A few months ago, a pastor called me and found out that I had left my former church. The first thing he told me was that a believer cannot survive on their own and if I don’t join another church, I will be destroyed by the devil. This is the exact sort of intimidation and spiritual abuse that caused me to leave my former church and that I will not tolerate from church leaders. Not to mention that Jesus, Elijah, Jonah, Joseph, Moses, and John the Baptist are a few concrete Biblical examples that prove that a believer will definitely have periods of solitude and will survive just fine with God on their side. The lie that tells people they will be destroyed without a church membership is an intimidating tactic to fill church buildings and actually ends up driving people away from them.
For this pastor to tell me this right up front, without asking me about why I left my former church, means that he assumed I was being a “rebellious” believer who was forsaking the gathering of the saints. This is based on Hebrews 10:25 which says “not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Funny how many church leaders use this verse to accuse those who do not attend church regularly enough and to make them out to be evil sinners. However, these same church leaders never ask themselves why a believer would even neglect to meet together with their congregation in the first place. Maybe it’s because their leadership is spiritually abusive, financially abusive, manipulative, never wrong, and accusatory. Maybe the individual saint who neglects to meet with such abusive people is actually in the right and the leadership is in the wrong.
By leaving my former church, I wasn’t neglecting to meet together with other believers. Instead, I was choosing who I actually want to meet together with – a leadership and believers who are not spiritually abusive and who are encouraging. That’s the difference.
The Bible actually tells us to neglect meeting together with certain people.
1. ‘Jesus said to them, “Watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”’ Matthew 16:6 (Be on guard and stay away from the deception and corruption of religious leaders)
2. “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.” Ephesians 5:11
3. “As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him,” Titus 3:10 (A leader can stir up division by spiritually abusing believers which leads to a church split. A leader can also stir up division by causing a hurtful divide of wounds between them and the global community of the Church).
4. “having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.” 2 Timothy 3:5 (Because of his/her position of church authority, the abusive leader has an appearance of holiness, but they deny the power of God to work in and through them)
5. “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them” Ephesians 5:6-7 (An abusive, manipulative leader is a deceiver and can speak many empty words to manipulate and control)
6. “I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. ” Romans 16:17 (A spiritually abusive leader creates obstacles in a believer’s life and also creates obstacles that keeps that believer from sound doctrine)
It looks like the Bible itself tells us to make it a habit to neglect to meet together with church leadership that is abusive and that creates a church culture of abuse. Neglecting to meet together with people such as these is never wrong and no one has the right to twist Hebrews 10:25 from Scripture to tell you otherwise.