Several weeks ago I came across the work of Dr. Edward J. Cumella regarding spiritual abuse, specifically the abuse of religion in the churches of America. This is part of a series of posts about some of the many damaging faces that the Church allows itself to wear at times and the hope for its redemption.
There are parts of the Church that have a record of being fearful at times. Friends, family members, ministry peers, and complete strangers alike have told me of churches they’ve been in that are gripped with fear when it comes to our culture and faith.
I’ll admit it… I’ve dismissed those types of claims before as being just a little far-fetched, just a bit, until I began to cross paths with people from church backgrounds filled with “fear-mongering”. Their stories are filled with some of the most irrational and unbiblical fears I’ve ever heard of…
- Fear of subliminal messages in rock songs played backwards as gateway invitations to worship the devil.
- Fear of a judgmental God who is pictured as a cranky old man in heaven just waiting to smite the next person. You sin = you die!
- Fear of Satan and his demons controlling their thinking.
- Fear of losing their salvation in Christ.
Those are just a few of the real life stories that people have shared with me as a pastor. Fear has been the driving force of too many believers’ faith, especially the fear of a purely judgmental God and not the healthy fear of a loving Heavenly Father who will discipline His children when needed.
The church leader or leadership who leverages unholy fear to drive the direction of a group of believers is wielding an incredibly dangerous sword. When fear, shame, and guilt are the driving force for faith, the safety of our identity in Christ is seriously threatened.
God never intended for us to live out our faith in Christ huddled in terror. We need to remember the words of Paul, that God didn’t give His Church a spirit of fear but of power and of love and of a sound mind (2 Tim. 1:7). God doesn’t want your faith to be filled with fear; He wants you to live in Christ’s victory.
There’s victory in what Christ has done for us. There’s power in what Christ’s done for us. There’s deliverance from fear because of the cross. It’s time we stopped being afraid and lived our faith victoriously.