While the emotions are overwhelming, I have found a great deal of help and support through your podcast.
My name is Bill and I was raised in an independent fundamental Baptist home. My church attendance started two weeks after I was born, and I could probably count on one hand the amount of times I missed church over the course of growing up. Originally from Pennsylvania, and then relocated to Florida so my father could attend an Independent Baptist college during an era when a sexual abuser was the Pastor. Needless to say, some of the girls I went to school with were the very girls that the pastor had abused. So many things make much more sense looking back on their behavior and the effects that the abuse took on their lives. I generally tried to be a good kid, yes, I made errors, and disobeyed at times, however I was very much a child who thrived on pleasing people and doing what was expected. The stories are too many to tell regarding the emotional, physical, and psychological abuse I endured. I was raised in an environment where breaking the child’s will was the goal of the parent by using whatever means necessary. Unknown to me this cultivated a bitterness in my heart that I battle even till today. Every time these emotions well up in my heart and mind I have flashbacks to the last time my dad disciplined me with the paddle. I was about 12 or 13 years old and I received 22 swats for telling a college aged preacher boy to stop calling my dad “my old man, he is my dad”. I would be the first to admit that I am not perfect and have never been perfect. All of the abuse paid off and I became a pliable follower. As many abuse victim would know in a subconscious way of forming a bond with the abuser so it would stop.
My dad graduated from a Baptist college and eventually took a pastorate in another state and we relocated. We became part of a church that was even more legalistic, of course this was a shock to me. I thought we were already living this separated life, but I was in no position to question anything but do as I was told, and that’s just what I did. I watched now as my own father in many ways begin to treat people the same way he treated me. I found myself angry at church people for rebelling against my dad. I just couldn’t understand why people wouldn’t submit to the pastor and just do what he says. Although I never saw my dad physically abuse any of these people the spiritual and emotional abuse was evident. Upon graduating from high school I began to attend a Baptist College in Shelby North Carolina. I attended there for two semesters and began to question so many things do too even further legalistic teaching and expectation. I was once rebuked for listening to the Singers from another Bible College because they sounded like the Carpenters. As life progressed I transferred to the Bible college my dad graduated from. This made sense because of my years of friends and family I had there. I began to question so many things. I just kept asking myself, why? and where is this in Scripture? I tried to find freedom.
At this point in life I met the woman I would marry. My parents were not very happy about this relationship because she was not the girl they picked for me (her standards were different). This created a great deal of conflict with me and my parents, however my future wife loved me despite some horrible behavior from my parents. The Lord blessed and we got married a year later. It seemed that there was always friction with my parents. I watched as my parents treated my loving wife with such disrespect and unkindness all under the guise of spiritual leadership and Biblical principles. I was such a coward for not standing up to my parents for the way they treated my wife. I was programmed to fear not only my parents but my dad as a pastor. If I addressed the issue it would be ministry suicide. My dad knew every pastor I knew and I would never be able land a ministry job in a church without his approval.
It took several years for me to graduate from Bible college. We began to attend a Bible church that my wife grew up in. The pastor of that church began to teach me things I had never learned. He came from a strong Brethren and Methodist background but his doctrine was biblical and did not contradict anything I had ever been taught. This pastor had compassion and love that I had never seen before in a pastor. He and I began to talk about my ordination into ministry. I wanted to learn how to be a pastor like him so I began to pursue an ordination through the Bible church. When I told my father I was going to be ordained in a Bible church and invited him to the ordination council to take part, he rejected the opportunity and told me that the church was not doctrinally sound. I told him that was not true. He got angry and accused me of calling him a liar. He said he did not did not want to talk to me anymore and hung the phone up. We did not talk for two years after that. Though I was ordained in the Bible church, I transitioned back to the Independent Baptist world because that was all I knew.
At this point in my life I had served in churches in many different capacities. Yet I lived with a cloud over my life that I had failed to marry the person my parents wanted me to marry and that put me out of God’s will. My parental relationship was strained for many years until I finally came to the point that I had to address it. Since that time our relationship has been nearly non existent. I would try to reconnect with them over the past 22 years and things would be said or done that would cause us to distance again for years at a time. Even to this day it’s been 3 years since I have spoken to my parents.
So I began to live a life in ministry pastoring many churches and following as the Lord directed. My life was a mess I had been so indoctrinated with the independent fundamental Baptist ideology that as much as I tried to love people in the church my behavior was far from what it should have been. I was convinced that I had to work hard to get God’s approval back because of the broken relationship I had with my parents. After all I was told even as an adult I was their child and I was to honor and obey them. For several years I attempted to win the approval of my father through trying to be a successful pastor. I would say that I was doing it for God but the reality is I was just doing it to please my dad and go through the motions. In the process of having these deep wounds in my life I neglected my beautiful wife and 2 incredible children. I was not the husband and father that I should have been and my life was miserable because I was doing everything for the wrong reasons. I had been taught that I had to work for God’s approval and blessing yet I had been told because of the issues with my parents I was in sin and could never achieve God’s blessing.
I pursued higher education and eventually earned a Doctorate in Theology. This opened an opportunity to work for a small Bible college in Pennsylvania while pastoring a church. It was horrible! I was dumbfounded at the way the students were treated, and the bazar control the school exercised over them. Oh, the stories I could tell. I well up with tears just thinking about the treatment and ultra separatist dogma. This treatment was ministry wide. It was the church, the Christian day school and the college. They were Sword of the Lord toting people trying to make their mark and live up to the brand. The way my young children were treated still angers me to this day. The thing that finally began to move me away from the independent fundamentalist was the conversation I had with the pastor and president of the college. We are having a conversation one day about ministry leadership and he says that Jesus is the Great Shepherd and the pastor is an under-shepherd. The two of them speak shepherd talk, and then the under shepherd pastor tells the people what the Great Shepherd has told him. I almost fell over when this was said to me. Where is the Holy Spirit in that? Where is the Word of God in that? That was the beginning of my strategization to relocate out of that region of the country.
I have so much more to this story. I just can’t emotionally continue right now. I am still on this journey; Only by God’s grace and an incredibly patient wife are we still together after 27 years. Our 2 children have the wounds that come from the Independent Baptist Movement and legallist demands. Please pray for them.
I am so sorry for how this is written, it has been overwhelming to dredge up such deep emotions and pain. I am still working on freedom.
Thanking God for His grace and unwavering love. I couldn’t earn it
I don’t deserve it, still He gives it anyway!
Please keep the podcast coming it’s an incredible source of strength and support.
1Co 9:16 For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!