DELIVERANCE FROM CHURCH ADDICTION: An Excerpt from “Come out of Her, God’s People.” by Pam Sheppard
Deliverance from church is no easy feat because Church attendance can evolve into an addiction. Once you get hooked, you need to be “detoxed.” As substance abusers go into a 28-day detox to “get clean,” church addicts need to stay out of church for at least 28-30 days. As creatures of habit, I have found that any addiction can be physically broken in that time period. Even so, once the 28 day fast is completed, the addiction in the soul is yet another story. The mind, the heart and the emotions must be renewed and for that, a drug addict will go into either a 90 day out-patient facility or a 6 months residential program.
So too with the church addict. From 90 days to 6 months, perhaps a year, the church addict’s mind must be re-trained. False doctrines and practices that the churchgoer has believed in for decades must be challenged so that the soul can be renewed. As God Himself has compared false worship to prostitution or whoredom , I am not out of line in making a similar comparison. A church addiction can be compared to “good sex” with someone you know does not really love you. Simply put, you get hooked to the thrill and the feeling. Those of us who have never “been there and done that” wonder what the thrill is for a masochist. Masochism from a psychiatric perspective is defined as a condition in which sexual gratification depends on suffering, physical pain and humiliation gained from despair, deprivation, and degradation. The perpetrator can be others or it can be self-inflicted. Unfortunately, masochists are known to find pleasure in self-denial and emotional pain.
I can relate on a spiritual level because sexual masochism is like self-imposed martyrdom. For example, it is not a part of my normal personality to tolerate a lack of regard or disrespect from anyone, yet I passively allowed myself to be frequently humiliated over a 25 year span by ignorant church bishops, elders and members who would have been of no consequence to me in the world. It is actually in my carnal nature to chew up the meat and spit out the bones of folk like this. But in the church, I allowed these abusers to ascend themselves over me with their spiritual feet in my back, tacitly enduring their verbal abuse and complete disregard of my personhood, over and over again.
Why? Because I ignorantly assumed that I was “suffering for Christ.” Notwithstanding, like a spiritual masochist, a sensual, carnal thrill was obtainable through believing that I was more righteous than they because I was faithfully doing God’s will. What a shock to find out after more than two decades, that “God never sent me there for ANY reason.” He simply used what the enemy meant for evil for my personal and spiritual good, so that I could be used by Him to help others “help themselves!” Nevertheless, as one who was “addicted,” I never wanted to leave that Whore on my own so God made HER PUT ME OUT!!!!
Ignorant of my own emotional condition, I foolishly submitted myself to the spiritual abuse that those I pastored inflicted upon me. Whatever they needed, I was there for them. I spent quality time with most of them–shopping, vacations and other outings, cooking for them, you name it. I was at the jails, hospitals, homes. I was a devoted pastor, never controlling or demanding with anyone. I even came from behind the pulpit and taught them as Jesus did. Yet none of my efforts bore any fruit in them for Jesus Christ.
The irony is that the devil used those I pastored in three different churches to try to cause me to change my definition of the word “pastor”. Religious devils used church members to try to beat me down with discouragement by causing them to treat me with a lack of appreciation, regard and respect. In other words, I was not loved. For some time, I thought it was because I am “not a man.” I have seen men revered who were known to be homosexuals, abusers of all kinds. But my gender was not the cause. The only distinction between me and them was that I was not raised in church and I came to know Jesus Christ outside of church walls.
As I reflect, I do not recall that I ever really pastored those who were truly saved. Even when I started my own church in 1996, I remained abused by people who actually chose to follow me. Yet, as I remember each one of them, I see no fruit for Jesus Christ. In spite of the fact that I preached a powerful message, the word fell on ground that “was not good.”
Why? There is a simple answer, taken straight from the Lord’s own lips. When folk are serving two masters, they end up hating one and loving the other. Therefore their hatred of me was not “personal.” It was scriptural and it was prophetic. The sheep I served were serving two masters. Since I belong to Christ, I was despised. Therefore, it is understandable to me now, that it was not God who called me to ministry while I was in the Denomination. I could be wrong but I don’t believe that God would call anyone of His to serve Him within such a filthy, corrupt system.
Once I embraced this truth, I realized that my situation can be compared to the first predicament of His servant Moses. While he was in Egypt, Moses tried to help his own people but he failed. It was not until he was forced out of Egypt into the wilderness, that God prepared him for ministry. In like manner today, I believe that to be used by God effectively, one has to actually leave the organized church.