The Culture of Control

During Wayne's recent trip to Australia, he sat down with a family who had recently found their way out of a religious system that had a culture of control. Meet John, Josiah, and Amy Manteit as they share their story of awakening to the fact that those who claimed to speak for God in their lives, had taken them under control with false teaching and intimidation. Hear as they talk about the risk of walking away from that culture of control and the price they pad in doing so. Then rejoice with them as they have found life and freedom in following Jesus rather than what others were telling them Jesus was saying to them. (Pictured at left, clockwise from top left: John, Josiah, Amy, and Sonja.)

Podcast Links:
Contact the Manteit family
Add your voice to our question/comment line: (805) 539-6980 or Skype us at "TheGodJourney".
If you'd like to help us provide for the needs of orphans and widows in Kenya, you can get the details here.


  1. Just got through listening to the podcast and could relate in so many ways. Our “church” situation was not as dramatic or controlling but we still knew that we had to get out. Fortunately, there were others that went before us that we were able to vent our heartache with, and to them, I am so grateful! We, in turn, were able to talk it through with a few others that also chose to leave. The members are still able to talk with us, including both of our adult children and their families, that are heavily involved. We have learned over time to not discuss anything about the “church” because it was so hurtful on both sides; for us, in that we so wanted them to be set free; for them, because they so wanted us to be in the “right” community, which is there at the “church”!

    I really appreciated what Josiah had to say at the end. God is the One who will draw these dear people to Himself in His timing. My heart breaks for those still enmeshed in it all, but I can rest in His love and acceptance for me and enjoy the peace He so freely gives. :o)

    Thanks for sharing your story. I hope many contact you and are encouraged by your relationship with our loving Father :o)


  2. Looks like I’m the first to chime in on this podcast and I’m doing so with some angry feelings because it reminds me of my upbringing (from when I was about 12 yrs through turning 18). I so feel for you, Manteit family! Similar to the Manteit’s situation, my family attended an “independent, fundamental, Bible-believing blah blah” Baptist church where it also got worse & worse until the pastors were controlling families & telling the parents how to raise/discipline their kids & disciplining us when we stepped out of line. I just found out about a year ago that the pastors told certain dads (mine being one) that they needed to spank/whip those of us who were “rebellious” (me) until they broke our spirits (by the way, my dad obliged). We were chastised if we disagreed with them, spoke out or questioned their rules. When I started dating a boy steadily in high school, we were forbidden to even speak to each other & elders were asked to spy on us & inform the pastors/my parents if we were caught together (because we weren’t allowed to date until college). Some of my friends dropped out even before my family did & we lost touch for many years, but are now back in touch again (thanks social media). Discussing what we went through confirmed that that church harmed us in many ways, & some of my friends never darkened the doorstep of another church again. One friend in particular says the last straw was when the pastors were drilling it into our heads that if someone we knew died without Christ that their blood would be on our hands & she couldn’t handle that thought so she left (& now has an “animal spirit god” she follows). I had no one to talk to so had no mentors so I flew through life by the seat of my pants & my emotions. We teens (who seemed to have the “yuck factor” before the adults did) felt like it was Us vs. Them. All my friends were at church or the religious school I also attended (so I got it 24/7) because God forbid we would have “unsaved” friends. The Holy Spirit was minimized (probably because the pastors didn’t want to encourage us to hear from God directly). One of the pastors from that church recently sent me a friend request on FB to which I replied with a private message how much he had harmed me & others, etc. There was no apology or explanation & needless to say I didn’t accept the friend request. But all that being said (& it’s probably obvious I’m still walking through the healing process as this just crept up again last year after being dormat for many), I am now on a journey that doesn’t really involve institutionalized church but groups like The God Journey. And you know what? I soooo love the God I’m coming to know who is so much different than the God I “knew” then! My prayers are with you, Manteit family, as you continue to heal & grow in your relationship with Father! And thank you, God Journey, for letting me know I was not alone & for encouraging me to live loved!!

  3. A quick note to express my appreciation for the sharing of the Manteit family story. I think there’s so many of us (even when specific details differ) find ourselves walking through the disorientation of knowing “there’s something more” and willing to trust that Jesus is strong enough to carry us through the weight of lonliness, fear and pain of the disapproval of those who mean so much to us. Blessings.

  4. Wow!
    This pod cast is so important and must be/remain in the public domain.
    Thanks for posting it. It will guide,heal,instruct,encourage and enlighten.

    So glad I subscribe here! ;o)

    Cheers Wayne!

    PS Reading ‘The Shack’ at present too!!

  5. Thankful this precious family discovered the “Door” and our genuine door keeper. Thankful they were sensitive to timings, too, for the Lord granted their movement as a whole family. A marvelous grace of wisdom and maturity flows in their whole family. I also appreciate that there is no vindictive desires evident in their testimony. Another clear blessings of Father’s guidance and timings and sweet fruit of His nature.
    One of the many down sides to abusive authority is we often do not experience genuine freedom because of the tendency to just take up opposition against our abusers. It is very refreshing and encouraging to listen to the Manteit family and sense the fresh breath of freedom in each of their hearts. Thank You, Lord and thank you, Wayne for sharing good news. blessings and affection. Oh, and Happy Happy anniversary!

  6. Interesting podcast. I know this “church.” Folks I know and love are involved or have been involved so it has been helpful to me to get more of an insight into what goes on. Thank you for your insights. I did some online research. If you type in this church’s name and “cult” there is a wealth of info online. In addition to support groups etc. for those who leave. On a scale of 1 – 10 those that study cults rate this group’s emotional abuse as an “8.” I am relieved that the Manteit family has emerged with their family and faith intact, because many don’t.

    It is such a joy to rediscover scripture. To look at through a non-religious lens. When I left church this verse floored me:

    “Don’t set people up as experts over your life, letting them tell you what to do…And don’t let people manoeuvre you into taking charge of them. There is only one Life-Leader for you and them – Christ.”

    (Mathew 23:8-10, The Message)

    I’ve done both. Put others up on a pedestal only to be disappointed to find out that they are just as human as I am, and allowed myself to be put up on a pedestal too – only to disappoint others. Once you are up there it can be really hard to step down. Don’t most churches exhibit this tendency? It is so unhealthy.

  7. Hi, Aprill

    Wow, that sounds sooo painful! : (
    Thanks for sharing your story and being vulnerable! : ) I’m listening and would love to hear more if you want to share more. My email is:

    A fellow sister in Christ,

  8. Tell you what, it was really nice to hear some Australian accents on the podcast 🙂 I’m from Queensland myself. I’m really not sure whether to comment on this or not, I don’t want to trivialise what the Manteit family went through. But I was very happy to hear what they had to say, I especially liked hearing parts where it seemed everyone was talking at once 🙂

    On the issue of control, I kept thinking of that story of a frog in a pot. If you throw a frog in a pot of boiling water, it will immediately jump out. If you put the frog in a pot of cold water and heat it up slowly, perhaps the frog could be cooked before it is able to come to its senses and jump out.

    Another thing that struck me in the conversation was the comment about how a “pastor/elder/group leader” would react if you came to them in a moment of total honesty, with your heart laid bare as it were. Would they be angry? Would they be disapproving? Would they pretend to be understanding, but be angry on the inside, perhaps grudging how much work it might take to fix me up? I often struggle with this thing of not knowing who I can be honest with, it is so easy to be convinced by people that my struggles inside are somehow wrong. I’m sorry to hear that the Manteit family went through such a dark place, but I am glad that God has brought them out in such a wonderful way.

  9. Thanks for that podcast. Was moved to tears at one point, similarly as I read some of the comments above.
    People who control others don’t always do it intentionally, or if they do, they often do it thinking they are doing good.
    In the past I have been controlled, possibly choosing to be controlled rather than take personal responsibility for my actions. You can get so filled with self doubt, and a fear of ‘getting it wrong’ that it gets easier to submit to man, than to risk getting it wrong.
    I’m starting to discover that even if I get it wrong, God loves me and is more concerned that I at least trust Him in it, not just turn to another mediator.
    That’s so liberating.

    The other thing is that I have been a controller myself. And still potentially can be. That’s scary.

  10. The desire to control others in religious circles is wide spread and the most unfortunate thing is that those who want others to follow them do so, believing God wants them to control others.They do this out of their need to be seeing to be doing something for God, in a works/performance based environment.Most of these controllers are captives themselves of a ‘teaching’ that has been handed down to them from previous generations by those who believe controlling others is their christian duty.They may do it with the best of intentions but they end up hurting many and destroying relationships.
    I have had instances in my journey of some people who wanted to micro-manage my walk with God in the name of ‘discipleship’, but i am thankful that always God has impressed in my heart not to be part of such systems or to just run,run,run as Wayne put it.

  11. Thankful for the different voices being e-heard here : ) Finding it very painful to walk some of this out when at the present there’s very few ppl I can share my heart with or even pray with. In ways that are unexpected, Father is continuing to encourage me and let me know that He’s with me. To read other’s thoughts reminds me that I’m not “crazy” and encourages me to patience as this unfolds.

  12. Dear April,
    I hear ya sister! And i’m with ya. I went through almost the exact same thing you described. I’m 39 years old and still struggling with the pain and insecurity i am left with from growing up in a church just like you described. i was spanked too, at any sign of rebellion to “break” my spirit. I was spanked a lot and was read bible verses before i got spanked like children obey you parents in the Lord for this is right. Then i would get spanked with a piece of wood that my parents had taken out of an old lazyboy recliner. We were never allowed to speak out.
    I could go on and on but bottom line, about two years ago i read The Shack and He Loves Me and i totally broke down. I couldn’t believe God actually loved me. I thought he was always waiting for me to do something wrong so he could punish me! I struggle with horrible fear and anxiety. I have left institutionalized church about two years ago and started a relationship with my Abba who i love with all my heart. My parents think i have gone crazy because i don’t go to church, and they think i am in a New Age Movement. I don’t even know what that is but anyways, i just can’t go back.
    I just want you to know, you are not alone.

  13. A very moving story indeed. I can’t believe what they went through, and what so many are still going through at the group in question. I looked at their official web page – there are clear signs even there of what delights lay beyond the doors. It makes me feel so angry that so many people are under this manipulation, and most of all, under fear (tormenting, terrorising, not holy) – which is quite the opposite of Father’s love. It’s so strange that this manipulation and control seems to perpetuate in this group down the decades, as I believe they’ve been going since 1970. It must have changed hands along the way, I guess. You’d have thought the light would have penetrated the darkness somewhat in that time, but it seems not. I think out of all those who are suffering there (whether they know it or not), the women are definitely bearing the heaviest load. Unbelievable. So shocking, and unbelievable. God bless you and free you up more and more, Manteit family. Praise God for your release – a beacon of hope for others.

  14. Dear Sue,
    I felt very similar when I was going through the awakening and leaving process. I felt like I could not be honest with anyone about what I was thinking and feeling. But just as your said, The Lord encouraged me in unexpected ways and let me know he was with me too. I think Father was teaching me to listen to His small voice and not the noise around me or the noise of fear in me.
    I am so thankful for the couple of Christian friends I knew, that did not go to the church I was at, and were so keen to talk with me and pray with me too. God is faithful! You are not alone.

  15. Very interesting story. I am so glad the Lord has set you free. Although I personally have not experienced this kind of controlling religion, I have met people who have been controlled this way. I was incredibly blessed as a baby Christian to be taught I could hear the Lord for myself. Wayne, I thank you, as well as some other believers, for that. There is a story in the old testament, can’t remember where, in which a prophet was told by God to do something, but then persuaded diferently by an older prophet. At the end of the story, the younger propbet was eaten by a lion for listening to the man rather than the Spirit. This should be a primer story for all new believers. People often try to use God to control others. We must put none other than Jesus on the throne in our lives.I know Jesus will use this to set many others free. Thank you for sharing.

  16. I was in a similar church, that had a Holy Spirit 360 degree turn to Jesus Christ. It cost millions of dollars for the change in doctrine but totally worth it. I still pray for friends that left that Jesus would open their eyes to Him. Only Jesus can get through to them.

  17. I once belonged to a large simular structured church and can identify with the experience of this family. I am glad that you chose to follow the Lord away from that kind of control over your family. Unfortunately, I remained in such a structured religion for over 20 years with devasting consequences to my family. Nevertheless, the Lord turned my sufferings into a closure and fuller relationship with Him and others. I don’t have the words to explain this level of control over so many intelligent people I knew and fellowshiped with so I will say that once I was bound but now I am free!

  18. Thanks to the Manteit family and everyone here who has been willing to share their stories. My heart breaks to hear about the long term damage and effects these environments have. I too was struck by this family’s willingness and trust in Father to speak to others, and perhaps they understand that anytime you have to coerce someone to your point of view it automatically taints the message. Having left a church setting myself I have found that anytime God is working something out in my life it is done with love and compassion and never involves condemnation or shame.

  19. Dear Amy, Thankyou for your words. You hit it right when you used the phrase “afraid to share what I’m thinking and feeling”. Father has given me unexpected encouragement at different points and most likely there will come a day when I can live more transparently. I find that where He has me right now is in a place that I can share certain things…learning to love ppl and He has asked me to not push them past where they’re able to go. I also have seen His gentleness where my attitude has been to “run forward with things” and His thoughts are for me to slow down. I was raised in an environment where performance was such a huge thing and the structured, religous “presbyterian” system fit everything from home. I’m very thankful to Father for His gentleness. I’m still at times “disoriented” but learning to listen to Him and let the pressures from human beings go. This process takes time and that’s where the patience is developed.

    To everyone contributing to the e-conversation…it seems to be an encouragement to a lot of people : )

  20. Spencer, I think it was insightful of you when you said, “I think out of all those who are suffering there (whether they know it or not), the women are definitely bearing the heaviest load.” Now that I am older & able to “analyze” some of the behavior in the church I grew up in, I see that it did oppress women – sometimes subtly, sometimes not so much – under the guise of “wives, submit yourself to your husbands”. I think it did indeed harm us the most. All of the pastors, leaders, deacons, ushers, etc were men & it has caused me to have issues with men, people in authority (men & women), & God himself, which thanks to his goodness & love & persistence is all but healed! I loooove the God I have come to know! He’s not, as Brennan Manning said, a niggling customs official searching our baggage for something bad! And he loves me as I am, not as I “should” be!

    Hannah & Tricia, thank you for your understanding and kind words. Hannah, I will drop you an email so we can stay in touch. Tricia (feel free to email me as well:, like you, reading “The Shack” a few years ago (& more recently “So You Don’t Want to go to Church Anymore?” & “He Loves Me”) planted seeds that have erupted into the beautiful garden of living loved that the Master Gardener is currently tending for me. BTW, I don’t even tell my parents (who did leave that church many years ago but who I still consider to be stuck in performance-based religion) that I don’t go to “church”. I’m certain they would judge me. They’ve proved that by over the years asking now & then “Did you go to church Sunday?” Never once did they ask, “Are you living in God’s furious love for you?” or “Have you had any interesting conversations with God lately?” or “How are you letting God’s love spill out of you onto people around you?”

    I love being a part of this community! It is a source of understanding, love & healing the likes of which I’ve only seen once before – with my “hanai” (adopted) mom/mentor back home in Hawaii who God has also used to lead me to this journey I’m on.

    Lived loves, brothers & sisters!

    • Well said and, as Johnny Cash once said- ‘we’re in it together if we’re in it at all’! :o)


    This is a link of a chapter from Equality for Women and Men in the Christian Faith.
    I’ve read the chapter and it was really great! It went through the history of what was going on when 1 Timothy was written, very eye opening!!! It was Wow, oh Wow, now it makes sense what Paul was saying!


  22. Hi, Paul (South Africa)

    I tried to email you back, but it wouldn’t work! I just wanted to say how much I appreciated it, it was very encouraging! Thanks!


  23. Hi Wayne
    You shared a warning sign, that if a leader gets angry or shouts at you for asking questions or disagreeing with what they are saying, then you know it is time to RUN. I would like to add an example that is more subtle. If a leader ‘very lovingly’ tells you that your questioning or disagreement is a sign that you have been deceived and are in danger of losing your salvation, then again it is a clear warning to RUN, do not pass GO, do not receive $200, just RUN. This happened to me on several occasions before I dared to get out and stay out. These people are still so ‘loving’ to me when they see me, but I am sure that they are convinced that I am backslidden and maybe even going to hell.

  24. Thank you so much Wayne for dealing wth the control of organizations. I appreciate Sharon’s comment that the org. talked about could be researched. I did that and found so much distrubing, but educational info from the investigative tv program.

    Sad how easily we’re duped because we want that security and affirmation from others. We’re so human.
    Appreciate your 2 podcasts and the comments left by hurt and caring folks.

    God bless you so much Wayne for sloshing liberty around.

  25. I’d like to expand this conversation a bit and see where the conversation leads.

    The podcast deals with a family that were in an abusive, controlling religious institution and found a way out even though it was very risky to them and seemed impossible when they were inside of it.

    what about marriage? what if a person is inside the institution of marriage where the spouse is abusive? not physically abusive but emotionally and mentally abusive, i.e., controlling? do any of the things that the Manteits faced apply to the marriage situation? is it totally different? does the abused spouse have to stay in that marriage and just somehow find a way to survive or live with it, “for better or worse” ?

  26. Extremely helpful, Melkmeid. had no idea about this article being out there or even this perspective. literally brot tears to my eyes. no idea where this leads and it may not apply to me, but at least the voices of condemnation are fewer and fainter. thank you!!!

  27. HI, Searching

    I’m glad the article really helped! 🙂
    There is too much condemnation from fellow believers, when people are really hurting need to know how loved they are and that they are connected to Papa and He is with them in their pain! 🙂
    Never alone, never abandoned, never rejected! Always Loved, Always There and Always Accepted!!! 🙂


  28. Thank you, Manteit family, for sharing your story. It was sweet to hear how the Holy Spirit gently and patiently guided you out of bondage. I was laughing and crying all the way home from work while listening. Like many other listeners, I lived through a less dramatic but similar experience for 15 years. When the girl who would become my wife first came to the church after moving from out of state, she noticed right away that there was no emphasis on Christ in the teaching. And there were warnings from the pulpit not to question the leadership of the church. She knew something was wrong but stuck with me there for two years before we crossed into freedom.

    We’re rejoicing with you!


  29. Dear Wayne,

    Probably one of my favourite podcasts from you yet in terms of the encouragement and honesty that has come through from it.

    I was deeply disturbed to hear that there are still places in the world where this kind of controlling spirit has such a hold on Christians and that it is done in the name of Jesus. What an irony! I feel for the suffering and internal turmoil this particular family have gone through and also for those who are still caught in these kind of “sect” type churches, though as mentioned here, God is perfectly able to lead others out of them and we should not try and do God’s job by trying to persuade others of our motives. Spiritual growth will be much more valuable and lasting if we get there by ourselves and not as a result of others’ persuasion.

    I also wanted to comment here and alert others about the fact that this kind of controlling organisation/entity or group was quite extreme and its giveaway signs more easy to spot, but we must remain much more alert for the more subtle controlling spirit which abounds in churches all over the world today where much of the power is given to elders and pastors/senior pastors and there is a clear manipulation coming from the top layers of a church right through to the bottom. The control is done in a very subtle way but there is control nonetheless and ultimately, one is persuaded and even pushed to trust the leaders’ leading as opposed to following the leading of God Himself.

    I have been part of a church here in the UK which I left now about 2 years ago. I have lost contact with all those who before were my friends and family friends and I am still suffering the pain of the scars this caused but I trust God will bring me into relationship with others who are on the same path as myself. Indeed, he already has.

    The other day I read a tweet by Rick Warren which said “The temptation to drift away from a church family is predictably the 1st step to poor choices,stupid sins,and needless pain.” It is in general statements like this, which seem totally harmless, that the controlling Spirit begins to do its work within a church or when a pastor says something like: “If you are not fully committed to the vision of this church, we would like to have your seat for someone who is”. I have personally heard that said in my old church and those are the kinds of statements which when you are in, you read as the result of a passionate heart which seeks to bring you on board of the church’s way forward, but once you are out you begin to see it for what it was: a determined, proud, driven individual who will push forward HIS/HER will, even if it means driving people away or leaving them drowning in condemnation and anguish. The UK is rampant with Christian leaders like this and I wholeheartedly believe this is why we are seeing a new move of God which is driving many out of the church system so that they can begin to discern who it is that we are called to solely follow.

    Wayne, you are a God send. When are you coming to the UK, South East of England to be precise? Please!!

    Thanks again.


  30. Mercedes, what a horrible quote from Warren. People who say that kind of stuff have no heart for the Father’s work in the world… Thanks for sharing it so others will be aware that such statements do not have the fragrance of Jesus about them and people don’t have to live under the condemnation they espouse. As to a future trip to the UK, that is looking increasingly like a possibility in the not so distant future…

  31. Thank you Wayne!

    Please do let us/me know when you will be visiting the UK. It would be a shame to not come and see you wherever you may meet or share with others.

    God bless you.


Comments are closed.