The Dark Underbelly of Religious Leadership

This podcast may not be for everyone. While in Holland recently Wayne met Filip van den Eynde, a young man who had just spent 17 years serving in an charismatic, apostolic setting and was able to see behind the scenes as those who claimed to be "men of God" systematically manipulated and abused hungry hearts to expand their ministry, feed their own insecurities, and line their own pockets. Wayne spoke with him via Skype after he returned to the States for this conversation. While this is not as much fun as talking about the joys of a growing relationship with the Father's love, it is helpful for people to know that those insights they have about everything not being as it appears, might be God's prodding to find freedom from those who use the guise of "Christian leadership" as a means to manipulate those Jesus loves.

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  1. Having spent time in the charismatic movement, armor bearers are to pastors as the Secret Service is to the President. I also saw the same people going to the altar week in and week out for seemingly the same issues. It was just one big emotional experience that as you said doesn’t translate into the rest of the week. To me, true deliverance is about getting set free so you can help others to be free, not continuing to come back to church each week to cry and weep at the altar over and over and over again.

    The arrogance and pride can be seen all throughout the ministry and is not exclusive to charismatics. Practically every denomination has those in its rank that manipulate people for selfish purposes and out of insecurity. I knew of an evangelical church that split with the problems originating with the elders suggesting that an administrative pastor be brought on board so the senior pastor could devote himself to teaching and preaching. He wanted no part of it and that’s where the blow-up occurred: basically a power struggle that ended with the pastor leaving the church and starting a new one in the same general area of the original church–something he said he wouldn’t do.

    I really liked one of of Filip’s last statements about seeing what people are all about when you start to question their foundation. So true.

  2. I appreciate your courage in including this conversation on the podcast. I know for people who have not been personally confronted with this, it is impossible to imagine. I, too, felt like I was “born again” after leaving the institution. I have come to realize that for the last 5 years outside the walls, that I have been enjoying my life and enjoying my growing relationship with Father. Never before in my life would I have said I enjoyed my life. But life is good now, it is wonderful. Papa has always meant it to be this way.

  3. I belonged to a fellowship that was identical to what Filip described. I disassociated myself from the pastors, the”annointed mouth piece of God” but my husband never did. Even though the church folded and everybody stopped going my husband still believed that God was going to raise up this fellowship again. Our marriage was destroyed before it even got started but I hung in there for over 10 years hoping God would break the deception off my husband. We have now seperated.
    This “man of God” believed that he had a ministry to musicians and so he would take the church band to parties, etc. and they would drink and smoke dope to “reach the lost”.
    I didn’t go to church for 3 years but when I did return I too had that same sense of being born again and feeling so much peace and love after the horror of that bad teaching and false doctrine.

  4. Thanks for this incredibly honest interview. My wife and I can relate to 110% of what was said. It is so true that we are blinded until He leads us out. I too was young and trusting and went the same path. We are so grateful for His love and mercy to lead us out with His love-He literally loved us out so we could not go back. Thanks so much for airing this.

  5. Good podcast. I’ve seen stuff like that. Manipulation, ‘honoring the man of God’, etc, serving the vision, working towardsrevival, etc.

    However I’ve also been part a big meetings/ministry, where ia lot of it was God moving, and man had little to do with it.
    I’m not a part of that now, but what God did in me back then was (and still is) real. As much as I reject the crap, I’m holding on to what God did, and is still doing through that.

    Good to be aware, but let’s not tar everyone every ninistry with the same brush.

    Where worship is concerned, if you don’t meet with God in worship in the private of your own bedroom, you probably won’t meet with Him in the meeting.

    We can all manipulate and or be competitive whether it’s 3 people or 3000…

    Great podcast!

  6. Im just fresh out of institutional church. 9 months actually. I was a pastoral assistant, an inner healing minister and trainer as well as head worship leader. I recognized something was wrong after I was 10 years “in.” We were repeatedly taught about sonship and how to obey leadership. If we didn’t obey or if we questioned it we were ‘rebellious, unteachable, and dishonoring.’ My marriage was in trouble as well as my mental and emotional health….until one day I discovered in the Bible what sonship really meant. I discovered that my faith rested in men. I was receiving my identity from men in leadership. If they didn’t “approve” then I was nothing. I was taught to fear both man and God (in regards to punishment for wrong behavior). But perfect love casts out fear and he who fears has been perfected in love. And I now realize I am worth the blood of Jesus. I’m the pearl of great price that He gave everything (with His Son) to have. I am amazed at how clear and simple scripture really is. He is my identity because I’ve been made one with Him through Jesus!!! I could shout!!! I’m so amazed! I’ve been a “Christian” for 33 years but only born-again for 3. I wrote a book on our true identity through our adoption. Thanks for your transparency as well as your real care and concern for God’s people who are “stuck” their own (as well as leadership’s) indentity crisis.

  7. I had an experience with a “healing minister” that was very confusing. I went forward in a prayer line and when the “minister” touched my hands I held onto his fingers gently. He jerked his hands away and said that I was stopping his anointing. He was very upset with me and moved on down the line. I’m thinking, “his anointing?, I thought it was Jesus’ anointing.” WOW! Get over yourself already!

  8. Wayne,
    Great podcast, set it up on the front porch and gathered around for others to join and listen. Wayne, you are gifted in the area of asking great questions. Thanks for this particular podcast, it is helping us share with those in our community who are just walking out of the systems. They arrive shell shocked and we have found that Father has called us to be a safe place for people to rest and recover from the abuse they have gone through and put people through. You are in our prayers, so thankful our paths have crossed.

    The Front Porch

  9. Great podcast. I was a treasurer in a church where sadly it was about money. The pastor would claim mileage for going to his homegroup which he wasn’t running, his wife was receiving a part time salary though she wasn’t working for the church, just “supporting the man of God”. We had part time staff for just about everything because you can’t get “excellence” from volunteers. As mentioned, those who turn up, contribute financially and say Amen rise to positions of leadership. So glad to be free of this junk and just living in Jesus and He in me day by day.

  10. Great message! I fell victim to the ‘name it, claim it’ and ‘prosperity gospel’ messages. I went broke and almost ended up divorced (like several other members of my church did). I’m so happy to be free and Jesus’ burden is truly light.

  11. Manipulation is the world. It is said that all politics are local. Manipulation for control is politics. Organized religion has politics because it has people who want to control. All the world operates at this level and it is grievous that believers do the same. So when it is seen in people you have been led to trust, it is shocking and numbing. I am grateful that it was repeated several times in the podcast that these people do this out of ignorance, sincerely believing that they are serving God. But ignorance is no excuse.

  12. Mixed feelings, yeah that’s what I’ve got. Sad for those being mislead and angry at those willfully misleading. Knowing that the system will always be there and yet grateful for those being set free by God. Understanding that simultaneously there are those who are innocent victims and who are sincere but also there are those who abuse the opportunity. One thing I do know though, God is more than able to set us free, all of us. And as much as the religious sanctuaries are filled with the victims and perpetrators Paul is witness to the releasing power of a loving Father. He was the top echelon of persecutors, believing in his heart he was doing God a favor, yet he was delivered and entrusted with a message relevant to this situation we’re discussing today. In the end we need to be united with Father, Him in our hearts. Our love for those around us born from a spirit of love not obligation. So I pray that even the release of those captured would not be out of obligation but the same spirit of love. Otherwise we have failed.

  13. Thank you Wayne for having taken painful steps to be independently minded and to follow Jesus from your heart. God has blessed you with deep perceptions and the ability to articulate them and to help others verbalize what they feel.
    Your disgust of the ‘priestly’ system you witnessed in Russia is paralleled in your exposure of control in religious institutions. Thank you bro, that you love the freedom that Jesus wants his family to have. So many of your opinions come from deep compassion for the religiously enslaved that sometimes you sound stern. I imagine Jesus sounded the same when he tried to get people to see a different paradigm. As someone else said, I’m glad our paths crossed.

  14. On Jacob’s post, I can totally relate to your anger, but I propose that the manipulators are not necessarily purposefully deceiving people. I imagine, at least in some cases, that they have, in a way, deceived themselves into thinking this is how to bring people to God. It can be difficult to trust that the Holy Spirit can move and reach people without our assistance.

    The group that I left, with which I was involved from age 19 to 49, had some things in common with Evangelical churches, but did not have the musical “worship” service. After I left that group, and attended my first Evangelical service, I was a little surprised at what they were calling worship. (Little did I know that all the churches are doing it that way now.) I had a chat with my boys afterwards about mistaking emotional experience for worship. Although the two can overlap, you shouldn’t mistake one for the other. For all its faults, I’m glad my former group taught me that emotions & experiences are no guarantee for truth. I can see how some folks who are sorting out their relationship with the Father might think they are missing Him, because they think it’s supposed to be some kind of emotional trip.

    I love music, and it often does touch me at an emotional level. I even listen to music at times to get inspired or to praise God in my heart. Of course, in the Bible you can see that music was definitely a means of praise and worship. But to lead people to believe they are having a spiritual experience when they are really just responding to cues of tempo, keys, rhythm, etc, that’s where the manipulation lies. I feel a little vindicated now, because for all the times I have attended these kinds of services over the last few years, I could never get into the “worship” music, or get myself to act like I was praising/worshipping in that setting. I just didn’t get it.

  15. I was there for 17 years, my church translated the book about the Armor Bearer ( sorry for that ), I was a victom of that same manipulation. Exactly the same.
    God rescued me from that place and brought me to a place of Freedom I never thought was possible.
    I was the head usher and an elder for years and saw and heard al the same things Filip explaned.
    I am fierce against this way of religion.
    Thank you for sharring,
    Henk –

  16. Pat, I agree. I just want to clarify that I believe the system is saturated with both the ignorant and deliberate. So please understand I realize the church as institution consists of both and also on both ends of the receiving and dishing out side.

    Also, and in concurrence to your worship experience, as a previous worship leader (and only speaking for myself) I have come to understand worship as something much more than singing songs and entering into ‘something’ at some ‘level’. It might not be so for others but I truly cannot associate with worship as an act of musical splendor to take me to a level of ‘call-it-what-you-like’. I have nothing against people singing to God but to me worship has evolved to something completely different, and to clarify, I have moments of complete gratitude in my heart to God and just admire His greatness even in the small things that happen around me. That inner sense of gratitude is a form of worship. The crowds don’t usually ‘get’ me there. And probably most of all, I understand Gods dealings with me to be on a spiritual level (and so for everyone) not necessarily understood in my flesh. I have family who are still extremely involved in worship as an act of institutional service and the terminology associated with it grates me. I’m no better than they are, I have no misconceptions about that, but I have been shown mercy to take me out of the superficial and for that I’m grateful. I thank God every day that He has taken me to a place of more truth, and I realize I haven’t arrived and do not boast either. God Bless.

  17. Hi,

    I lived all this what you are talking about and with Filip, he was in he same church as me , I follwed bibleschool there and gave all that i’ve got there, and I’m very disappointed and had as a slap in my face because of the spiritual abuse, because I lived it before I met Jesus and this in the church, oh my goodness I was as a wreck after going true this. Good God told me with a audible voice and gave me scriptures, that confirmed the things that i already saw in church, and told friends; And they said no, it’s the devil who want t o let you think that …. But God spoke to me, I was afraid to leave there, but God gave me His green light to go there!

    But the years after where very difficult, because did not have people around me in the area, only in Holland and had contact and they prayed of course for us, but is not the ame as you have friends around you, you know. And that where long and difficult years, and falling back in old habbits of course beause there I was prtected with all the people around you. I’m not afraid to talk the truth that i had those difficult moments from falling and getting up again, and going back to bad habbits. We walk with falling and stand up again, and God is very graceful, when you go to Him with your sins and repent He forgive you! Now after 12 years it’s coming good meeting again people that lost one another and where also in there own lifes of hurt and working things out, meeting again now, as was ment to be, I’m so grateful to Him to bring back what need to be His plan, but still I’m careful on being to enthousiastically especialy wiht relationships, i had very much very bad experiances, but I want to try that yes. But not want to go to the pain again!

    Very good podcast, i also was reading not going to church anymore, and know Filip from the same church in the past. Very good this podcast, I want to see for more books of you, and then will read them:-) Thank you for this site to be able to get more free and eye opener!
    I’ts pity we had to go true the neagtive things in the church, lot of people or wounded and broken ! As well lost confidence in people and getting in dangereous place because not putting themself again vulnerable to make new relationships.

    And getting into an isolation. That makes that you are alone, and getting that you close yourself up! I lived that, and now i broke out of it, praise the Lord! Meeting again friends that God put on our way and walkng in the new things of God what He ment to be from the start as in Accts, coming together , eat and have bread and wine together , blessing one another, pray for one another, talking about Jesus. Then at home practicing as good as possible without pressure to have realtion with the Father, jesus and the Holy Spirit, and listen what we can do that day for Him. As Isaiah 61and luke 4:18-19 what I really experience that that is what I suppose to do. And as in Luke 10 seeking the sons of peace and bring them to Jesus, baptise and get them fulfilled with the Holy Spirit and making disciples and see there calling and send them out in that, that they can do what god called them to do.

    It’s all very beautiful what I write and my heart is so eager to reach the lost! But I also have issues in my life and holds me little back, because I was a lot in hospital the last two years and in psychiatry and I laught and wrote on FB I have a hospital ministrie, lol and I could tetify very well there. Now people ask for prayer, as well to come to them to come and deliver there daughter one friend tonight, I said In eed to talk with here, important is that she invites Jesus in here life and then things can happen. I’m careful and will ask advice Jesus for this one first!!!

    Thank you for taking time to read and thanks also for the testimony (postcad) and many blessings from Antwerp Belgium

    With love


  18. I thought your listeners might be interested in this. I have been a spirit filled believer for 40 years and am familiar with what goes on in the types of church meeting the speaker described. My father believed in Jesus but was a secular psychiatrist. One day before he passed away when I was visiting him, he told me it was time for him to watch a particular TV evangelist. I was surprised as he had never showed any interest in that sort of thing. When I questioned him, he answered that he wanted to figure out what kind of hold this particular evangelist had on the audience. He recognized there was some type of psychological manipulation of the audience taking place. He has seen passed away, but I have never forgotten his take on the subject and can now recognize some of the manipulation for myself.

  19. You don’t owe anyone any apologies for this podcast, Wayne. It needed to be done. Probably overdue, in fact.

    I am not afraid to say that, in my crackpot view, the whole institutional approach to Jesus needs to be tossed out, abandoned, buried, or at least avoided at all costs. There are plenty of people who will say, “But the Institutions do good things, too! God uses them to reach people and I got alot out of it when I used to attend.” That’s fine, but that only shows that God can take even an awful system like organized religion and work some good. That is no reason to keep that awful system in place. It’s like arguing that God can bring good out an abusive relationship so let’s not condemn abusive relationships. I don’t see any evidence that Jesus ever intended or desired that his followers would organize themselves into these hierarchical institutions of Better Living Thru God. In fact, Jesus seems to have taught against this very kind of thing. So why are we still clinging to it after 2000 years?

    Sorry but if we are honest with ourselves we will see that institutional religion is a blight on Jesus’ name and we are only enabling its abuse when we equivocate about it.

  20. I really appreciated Filip’s wisdom and honesty. It was refreshing to hear the perspective of someone in mainland Europe on the destructive influences of the Charismatic Church and to realise that its not vastly different from that in the U.S. or U.K.

  21. Awesome thoughts and concerns! In line a little bit with what Glen says above, one might consider the ways of Asian religions. Most don’t have a weekly meeting or “the man of God” thought pattern. Their beliefs are a part of their Everyday. According to Ken Rideout, in his book “The truth you know you know”, they know already words and meaning of sin, forgiveness, reconciliation, etc. They just don’t know God as Father; and Him coming personally to earth. That is what Ken came around to (changing his thoughts and feelings, and thus his teachings and methods) as he taught in Thailand and China for 44 years.

    To me, the monotheistic religions seem to have twisted the whole idea of who God is into a knot that is almost impossible to unravel, and thus twisting the whole world-wide view and understanding of who God and son really really are.

    Reason to be really thankful for a merciful father!!

  22. Great podcast!! After having an ‘awakening’ at a charismatic prayer meeting back in 1974 that opened the door to my realization of the reality of our Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit, and not really knowing where to go with it, how to trust in or identify essential truths, I started on a path of organizational indoctrination. So much of what Filip recounted struck similar chords in my heart. I do remember when the local Roman Catholic Charismatic groups came under the pressure and censorship of the local RC clergy. Sensing a direction I did not care to follow, I stepped back from regular meetings. A few years later, I again found a group of people from several religious institutional backgrounds and began ‘fellowshipping’ with them. That is where the so called ‘Word of Faith’ doctrine and the ‘Non-Denominational’ groups came to my attention. After several years of following that, and seeing how as the hierarchy became corrupted and focused more on personal kingdom building as they gained notoriety and power, I became disenchanted and withdrew from those forms as well. The next ‘group’ that caught my attention was strongly related to deliverance ministry… The leadership of that bent had very strong opinions about many things that just felt demoralizing and demeaning, especially with regard to being a woman. I found myself eventually coming to the place of telling ‘God’ that as much as I believed in him, his son, and the Spirit, and as much as I didn’t want to live a life without their being a part of my life, I was at a dead end. I wanted to know that joy, and the sense of being loved and wanted that I knew that first time back in 1974, but I did not know how to access it, or where I had lost it. For about three years I floundered in that state and wondered if it would ever be different. Through the wonder of reconnecting with former friends on the internet, I asked some that I had fellowshipped with as to what their relationship to the Father looked like now. It had changed for some of them as well. One in particular spoke to my situation through the recounting of his family’s experience. Through that the Father opened the door to where I could see hope again. When I look back at the various groups I was involved with I have asked what the attraction was that drew me in… I didn’t need to ask what drove me away as it was usually some doctrine(s) that stood in direct opposition to something from the scriptures. There has to be something that captures our attention… for example, with the Word Of Faith… it fed a desire to be known and recognized by the Father as a person with needs. That was a new concept to me. Unfortunately the downside to that bent of doctrine which brought personal despair that if you weren’t ‘successful’ then there was something terribly wrong with you. I saw people absolutely give their all, and their situations only got worse. The reaction and stance of the leadership to those folks was downright disgusting.
    For the past three years I have been learning that many times along the way, the Spirit was the one letting me see the ‘errors’ of the ‘movements’ I was associated with, however, for personal fear, or chastisement on the part of others and not wanting to be rejected, I learned to stuff, dismiss, ignore those promptings, falsely labeling them as the work of the enemy, or a sign of personal rebellion. I am extremely grateful to be freed from those institutions even though at times my mind struggles with residue from those days, personal misgivings, and a still developing walk of freedom. I hope to always remember the path that I have been on, because each step of the journey, even with those less than desirable associations, is used by Papa to draw me closer to him.

  23. I’ve been around the Kingdom for 12 yrs. now. Seen the spiritual arm twisting and learned behavoir that goes on.But being taught this way was painful ,in the end. I wouldn’t trade it in.God didn’t waste anything. He put spiritual fathers and at times mothers who knew how to guide me in the things of the spirit.These were people who gave me eye openers.It sounds like that is what some of you have the potential to now become.Some of us had to see the darkness before we could see and appreciate the light clearly.Some of these men and women tried their best and some failed their best. I think it is safe to say that we can now stand on their shoulders and see further than they. It may have been a messy road we came down, but it sounds to me like were arriving. Bless you all

  24. Coming from the same low lands and having escaped the clutches of scheduled religion I would like to connect with Filip but have trouble locating him on the web. Could I have his facebook link?

  25. just thinking about going to church for me triggers the emotions and something even i don’t understand, Its now almost 5 years since i left one of these awful places after 19 years and still I have this reaction at going to church… the church i have chosen is a kind and gentle fellowship so it is not logical to find it so hard to just stay connected. Everything in me wants to cut if off and just fellowship with God at home and with friends. I hate what this has done to me and others i know…

    Most of those who came out not long after hubby n i have all fallen out of church though they love the Lord more now than ever… still i feel i may join the ranks of the fastest growing church in the world at the moment… The Stay Home Christian. Shame on these people for what they have done.

  26. Jayne, that’s obviously the worst thing these abusive systems do to people. I’m sorry for the pain you’ve been through and are still touched by. I pray God that God will resurrect the image of his bride in your heart that is filled with joy and tenderness. Yes, the systems we have created often bear little resemblance to her, but she is still in the world, closer to you in this moment than you probably know. She may be found in a local fellowship, or she may be found in the faces that walk by you each day. You may find her even if you join the Stay Home Christian Fellowship, because going to the meeting doesn’t matter nearly as much as loving and getting to know the people around you at work, in your neighborhood, or wherever else you might hang out. I pray God will give you a path forward that shows you his reality in a glorious way! I prayed for you today.

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