corporate group;
  28. Corporately, there eventually develops an inordinately high incidence of financial, marital, moral, psychological, mental, emotional, and medical problems, including sudden deaths and contraction of "incurable" and "unknown" diseases;
  29. Lack of true personal spiritual growth and development, especially in terms of genuine faith and experiencing the abounding grace, forgiveness, goodness, blessings, kindness, and agape-love of God;
  30. Members are required to obtain the approval or "witness" of their leader(s) for decisions regarding personal matters;
  31. Frequent preaching from the pulpit regarding not getting out from under the "spiritual covering" of the leadership by leaving the church/group or disobeying the leaderships' dictates and demands of you;
  32. Members departing without the prior permission and blessing of the leadership leave the group under a cloud of manufactured suspicion, shame, and slander;
  33. Horror stories frequently told by leaders about individuals or families who left the group without the prior permission and blessing of the leadership, and the terrible consequences and curses they suffered as a result;

  34. Click here to view a video of the aforementioned Charismatic Cult leader who calls out the church's music minister, who at this time had served the leader and church in that capacity for over fourteen years, to publicly "call him on the carpet," rebuke him, and accuse him of proselytizing people in the congregation to go with him in starting a new church. With this public "dressing down" and other threats the cult leader (who is in his 80s) made against the music minister, the cult leader scared the young music minister out of leaving the church to start a new church in an entirely different part of town because of the threats made against himself, his wife and family, his in-laws, and how the retribution that would be levied against them all would negatively impact their lives, especially financially. This cult-leader has successfully pulled his congregants, as well as a number of what he calls his "sons," who are church leaders over other churches that are associated with the mother church, into his web of deceit, ruling with a demonic iron-fist of religious tyranny over these people illegitimately for decades! This heretic's teaching and leadership methods prove irrefutably that his self-proclamations of apostleship are false in that the role of all Fivefold Ministers is to "equip the saints for the work of ministry," not to control and dominate people and do all they can to prohibit and prevent them from entering into and advancing God-ordained ministry callings. Particularly in this nation, founded as it is upon religious freedoms, the music minister has every right known to man to leave the cult he is a part of (hopefully, taking his family with him) and pursue planting and leading a church, anywhere he wants and feels called of God to pursue! The counterfeit "apostle" has no legitimate authority over that or the people involved, and certainly should have no desire to oppose the younger man and his callings!*

  35. Departing and ostracized members often suffer from various psychological problems and display the classic symptoms associated with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

If after reading this list and recognizing doctrines and practices your church or ministry is engaging in, and you have great difficulty admitting it, even to yourself, then you are definitely brainwashed and under the spell of "deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons," and these demonic lies are "seared in your own conscience as with a branding iron" (1 Tim. 4:1,2). And, that means you need deliverance to be set free from Satan's bondage and deception. It also means you are deceived about who you are serving. You are not serving the true Jesus, who is the One who died to set the captives free, but rather you are serving false gods — idols — which is idolatry, which means you are an "idolater," and idolaters do not inherit eternal life or have an inheritance in the Kingdom of Christ and God (Gal. 5:20,21; Eph. 5:5)! The only way for you to escape HELL and eternal punishment, and enter into Heaven and the Kingdom, is to REPENT! Then RUN from your captors and RUSH into the arms of the True Jesus, who died to set the captives FREE! "He whom the Son sets FREE is FREE INDEED!

So...what to do? Well, here's a few questions for you to ponder:

  • Do you know what the signs of hyper-authoritarianism, control, and domination in a group or church and how to recognize them?
  • Do you know if the signs are simple, overt, and obvious, or are they sophisticated and complex, covert, and hidden?
  • Could you be objective enough about your church or group and leaders to correctly analyze if authoritarian abuse is taking place at your church?
  • Do you know how to explain what the signs are to prospective or suspected victims in order to convince them they are under it?
  • Do you know how to throw out a lifeline to rescue them?
  • Do you know what steps are necessary for victims to recover from the psychologically traumatizing and spiritually damaging effects of years of subjection to spiritual abuse?
  • Do you know why hyper-authoritarian doctrines and practices are unscriptural and Biblically-prohibited, and could you cite some of the Scripture passages in which God condemns them?
  • Do you know from a biblical standpoint if God requires you to always "obey your leaders," even when they set requirements that contravene Scripture or your conscience, or when they behave as unscrupulous and undisciplined tyrants rather than model the characteristics of servanthood that Jesus modeled and instructs His under-shepherds to likewise model?

These are just a few of the questions needing answers concerning this prevalent problem of authoritarian abuse plaguing the church today. Being able to readily identify the signs and symptoms of authoritarian abuse and psychological enslavement that are rampant among church groups today is absolutely essential for every believer in their quest to know and be personally related to the Great Shepherd, who is the Prince of Peace and the true "Guardian of our souls."

These and many other relevant matters are directly addressed in the book to which this website is dedicated, Charismatic Captivation, written by Dr. Steven Lambert, himself a Charismatic minister for three and a half decades. The back-cover explains that Lambert wrote the book "in response to a Divine Call" to expose widespread authoritarian abuse and psychological enslavement occurring in many Neo-Pentecostal church-groups who espouse hyper-authoritarian doctrines and employ hyper-authoritarian practices. It also states that the work is "a medium of advocacy on behalf of untold multitudes of innocent sheep of God's Flock who, unknowingly, are being subjected to exploitive enslavement by self-aggrandizing and unscrupulous religious leaders for their own personal advancement and expansion of their private kingdoms." Identifying authoritarian abuse and psychological enslavement, and informing readers how to recognize and be set free from it, is the volume's primary objective.

Dr. Lambert presents in this book a thorough analysis of the hyper-authoritarian doctrines and practices being implemented by many Neo-Pentecostal churches and groups, citing and elaborating on the five erroneous concepts they are based upon, which render them undeniably heretical. An entire chapter is devoted to an extensive exposition of the nature, illegitimacy, and Scriptural condemnation of ecclesiastical enslavement and exploitation. In another chapter, the author also delineates the common control mechanisms employed by hyper-authoritarian Neo-Pentecostal cults, which, tellingly, are essentially identical, with only slight variation, as those employed by classic cults. This is neither accidential or coincidental, but itself further verifies the conclusion that these mechanisms and mindsets, as well as the doctrines from which they emanate, are unequivocally demonically-inspired.

The capstone of the volume is Dr. Lambert's 15 R's of Recovery from Authoritarian Abuse, steps victims of spiritual abuse must navigate through in order to regain their psychological equilibrium and be restored to spiritual wellness, derived from the author's 30 years of experience in ministering to victims of spiritual abuse.###

* Note: The website on which these videos appear is not mine, though it cites this website you are now on and my books several times, and provide numerous videos of a particular cult-leader that are illustrative examples of the leader speaking things that are representative of the signs of spiritual abuse cited herein. The videos and what the cult-leader speaks in them speak for themselves, and anyone with an ounce of spiritual discernment and unbiased Bible knowledge who is not duped by demons of deception can readily see and hear the blatant heresy this man teaches. The only reason for citing these videos is that this man and his teachings is one of the most sterling and self-evident examples of the very signs of spiritual abuse delineated in this article and my books and on this website. In no way is my motive to malign or defame the man; he's done a thorough job of that himself without any help from anyone else.

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20 Responses to “The Signs of Spiritual Abuse”

  1. Rick Larie says:

    Great site !!!!!! I was a victim of spiritual abuse for 13 years - ( and escaped !!! ) I thank God that others like yourself, can see all the garbage. I have a calling and destiny in God that I want to fulfill, and cant even seem to "land" anywhere. Everywhere I go, its about money and controll. AND, I WILL NOT SELL MY SOUL, SO THAT I CAN MINISTER IN THEIR MICKEY MOUSE CLUB . God bless you, and your book !!!! which I WILL get..........Thank you ....

  2. Ace Urquhart says:

    I was refered to this site after I read this...every sign is in the church I am attending. I feel like I can't escape. It is steadily getting worst. I used to be excited about going to church but now I hate it because of the authoritarian spirit that these leaders have and exercise over us, and mostly by means of this armour-bearer stuff. Thank you for this article, it helps a lot. I just want to know how to get out from under this kind of thing without these people cursing your life when you leave. I also see my family being warn out by all the works mentality we have been indoctrinated with...looking sad all the time, constantly being attacked with depression, headaches, and other physical and emotional problems. Thank you again for these articles and your book.

  3. Child Of God says:

    It saddens me that the Catholic Church is opening its portals wide to errant Charismatic Cults that attract the youth in large numbers.

    When I left one such catholic charismatic church in Melbourne I was blacklisted, slandered and all kinds of gossip spread about me.

    We are taught not to say anything derogatory about any priest because it saddens Jesus!


  4. Missionary Tracy Sonshine says:

    WOW!!!!!!!!! This is SO TRUE! Every believer should read this!!! I was in a church where the witchcraft among the leaders was SO BAD, especially the woman leader and her girlfriend(s) I was constantly facing curses and evil coming against me and my family until one day I left and after going through "detox" I broke all soul ties to this ministry in the NAME OF JESUS and left the state and God has set me free! HALLELUJAH! The enemy tried to attack me when I first got here, but greater is HE who is in me than he who is in the world, so JESUS protected me from all evil and all harm, and whatever evil anyone wishes on me now will just be marked "RETURN TO SENDER". So they better beware, God will protect me as His faithful and true child. I have a history with God and He knows I live Holy and won't compromise, so that NO WEAPON FORMED AGAINST ME WILL PROSPER AND EVERY TONGUE THAT RISES AGAINST ME IN JUDGMENT I WILL CONDEMN! These Pastors need to remember what happened in JUDE! It is not a good thing to fall against the Living God and it is not a good thing to touch His anointed!

    I am so glad that I escaped this evil duo that has brought destruction to so many people! Everyone they know is dying or sick. BUT NOT ME! SORRY GUYS, BUT I AIN'T GONNA FALL FOR YOUR LIES AND EVIL AND WITCHCRAFT ANYMORE! I AM FINISHED WITH YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!

    JESUS IS MY VICTOR AND THE BEST IS YET TO COME! I AIN'T SEEN NUTHIN' YET! I WIN BECAUSE I LIVE FOR HIM IN 2010~! God WILL use all my gifts and talents for HIS GLORY and your jealousy can't stop it!!!!

    HALLELUJAH AND GLORY TO GOD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    People..............BEWARE of jealous Pastors who just want to steal your gifts and anointings and then just throw you in the trash like you never existed!!!!!!! They are sent straight from the pits of hell and you need to break all your soul ties with them now and get set free and serve the True and Living God through Jesus Christ of Nazareth and be healed and whole so that you can help others get out of this web of destruction and evil!!! Like the ten virgins, you should be WISE and keep your lamps lit with your OWN OIL you gain from being in the Presence of God and submitting to HIM and HIM ALONE and being in obedience to HIS WORD and the HOLY SPIRIT He speaks to you through and not sell or let others steal your anointing. God wants YOU to serve HIM and not give your pearls to pigs!!!!!

    I sure hope this helps someone!!!!!!!!

    It took me over five years to escape this ministry and get my heart healed from broken dreams and lies and curses perpetuated from them, but now that I am free, I am not going to turn back. I am moving forward, onward, and upward, in the Name of Jesus! From now on the only soul tie I have is with GOD, JESUS, THE HOLY SPIRIT, AND THE HOLY ANGELS!!! If God brings me friends, this time, I will know which ones are from Him and which ones are sent from the devil. The best thing I got from all of this is knowledge and discernment so that I can help myself and others!

    Thank you God for your deliverance to me, my family, and friends in Jesus Name. Amen!!!!!

  5. I should also mention that when I first started leaving their church in 2005 and attending another large well known church that my finances which had nearly dried up all of the sudden multiplied and within three years I went from making next to nothing to over $110,000 a year!!! So that says something! Being under the right covering and anointing is VERY IMPORTANT! If you sense things going array in your life, pray and ask God and if He says leave............LEAVE!!!!!!!

    So after (I left), God sent me back to the church just a few times a year just to show me what I left and how blessed I was to escape.

  6. nev says:

    I know how it feels to be trapped, first they notice you, and they give you all this attention then they put you infront of everyone else to make everyone else hate you, they make you feel like they are your guarding your friend, your so call spiritual mother and your spiritual father, for some this maybe the case but for me this was not the case, I labored, I fasted, I prayed, I gave, all in the name of the Bishop, but something happened. My eyes started to open up, I started to see all the messiness behind the scenes, I realized that they really could careless about me and my family, on top of that armour-bearing is a scam, to make the leader look good; it's like this: if you slave for me for a period of time then I will open up the gifts of heaven for you (man's standards). I'm really hurting now and I need some help, to top it all off I'm a minister in that church, and I'm about to leave to be totally set free. You don't have to be a slave to any man, even if they give you a title or a position; when God says leave, then you must leave, because you will fall in all types of ungodly mess if you don't. Thank you for this article; I am being freed by it!

  7. Wow. I cannot wait to print this and read it all while I cuddle up with my cat. I am a survivor of intense church leadership abuse and I can't wait to read your material. I have recently made a blog site that deals with spiritual abuse in the church, abuse and Christian women, and many more areas of false doctrine. I can really use your expertise to further healing in my own life. If you're not too busy and want to see something of what I have been through, please check out my blog spot at and read my article "Spiritually Abused" and "Abuse and the Christian Woman". I know you will understand what I went through. I feel like everything I've been through has wised me up to use greater discernment. I can tell now when a leader is walking in a controlling spirit and is exercising false doctrine over his congregation. God bless you and I'm going to get busy reading all your material!!

  8. Stefan says:

    Hi, I'm living in Stockholm, Sweden and I found out about this book through a friend. Me and my wife and two kids attend a church that are doing G12 and we have had a feeling for some time that things are not really sound in G12.
    When reading the 33 signs, I find that at least half of them apply to G12 and to our church in Sweden.
    I've ordered the book and will read it carefully.

    God Bless,

  9. Katrina Hill says:

    I was also a victim of this before it had a name. All the reasons you listed were right there in front of my face, but as a child, I thought as a child. I was taught to obey and not question. I was taught to trust my leaders and follow them. It turned into direct harassment, almost daily from my 8th grade til 11th grade year. Finally they came up with a plan to put me out of their school. The reason? Not because I was a trouble maker or a disruptive student; I was put out because I was not a member of their church. They didn't want any students graduating that weren't members of their church. Also I found it interesting that they had no problem cashing those non-member tuition checks every month. I am so glad that God loved me and cared for me during that devastating time.

  10. Flossy says:

    It is with sadness that I can say I've been under this kind of abuse. I'm so thankful to the Lord for allowing me to see and accept what was going on. I knew for a long time something was wrong, but I thought it might have just been me, and I was hoping the feeling would stop. It didn't stop, but only got worse and was totally made known when I got humiliated in front of some of the group members for something I didn't want to say.

    I just pray that the group I was in have their eyes opened and see the truth. Thank you for such an enlightening page and I hope your words bless many more with the truth!


  11. Jane says:

    Dear Brother Lambert,

    Thank you for your wise words of speaking the truth in love. This experience happened to my own two beloved boys and I. Moreover, no joke, it was during a difficult time in my life when my own sister happened to be missing for nine months, I received absolutely no support, however, behind the pulpit the words spoken etched in my memory where horrific sounds of a oppression conditions that made me feel bad.

    The young lady sitting next to me had formerly been involved in sex outside of marriage but repented. He was preaching on the adultress woman about how she was hated and alone, very judgmental, and that Jesus stooped down and wrote in the sand and protected this 'hated' and alone woman from the wrath of God. Laughing, he went on to tell the story of another woman in the same story who went to a therapist. After three years, laughing to the audience, he quotes, "the counselor finally tells this battered woman, lady, don't you think it's time to get a life! Your husband is dead!" There was nothing funny about what he said but everyone in the congregation laughed along with him. The associate pastor, who knew about my sister, blew me off as I walked out the door and told him what was said was horrible. I was in tears inside and thanked God my sister was not in our midst as she would lose hope of her situation and victory in Christ!

    The good news is my beloved sister was found alive and now doing exceptionally well. She is divorced, receivedd help, and completely healed from the experience. But I shall never forget that night after worship service; I went home and wept on my knees and cried out to God. The next day in the paper was news of the former head of the chief of police who had shot his wife after she reached out in the community for help. After she left her abusive husband who was in an authoritive position, he lost control, and the story did not go well.

    All to say, in many ways, all forms of abuse of power and control, including bullying and spiritual abuse, stem from some deep rooted conditions of the heart that only Christ can redeem. Amen.

    Wishing you and your loved ones a very Merry Christmas. Jesus is the reason for the season and our hope! Btw, I have since left that environment of that church, but before I left, I went up to the gentleman/shepherd who said such horrific things and offered no support to me as a member. I shook his hand, looked him in the eye and said, thank you for taking a moment of my time. I need to let you know I can no longer support this church and am deeply grieved at what was said. Instead of offering to meet with me to pray and further discuss my grief and sorrow, he retaliated with, "No, lady, you're the abuser!" I walked out of the building with my head held high but must have cried for days after my departure.

    I'm in the midst of seeking a healthy new chuch family and a shepherd who are not perfect but at least a Christ-centered congregation. Your fevent prayers on behalf of my two beloved ones and I are most appreciated. (My experiences in that church) nearly destroyed my life, but God has been faithful in it all.

    Thank you for your great contribution on this important topic that has become a silent epidemic.

    In his grip,

  12. Lyn says:

    In the middle of a big mess (related to this sort of thing in the church I've been attending). I just recently left, many other people still leaving, lots of people have left before me. It's madness and Jesus knows it all. My question is - who will be responsible for addressing this church, and leaders for what they are doing. They won't (meet with) us, and those who have had a meeting have been attacked, screamed at, told they are cursed. I know it's God's business (ultimately), and he will deal with it. Should not the churches around this area approach this situation and deal with it? The ones that are still there at this church are deceived, blind, fearful or think they have something to lose.

    Jesus loves these leaders, it's so sad, it's not supposed to be like this. God is wanting us to become wiser, a strong army to stand against these things, to stand firm on what He says to us individually (Spirit and the Word). I feel sad of having lost friends, and watching them and their doings. They are not the people I knew when I first met them (I know they are still in there some where, and God can restore).

    Thank you for your wisdom in all the things you have written, and the encouragement, Dr. Lambert. It's good to have confirmation that you are not going stark raving mad. It's hard to see things clearly when you are so aware of your own shortcomings and weaknesses. I am so grateful -- the kind of gratefulness that you can't describe really, that Jesus loves me unconditionally. This is so awesome and I hold on to it. My understanding of God's Love is like a grain of sand on all the beaches in the world -- so there is more to come, and thats all really know now.

    Thank you Jesus!

  13. Nicole says:

    So true. My dad is a cult leader and we (most of the family) are still healing the wounds he inflicted on us with that garbage talk lies, and false accusations of being a satan worshipper whenever I disagreed. He even prayed for me babies to die and me to kill myself all because I told him I wouldn't give him a thousand dollars he felt entitled to have.

  14. Scarlett says:

    All this is true and much more. Christians leaving lukewarm apostate churches should be aware of the "trap" Internet ministries that are dishing out the same spiritual abuse, false doctrines, and other man made doctrines and traditions of men that make the word of God of no effect, (for the purpose of drawing disciples after themselves,power, manipulation and gain). Just because something is on the Internet doesn't make it safe.

  15. [...] and fellowship with other Christians. This is one very good one that covers these issues in depth, . And of course, you are welcome to make comments here in this blog and tell your personal story. [...]

  16. K says:

    I've been here. I thought it was just me. The funny thing is when I realized that it wasn't right, I was scared to leave. God had to basically open a door for me to leave. I promised myself I will never be put back into that kind of position again.

  17. Aloha Greg Keleko says:

    One sad trends is the Pastor's personal, "Bless Me Brownie Point Bucket."
    A bucket is placed in front of the alter and everyone will walk forward before the tithe's & offerings are taken. And drop their personal donation into the Pastor's personal money bucket while he looks down at them and pronounces special blessings on those who give to them personally.

  18. Bill Iskra says:

    Thank you for this website . I have tried to reach out to people who have been hurt by abusive leadership in the UPC . I have been accused op judging an entire church organization on my Blog called Former Or Future Former United Pentecostals . I have also been accused of being deceived .

    I attended a church that had a seemingly wonderful pastor and where the congregation prospered and developed some prestige in music . However , there were alot of serious issues that were covered up over the years and I came to the conclusion that just because someone looks good and feels good to many people does not make it a representative of the true Church .

    I have noticed that since I left the UPC , there are many wonderful Christians in various church organizations . It is so important for people to understand that they are saved through faith in Jesus Christ and not through a church organizaion and their human authority . There is a purpose for pastors , congregations , and departments of congregation but there is nothing in Scripture that teaches that Christians must submit to the abuse of authority .

    I have noticed that there are several websites offering information regarding abusive churches and many of them say some of the same thing that is on this website . The reality speaks for itself but the truth of Scripture is more powerful than the deception many people fall into .

    God bless you in your ministry .

  19. Marie says:

    Thank You for this book! I started getting unsettled and noticing a lot of control issues at my church after about 2 years. I started doing research on some of things I saw and I came across this book. Thank God! I found out that I wasn't crazy and what I was feeling wasn't just me. I was amazed at the many characteristics that I saw at church that we're listed and explained in the book. It was amazing. After reading I started gaining the power to say 'NO' to various demands. The book wasn't a license to leave the church. Actually as I learned to stand my ground the source of power shifted into my hands. I am still at the church, for now. There are still practices I don't agree with but I'm just getting to a place where I have nerve to go against the system even if I'm the only one. It may be time to leave soon but I'll leave with peace. I'll have graduated to a new place where I recognize these practices and can't be controlled. Also I won't be so disgruntled that I never join another church. Read it! It'll set you free from many forms of bondage.

  20. John Howell says:

    Thankfully I am free from the antics of AOG uk . For years I was scarred mentally and although it has taken years of treatment, I have reached a place whereby I enjoy a wonderful family life with adorable grandchildren. My inner faith is all sufficient. No church ties any more. No constant pounding from Bible thumping pulpits. No longer am I tied into fanatical Christianity and never again can any minister or church interfere with my health and wellbeing. Now a normal down to earth person enjoying life and doing what I choose. John Howell. Oxford UK

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