Leaving the Charismatic movement is no small decision. It is life-changing and perhaps, the hardest decision to make in your life. It is leaving behind friends, family, social support and the comfort zone that you’ve known.
The pain of leaving is real, but the pain of staying on becomes unbearable, especially when you desire to follow Christ after knowing the truth about the deception of the Charismatic movement that you were in.
Where do I start? How do I leave? What must I do after I leave? Where can I find a sound church?
While Charismatic assemblies vary from small groups to megachurches, from mild to extreme, the following key steps have been taken by many ex-charismatics who through trial and error, found the narrow way in following the true Christ, being able to be free and begin their healing journey.
1. Don’t extend your delay in leaving
There are many reasons why you choose to leave the Charismatic movement – abuse, heresies, disappointment, etc. Yet, social pressure, fear, even the desire to convert those who are deceived in that movement can be your reasons for staying on. However, staying on can be detrimental to both your mental and spiritual well-being. Christ does not make peace with heresy. Matthew 10:34-39 tells us that following the true Christ will divide us from those who do not follow Him, including our loved ones. While leaving the Charismatic assembly in an amicable fashion is preferential, in realistic circumstances, such a scenario is not always the case. Some Charismatic assemblies are known to be controlling and abusive, where members are gaslit and guilt-tripped into believing that leaving is a sin. If you’re in such an assembly, please know that this is NOT true! 1 Peter 5:3 makes it clear that no Christian minister is to lord over their flock. Sometimes, you’ll have to leave without saying goodbye, and that’s okay. It doesn’t matter what the Charismatic assembly thinks of you or how upset they’ll get with you. What’s more important is what God thinks of you. We glorify God, not men. It won’t be glorifying to God to remain in a movement that goes contrary to His Word.
2. Cut off or minimize your contacts
It’s understandable that you will want to keep your friendship with former members. However, constant fellowshipping may cause you to have doubt in your new-found faith and draw you back into the Charismatic movement and embrace its heretical beliefs that you have just divorced from. Unless your spiritual knowledge in the Bible is strong, keep contact with former members minimal until you are able to rise above that and evangelize to them. If the abuse was rampant in the assembly, cutting off all ties with the members will stop them from trying to hurt you, guilt-trip or control you. Change your contact numbers or email or unfriend/block them on your social media. Nothing is more important than getting out of the wolves’ mouths.
3. Avoid getting into a fight with your charismatic family members and loved ones
It may be a step that you hesitate to take, or maybe you are soo excited at finding out the truth that you declare boldly to your family and try to convince them otherwise. Be realistic in your expectations that not all of them may be able to see their errors or leave the movement like you did, all at once. However, it’s important to state clearly to your family members, if they are still members of the charismatic movement, that you are no longer part of the charismatic movement. Reactions to such news have been reported to be tense and at times, explosive. Seldom are the reactions amicable. Be clear on where you stand (for eg. that you will not particpate in speaking in tongues, will stop attending the same assembly with them, will avoid participating in prayers and miracle healings with them etc.). You may be interrogated, or pleaded with by your family members, but remember to never compromise your new found faith in Christ. This does not mean you need to cut off all ties with your family or that you need to avoid them. It just means you won’t weave yourself with heretical teachings that Christ abhors. Do not let the sun go down in your anger if you find it frustrating that your family members cannot see that they are on the wrong side. Pray for them without ceasing, and never stop showing in love, the errors of their ways with the Word of God. Be patient with them at all times and refrain from pushing biblical principles down their throats in a forceful or unkindly manner, as such testimony will reflect badly on you.
4. Cry it out and accept your decision to leave
It’s OK to express anger, regret, relief and tears, and talk about the experience. Many ex-charismatics have experienced bouts of depression after leaving a movement they were very comfortable in. The loss of family, friends, and loved ones is perhaps the most devastating of all pains experienced (especially if you were the one who introduced the movement to them), and can persist for years as long as they are still in that movement. Seek comfort in the Word of God, and with sound biblical Christians who are more than happy to offer support and give you a listening ear.
5. Avoid people who judge you or treat you carelessly
Sadly, there are many well-meaning Christians who do not understand what you are going through, as many of them have not gone through the charismatic movement themselves. They may, out of good intentions, try to fill you up too fast with sound biblical teachings or accuse you as being a wet blanket for “complaining” about your charismatic past, without understanding how much it can hurt you when you don’t meet their expectations. You may need to avoid these people if persistent explanation on your part does not seem to change their minds about you. As much as it can be frustrating that these people do not seem to understand you or wrongly criticize you, remember that it may be that it’s not entirely their fault and they only share with you the best ways they know how. Refrain from bitterness in such cases and do not share your pain with people who will carelessly handle it.
6. Relax by yourself
Take a break, go out and participate in healthy hobbies, go on holidays or meet up with friends. You need time to cool off your raw emotions at this point.
7. Steer clear from charismatic books, audio, preachers and music
Avoid visiting Christian bookstores that sell charismatic collateral. Put away your charismatic resources. Throw them away once you are ready to dispose them. In some cases, there are ex-charismatics who still keep their charismatic resources as part of research or study on heresies. We only encourage the latter once you are adequately equipped with the Word of God. Till then, steer clear from such resources as chances of them re-influencing you or charging your emotions can be high.
8. Don’t hurry off to another church
Healing takes time. You may need to avoid attending another assembly altogether, especially if the abuse you suffered in your previous assembly was traumatizing, or if other assemblies are not preaching the sound biblical teachings. Migrating from a hyper megachurch to a conservative assembly does not guarantee that the latter is preaching sound doctrines either. Do not attend church for the sake of attending, or trying to “redeem” yourself, or because you like hanging out with certain people, or you like the way they do the music or preaching etc. Don’t let anyone pressure you into “getting back into church” or accuse you of “sin” for not attending an assembly. No where in the Bible does it say that “attending church” is necessary for salvation or for growth. Growth is always based on feeding the Word of God, not associating with a building or social club. While we understand the need for fellowship with fellow Christians, and do encourage that if you can find them, with the plethora of churches steering from biblical beliefs, you are better off going underground or listening to sound preaching online than attending a church.
9. Study the Bible
While we always emphasize the importance of knowing the scriptures, for those who have been abused by poor leadership who misquote scriptures to exercise power and control, it’s understandable that you’ll need to take a break from reading the bible altogether for a while. Sadly, there have been many cases where ex-charismatics who have successfully left the charismatic movement, end up being entangled in another false system of beliefs, be it Catholicism, Universalism, Mormonism, Jehovah Witness, Calvinism, Arminianism, Antinomianism, Church of Christ etc, due to the lack of knowledge in the Word of God. We encourage individuals to search the scriptures daily to test all spirits (Acts 17:11, 1 John 4:1), even those that come in the name of Christ. The Word of God is indeed sharper than any 2-edged sword (Eph 6:11-18, Heb 4:12) and will guide you to all truth with the help of His Holy Spirit, so that you will not fall into another heretical movement based on emotions, friendly people, self-righteousness or human reasoning.
10. Examine your salvation
“Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?” – 2 Cor 13:5. Contrary to common Charismatic beliefs, the bible calls us to examine ourselves based on His Word. We cannot focus on this enough to emphasize the importance of your salvation. Saying the sinner’s prayer is NOT a sign that a person is saved, nor is attending church or doing the “sign gifts” or being raised in a Christian home. Find out more on how to get saved.
11. Study up on the Charismatic movement and other heresies
Knowing that we are in the last days, gaining knowledge and understanding in false movements and false prophets so as not to get deceived again. You may have loved ones who are still in the charismatic movement, so sharing such knowledge will be useful in pointing them out their errors. Knowledge in these must not however override the importance of biblical knowledge, which is necessary in applying them to other imformation you are studying about. You can find good online resources that counter heresies adequately (scroll below for some recommended sources).
12. Listen to sound teaching
There are good resources online these days where you can get sound teaching if you can’t get them in a church near your area. As with any preacher you listen to, 1 John 4:1 is still the guideline that every born-again believer must adhere to. It can be tempting to fall into favourtism that can lead to dangerous idolatary if you attach too much emotion to your preacher, or seek preachers who preach in a tone or manner that you like, the very things that charismatics are known to do. A good preacher will lead you to rely less on him, and more on God.
13. Be patient with yourself
Spiritual growth takes time. Don’t overwhelm yourself with biblical knowledge else it can be too much to handle. Take in knowledge bite-size at a time. Refrain from the temptation of trying to feel a spiritual “high” to justify spiritual growth, which is unbiblical. We walk by faith, not by sight. It can be especially difficult for those who used to “practise the gifts” to stop doing them altogether or feel that there’s a lingering “gap” when such things are not practised. This is normal and will wear off over time once you have decided to stop relying on these “gifts” completely. You may even need to start understanding the Bible all over again from the beginning as your understanding of terminologies, the work of the Holy Spirit, salvation and so forth, have to be renewed. Start off with expository teaching which is a great way of accurately understanding and interpreting the Bible in its context. You will even need the help of sound biblical Christians to do bible study with you, which brings us to the next point.
14. Find sound Christians for biblical and emotional support
This can be a hard one for those who live in areas where finding good, biblical Christians are as good as finding needles in a haystack. If you can find them, fellowship with them and don’t be afraid to ask them for support. Good biblical support is necessary to help you back up on your feet, minimize the chances of letting your depression leading you into sinful habits, and for sound doctrinal teaching. If you can’t find these Christians, there are online groups on social media where biblical Christians gather. Again, avoid being in groups where the Bible is being compromised with man-centered teachings.
15. Be responsible
Share the gospel with your charismatic friends. Point our their errors in love. It may take time for some of them to come around or not at all. Either ways, you have done your job for the Lord in warning others. Do not cease praying for them and never stop sharing the Word of God with them.
- Recovering from Churches that Abuse by Ronald Enroth: http://www.amazon.com/Recovering-From-Churches-That-Abuse/dp/0310398770
- The Berean Call (a ministry of biblical discernment): https://www.thebereancall.org/
- Ex-Catholics for Christ (a ministry catered towards ex-catholics & christians): www.excatholicsforchrist.com
- KJV vs modern bible versions: http://www.biblebelievers.com/
- David Cloud – http://www.wayoflife.org/
*As with all sources we recommend here, we do not claim them to be infallible or perfect and always encourage readers to test their claims with the Word of God (KJV).