I was born and raised as a member of a religious group. My membership made me feel secure because we were taught to believe that this was the right church and that being part of it would assure us of our salvation. The doctrines are very strict and each member is required to follow them religiously.  Otherwise, they will be questioned. Everyone obeyed out of fear.  They feared God but they feared the church more.

To ensure obedience, members were encouraged to watch out for each other. If proven guilty of anything that goes against the church’s doctrines, one will be expelled and will not be allowed to enter the premises again. Removal from the church is tantamount to being condemned to hell because this strips you off of your salvation. It is because of this that the likelihood of living double lives is very high where one becomes righteous and holy when in church but worldly and full of pride outside of it.  Members are so devoted to the church and they valued involvement so much that they would do everything they can to protect their image in the church – so much so that religion becomes an idol that takes God’s place.

For over a century, no one has dared question this group’s doctrine, having been ruled by one family, whose current head claimed to be the last messenger of God here on earth akin to that of a modern-day prophet.  If not for their head, this group would not be where it is right now.  The pastors would always highlight the church’s indebtedness to the family.

As a result, everyone would regard the family with so much respect and adoration. True enough, it came as a shock when a news broke of an internal conflict which resulted to the immediate expulsion of certain family members from the church. It’s no surprise that news on corruption and division in the church have surfaced because an organization ruled by people who are more concerned of protecting and promoting themselves is indeed not sustainable.

 “For nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light”
Luke 8:17

Alongside the current issues that this religious group faces, there springs two types of members: the most common are the defensive ones who would readily reject all news because they think these are just mere allegations formed by people who want to destroy the current standing of the church (which they believe is very strong given the number of members they have, the number of churches they’ve built, and recently, their ownership of the world’s biggest arena).

I experienced this first hand when I was brought in for questioning by the pastors of my former church locale. One of the questions asked was why I am no longer a believer. To which I responded by saying that

I never found God in this church because no amount of tradition or religious practices can compare to the God whom I have encountered when I read the Bible.

They contested this by saying the exact same thing that defensive believers would say, “How can you say that God is not present in this religion when we have built so many churches and have over 2 million followers already?” If this is the group’s standard of knowing that God is with them then I guess this begs the question: which god are they serving?

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal”
2 Corinthians 4:18

On the other hand, the other type of member are those whose hearts have escaped the chains but are still physically bound to the church because they are afraid to lose their identity and be hated by the community. This religion cultivates tight-knit church communities where everyone knows each other so it is very likely for everyone to be up-to-date with each other’s lives.

This works for the church because it allows each member to keep an eye on one another. However, instead of encouraging one another, the tendency is to look-out for each other’s blunders and faults. It is for this very reason that I got summoned by the pastors in our church. Someone whom I do not even know reported about my recent participation in a Christian retreat and my regular attendance in Christian services. The person who reported me even provided photos which he retrieved from the accounts of my friends via social media. This was then followed by a series of hateful messages which came from close friends whom I grew up with—saying how I am such an embarrassment to the church and the like.

If not for the strength provided by the Holy Spirit, I wouldn’t have endured such persecutions. This is the same reason why some members are so afraid that they would rather remain in the good graces of the church than suffer from harsh words and experience alienation.

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching”
Hebrews 10:24-25

Dependence on religion is dangerous because it focuses on WHAT TO DO, while dependence on God focuses more on WHO WE ARE TO BE. It was when I attended a worship service at a Christian church that I discovered the world outside of my former group, and it was when I read the Bible that I came to know who the real Jesus Christ really is—God Himself

who came to this world to be our Savior and Lord. Members are not encouraged to read the Bible because they are made to believe that listening to the pastors is already enough to know everything they should know about God. Everyone follows blindly and nobody dares to ask or discern the teaching for themselves.

I am truly blessed that God revealed Himself to me – to experience the love of Christ – a love that I was deprived of because I grew up living in fear and religion. My life has never been the same ever since I surrendered it to Him.

I pray that members of this religious group would wake up from their deceptive slumber and experience the real power of Christ in their lives so they will know what it’s really like to be SAVED.

“For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convicted that one died for all, and therefore all died. And He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again. So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come. The old has gone, and the new is here!”
2 Corinthians 5:14-17

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of any agency of the Saved Ministries. Testimonies and worldviews within this article are published with the permission of the author and they should not be utilized to slander or disrespect world religions. These articles are based only on very limited and personal experiences of the author, which was voluntarily submitted to the Saved Ministries team.  While we do not necessarily reflect the assumptions and insights of the author within the article, we are united in affirming Acts 4:12.