Share Your Story

Voices in the Pews is a section dedicated to our readers to share or read stories and learn lessons from those who have been deceived in their place of worship. We are open to stories of deception as well as stories of hope. If you would like to share your story, please contact us at submissions@DeceptionInThePews.com
New Believer

By *Paige Rae

I grew up catholic. But it wasn’t until I was in my thirties that I decided to truly learn the bible and belong to a church membership. I had survived many trials and tribulations for which I gave all the glory and honor to the almighty Lord, God. I guess I found myself trying to pay God for saving me from all that I had gone through.

I had heard about a wonderful church in my neighborhood. I had met other people who attended the same church, so I thought that I would not be much of a foreigner. I went and wanted to join after my first visit. The people were so loving, sharing and compassionate. I recall the pastor saying “share your burdens with your brothers and sisters in Christ. There is no need to carry your burdens alone—we are here to help each other. There is no reason for shame or embarrassment. Those who want to be saved, step up and there will be hands laid upon you. Believers will gather around you to pray for whatever is troubling you.” Afterwards we were taken to a room where we were to meet with another brother or sister in Christ. However, opposite sexes were not allowed to pray together. It was their way of avoiding any accusations of unwarranted sexual advances from the opposite sex.

I was not ready to share details of my private life. Instead, I would request prayer for my then husband to “keep my marriage intact.” I was apprehensive about sharing details surrounding my marriage. First of all, it was too painful to discuss and secondly, I did not yet know the members of the church. As time progressed, over the next several years of attending the church, I became more comfortable and wound up opening Pandora’s box. I began to share the heavy burdens of my dysfunctional marriage and home life with church leaders. On a number of occasions, I met with the pastor’s wife and co-pastor’s wife, sharing all of my business along with intricate details of my dysfunctional marriage.

I shared how my husband did not agree with me giving ten percent of my earnings to the church. The church leaders said that despite the fact that my husband did not agree with this practice, it was commanded in the bible. So I continued to give ten percent of my earnings. My husband became more and more irate with me for attending the church and said they had me brain washed. At one point it was like a tug of war with the church on one end and my spouse on the other.

When we began to experience financial difficulties, I was determined to continue giving my ten percent. Eventually, our finances became so dire that I stopped tithing. Barely a week passed before the leaders of the church confronted me about why I was no longer giving my ten percent. I informed them that I had financial burdens at home and that my husband was not in agreement with me continuing to give money to the church. Immediately, I was branded as a “disobedient” member and told that my blessings would be withheld.

Still, I continued to attend church and bible studies. My marriage was rapidly falling apart and I knew my husband and I were headed for divorce. I just felt that if I opened myself up and revealed my vulnerability, the church leaders would understand the heart wrenching pain I was going through. There wasn’t a time when I was in service that I wasn’t weeping about the fact that my marriage was in disarray. I would glance around and see so many couples, and that made me feel even more alone.

Meanwhile, the pastor became even more irate with me and told me that my marriage problems were a direct result of my failing to tithe.

By this time, all my business was traveling around the entire church. It was as if there wasn’t a single soul who did not have knowledge of the intricate details of my dysfunctional marriage. I just felt completely vulnerable. Soon, the ladies alienated me out of fear that I might be interested in their spouses. The men were warned not to pray with me and not to discuss any matters with me. In fact, the co-pastor once pulled me out of the Marriage Couples studies to verbally admonish me. I was told that I was “carrying a reputation for being co-dependent and vulnerable and in desperate search for a man.” That I was stunned is an understatement.

I was ostracized and branded as a home wrecker when in reality, the only home that was being wrecked was my own. One sister approached me to tell me, “You are married but out of desperation, you will settle for attention from anyone of the opposite sex.” All of the false accusations were so untrue. I was never unfaithful to my husband. Enticing someone else’s husband was not in my mind as I was still desperately trying to maintain my own marriage. I was guilty of merely pouring out my heart to Leaders of the church who then used confidential information to create a whisper campaign against me.

I remember wondering, “Is this happening to me because I haven’t paid my tithes?” I desperately wanted to be closer to God and to be accepted by Christians who were practicing Christ-like ways and not the carnal ways of the world. At the end of that year, I gave a four thousand dollar check to the church. I thought I would be blessed, that I could demonstrate that I was a person loyal to Christ, but more importantly, I thought that paying my tithes would allow me to keep my marriage. It was only after paying my tithe that the pastor said to me, “I’m praying for you, that you not go astray. God will fix your marriage because He does not like divorces. Continue to tithe and give and watch God heal your marriage.”

It was with great sadness that I finally recognized that God was not going to fix my marriage. It didn’t matter how much money I gave the church. My marriage ended in divorce and I wound up with my heart in my hands, a single parent raising a special needs child totally alone. I was led to believe God can fix everything. I can only surmise that God had no plans for me to diligently endure a painful marriage where the self-esteem my child and myself was decimated.

Eventually, I was pretty much ousted from the church. I received a letter from the leadership stating that my integrity was questionable, my character was suspect and that God considered me a “thief and a robber” because I did not faithfully pay my tithes. Certainly, it was no longer the loving and appealing place that I felt it was when I was a baby in Christ. People did not openly speak to me and the stare-downs were obvious.

When I inquired about the letter I received, the pastors refused to meet with me. I felt like I was being put outdoors for the wolves to devour me.

I didn’t leave immediately. It took a few more weeks. But in that time, I sat and watched, noticing things that I previously had been blind to. I noticed how cliquish the members of the church were. I noticed that the same people were always asked to give a testimony. These were the same people who served in particular positions, and who gave the most money. It was like there was a secret code within the church and only certain people were allowed to crack the code.

I eventually left that church. But in leaving, I was left to wonder how many other churches mislead people into thinking they have to pay tithes or give money in order to receive God’s love and grace? How many other churches have pre-selected members as their chosen and favored individuals?

Today, I go directly to God. I have church in my home and I have prayer in my home. I pray throughout my travels, my workouts, and my day.

Today, I go directly to God. I have church in my home and I have prayer in my home. I pray throughout my travels, my workouts, and my day.

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