I have been listening to both this podcast and the Preacher Boys podcast for about a month. I can relate to the material so much.
When I was six years old, my family started going to an IFB church. It was a tiny church with no windows. I had to wear dresses, but I was young and did not care. I loved my church. It was fun, and I made several friends. I learned to sing in the youth choir and we performed plays. We went on fun trips. Many wonderful memories stem from my childhood in the church.
However, as I got older, some things started to make me feel uncomfortable. For instance, when I was about 10, my pastor did a series on the Song of Solomon. He went into specific details about the language of the book and how it connected to the sexual act between man and wife. To this day, I cannot read Song of Solomon without blushing. It was graphic for a 10 year old to hear.
But when I was a freshman in high school, about 14, things changed for me personally. I went on a mission trip to Mexico with my church family. There, for the first time, my pastor got me off by myself and started confiding in me. He told me that I was important to him, and he held my hand. He asked me if I trusted him. Scared and uncomfortable, I said yes.
After that, it continued. We would get back to the church after a youth rally. He would let all of the other kids out of the van, and say to me, “wait a minute”. Then he would get in the seat with me, grab my hands, and look at me with googly eyes. He would say “I love you. Do you trust me?” over and over again. Then he would slip me a $100 bill or whatever money he had on him. He gave me money a lot. Not that I did any favors. I didn’t. It was so awkward, but I just went along with it, afraid to make it into a big deal.
I remember being mad at myself for thinking my pastor was coming onto me or having an inappropriate relationship with me. I would try to justify it with the fact that he and his wife had no children, and I was like a daughter.
This went on for years— from the time I was 14 until the time I was 29, and finally left the church. I’m 38 now. During the course of those years, he did some bizarre things. He managed to get a copy of a key to my car, and I would get in my car and find money, or jewelry, or candy, or flowers. He would pass me in his truck on the highway, turn his truck around, and follow me to where I was going. He would pull in, get out of his truck, open the passenger door, and get inside. There, he would tell me he’d need me to pray for him, etc. He’d make comments about the size of my backside. He’d slip me more money. Just a lot of things… I’m 38 and this man is now 75. He was much, much older than me. I will tell you also, that at 14 and into my mid 20s, I looked much younger than what I was. I was very tiny and underdeveloped.
In the pulpit, he would strike at specific sins. He always knew if you had been to the water park in a bikini, or if you wore a pair of pants to school. He always had a line he’d put in the sermon that went something like, “You can’t go against the man of God. God will get you for it”, and he’d give an example from the Old Testament. And I believed him… I honestly remember thinking if this man stopped praying for me, that I’d be destroyed.
He was a dictator… One time, for example, I was asked to teach VBS during a week I had already committed to going out of town for a friend’s college graduation on that Friday. He said that was fine. So I taught VBS through Thursday, and then left to go to my friend’s graduation. On the way back home from attending, I got a call from my long distance boyfriend telling me he wanted to break up. I was devastated. The next day, I got a call at work, and it was my pastor. He told me that the reason my boyfriend had broken up with me is because I didn’t teach VBS on Friday!
It was this… controlling Man of God syndrome, all of the time.
I got to the point in my 20s, that I would sit through the services, but I didn’t know what was God and what was the pastor anymore. However, I was a perfectionist, and always tried living right and doing the right thing.
Everything finally came to a head when I was about 28. I had a key to the church, and I had went in alone to practice on the church piano. While I was sitting on the piano bench, in walks my pastor. He comes up and sits beside me on the piano bench. The words that I heard next I will never forget as much as I’m sure he wants me to. He said, “I love you. I don’t love you like a father loves a daughter. I love you like a man loves a woman.”
By this time, I was tired of shaking my head that I trusted him. I bursted out with “What about your wife?!” And he replied, “She knows that I love you, but God has given her peace about it.” And I yelled out, “He shouldn’t have to!” I got up and drove home. When I got home, I hit the floor, and cried and asked God to get me out of that church. Get me away from him.
My pastor told me not long after, that there was nothing to be afraid of. That it was getting too close to the Lord’s coming for him to mess up now. Those were his words.
God, thankfully, did move me. I got a teaching job over an hour away from my church, and I moved closer to my job and joined another IFB church. I still go there, but it is not like the one I grew up in. My pastor is young and open minded, and not legalistic in the slightest. He is actually the one who told me about this podcast.
I’ve been out of the church I grew up in for about nine years. I still hear from this pastor sometimes. He will text me and my sister together.
There was another teenage girl who followed after me. She had the long dark hair like I did. And I know I wasn’t the first either.
I believe this man has many secrets in the ministry, and what bothers me is that he doesn’t acknowledge it, and I’ve never been given an apology. I don’t know the next step to take. It’s like I want to confront him, but I love his wife, and I don’t want to hurt the ministry. He is retired as of three years or so now. He no longer pastors, but he still goes to that church.
I don’t hate him. I don’t know how I feel really. I just know that I have some baggage and some trust issues that started with the man of God in my church. I’m 38 and never been married, and I feel like maybe there are some things from my past, like this, that are keeping me from being able to have a healthy relationship.
He never molested me. But there certainly was some spiritual, emotional, and mental abuse. I appreciate any help or advice you can give me. I don’t mind you sharing my story if it would help others. I did not include any names, so as long as my name is not shared, it is okay.
Thank you for reading my story.