1. Excessive focus on the leader
On Easter/Resurrection Sunday, many churches are overflowing and Facebook is filled with greetings of "He lives," He is risen, and "The tomb is Empty." Most sermons in Christian churches on that day are about the crucifixion, resurrection, and return of Christ. The following week, however, it is back to business as usual and the preaching of the gospel takes a back seat to messages that in many congregations are all about the pastor. The now-defunct television series The Preacher of LA was very telling. of what currently goes on in many houses of worship. This program was basically about the life of five rich and famous ministers and showed off their vast wealth, expensive hones and impressive vehicles.. Sadly preachers showing off themselves is becoming quite normal.
I once attended a church where the pastor set up a leader of the month contest. It was modeled on the employee of the month, that many corporations offer, but there was a vast difference, On jobs, I have worked, a dedicated employee is highlighted because they have been observed going above and beyond. In this church, the pastor chose what his leaders needed to do to be recognized and most of it revolved around him.
Church leaders had to be tithers, attending Intercessory prayer, faithfully coming to Sunday and Wednesday services, sowing seeds,(giving the pastor extra money on random occasions) and traveling with him to preaching engagements. Anyone who became the leader of the month did so by jumping through the hoops that pleased the shepherd, rather than serving from their hearts as they chose because they loved the Lord. In this church, guest preachers came in often and talked about how we should obey our spiritual father and help him reach his personal goals. One Bishop told the church leaders in a meeting that we should have given enough money for the pastor to already be a millionaire.
2. It's all about you
Church services used to be about how to be humble servants of the Lord and to spread the good news of the gospel. I have been in services and watched television ministries where the subject matter is enjoying everyday life, how to live your best life, God wants you to be rich and how great you are. All of these messages focus on people instead of teaching congregants how to be more Christ-like. Church members are prophesied to on an individual basis, being promised a grand and glorious future. In these places of worship, you hear a lot about destiny and purpose, instead of being told to keep God first.
Guest preachers come to town and they always promised that those in attendance will soon have a financial miracle. They use the phrase that your future is so bright you need shades. They tell congregants to help the pastor become financially well off and God will do it for them. People then begin jumping through hoops in an attempt to get to their due season of prosperity. Extreme emphasis is put on how you dress, wear your hair, and if you keep your vehicle clean. None of this teaches anyone to develop a personal relationship with the Lord, but to play monkey see monkey do.
This type of teaching had people in two churches I attended focused on themselves by cutting off those they believed could hinder their blessings. Instead of being concerned about their hearts and treating others right, many were going around talking about how anointed they were. Single women were saying they were preparing for God to send them the perfect husband and sadly a few died without ever getting married. All of this because the focus was on people instead of Christ.
3. It's all about money
In the context of Malachi chapter 3, God was speaking to the priests, but preachers today use this scripture to badger congregants into tithing. 2 Corinthians 9:7 says modern-day Christians are to give as purposed in their hearts but shyster preachers use Malachi 3 to frighten people into tithing. I ran into an older woman a few years ago, who still attends a church I walked away from. She told me that the pastor was teaching on tithing. I almost laughed in her face because tithing is giving 10 percent, period. Either a person does or does not give that dime. This pastor was teaching tithing 10 years prior when I attended that church and this woman was there. It is my opinion that tithing is taught on a constant basis to encourage churchgoers to participate. In this church and one other I attended, leaders could not serve in any capacity if they were not tithing.
The tithe is so revered that in some churches tithers are called to go to the front and give their money as if they are bragging "Look at me I'm giving my 10 percent. This is the opposite of Christ saying in Matthew chapter six to give in secret. The truth is that the blessings and curses associated with tithing were indeed in effect for the priests and children of Israel but are not effective today. Someone with a $600,000.00 job who does not tithe will live better than a tither who makes $40,000.00. It's basic math. There is also much teaching on giving offerings and sowing financial seeds into the pastor. More is said about the curse of not tithing than about going to hell if you don't accept Christ. When every service is about money something is wrong.
4. Intimidation, threats, and fear tactics
If every Sunday you are being told that something bad will happen if you don't obey all the rules the church has set forth, you need to run. I was in a church where we were told we had to tithe, give extra to the pastor, attend every meeting and clean the church on weekends, These were mandatory in order to be in church leadership. We were told that God would get us if we did not agree with everything we were taught because the pastor was God's anointed, Week after week the congregation as chastised for not giving enough time and money to the ministry. We actually were told that the reason we remained broke was that we did not obey every rule. A guest Bishop told us one Saturday that anyone who did not come back to church for the afternoon leadership session would have a flat tire. We also heard that if we left and joined another church we would be out of God's will and would experience an extreme attack from Satan because we were uncovered.
5. Christ is in the background
If you are sitting in church week after week where you hear less about Christ that nagging feeling may be the Holy Spirit‘s way of warning you He is not pleased. This article may be the confirmation you need to walk away. When I began suspecting things were off at my church someone gave me a book about spiritual abuse. I read it and knew it was true, but it took me about eight months to actually get out of that situation. Church came into being because Christ rose from the dead and should always be centered on Him. If you are being intimidated and threatened, always being told to give, and hearing more messages about you and your pastor, it's time to get out. If Christ is not the focus, you are not in a true Church. You are in a man-made institution and being manipulated by a shyster preacher.
Cheryl E Preston (author) from Roanoke on September 12, 2020:
Thank you one and all for your comments.
Cheryl E Preston (author) from Roanoke on July 17, 2020:
Yes so true.
OLUSEGUN from NIGERIA on July 17, 2020:
These are disheartening. Let anyone who calls himself or herself a believer seek Jesus the more...He is allowing Pandemic to rage on because he wants us to know that individuals matter with him, contrary to many sermons being heard.
Lincy Francis from Allahabad on July 20, 2019:
Going through the comments I can see that I am not alone to have experienced such churches. Nevertheless, I am also experiencing and witnessing a new generation of believers who are something I had only imagined could exist.
Nice write up!
Cheryl E Preston (author) from Roanoke on May 11, 2019:
I know people still in one of the churches I left, 20 years later. It is sad. I am sorry you have experienced this as well.
Margaret Minnicks from Richmond, VA on May 11, 2019:
Cheryl, you covered a lot of issues in the church that should be changed from focusing on "self" to focusing on an intimate relationship with God. I can agree with everything you said because I have experienced the same things in some of the churches I have attended, and they are disgusting.
I often wonder how people like us can see it, but other leaders don't seem to know the difference or choose to ignore it and serve the pastor rather than God.
I was ostracized in a former church for speaking out against those issues and especially since I refused to go along with them. It was better for me to leave the church because I was outnumbered. Other leaders thought I should kiss up to the pastor because they did.
John Welford from Barlestone, Leicestershire on May 08, 2019:
You are so right about the money. Any church group or denomination that has a rich leader ought to be distrusted immediately. This has been the case throughout history - the Reformation of the 16th century was occasioned out of disgust that the Catholic Church had acquired vast wealth and its leaders lived like princes rather than servants of the people.