Nightmare on the Hill

I’m just taking a quick stopover in Chicago on my way back home today.  After 11 days in the south and zooming past hundreds of congregations with names that conjure up images of peace and tranquility while at the same time hearing a constant stream of horrors stories about the way people were treated by those who claim to represent Jesus in the world, I’m finding myself wishing that congregations were subject to truth-in-advertising laws. 

I thought of that when I saw the picture above.  I first thought it was a congregation with a bold sign on the exterior.  Until I read it.  And then I busted out laughing.  No, it wasn’t a local congregation but a left over from a Halloween haunted house.  But Nightmare on the Hill might be an appropriate name for many of the congregations whose former members and leaders I was with over the past ten days.  Just because something calls itself a church, doesn’t mean it bears the image of Christ to the world, much less to its own members. 

If you just attend a service on Sunday, you may not be aware of all the intrigue going on behind the scenes—of lies and betrayal, of tribunals to accuse those who simply ask questions of insubordination and rebellion, of insults, exclusions and lies that would make Machiavelli cringe in shame.  Proclaiming themselves an oasis of love, they manipulate people in God’s name to great harm and destruction. 

In what world would a congregation influenced by legalism and mocking other Christians who see the world differently call itself Grace Community?  Or, how can a local pastor who has broken numerous laws and defrauded his people and community of money for his own gain, still be supported by a denomination that claims to be a reflection of Christ’s glory in the world? 

Last year someone told me that they were in a contemporary fellowship and were handed a folder that included the order of service and announcements for the week, but in bold type across the top of the first page declared, “This is not a bulletin.”  In what world can you deny the obvious and people believe you?

Religion, just like politics, is notorious for using language to hide what’s true.  It is filled with double-talk and demands for unquestioned obedience because it isn’t what it claims to be.  If you want to go on this journey you have to ask God to let you see things as they really are.  Just because a group calls themselves a “church” doesn’t make them one.  When the Pharisees claimed to be children of Abraham, Jesus corrected them.  “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires….  When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. “

Let’s call things what they really are.  What calls itself Grace Community might actually be a nightmare on the hill.  And if it is, then run from it.  Run as fast as you can.  There is life beyond it. 

The joy of this trip has come in meeting some incredible people who have escaped the orbit of such institutions to find a better journey in a growing relationship with the Father of affection.  He is walking them through the pain and betrayals to see him more clearly and to love others more freely.  We were warned after all that religious leaders would treat us the same way they treated him. 

And Jesus still triumphs over them by leading us on a better journey and discovering that despite the failures of people, his church is still growing in the world. 

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8 Comments
  1. Brian March 2, 2015 at 9:17 am

    Very much enjoyed your visit to Greenville this weekend, sir. Thank you so much for coming out here and sharing what you have learned on this journey the Father has had you on for the past 20 years. My wife and I learned a great deal and were even set free in some areas of our lives.

    After several weeks of prayer prior to your visit we knew that you were the confirmation from God for what we already knew but wanted to completely sure of; break it off now and break it off quickly, like ripping off a band-aid. This Sunday we e-mailed our Pastor and told him we would not be returning and spent the day just relaxing in each others company and watched some movies and ate pizza. The whole time I felt so at peace and really felt the Father there with us.

    Thank you so much for sharing your experience with us and helping us onto this path. I look forward to what God has for us as we go on this journey to experience life with Christ.

  2. Rob Wilkerson March 2, 2015 at 9:28 am

    thanks for listening to my nightmare, and for bringing clarity and focus to a simple love and passion for King Jesus and His family.

  3. Chris G. March 2, 2015 at 9:47 am

    Great Article! When we are in situations like the ones you’ve described and we’re just trying to “do what’s right,” we make allowances and adjustments when those descrepancies in reality show themselves. I know many a congregant who, like myself, would turn down the B.S. meter further and futher so that we didn’t have to deal with the inner turmoil of those things which we felft powerless to diasagree with, and unworthy to correct. This, unfortunetly exands the reach of those lies and misdirections to the point where we are the ones telling ourselves the lies… “Leadership is closer to God and knows what theyre doing,” or, “My obedience to authority and turning a blind eye to the weird stuff that is going on will have it’s own reward.”

    But as I’ve often said, it is not the lies others tell us, but the ones we tell ourselves that keeps us from finding that narrow path.

  4. Pat March 2, 2015 at 11:49 am

    If you just attend a service on Sunday, you may not be aware of all the intrigue going on behind the scenes—of lies and betrayal, of tribunals to accuse those who simply ask questions of insubordination and rebellion, of insults, exclusions and lies that would make Machiavelli cringe in shame.”

     

    And this is the stuff that so many are not aware of in their churches and the reason why so many of us, former leaders, have walked away.  We know what undergirds and drives certain ministries.  Others choose to be willfully ignorant.  They know or have some inclination, but would rather not peek behind the curtain and have their delusions shattered, so they work in their little ministries or just come to Sunday service and leave “all that other stuff” to the leaders.  

  5. Brian March 2, 2015 at 12:17 pm

    Very much enjoyed your visit to Greenville this weekend, sir. Thank you so much for coming out here and sharing what you have learned on this journey the Father has had you on for the past 20 years. My wife and I learned a great deal and were even set free in some areas of our lives.

    After several weeks of prayer prior to your visit we knew that you were the confirmation from God for what we already knew but wanted to completely sure of; break it off now and break it off quickly, like ripping off a band-aid. This Sunday we e-mailed our Pastor and told him we would not be returning and spent the day just relaxing in each others company and watched some movies and ate pizza. The whole time I felt so at peace and really felt the Father there with us.

    Thank you so much for sharing your experience with us and helping us onto this path. I look forward to what God has for us as we go on this journey to experience life with Christ.

  6. Rob Wilkerson March 2, 2015 at 12:28 pm

    thanks for listening to my nightmare, and for bringing clarity and focus to a simple love and passion for King Jesus and His family.

  7. Chris G. March 2, 2015 at 12:47 pm

    Great Article! When we are in situations like the ones you’ve described and we’re just trying to “do what’s right,” we make allowances and adjustments when those descrepancies in reality show themselves. I know many a congregant who, like myself, would turn down the B.S. meter further and futher so that we didn’t have to deal with the inner turmoil of those things which we felft powerless to diasagree with, and unworthy to correct. This, unfortunetly exands the reach of those lies and misdirections to the point where we are the ones telling ourselves the lies… “Leadership is closer to God and knows what theyre doing,” or, “My obedience to authority and turning a blind eye to the weird stuff that is going on will have it’s own reward.”

    But as I’ve often said, it is not the lies others tell us, but the ones we tell ourselves that keeps us from finding that narrow path.

  8. Pat March 2, 2015 at 2:49 pm

    If you just attend a service on Sunday, you may not be aware of all the intrigue going on behind the scenes—of lies and betrayal, of tribunals to accuse those who simply ask questions of insubordination and rebellion, of insults, exclusions and lies that would make Machiavelli cringe in shame.”

     

    And this is the stuff that so many are not aware of in their churches and the reason why so many of us, former leaders, have walked away.  We know what undergirds and drives certain ministries.  Others choose to be willfully ignorant.  They know or have some inclination, but would rather not peek behind the curtain and have their delusions shattered, so they work in their little ministries or just come to Sunday service and leave “all that other stuff” to the leaders.  

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