Browbeaten and Bullied at Church

by Greg Albrecht

One of the most gratifying experiences we have at PTM is when we hear from someone for whom God has “turned on the light.” By God’s grace they realize their primary allegiance is not to a human religious authority. They realize that churches and church leadership are fellow-servants and laborers for the gospel—and that such organizations and authorities lose their credibility the moment they allow the gospel to be subverted by religion and its legalisms.

The following letter is a wonderful example:

I recently wrote an article about tithing for our church newspaper. My conclusion is the same as that of PTM—”­­tithing” is an old covenant practice. I see nothing in the New Testament that gives any Christian church or pastor the authority to demand ten percent from Christians. Long story short, I am no longer attending.

After I left, the pastor of that church gave a sermon about money and at the end he looked straight at my wife (she still attends) and said “there are those who won’t agree with what I am about to say, but I believe in the ten-percent tithe.” She said she knew he was talking to her (or more specifically, me!).

My ex-church now refuses to publish any articles that I write, effectively silencing me. I have left the church and have no plans to return. On Sunday mornings when my wife is at church, I listen to CWR and in this way I can still worship on Sunday mornings. I sent one of the pastors an email explaining why I wouldn’t be back. I have a lot of respect for this pastor. The email contained 17 things that the senior pastor was doing wrong and how he was not doing his job (according to the Bible). This pastor told my wife that she was going to respond but she was still “mulling over things” to be sure she said things just right. She still must be “mulling” because it’s been three weeks now and I’ve heard nothing­ from her.

I told this pastor that maybe I just wasn’t “church material” and maybe I’m not. However, like I told my wife, my salvation is not performance- based, such as going to church. My salvation depends on faith alone, grace alone and Christ alone.

Your words and teachings—especially your sermons on CWR—have influenced me to the point I am now quoting you and I quote you because I know you are right in what you preach and say. I can honestly say I have learned more from you and PTM than I ever did going to my former church.

I am happy that I’ve left the church and I am now free to worship in the manner I choose—and not to worship in a manner someone else thinks I should. Thank you and PTM for always being there for me.

We thank God for the insight and courage he has given this person. I don’t think Christians should look for fights with religion, but when they come, we should not be afraid to “stand up, stand up for Jesus.”

When Christ-less religion tries to threaten, intimidate and bully us, then we simply ought to invite the religious source, entity or power figure to turn to the Gospels, and cite any example of Jesus attempting to browbeat anyone into submission to some program or behavior. No such examples can be found, of course.

When I responded to our new PTM/CWR Friend and Partner (who wrote the above letter) I told him that while he may not be “church material” I rejoice that God has liberated him so he is not “religion material.” I encouraged him, reminding him that while he may not be the kind of person who feels obligated to attend a church building, “You are the church. Jesus has made you part of his church. No human being can take the crown of Jesus’ righteousness, given to you by God’s grace, away from you. They can fulminate and thunder and spit and holler, but at the end of the day, we fear no man. We fear no religion. We serve Jesus. Period.”

As many of our “veteran” Friends and Partners realize, we prefer not to use the term “member” because it can imply ownership—we don’t own anyone whom we serve. Jesus does, but we don’t. We just try to point the way to Jesus. I keep this in mind as I prepare and record sermons for CWR—as I talk with our worldwide “congregation.”

PTM is humbled to be able to serve these new friends and many more like them. We are only able to do what we can by God’s grace and by his mercy. My decades of experience with bad news religion, and the amazing rescue and turn-around that God granted to me, waking me up in a patient and loving way, enable me—and PTM at large—to proclaim good news to the captives!