Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

We were taught that you didn’t make a decision without first making sure it was approved by our appropriate Pastor, Master’s Commission Director, or Staff Member. Anyone in an authority position on church staff or ministry staff was clearly way more qualified than we were to make decisions–at least that’s what we were taught. We even had a hierarchy of leadership that were our assigned leaders who helped us make decisions and who we had to go to talk to make a big or little decision, or even to go somewhere as simple as the mall.

The inability to make decisions on our own became a problem for many staff and students leaving, including a few friends I’ve talked to recently. One friend, James*, shared the story of events surrounding his wedding. He had left Master’s Commission years prior and hadn’t seemed to face too many huge decisions until he was getting married. Even though he had met and dated a beautiful woman who was lovely inside and out, James told me he felt like he couldn’t even process on his own after being subjected to the authoritative teachings and life-management we’d been subjected to. For James, it wasn’t a question of whether his future wife was “the one” or not because he loved her more than anyone he’d ever met before and he knew she was who he wanted to marry—it was that he felt that he should be approving major decisions through his Pastor or Master’s Commission Director. He felt the need to get approval for his decision for the first time since leaving, and that realization made him feel that he couldn’t process things on his own.

The reason the teachings we were subjected to were wrong is because they fall into the category of what a destructive group (or cult) displays as characteristics. When a group is defined by professionals and scholars as being destructive or cult-like, they typically have this mind-controlling trait and many others traits working for the leaders of the group to secure loyalty and obedience. The leader uses this decision-approval process to set the levels of hierarchy in the group, and also to set up loyalty tiers within the group.

Recently, a former Master’s Commission student called me to ask me my advice on what decision he should make. It was a personal decision, something related to dating, and honestly wasn’t that huge of a deal. However, I’ve faced the same personal crises over decisions I’ve had to make over the past five years since I left Master’s Commission and my abusive relationship with the pastors of Our Savior’s Church. So, I knew exactly how he felt. I’ve been faced with big decisions like whether to move to Northridge, CA and pursue a writing career, and small decisions like what time of day to take a class that’s offered. Over and over, I’d find myself unable to make decisions or coming to a moment of crisis when I had to make those decisions without someone’s advice or approval. I’d go to my parents or friends and ask them and they’d all say,”Well what do you think you should do?”

That was the BEST advice ever!

My advice to my friend who called was to go with HIS instinct and his heart on the matter and not to listen to anyone else. I think that in order to practice making decisions, you have to just do it. You have to jump out there and see what choices you’re going to make and what effects they have on you—good or bad. The bottom line is that you and I are responsible for ourselves and we’re fully capable of making decisions. We are adults, after all.

No pastor or ministry staff should take away your ability to make decisions. Nor should they ASK for that right. They shouldn’t coerce you, rebuke you or try to silence you. They should allow you to think for yourself, teach you how to search for knowledge (if anything) and allow you to be human.

Making decisions isn’t always easy. Sometimes we do need to ask our parents or friends what to do. But, what I’ve learned in the past few years is that whether I make a “good” or “bad” choice in life, it’s not that big of a deal. So what if I choose something that’s not quite the best choice? Life goes on. I still have to wake up and go to work. I still have a great family who loves me and cares about me.

Most importantly: I’m a smart, capable adult woman who can make decisions on her own.

*Some names have been changed to protect the innocent. Any names that have not been changed may be left intact at the author’s discretion, so that the reading audience gets a full picture of the events that occurred/are occurring in the ministries of the named parties.

12 thoughts on “Decisions, Decisions, Decisions”

  1. Good points Lisa. I think it can be tough for many Christians, MC or not, to make their own decisions, especially if that decision is not the popular one.

    “You don’t get harmony when everybody sings the same note.” ~Doug Floyd

    And more good nonconformity quotes here –
    http://www.quotegarden.com/conformity.html

  2. Lisa,

    I’ve got lots of respect for you for standing up for the spiritual abuse that you went through as well as countless others who have endured the same emotional and spiritual abuses in these student programs/churches.

    Both my wife and I went through different ministry schools that were not MC programs and while there, we didn’t experience the same things that you did. However, after graduating those programs, getting married, and then becoming heavily involved in our local church we personally experienced a LOT of what you, and countless others, have written about. I was absolutely shocked at how easily I could relate to a lot of the things you described as your experience.

    The church that we were involved in has an actual MC program and I’ve witnessed them get used and abused exactly how you have described. I’ve talked to a few of them and have witnessed the hurt and the pain they have endured and am absolutely disgusted by it. It literally makes me want to throw up. I’m done sitting quietly by and trying not to stir up trouble.

    Making decisions is a topic that I can really relate to. While it was never outwardly spoken, there was an unspoken expectation that in order to make any kind of directional move you had to “seek council” from your leaders or the pastor. The mindset is that people are stupid and easily deceived and can’t possibly make good, healthy, and godly decisions alone.

    Anyways Lisa, thanks for standing up and saying what needs to be said. I fully support what you’re doing!

    Daniel

    1. Daniel,
      It’s comments like this that really make me feel happy. There are a lot of clearly unhappy people on this site, who are unhappy that I’m opening this up for discussion. I think it’s important to open up dialogue so that people don’t have to experience what we did!

      Good for you for not wanting to sit by and watch people suffer. I have a blog post: http://www.mycultlife.com/2010/07/06/never-be-silent-dont-forget/ that quotes Elie Wiesel: “…If we forget, we are guilty, we are accomplices.

      And then I explain to him how naive we were, that the world did know and remained silent.

      And that is why I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim.

      Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must–at that moment–become the center of the universe.”
      Hope you and your wife are well!
      Lisa

  3. I feel so much sadness in my heart as read through all of these thoughts. Sadness because of the way many leaders abuse the authority that God has given(PRIDE) and sadness that because of the abuse of leadership it has caused so many to reject leadership and many times ultimately reject God.

    As far as this topic goes. The way you handle this is first to decide wether you believe in the God of the Bible. He states in Jeremiah 17:9 The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?

    So the real question is if you can’t really trust your heart and you can’t really trust leadership how do you make decisions, because the most important decisions we make are the ones that we make when we don’t know what to do.

    First, I agree with you Lisa that yes we are ultimately responsible for all the decisions we make and as a dad of 4 awesome beautiful boys my number one responsibility is to teach them how to make decisions because ultimately I won’t be able to make decisions for them the rest of their lives.

    So how do you become capable to make your own good decisions. The answer is that it is taught. Now you have to think about who has done the teaching. It sounds that many of you have not been taught how to make decisions you have just been told what to do. So I am going to throw my thought out there on how I will teach my boys and feel free to tear it down rip it up add to it whatever you may feel. I am so open.

    1) Don’t trust only yourself your emotions will lead you the wrong way many times. Jeremiah 17:9

    2) If you believe in God and the Bible (which I do) seek out answers in His word. I believe many times we could avoid so much confusion and pain if we did this simple step.

    3) Use your parents no matter how old you are. (Ultimately, their desire is for the best outcome for you and my guess Lisa is that your mom suggested it was time to move on from Masters many times).

    4) Seek advice from unbiased people. Their answers will reflect strictly from an outsiders point of view. Their answers won’t be for personal gain.

    5) Once you have done these steps now your heart or feelings should be in check and you are ready to make your decision.

    Again, these are just some of my own thoughts. Would love to hear additions and even subtractions as my boys are 6, 4, 2, and 3 months.

    And let me end on this. We only cripple our kids when we make all of their decisions for them and don’t teach them to make decisions on their own.

    1. David,
      It was actually my dad and mom who came to visit and told me it would probably be best if I left. In addition, they stopped financially supporting me after that point, which helped me to see that I couldn’t live on the pennies I was earning from Master’s Commission. It was hard to say good-bye, but my parents have always been wonderful in letting me make my own decisions.

      I also think our human hearts are usually pretty decent at judging what we should do. I think we’re all capable of very good and very bad, but mostly the human race isn’t so bad. 😉

    2. Yeah David, I’m kinda at the opposite end of the stick in regards to listening and trusting ones heart. The truth is that we can listen to our hearts and trust what it says. That Jeremiah verse you referenced was a reality for people under the old covenant. I simply don’t think it’s like that anymore for us. If you really think about it, it’s from our heart that we love. Our hearts are literally the pipeline of communication that we have with God. Listening to your heart isn’t about following your emotions, it’s about being honest with yourself.

      It wasn’t until I started listening to my heart that I truly began walking in freedom and let go of all the BS that was wrapped up in my church. Really, my heart had been screaming at me for YEARS before I started listening to what it was telling me in regards to the abuse that my wife and I were going through. Once I stopped pushing aside and ignoring everything it was telling me and started to pay attention to it, I realized the bondage that I was really in.

      So…I believe that our hearts are all good. 🙂

      1. There are just a couple of things I don’t really understand. I am a Pastor who desperately desires to fall under accountability. I told you how I do it. This whole blog is about Pastors who don’t fall under accountability. These leaders that everyone is referencing are leaders who have trusted their own hearts and because of that have hurt many people. The very thing that this site complains about says is not necessary. Can you not see that. We scream we need accountability in one moment and they say we don’t need people to help us make decisions. Those two thoughts contradict each other.

        1. Well I was just offering my opinion on what you were saying because you asked for additions or subtractions. You don’t have to believe me or even agree with me so feel free to either take what I said or leave it…it’s all gravy to me either way bro. 😉

          I also never said we don’t need other people’s help in making decisions. However, there is a HUGE difference between asking for someones opinion, and someone TELLING you what you need to do b/c it’s God’s golden will.

          Fact is I know lost of pastors who fall under accountability, some are even “accountable” to really well known preachers, who are still spiritually abusive. Accountability doesn’t really mean jack and doesn’t keep people from doing horrible things…or from sinning.

          I personally don’t believe those leaders or pastors that are spiritually abusive are listening to their hearts at all. Like I said previously, listening to your heart is about being honest with yourself and the chumps talked about in this blog, along with those that have spiritually abused me personally, are completely blinded to any sort of truth or reality. They wouldn’t know it if it smacked them right in the face. So I think they are completely turned off to their own hearts.

          An experience I had personally with my pastor illustrates my point exactly. My wife and I were worship leaders for several years at our church and last year we went to our pastor completely burned out to tell him we were going to take a sabbatical for a time to rest for a season and focus on our young family. His exact response was, “Let me pray about that with you and see what God says about that. I’m your pastor and God will use me to speak to you. You need to trust your leadership and I really feel that you need to press into him right now instead of stepping back.” If he had been thinking, feeling, living from his heart he would have seen that we were both spiritually dying and that our marriage and children were suffering greatly for the price of ministry. I’m convinced that if he had really been in tune with his heart he would have agreed that we were long overdo for a much needed break from church responsibility and ministry…but he was more concerned with the appearance of his ministry and the position we filled in a service and how much our talents were “needed.”

          The problem is, if you can’t live from your heart than you cannot truly love either because love comes from the heart. If our hearts are so deceptive and evil then where the heck does love come from?? Our minds?? Our emotions?? Love is birthed in the heart. That’s the place I want to live from.

        2. David,
          There’s a huge difference between the word accountability and pastors who force their authority onto their parishioners.

          Accountability means: “The quality of being accountable; liability to give account of, and answer for, discharge of duties or conduct; responsibility, amenableness.” Being accountable means: “Liable to be called to account, or to answer for responsibilities and conduct; answerable, responsible. Chiefly of persons.”

          We hold all kinds of people accountable for things. It’s more about respect for one another as human beings than it is about control and manipulation. Also, this whole site perhaps should be read more carefully by persons such as yourself…it seems you’re missing the point by being so critical and judgmental.

  4. I apologize for coming across critical and judgmental. Not my goal or my desire. I just desire for people to see their need for leadership, guidance, and authority. I know many, many people have been hurt by abusive, controlling authority, but I still believe that it is important to come underneath someone. I feel like (please let me know If I am wrong) that this blog comes across as we don’t need authority. So if that is one of the points then I will move on, but if it isn’t maybe there should be something written on “What Godly authority looks like” or “How to find the right kind of authority” b/c right now that is what it seems like no authority is good authority. Does this make sense. I am trying communicate my thoughts here, but it can be hard since I am a talker. I hope you understand what I am saying. Mainly, I really just hurt to see so much pain experienced from abusive authority b/c I have had the opportunity to be under a leader that I believe has done it “right”, and because of him it has helped my life, my wife, my family and I am grateful that he is in my life. Can you do some writing to help point people in this direction?

  5. It’s cool David, I can tell you’ve got a good heart man. Check out Colossians 2, specifically from verse 6 and on. I really think it says it best…especially in The Message’s version. Anyways, I wouldn’t mind talking with you more about this stuff. Feel free to send me an email at dvenie@gmail.com

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