Because there are no guidelines within Pentecostal and Charismatic assemblies – in general - for how much authority church pastors can assume over their congregations, spiritual abuse is rampant within the movement, creating many difficulties for those within these faiths. Even in those churches with kind, mild-mannered leaders, these rules are not set in stone, and their potential for abuse is still great.
Many people suffer from depression or anxiety related disorders after leaving Pentecostal and Charismatic congregations – some (whether in the faith or not) even contemplate suicide as an answer to their inner turmoil created by the ideas of these emotional abuse congregations. Many have found help in counseling and from the field of medicine to alleviate these problems. (http://ex-pentecostals.org/spiritualabuse.htm)
1. Some characteristics of spiritually abusive churches
(1). Abusive churches have strong control-oriented leadership.
(2). Use of fear and guilt-driven religion.
(3). Strong discouragement of any diversity of theological thought.
(4) Rules and legalism abound.
(5) Many areas of members lives are subject to scrutiny.
(6) People who verbally express different ideas from the leadership will be harshly dealt with and will be seen as ‘tools of Satan’ and reprobate and are threatened with ex-communication if they refuse to ‘toe the line’.
(7) For members choosing to leave a spiritually abusive church, returning to normality can be very difficult.
2. Flee such churches and seek professional help.
If you seek counseling, do NOT seek it within a Pentecostal or Charismatic church or within any other Fundamentalist congregation. Seek help from an independent, qualified psychologist or psychiatrist.