I am currently a member of the Potter’s House Church.
Prior to joining this church I was not a Christian and had no belief in God nor any experience with churches. Therefore, what I am experiencing, and have experienced, is all I know about church life. This is true of many people in the Potter’s House because of the nature of our evangelism.
I have read the articles and comments on your Web site and must agree that many of the comments made ring true from my experience. The biggest issue people seem to have is that of being controlled by their Pastors. This is very interesting because in most cases, the Pastor’s are very sincere men who love God and seemingly love the people in the church (until they decide to leave anyway). Also, I have never actually seen a Pastor get angry or shout or say to someone; “you must do this.” However, I totally agree that they are very controlling. If you are not at every church service, questions are asked. The logic is “where would you rather be than at church?”
The consequence of this is that all member’s lives are streamlined to “God’s” will as manifested through headship. This is very tiresome and strips believer’s of their God given individuality and creates all manner of frustrations.
Also, when a person leaves, we are strongly advised to have nothing to do with them because they are rebels and the bible says that we should have nothing to do with rebels. Superficially, this is logical, except that everyone who leaves is a rebel. Yet I know that most people leave for one of two reasons; they either backslide or they feel they must leave if they are to survive as a believer. Either way, neither are rebels in the sense referred to in the Scriptures dealing with rebels. The upshot of this is that when someone leaves our church, they never come back. Worse, they are ignored and this only justifies their decision.
As regards questioning or criticizing Pastors, You can question them, despite what other people have written. However, it is a daunting experience for a church member. Believers are never encouraged to think critically about things (which makes me wonder how our Pastor’s learn to do it), are always encouraged to submit to headship, and are taught that our immediate headship is God appointed and that to “raise a hand” (criticize) against headship would be like David raising a hand against Saul. The consequence of all this is that church members find it very difficult to discuss their grievances with headship. These grievances do not go away but rather grow and merge.
At the same time there is a heavy load of compulsory church activities that bear relatively little lasting fruit. Eventually, members either become robot-like in their behavior, leave, or become little pastors, completely sold out to the fellowship.
Overall, I feel our fellowship is so much focused on making converts and transforming converts into pliable, obedient, disciples that genuine needs of members are ignored. Friendship is seldom meaningful or genuine and therefore there is much loneliness, particularly amongst the women.
An interesting observation I have made over the years is that there is relatively little humility amongst Pastors. They very rarely admit wrong and they rarely sacrifice yet expect church members to sacrifice money/time/promotions/holidays etc all the time. They of course would argue that their life is a sacrifice because they are ‘serving’ the church. This may be so, but at the same time many don’t have to work a job and are able to buy houses from the offering money.
Why do I stay?
I don’t know exactly, but it could be that in my early days of salvation I sensed that the vision of our fellowship was, in many respects, quite romantic and courageous. I still believe it has a noble vision, although I think the methods we use to achieve this vision effectively hobble God when it comes to moving in the lives of members, resulting in long seasons of near barrenness.