Psychologist/Author Steve Hassan on Thought Reform Used By High-Control Groups. Inspired by Work of Psychiatrist Dr. Robert Jay Lifton

by Velour/MtnShepherdess ©

My former church, the authoritarian Grace Bible Fellowship of Silicon Valley, is a high-control, abusive group and uses Thought Reform techniques to gain church members’ compliance. GBFSV pastors/elders are extremely abusive and manipulative, as scores of ex-members whom have been interviewed have stated was their first-hand experience.

I recommend Steve Hassan’s website, videos, and his books including Combating Cult Mind Control to anyone who is thinking about going to Grace Bible Fellowship of Silicon Valley, wants to get out of Grace Bible Fellowship of Silicon Valley and has serious concerns about what goes on at GBFSV, anyone who has left Grace Bible Fellowship of Silicon Valley and is trying to figure out what happened there, and for the family and friends of people who are going to Grace Bible Fellowship of Silicon Valley and have seen changes for the worse in their loved ones’ behavior after being at Grace Bible Fellowship of Silicon Valley.


Here is an excerpt from Steve Hassan’s website about the B.I.T.E. Model that high control groups, like Grace Bible Fellowship of Silicon Valley, frequently use. Study it carefully.

“Steven Hassan’s BITE Model of Cult Mind Control

Many people think of mind control as an ambiguous, mystical process that cannot be defined in concrete terms. In reality, mind control refers to a specific set of methods and techniques, such as hypnosis or thought- stopping, that influence how a person thinks, feels, and acts. Like many bodies of knowledge, it is not inherently good or evil. If mind control techniques are used to empower an individual to have more choice, and authority for his life remains within himself, the effects can be beneficial. For example, benevolent mind control can be used to help people quit smoking without affecting any other behavior. Mind control becomes destructive when the locus of control is external and it is used to undermine a person’s ability to think and act independently.

As employed by the most destructive cults, mind control seeks nothing less than to disrupt an individual’s authentic identity and reconstruct it in the image of the cult leader. I developed the BITE model to help people determine whether or not a group is practicing destructive mind control. The BITE model helps people understand how cults suppress individual member’s uniqueness and creativity. BITE stands for the cult’s control of an individual’s Behavior, Intellect, Thoughts, and Emotions.

It is important to understand that destructive mind control can be determined when the overall effect of these four components promotes dependency and obedience to some leader or cause. It is not necessary for every single item on the list to be present. Mindcontrolled cult members can live in their own apartments, have nine-to-five jobs, be married with children, and still be unable to think for themselves and act independently.

We are all subject to influence from our parents, friends, teachers, co-workers… When this influence helps someone grow and maintain an internal locus of control, it is healthy. Influence which is used to keep people mindless and dependent is unhealthy. To download a PDF of the Influence Continuum graphic, click here.

Destructive mind control is not just used by cults. Learn about the Human Trafficking BITE Model and the Terrorism BITE Model.


The BITE Model

I. Behavior Control
II. Information Control
III. Thought Control
IV. Emotional Control

Behavior Control

1. Regulate individual’s physical reality
2. Dictate where, how, and with whom the member lives and associates or isolates
3. When, how and with whom the member has sex
4. Control types of clothing and hairstyles
5. Regulate diet – food and drink, hunger and/or fasting
6. Manipulation and deprivation of sleep
7. Financial exploitation, manipulation or dependence
8. Restrict leisure, entertainment, vacation time
9. Major time spent with group indoctrination and rituals and/or self indoctrination including the Internet
10. Permission required for major decisions
11. Thoughts, feelings, and activities (of self and others) reported to superiors
12. Rewards and punishments used to modify behaviors, both positive and negative
13. Discourage individualism, encourage group-think
14. Impose rigid rules and regulations
15. Instill dependency and obedience
16. Threaten harm to family and friends
17. Force individual to rape or be raped
18. Instill dependency and obedience
19. Encourage and engage in corporal punishment

Information Control

1. Deception:
a. Deliberately withhold information
b. Distort information to make it more acceptable
c. Systematically lie to the cult member
2. Minimize or discourage access to non-cult sources of information, including:
a. Internet, TV, radio, books, articles, newspapers, magazines, other media
b.Critical information
c. Former members
d. Keep members busy so they don’t have time to think and investigate
e. Control through cell phone with texting, calls, internet tracking
3. Compartmentalize information into Outsider vs. Insider doctrines
a. Ensure that information is not freely accessible
b.Control information at different levels and missions within group
c. Allow only leadership to decide who needs to know what and when
4. Encourage spying on other members
a. Impose a buddy system to monitor and control member
b.Report deviant thoughts, feelings and actions to leadership
c. Ensure that individual behavior is monitored by group
5. Extensive use of cult-generated information and propaganda, including:
a. Newsletters, magazines, journals, audiotapes, videotapes, YouTube, movies and other media
b.Misquoting statements or using them out of context from non-cult sources
6. Unethical use of confession
a. Information about sins used to disrupt and/or dissolve identity boundaries
b. Withholding forgiveness or absolution
c. Manipulation of memory, possible false memories

Thought Control

1. Require members to internalize the group’s doctrine as truth
a. Adopting the group’s ‘map of reality’ as reality
b. Instill black and white thinking
c. Decide between good vs. evil
d. Organize people into us vs. them (insiders vs. outsiders)
2.Change person’s name and identity
3. Use of loaded language and clichés which constrict knowledge, stop critical thoughts and reduce complexities into platitudinous buzz words
4. Encourage only ‘good and proper’ thoughts
5. Hypnotic techniques are used to alter mental states, undermine critical thinking and even to age regress the member
6. Memories are manipulated and false memories are created
7. Teaching thought-stopping techniques which shut down reality testing by stopping negative thoughts and allowing only positive thoughts, including:
a. Denial, rationalization, justification, wishful thinking
b. Chanting
c. Meditating
d. Praying
e. Speaking in tongues
f. Singing or humming
8. Rejection of rational analysis, critical thinking, constructive criticism
9. Forbid critical questions about leader, doctrine, or policy allowed
10. Labeling alternative belief systems as illegitimate, evil, or not useful

Emotional Control

1. Manipulate and narrow the range of feelings – some emotions and/or needs are deemed as evil, wrong or selfish
2. Teach emotion-stopping techniques to block feelings of homesickness, anger, doubt
3. Make the person feel that problems are always their own fault, never the leader’s or the group’s fault
4. Promote feelings of guilt or unworthiness, such as
a. Identity guilt
b. You are not living up to your potential
c. Your family is deficient
d. Your past is suspect
e. Your affiliations are unwise
f. Your thoughts, feelings, actions are irrelevant or selfish
g. Social guilt
h. Historical guilt
5. Instill fear, such as fear of:
a. Thinking independently
b. The outside world
c. Enemies
d. Losing one’s salvation
e. Leaving or being shunned by the group
f. Other’s disapproval
6. Extremes of emotional highs and lows – love bombing and praise one moment and then declaring you are horrible sinner
7. Ritualistic and sometimes public confession of sins
8. Phobia indoctrination: inculcating irrational fears about leaving the group or questioning the leader’s authority
a. No happiness or fulfillment possible outside of the group
b. Terrible consequences if you leave: hell, demon possession, incurable diseases, accidents, suicide, insanity, 10,000 reincarnations, etc.
c. Shunning of those who leave; fear of being rejected by friends, peers, and family
d. Never a legitimate reason to leave; those who leave are weak, undisciplined, unspiritual, worldly, brainwashed by family or counselor, or seduced by money, sex, or rock and roll
e. Threats of harm to ex-member and family”



More information about Dr. Robert Jay Lifton, Yale psychiatrist, and his research of Thought Reform techniques used by high control groups written about by Christian researcher Brad Sargent on his blog:

The Shepherding Movement by Brother Maynard – Subversive Influence blog

I’ve mentioned the Shepherding Movement a few times, and lately have had a couple of request to explain something about what this movement was all about. Rob McAlpine‘s forthcoming book, Post-Charismatic contains a good overview of the movement as well as the Latter Rain and other charismatic movements… the book should be out shortly, but I can’t just link to it yet… so here goes.

In the early 1970s, four well-known charismatic leaders responded to a moral failure among charismatics in south Florida. Bob Mumford, Derek Prince, Don Basham, and Charles Simpson felt a need for personal accountability and covenanted together for this purpose, submitting their lives and ministries to one another. Ern Baxter, who had ministered with William Branham, was later added to the group and they became known as the “Ft. Lauderdale Five.” They formed Christian Growth Ministries in 1974, and in the movement that they began, the accountability they shared became an emphasis that all believers should submit to a “shepherd” in order to be discipled in the Christian life. Their prominence helped gain wide acceptance for their teaching, which included what was felt to be correctives to the charismatic movement at the time. Other charismatic leaders began submitting to the authority of the Ft. Lauderdale Five in what was known as “covenant relationships.” A network of cell groups was formed, with members submitting to a shepherd who in turn was submitted to one of the five or a representative who was submitted to one of the five. At its height, it was estimated that some 100,000 people were involved in this network in the USA. In conjunction with this pyramidal authority structure, the movement taught that every believer needed to be under a “spiritual covering” from a leader in authority over them. Other doctrines taught by the movements included echoes of Latter Rain theology, such as restorationism.

Full article here:

Never Go to a Meeting When the Purpose is Unknown to You

A Cry For Justice

I have learned (the hard way) that one of the ways the wicked work their evil against the righteous is by setting a trap or snare. Jesus said, “beware of men.” And so we must.

A typical way that the wicked set their traps is to ask their victim to –

  • come to the office to talk
  • let’s just sit down and talk
  • I need to talk to you very badly
  • No, no, no. We don’t need anyone else to come. Just come yourself so we can talk

In each one of these cases if you ask the person what the subject of the meeting or “talk” is, they will refuse to provide it or will evade answering. DO NOT GO to such a meeting. Do not have a phone call with such a person. Even if, and especially if, they are quoting Bible verses to you about brothers forgiving…

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Part 5: My Story of Being A Member of The Abusive Grace Bible Fellowship of Silicon Valley

Part 5 of a 5-part series.

 “A Badge of Honor” – My Excommunication & Shunning from a NeoCalvinist Church  – by Velour/MtnShepherdess ©

Something I’ve learned: there are people outside the church just as much not free as there are those within it. Being within or outside the church is secondary. What primarily needs to be und…:


            “Consider your excommunication as a badge of honor from a church like that!” –

Boz Tchividjian, Attorney/Law Professor/former sex crimes prosecutor/ advocate for child sex abuse victims/founder of Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment (G.R.A.C.E.), grandson of the Rev. Billy Graham,  words of encouragement to me on my excommunication/shunning from Grace Bible Fellowship of Silicon Valley (California)


  1. Where I Found Help

            I did an internet search on “excommunication” and found the Petrys blog, Joyful Exiles,

devoted to their excommunication and shunning at Mark Driscoll’s former Seattle church Mars


I am glad that they put their painful experience, of Paul’s being fired and excommunicated and shunned in writing.  He had opposed Mark Driscoll’s un-Biblical consolidation of power.

They were put in a terrible situation socially, emotionally, and financially for Paul doing the right thing.

Some of the former Mars Hill pastors/elders have repented: Mark Driscoll has not.

My internet searches also brought me to Spiritual Sounding Board and Julie Anne’s experience with an abusive, authoritarian church.  And finally through her blog I found The Wartburg Watch.

  1. Deprogamming

             I have learned that I know more than I thought I did.  I learned the history of many abusive church practices from commentators here like Gram3 and others. They saved my sanity, along with the blog articles. I have been able to share what I’ve learned with others, including in my reviews about my former church.

Some current church members contact me through social media, wanting to get out of that church. I have given them tips on how to do that.  And instead of criticizing the church, I ask them to tell me their concerns. They do. I tell them that I and others noticed the same things.  I ask them to tell me about other churches they’ve been to where they were treated differently.

They do.  I know that they have the answers within them, I simply see my job as being a safe person who can help pull insights out of them that they already know.

  1. Resources
  •  Thought Reform

 I found it helpful to learn about Thought Reform techniques from therapist/cult expert/author Steve Hassan’s blog.  Many of these NeoCalvinist churches, and other abusive groups, are using Thought Reform techniques to leverage conformity from members.

Hassan was inspired by the research of psychiatrist Dr. Robert Jay Lifton who studied Chinese Communist Thought Reform [brain washing] Techniques and the BITE model used by destructive  groups, including my former church:

The BITE Model

I. Behavior Control
II. Information Control
III. Thought Control
IV. Emotional Control

Brad/FuturistGuy who blogs here has already written about Dr. Robert Jay Lifton’s work:

  • Helpful Books  I have found books on spiritual abuse and recovery from it helpful.  The books that I have turned to most are:
  • Healing Spiritual Abuse by Ken Blue
  • Recovery from Churches That Abuse by Ronald Enroth (FREE online version)
  • The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse by David Johnson and Jeff Van Vonderen
  • Spiritual Abuse Recovery by Barbara M. Orlowski
  • Wade Burleson. I have found pastor Wade Burleson’s blog, he’s the pastor on The Wartburg Watch on E-Church on Sundays, very helpful in undoing so many of the false teachings that I was taught at my former church.
  • Egalitarian In the future, I  hope to read Biblical Egalitarian writers, like Dr. Ron Pierce Rebecca Merrill Groothusis, and Gordon Fee’s Discovering Biblical Equality.  [some 15 hours]

  • Also Barbara M. Orlowski recommended three books by Susanna Krizo that uncover the

Refuting Complementarian/Patriarchy agenda:

  • Recovering from Un-Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Patriarchy
  • When Dogmas Die: The Return of Biblical Equality
  • Genesis 3: The Origin of Gender Roles
  1. Self-Care: A Supportive Friend And Treatment for Depression

             I became friends with a woman who posts here and on Spiritual Sounding Board. We also became friends on Twitter. She has posted candidly about her treatment for depression.  After talking to her, her bravery encouraged me to do same.

I was put on anti-depressant medication and anti-anxiety medication.  It has really helped me with the emotional challenges and losses from my bad church experience.  I also go to therapy once a week (regular therapist and not a Biblical counselor) and it has been helpful to help me process what happened and make concrete steps to take care of myself.

I receive emails from insiders at my former church, including my ex-senior pastor’smost recent email to several hundred church members about me, all lies per usual.

I have removed the names of the law enforcement agencies who are professional and whom my ex-pastor tried to take down in his attack on me, to give him credibility:

“Dear members-

[From this lie]One of our former members who is in the final step of church discipline, has recently been aggressively harassing some of our current members.  She has been spreading malicious gossip [police department No. 1], the [police department no. 2] and [law enforcement agency no. 3] all say she is unstable and should be ignored and or avoided.  So if she sends you a text or email, they suggest you ignore it and delete it with no reply.  They believe if she receives no attention, that in time she will stop.

In the meantime ask God for protection over the Body of GBF [to this lie. This email is 100% lies and I have NOT contacted anyone. In point of fact the law enforcement agencies have repeatedly referred to the Grace Bible Fellowship of Silicon Valley pastors/elders as liars as has the California Attorney General.]
Blessings in Christ,
Pastor Cliff [McManis, Grace Bible Fellowship of Silicon Valley”

My ex-pastor’s email to several hundred church members is totally fabricated.  Two church members work for police departments 1 and 2 and have repeatedly defended the senior pastor and the elders.

The third law enforcement has always said point blank that my church’s ex-pastors/elder were “lying” about the sex offender and that he is NOT coming off Megan’s List.

Additionally, it is not possible to “aggressively harass” current church members since I haven’t contacted any of them.  I haven’t had any contact with church members by phone, text, email, in person or by other means.  My ex-pastor’s email about me is a lie.

The law enforcement agencies have not said that I am mentally ill. To the contrary, they are alarmed at the conduct of these pastors/elders, including harassing former church members, excommunicating and shunning them, protecting a sex offender, and not cooperating with law enforcement.

I faithfully contact, every year, any school that rents their gym to my ex-church and tell them, “This is their policy about Megan’s List sex offenders and children. It would be wise for you to ban this church from your property as if it goes wrong you can be sued.”

Sometimes I wake up and my cheeks burn red with shame at what my ex-pastors/elders said about me and all of the people who believed them. My Wartburg Watch friend has gently said to me, “Give the shame back to them.”  I have. I take my hands and say, “Here is the shame and it’s yours not mine” and I hand it back to them.

And I sent the senior pastor’s email to all of the law enforcement agencies, to the district attorney, and to the women’s groups in Silicon Valley that deal with domestic violence and sexual abuse, are well funded and staffed, and have attorneys.  I also gave it to the San Jose Mercury News, our major newspaper.  I told all of them that this pastor and the elders can put this in writing or tell police, even if asked by police. It will then be filing a false police report, a crime in California that they can be arrested and prosecuted for. Anyone who wants to make those assertions about me – that I did any of that – can face arrest and prosecution for telling that to police, because it’s not true.

 26.   What is a Healthy Church?

            I have come across lots of books and articles on what an unhealthy church is and some qualities in a healthy church.  But I now know that one of the most important qualities is LOVE, the only mark of a healthy Biblical church as someone on The Wartburg Watch wrote.

I posted this story recently on The Wartburg Watch, about love during the Christmas season. Real Biblical Love.  I realized that the “formula” of church the NeoCalvinist way, or any way, that adds on to the radical message of Love on the cross…misses the message entirely.  God took off the “training wheels” of NeoCalvinism and let me know that “playing it safe” when it comes to love was really harmful.  So I must not look to pastors, elders, authors, or anyone else for my faith.  I must look to Jesus.

I must love like Jesus.  I must be around people that want to love like Jesus. And that doesn’t come through rules, formulas, shoulds and doctrines of men.  It comes by being transformed by the Holy Spirit.

“At my former NeoCalvinist/9Marks/John MacArthur-ite church many people espoused a hatred for gays. They had vile speech, and were proud of it.
I can’t do that because of my job, I have to uphold anti discrimination laws, and because a boss (who is a wonderful, talented professional) is gay.
On a deeper level, I couldn’t abide by the lack of love. In these groups people also proudly shun gay relatives. John MacArthur recommends this.
As a Christian, I can’t.
Years ago, in December a few weeks before Christmas, some friends called to say that their young neighbor in the countryside in their town by a river had been taken by paramedics to my city’s emergency room. He was dying of AIDS.
It was the middle of the night, a pouring rain storm, I was in bed, cozy and warm.
And God insisted that I go visit this young man in the middle of the night. I had never done anything like that before, or with an AIDS patient (which on my own strength would have frightened me). But the Lord was insistent. “Go!”
So I got dressed, got a teddy bear and some Christmas candy together (early Christmas gifts from others). I called a little old lady friend Catherine, 100 years old, Catholic, a retired social worker and a lovely, warm, kind person who could melt anyone’s heart. I asked her if she wanted to come with me. I told her the Lord insisted I go, and I was going. It would be nice to have company, but I understood if she wanted to sleep.
She said she wanted to come. She got out of bed and got dressed as well.
I went to a 24-hour supermarket and bought a small table top Christmas tree, with little decorations on it, some sports magazines, entertainment magazines, and some snacks.
My elderly friend and I went to the hospital. I told the nurse at the ER that, “Sean’s [the young man who was so sick] Christmas Angels have arrived.”
He was so stunned when my little old lady friend and I walked in with gifts to see him. I introduced us. He was so terribly weak. And he hugged us. I got him a Pepsi and fed it to with him a straw. Sean kept hugging Catherine, 100 years old. She stroked his hair.
He kept saying, “This is the best Christmas I’ve ever had in my entire life.” He was in his mid 20’s. His mother had died when he was a child. His family that remained was very dysfunctional and they had disowned him. They lived back East in Massachusetts.
The little room for indigent patients was nothing spectacular to look at. Old large discolored white tiles on the floor. No art work on the walls. Old, tired sink near by.
It was 3am and it was pouring rain outside.
But I could feel the presence of God and the angels in that room. I could feel them.
I thought when I went to give Sean some Pepsi or a hug or whatever that I would bump into an invisible visitor. That room was physically ugly but it was so beautiful because it glowed from the presence of God!
Sean said to me, “If you ever need anything, call on me and I’ll be there.” I smiled and I thought to myself, “What is a guy with AIDS who is this weak going to do for me. He couldn’t even lift a box if I moved.” I smiled and nodded. Sean repeated it, “If you ever need anything call on me and I’ll be there.” I nodded and said, “If I ever need anything I’ll call on you and you’ll be there.” He smiled weakly and said, ” Yes.”
I went, or so I thought, to minister to a young man named Sean dying of AIDS that night.
I thought that was what God wanted me to do.
Instead something entirely different took place: I was ministered to. It was glorious.
I told Sean I would see him a few hours later that day, bring him some Mickey Mouse socks from the mall to keep his feet warm. He said he’d like that.
When I called the hospital in the morning to ask about Sean, the nurse said, “Oh you’re the lady who was here with the 100-year old lady visiting Sean. Sean passed away peacefully this morning at about 6:30 a.m.”
‘When you did this for the least among Me, you did it for Me.’ That is what my Lord would have me do. The Royal Law of Love.”


Related articles in 5-part series

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4:



Part 3: My Story of Being A Member of The Abusive Grace Bible Fellowship of Silicon Valley

Part 3 of a 5-part series

“A Badge of Honor” – My Excommunication & Shunning from a NeoCalvinist Church  – by Velour/MtnShepherdess ©

Image result for david hayward naked pastor



              “Consider your excommunication as a badge of honor from a church like that!” –

Boz Tchividjian, Attorney/Law Professor/former sex crimes prosecutor/ advocate for child sex abuse victims/founder of Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment (G.R.A.C.E.), grandson of the Rev. Billy Graham,  words of encouragement to me on my excommunication/shunning from Grace Bible Fellowship of Silicon Valley (California)


  1.  Council on Biblical Manhood Womanhood’s Teachings

            I had never heard of the Council on Biblical Manhood Womanhood and its dangers. I never knew that seeing it on a church website was a warning sign of an abusive church and an authoritarian structure, just like seeing the names 9Marks or Acts 29.

My ex-pastor repeatedly told women to “obey” and “submit”.  They were treated like second-class citizens. I was shocked when I first heard him say it.   We were told that it was “Biblical”, which I’ve just learned means, “Do it our way and don’t question. If you question us you’re un-Biblical.”

The pastor taught us women a book about being Biblical women. We met on one night a week at the church for several months.

We were told that women couldn’t be teachers. I really began to question Complementarian teachings, which I have since learned from Wartburg Watch readers like Gram3 that it started being heavily taught in the late 1990’s.

My Presbyterian grandmother had women medical missionary friends who were doctors and provided medical care and taught The Gospel in remote parts of the world. I grew up seeing their slide shows and seeing changed lives and villages.

I began to question the Comp teaching that women “couldn’t”, “shouldn’t” teach or employ their other gifts from God, when I thought about all of those women that I had seen further the kingdom.  I knew it wasn’t true. I had met Christian women teachers, missionaries, and pastors since I was a child.

At the NeoCalvinist, Complementarian promoting church we had strictly segregated events.  Women weren’t allowed to go fishing, to ball games, or to do trips in the mountains.  Those were for the men. We were strictly segregated from the men and did things like ladies teas with a speaker and crafts projects.  While they were nice events, many of us gals just wanted to be tom-boys and do fun stuff, without dressing up.

  1. Pulpit Message: No Signed Membership Covenant, Don’t Come To Worship

            My ex-senior pastor would say from the pulpit how did he know if you were one of his flock, how did the elders know, if you didn’t sign a Membership Covenant? He would proudly proclaim that to members, attenders, and new visitors. He would say, “Oh a person told me that I was THEIR pastor. I’m SO glad that they did, because I didn’t know that!”  I was really alarmed at the whole embarrassing spectacle. I would think, “They showed up to church and you can’t tell from that alone that they are one of yours?”

The other elders started parroting the same embarrassing message when they were up at the pulpit and that the elders didn’t know that you were one of theirs if you didn’t sign a Membership Covenant.

Then the pastors/elders started announcing that people couldn’t come to church if they didn’t sign a Membership Covenant. My cheeks were red with embarrassment at the sheer rudeness shown to Christians, including visitors. Some visitors got up and walked out during the service and I don’t blame them.

One dear Christian man, who didn’t believe in Membership Covenants, was banned from coming to church. He had been coming for years.

One of the elders started saying from the pulpit that if “you aren’t willing to sign a Membership Covenant than God obviously hasn’t called you to this church”. As Nick in Scotland, who comments here on The Wartburg Watch has said, that is a good thing after all because people don’t need to be a member of a church like my ex-church.

  1.  I’m Confused. The Elect? Calvinism? NeoCalvinism? What Is That?

           I didn’t know anything about Calvinism or that I had chosen a NeoCalvinist church.I began to suspect something was up when the pastors/elders started talking about “The Elect” from the pulpit, in Adult Sunday School, and during Good Friday testimonies, including mine.

After I finished my testimony, about how the Lord had used all different kinds of people especially African-American women to carry The Gospel to me at a dark time in my life, and reach in to my life with love and kindness and nothing more, I began to melt. I didn’t know what they had, but I wanted it. I knew they were different. The chairman of the elder board said that I had been among “The Elect”, that God had known in advance that I was chosen for salvation.

I thought the whole idea of The Elect made a mockery of Jesus. If God knew in advance where everyone was going – Heaven (The Elect) or Hell (The Un-Elect) than Jesus’ birth, life, death and resurrection were redundant. Jesus could have just stayed in Heaven.

My senior pastor carried this The Elect talk to ridiculous proportions when he bragged from the pulpit that in the end times when Jesus comes back and there is a war that my pastor will be given a horse to ride and to do battle on behalf of Jesus.

I would sit in my pew and think, “A guy like you, who has screamed, yelled, bullied threatened, lied about, excommunicated and shunned dear sweet saints thinks Jesus would trust you with a horse?  Jesus wouldn’t trust you with the manure in the horses’ stable!”

I found these people who claim to be among The Elect, arrogant, smarmy, rude, unkind, lacking in Christian love and common decency, and lacking in the humility that we are to be conformed to in Jesus Christ.

Pride goeth before a fall, and what a fall so many of these arrogant people will have.I would be ashamed to go around talking that way.

  1. Obey and Submit to Your Elders

             Max on The Wartburg Watch:

“Touch not my anointed” is not applicable in such cases, so let the rebuke fly! I don’t sense much, if any, anointing in New Calvinist ranks (their leaders are more annoying, than anointed).”

            The pastors/elders grew arrogant in record time. Within my first year of membership, I asked my senior pastor a question and he hit me back with, “You are bringing an accusation against an elder without cause!” What?  I was shocked. We are adults and I asked a question. What ever happened to adults having a conversation?

The pastors/elders would say from the pulpit that we had to “obey” them because they were “going to give an account to God for our souls.”  I was shocked at how many times they pulled ranked with us, threatened us, silenced us.  It became apparent to me that they didn’t think that we were all a priesthood of believers, in this together.

As all of the books on spiritual abuse have pointed out, this is a misused verse by authoritarian pastors/elders.

I then learned the importance of a congregational vote. We gave our money to the church, we served, we were members and we had no say in the running of our church. I will never make that mistake again.

We are a priesthood of believers and the Holy Spirit indwells us. We are perfectly capable of running our church.  I think that they didn’t want a congregational vote because they could get fired from their jobs and they are all friends.

I will never join a church again that is run like that one. I will never give money to one again.

  1. Members’ Every Move Is Tracked

             Members’ every move was tracked.  From church attendance, to attendance in Adult Sunday School, Bible Studies, giving, and church events.

They assigned me to take attendance every week on a clipboard at the Sunday service. They said it was because they “cared” about the flock. I thought it odd.  And I didn’t know it was heavy-Shepherding.  If members missed church they were called and reminded to not forsake the meeting of the brethren. Many current and former church members have criticized these heavy- handed tactics and resented these intrusive phone calls for missing church for legitimate reasons.

When I couldn’t attend weekly Bible studies because of my schedule, the senior pastor screamed at me and demanded to know my “excuse”.  I told him that I was working and commuting, that I wasn’t home in time.

I and other church members were forced in to coffee and lunch meetings with pastors/ elders. If I tried to get out of them, and I did try, I was ordered to show up.  I had other people in my life to counsel me.  It is one thing to be offered support “We’re here if you’d ever like to get together”, and it’s quite something else to be ordered to show up.

Before I started a new job I got a call from the chairman of the elder board about how to conduct myself.  I found it insulting. He told me that I could be “too generous”.  He didn’t know anything about my jobs and how I conduct myself.  Again, it’s one thing to say you’re there if somebody wants job tips.  It’s quite another thing to tell someone what they should do, unsolicited.

The pastors/elders also had a meeting about me and criticized me for bringing ten pounds of barbecue beef brisket to a church potluck.  While my brisket disappeared quite quickly, I was admonished by the chairman of the elder board who called my home that I had been “too lavish”.

When I asked my Bible study leader and his wife if they’d be willing to meet some men in the future who wanted to date me, just to give me their opinion, my Bible Study leader ran it by the senior pastor to get his approval.

Other former church members reported this kind of insufferable control over their lives, down to being criticized by the pastors/elders for what they fed their children.


Related articles in 5-part series

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 4:

Part 5:

Patriarchy Professor Proves Women Are Spiritual Leaders Over Men – Tim Fall’s blog

Tim's Blog - Just One Train Wreck After Another

[From the archives.]

Wayne Grudem recently gave an interview (my thanks to Joan for linking to it) in which he argues that women should not lead men, that men are the spiritual leaders over women, and that all of this has been God’s plan since the dawn of creation.

I’m not convinced, despite his list* of reasons why he believes this:

As I explain in detail on pages 30-42 of Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth, I think that at least the following 10 reasons indicate that there was male leadership in marriage before there was sin in the world:

(1) Adam was created first, then Eve (Genesis 2:7, 18-23).

(2) Adam, not Eve, at [sic] a special role in representing the human race (see 1 Corinthians 15:22; also Romans 5:12-21).

(3) Adam named Eve (Genesis 2: 23).

(4) God named the human race “Man,” not “Woman” (Genesis 5:1-2).


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Definition of ‘Love’

Image result for david hayward naked pastor love

“If the way you practice ‘love’ leaves other persons feeling hated, then perhaps it is time to rethink your definition of love.” – Nate Sparks, Christian blogger/husband/dad

Unnecessary control

“Unnecessary control is the mark of dysfunction for me: a dysfunctional church, a dysfunctional family, a dysfunctional political system, etc.”  – Christian Janeway on The Wartburg Watch, Twitter