Recovering From Authoritarian Abuse

June 27, 2014
by Steven Lambert

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Multitudes of sincere and trusting believers are caught in the virtually invisible web of religious captivation in the churches they attend, the ministries they are under, and the networks they are aligned with…and don’t know it!

These faithful followers of Christ are unaware victims of spiritual abuse, psychological enslavement, and exploitation perpetrated under the heavy-hand of hyper-authoritarianism. That is to say, the leadership of the church-group of which they are a part is dominating, controlling, manipulating, and exploiting their followers for their own personal gain and private kingdom-building.

Through systematic indoctrination, victims have been duped into accepting as biblical and beneficial the oppressive and abusive predominance imposed upon them by unscrupulous, tyrannical church-leaders.

Without realizing the spiritual effect of what they are doing, myriads of sincere and faithful followers of Christ, in submitting themselves and surrendering their God-given right to self-governance or personal autonomy unto their spiritual leaders, have become “slaves of men” in blatant violation of God’s explicit warning against that very thing: “DO NOT BECOME SLAVES OF MEN!” (1 Cor. 7:23).

Frequently, in groups employing such hyper-authoritarian practices, adherents codify their willful enslavement by signing biblically-prohibited “covenants” with their leaders that require them to effectively surrender their free-will unto their spiritual taskmasters and granting them the right to intervene in and make decisions regarding the mundane matters of their lives.

Authoritarian abuse (aka, “spiritual abuse”) is one of the most widespread and troubling problems facing the Church today. Indeed, the truth is that ecclesiastical enslavement and exploitation is pandemic in many sectors of 21st Century Christendom, though those churches and ministries employing it go to great lengths to disguise and conceal it.

What makes the ubiquitous problem even more insidious is that many of the perpetrators and propagators of these spiritually repressive teachings and techniques are respected, and in some cases revered, spiritual leaders.

Moreover these autocratic systems of religious hegemony are being imposed in church-groups espousing orthodox Christian beliefs, whose membership is comprised of a cross section of average Americans—individuals and families—of every race, education level, station, status, and vocation, rather than radical, fringe religious sects and cults as many uninformed people would suppose.

Though religious predomination is certainly nothing new, and hyper-authoritarianism is by no means limited to the Neo-Pentecostal branch of the Church, it has especially flourished in Charismatic and other Neo-Pentecostal groups since it was infused into the very fabric, foundation, and functions of that branch of the Church in the early- to mid-seventies through the auspices of what became known as the “Discipleship or Shepherding Movement.” The doctrines and practices spawned in that false movement remain an integral part of the operations of many churches and groups yet today!

Indeed, what many current Neo-Pentecostals do not understand is that with the emergence of the plethora of “networks” now in existence, there is an invisible web of interrelated organizations that secretly control and direct everything substantive that goes on in the realm of Neo-Pentecostal churches, including “approving” or “blacklisting” ministers and leaders who refuse to submit to the secret “Charismatic chain-of-command,” which I have often referred to as the “Charismatic Mafia.”

For there are many rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, who must be silenced because they are upsetting whole families, teaching things they should not teach for the sake of sordid gain….This testimony is true. For this reason reprove them severely so that they may be sound in the faith, not paying attention to Jewish myths and commandments of men who turn away from the truth. To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled. They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed. But as for you, speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine. —The Apostle Paul; Titus 1:10-2:1

My book, Charismatic Captivation: Authoritarian Abuse & Psychological Enslavement in Neo-Pentecostal Churches, after nearly twenty years in print has become one of the most widely distributed and read books in existence on the matter described in its title and subtitle. To date, its distinction as the one book that specifically addresses the widespread matter of authoritarian abuse (aka, spiritual abuse) with its unique nuances and applications in the Pentecostal and Neo-Pentecostal streams and boldly challenges its propagators remains almost two decades since its release. The high praise and acclaim the book has received by scholars, ministers, and layman alike has been truly humbling and gratifying. Notwithstanding, the most gratifying result, by far, has been the inestimable numbers of former captives of religious enslavement who have been liberated from their invisible chains as a result of reading and receiving the words and message of this book. The total number of liberated captives is literally incalculable and will only be fully known after the last trump of God has sounded. But, if the number were only one, it would be no less gratifying.

The last chapter of the book, entitled, The 15 “Rs” of Recovery From Authoritarian Abuse, though it is impossible to know the actual amount of impetus it supplied to those who decided to act on the advice it provided in their own particular situation, it would only be reasonable to believe it did motivate some to muster the courage needed to leave the organization and false leaders who were their captors. Each and every time I re-read the words of this final chapter myself, I am re-charged with both conviction and righteous indignation concerning the validity and necessity of the course of action prescribed in it. The following is an excerpt of that chapter, abbreviated for the purpose of containing its length here, accompanied by a link to the full article. I pray the Lord will anoint it afresh for His purposes for each reader, each time it is read.

The 15 “Rs” of Recovery From Authoritarian Abuse
By Dr. Steven Lambert

Everything written in this book prior to this last chapter has been dedicated to the purpose of identifying erroneous hyper-authoritarian doctrines and practices being espoused and implemented within Charismatic and other Neo Pentecostal churches and groups. But, certainly, a work such as this would be wholly incomplete and deficient if it did not include instruction regarding how those caught up in the throes of such “charismatic captivation” can be set free and recover from it. This final chapter is devoted to that end.

Over nearly the entire course of my ministry, I have been studying this matter of hyper-authoritarianism, weighing it against Scripture, and ministering in various ways to many victims of authoritarian exploitation and abuse. Based on my experience and the understanding attained during that time, I have concluded there are fifteen primary actions that victims must take in order to break the fetters of predomination binding them and effect a full recovery from all the spiritual and psychological effects they have experienced. Though it is generally prudent to avoid improper dogmatism, there are some matters that require definitive actions in order to achieve a designated result. This, I believe, is one of those matters. Though I believe the steps I proffer here are critical and imperative, I would certainly allow that there could be other actions required to recover from authoritarian exploitation that I have not delineated. However, the ones I have enumerated here, I believe are absolutely necessary if effectual and comprehensive recovery is to be realized.

Although the effects of authoritarian abuse are profound, the actions necessary to break its bondage and to bring recovery are comparatively simple; not simplistic, perhaps, but simple. Thus, I have presented them in as simple and straightforward terms as I know how to present them, not only because of their simplicity, but also in order to make them as understandable as possible.

1. Read—this book (Charismatic Captivation) and The Book (The Bible).
By no means is this a promotional gimmick to sell books. Rather, this book was commissioned by God, and not men. It contains Truth and anointing to set captives free from the bondages of religious captivation. As indicated by the myriad of Scripture quotations it contains, it is solidly founded upon the Truth of the Word of God. Jesus said, “If you abide in My Word, then are you truly disciples of Mine; and you shall know the TRUTH, and the TRUTH will make you free!”

2. Receive—the teaching and reproof in this book.
Many times people read books and materials, but they never really “receive” the information and impartation inherent in the material they read. This is especially true when it comes to teaching that involves correction and reproof, because our natural tendency is to reject that which is essentially saying we have been wrong in some respect. Indeed, receiving is not automatic when one reads something; rather, one must make a deliberate effort to receive what he or she reads. When you read this book along with the Word of God for validation, be sure that you are indeed receiving into your spirit and mind what you are reading, and allow the Lord to regenerate you spiritually with the washing of the Word.

3. Renew—your mind regarding the relevant concepts.
Read and meditate upon this book and the Bible in order to renew your mind regarding the concepts upon which these erroneous teachings and practices are based. “As a man thinketh in his heart, so IS he” (Prb. 23:7)—thus, we are what we think. So, it is absolutely essential that we renew our minds, that is, our thinking, to be in accord with the Word of God, which is the “thinking” of God. In this case, the overall essential truth one must understand is that “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty (2 Cor. 3:17),” not bondage of any kind, nature, or degree. “He whom the Son sets free, is free indeed!” (Jn. 8:36). Anything that brings people into bondage, especially bondage to men, is patently NOT OF GOD!

4. Recognize—these doctrines and practices are error.
To truly be set free from the bondage resulting from the hyper-authoritarian doctrines and practices addressed in this volume, it is absolutely imperative that you recognize that they are not merely, “a little off base,” but rather that they are patently false, erroneous, errant, unscriptural, and heretical. Any teaching or hypothesis is either truth or it is error; there is no in between. Even a mixture of truth and error is error. It is the minuté, virtually undetectable quantity of poison on the steak that kills the guard dog, allowing the thief entry. This is the modus operandi of the master-thief, Satan, who comes with a big, succulent filet mignon steak of truth he has corrupted with a tiny, nearly imperceptible smidgeon of error. He lures with Truth and kills with the error.

5. Recant and Renounce—all associated false teaching and thinking.
I have found over and over again, in ministering to victims of false teaching, it is essential that once they realize the teaching they have been indoctrinated with is false, they also take the next step of actually recanting and renouncing those doctrines. This is accomplished simply by literally making an oral statement to the effect of: “I recant and renounce the false and demonically inspired doctrines and practices of….(in this case the Discipleship/Shepherding doctrines and practices).” The Bible indicates people can be ensnared by their own words spoken out of their own mouth (Prb. 6:2). I believe this is what happens when we accept and speak the concepts of false doctrine. So, to reverse the effects of these doctrines, we must recant and renounce the words we have uttered in expressing those concepts.

Two of the most powerful illustrations of the power of our own words is represented in two different incidences involving Peter. Peter denied Jesus three times. On Resurrection Morning when the two Marys went to the tomb, an angel sitting in the tomb told them Jesus the Nazarene, whom they had come looking for, was not there but had risen, and then gave them some instruction on where they must go to find Him, which began, “Go tell His disciples AND PETER.” The effect of his own denials, as the angel’s words revealed, was Heaven’s reluctant and sad recognition that Peter, by his own declarations, was no longer a disciple of Jesus. Then, on the morn of “The Miracle at Sea,” when after fishing all night and having caught nothing, the disciples obeyed Jesus’ command to “cast their nets on the other side,” as He and Peter were walking on the beach after eating the breakfast Jesus had prepared for Himself and the disciples, Jesus asked Peter precisely three times if he loved Him, each time using a different Greek word for the three different types of love, therewith leading Peter in recanting and renouncing each of his three denials of the Lord and being His disciple. These two scenarios, deliberately placed in the Word of God by the Holy Spirit, vividly illustrate the vital importance of recanting and renouncing our own “idle words,” which are words contrary to the Word of God and thus spiritually unproductive or barren, Jesus expressly stated would be judged in the day of judgment, unto either justification or damnation (Mat. 12:37).

6. Repent—from all associated and indicated sin.
Once the truths and perspectives presented in this book are understood and embraced, it becomes incontrovertibly clear that these hyper-authoritarian doctrines and practices are founded in sin, i.e., rebellious and ungodly attitudes. Those who have been, especially proactive, participants in these doctrines need to candidly search their heart and allow the Holy Spirit to put His finger on the character flaws that caused them to be attracted to these doctrines and practices, “fall out of agreement with them” (cf., Amos 3:3), making a definitive “mind change” as to the “rightness” of these doctrines and practices, and then “turn away” or “repent” from them in simple and sincere confession to the Lord.

7. Request—forgiveness, from God and people.
Once you realize you have been a participant in unscriptural doctrines and ungodly practices, forgiveness is needed and should, of course, be desired. First, one should request forgiveness from God for having departed from the paths of righteousness. Secondly, you will also need to seek forgiveness from the people you have personally involved or affected as a result of your espousal and/or propagation of these fallacious doctrines and participation in these sinful practices. Whether you were a “leader” at some level in one of these authoritarian systems or merely one of the “led,” there are people whose lives you have somehow effected with what you believed at the time to be “truth.” Now that you realize you were under deception, you will need to go to those persons to whom the Holy Spirit leads you, confess to them you now realize you were wrong, and ask them to forgive you. The Holy Spirit is really the only One who can make it plain to you those to whom you need to go; and He will, when you seek Him in all sincerity, humility, and honesty.

8. Realize—you’ve been a participant in erroneous teaching and practices, thereby subjecting yourself to demonic influence and bondage. It is important that you actually come to the realization without any “fudging,” rationalizing, euphemizing, or justifying that you have been a participant in a system of false teaching and unscriptural practices that are centered in witchcraft and inspired by demons, and that as a result you have subjected yourself to at least the potential of demonic influence and bondage. This may seem rudimentary to some, but my experience in dealing with demonic incursion demonstrates it is nonetheless a critical step in the process of release and recovery that cannot be avoided or circumvented. It is important to face this possibility of demonic incursion head on and forthrightly.###

Click here to learn the other 7 “Rs” of Recovery from Authoritarian Abuse.
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Dr. Steven Lambert was ordained in 1977 and holds several earned graduate/post-graduate degrees. Over more than four decades in ministry, he has served as a pastor, radio/TV host, adjunct-professor, Board Certified Doctoral Diplomate Christian Therapist/Counselor, and a speaker/commentator on a range of social, political, and theological issues, particularly as a recognized authority on the matter of ecclesiastical authoritarian abuse. He is the founder/Overseer of Ephesians Four Network (ephesiansfour.net) and its subsidiary, Ephesians Four Network of Deliverance Counselors (efndc.ephesiansfour.net). Dr. Lambert authored several books (catalog at realtruthpublications.com), many published articles, and is the founder/editor of Spirit Life Magazine (spiritlifemag.com). His bio, extensive blog, and scheduling information are available on his ministry website at: http://www.slm.org. You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

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