A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

How to Find a Good Church

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion– to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified. (Isaiah 61:1-3 ESV)

“Do you know where I can find a good church?” Have you ever been asked that question, or asked it yourself? The fact that we have to even pose the question tells us that there is a problem. That there are not only good churches, but bad ones. In essence, what we are asking is, “can you tell me where I can find Jesus and His true people?” We have all had our fill of the Pharisee kind of religion. Like rain in Oregon, that stuff is all over the place.

This morning I was thinking about all of this and, sparked by an email interchange with one of our readers who had some right-on observations, I started to consider the kind of people Jesus rescued. Who did He primarily take His good news to? What kind of people received it? While there are some exceptions (like Saul of Tarsus), most commonly Jesus came not to call the righteous (i.e., the self-righteous), but sinners to repentance. Consider the description given in the Scripture above:

  • the poor
  • the brokenhearted
  • those who are captives and who are bound
  • the mourning
  • the faint

Our friend Martin back in the mid-west has often told us on this blog about how much he has enjoyed working in rescue missions with these kinds of people. I remember him saying that once he and his wife were at a mission picnic and he looked at all of the people and realized, “this is my flock.”  Oh, phonies can be found among these groups too, but nevertheless there is a difference between a flock like that and one formed out in suburbia, gathered in a large brick building with manicured lawns.

Listen some more to the same thing:

On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.
(John 7:37 ESV)

“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.
(Isaiah 55:1 ESV)

When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue is parched with thirst, I the LORD will answer them; I the God of Israel will not forsake them. I will open rivers on the bare heights, and fountains in the midst of the valleys. I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water. I will put in the wilderness the cedar, the acacia, the myrtle, and the olive. I will set in the desert the cypress, the plane and the pine together, that they may see and know, may consider and understand together, that the hand of the LORD has done this, the Holy One of Israel has created it.
(Isaiah 41:17-20 ESV)

A good church, you see, is a true church. It is a group of people who have known what being thirsty in their very soul is like. People who have known real poverty and hunger in the deepest part of their being. And then, who have had that inner hunger and thirst met by Jesus. People who have tasted the manna and milk and honey and water that is a diet that the Bible calls, grace.

So don’t bother looking for a good church in Laodicea:

So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. (Revelation 3:16-17 ESV)

No, go to Smyrna:

“‘I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich) and the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. (Revelation 2:9-10 ESV)

There are not many reasons that an abuse victim can give thanks for the abuse he / she has suffered. Perhaps, however, here is one: “Thank you, Jesus, for making me poor and thirsty and hungry and needy. For letting me experience captivity and mourning. Now please, come, and bind up my broken heart. Give me Your manna and Your water, because I hunger and thirst for them.”

Find those kind of people, and you will find a good church.


  1. katy

    I love it Jeff, thank you !
    and I come here to get “church” now, it’s so much better than the last 10 years of sitting in the local pews (manicured lawns, huge mortgages on million dollar buildings) – this church is totally *free*

  2. bright sunshinin' day

    Encouraging. Seems that In any group of people claiming Christ, the tares/weeds will be among the wheat (Matt 13:24ff)…and it will be this way until He returns. The process of finding the best (wheat) and leaving the rest (weeds) is painful, but God is able and in the business of helping us find each other so we can together grow strong for His day of harvest.

  3. Wendell G

    Jeff, this brought to mind a song by Don Francisco. He is one of the pioneers of Contemporary Christian Music and sings in a ballad style (which I really like). I think he wrote this song in the 80’s. The song I remember is Steeple Song and with your indulgence, I will paste the lyrics here:

    I don’t care how many buses you own
    Or the size of your sanctuary
    Doesn’t matter how steep
    Your steeple is, if it’s sittin’ on a cemetery

    I don’t care if you pave your parking lot
    Or put pads upon your pews
    What good is a picture perfect stage
    If you’re missin’ all the cues

    I don’t care if your pastor is super powered
    And your program’s always new
    What you need is love and truth
    And men are gonna come to you

    It doesn’t matter if you know the Bible
    If it’s all just in your head
    But the thing I need to ask you
    Is have you done the things I said?

    Do you love your wife?
    For her and for and for your children
    Are you layin’ down your life?
    What about the others?

    Are you livin’ as a servant
    To your sisters and your brothers?
    Do you make the poor man beg you for a bone?
    Do the widow and the orphan cry alone?

    I don’t care if you pray for miracles
    I don’t care if you speak with tongues
    I don’t care if you’ve said you love Me
    In every song you’ve sung

    It doesn’t matter if your sacrifice of praise
    Is loud enough to raise the dead
    The thing I need to ask you
    Is have you done the things I said?

    Do you love your wife?
    With all you’ve got inside you
    Are you layin’ down your life?
    What about the others?

    Are you livin’ as a servant
    To your sisters and your brothers?
    Do you make the poor man beg you for a bone?
    Do the widow and the orphan cry alone?

    Lord, when were you a prisoner
    But we did not come to you
    When was it that we saw you sick
    That we didn’t follow through

    Every time you turned your head
    And pretended not to see
    When you did it not to the least of these
    You did it not to Me

    • Jeff Crippen

      Right on, Wendell! Thank you very much. I had never heard this song.

    • Barnabasintraining

      Guess what! Someone just posted a copy of this song on Julie Anne’s site. 🙂 That’s pretty amazing! I’ve never heard of it before either and now here it is in two places on the same day!

      Here’s a vid

      • Wendell G

        Thanks for posting that. I kind of have a special connection with him. Like me, he went through a battle with porn addiction and had the guts to admit it publicly. I loved his music as it was not just the simple praise Jesus stuff, but like most ballads, told a story and gave a lesson. Now I do have to admit that there is one of his songs that some here might have an issue with, but the rest of his music that I have ever heard has been really good.

  4. I currently have a panic attack every time I walk into a church building. There is one church that I am able to go to and I really love it (it is currently two hours away so I only get there once a month). The building is a coffee shop, the pastor runs the coffee shop during the week, and the congregation meets there on Sundays. The sales from the coffee pay for the building and it is a wonderful group of “broken people” who love Jesus with all there hearts. I am able to go to this church because it isn’t in a church building, which has been a real blessing and was also part of why the pastor (an abuse survivor himself) made it this way. Anyway, long story short, sometimes it isn’t the people in the church but the atmosphere and feel of walking into a building that causes the triggers. I hope to one day be able to walk into any church and not have a panic attack, but for now I have an alternative that works for me 🙂

    • That coffee shop church is where I wanna go with you when I’m in Seattle, Bethany. 🙂

      • OK! It is in Portland but we will work it out and go!!!

  5. A. Amos Love

    here is video for
    Don & Wendy Francisco – Steeple Song

    • Barnabasintraining

      Yes! You were the one who posted it at Julie Anne’s! 🙂

  6. A. Amos Love


    You write…
    “I currently have a panic attack every time I walk into a church building.”

    I know that feeling well. I have NOT been a part of “the Religious System” since the early 90’s. Left through much pain, tears, and “Spiritual Abuse.” At the time my friends could NOT understand. They would say – “But – You have to “Go To Church.” They didn’t actually shun me – but… it was okay to call me “Rebellious” “Lone Ranger” “NOT willing to submit to “God Ordained Authority.” And some other delightfully scurrilous, and Abusive terms. – You probobly. know the drill. It was like – If you do NOT “Go To Church” you can NOT be a Christian. ALL Christians “Go To Church.”

    Well, for me, the benefit of the Abuse was – it drove me to Jesus.
    I had NO place else to go. Jesus was ALL I had. 😉
    And, In The Bible, I found Jesus promised to teach His Sheep – Himself – No middle man. 😉

    1 John 2:26-27
    These things have I written unto you concerning *them that seduce you.*
    But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and
    **ye need not that any man teach you:**
    but as **the same anointing teacheth you** of all things, and is truth…

    John 10:27
    My Sheep – Hear MY Voice – and – I know them, and they “Follow Me:”

    John 14:26
    But the Comforter, [which is] the Holy Ghost,
    whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things…

    John 6:45
    It is written in the prophets, And they shall be ALL taught of God.

    Deuteronomy 4:36
    Out of heaven he made thee to *hear His voice,*
    that *He might instruct thee:*

    Psalms 32:8
    I will instruct thee and teach thee
    in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye.

    Bethany – Sounds to me you’re doing just fine with – Jesus. 😉

    • AAL- Yes I am doing just fine with Jesus and I love that I have Him back!!! For the longest time (under spiritual abuse) I thought that I had to be that “perfect Christian” or I would loose favor in God’s eyes. I know different now and I am so happy to have MY Jesus ❤

    • katy

      I was guilted into believing that if I wasn’t tithing to a local church every Sunday than I wasn’t following God’s rules (and as a result I would not have God’s favor.)
      I am still laboring under the “tithing laws” guilt because I’d rather give my money to people who need it directly, rather than the local (million dollar mortgaged brick) church. 😦

      • Katy, Jeff Crippen has a sermon series called Where Your Treasure Is which addresses the subject of giving as well as many other things to do with our stewardship of material assets. I found it very good. It is not wooden or legalistic.

      • Wendell G

        Watch out Katy, lack of tithing is the third unpardonable sin in some circles! 🙂 Actually, this is another area that I am in a metamorphosis on. I know all the arguments for, but I also know that it has been used as a sledgehammer of guilt for so many. It is another problematic doctrine that I think is more complex than what many teach.

      • Katy

        Wendell I am still stuck in the tithing muck ;P I was reading a discussion on how jews support their synagogues (it’s more of a monthly membership fee like a gym – then the rabbi will handle your wedding/funeral/bar mitzvah etc)
        most of those churches with a big expensive building, a huge operating budget etc – reminds me of that song you posted – “do you make a poor man beg you for a bone?” – it seems that way to me. Where does all the money go? It goes to the building, the leadership, and then it goes overseas to missionaries. Which is fine – but don’t those priorites seem really wacked out? Like the needy in the community (widows, orphans, the poor) should be first, THEN overseas missions, THEN church buildings.

  7. Friend of the Oppressed

    Oh dear Pastor Crippen, Amen! I would love to attend the Church where you minister.
    “Thank you, Jesus, for making me poor and thirsty and hungry and needy. For letting me experience captivity and mourning. Now please, come, and bind up my broken heart. Give me Your manna and Your water, because I hunger and thirst for them.”

    Thanks for posting the song, Amos & Barnabas.

    Katy and Bethany, we have everything we need for Church right here!
    Pastor: Jeff Crippen
    Sunday School Teacher: Barbara Roberts
    Worship: Jeff S
    Flock: Fellowship of “the poor, the brokenhearted, those who are captives and who are bound, the mourning, the faint”

    • Friend- I love it!!! And I am blessed to be a member at this church 🙂

  8. Just Me

    That prayer is beautiful. It brought tears to my eyes when I read it. I’m going to copy it down and tuck it in my Bible.

  9. A. Amos Love

    In my neck of the woods

    I now belong to the largest church around – It’s called – the Church of BOB

    The Assembly of BOB – The Assembly of B.urnt.- O.ut – B.elievers. 😉

  10. Friend of the Oppressed

    Just Me, me too! I’m writing it on the back page of my Bible. Easy to find and permanent. Jesus is our Deliverer! Redeemer, Savior, Friend; His lovingkindness is everlasting.

  11. Wendell G

    One of the things I have taken to doing is “interviewing” the pastor before I decide to settle on a church. Besides a few doctrinal questions, I basically lay out my belief system and some of my past. I then ask questions devoted to discerning whether or not my past will be held against me. I also look to see if the pastor is uncomfortable being asked questions and having someone be forthright about themselves. I also try to discern if the fact that I used to pastor raises defenses in them.

    If I feel he is being evasive or is going not going to accept me for who and where I am, then as we say in Texas, “Adios Y’all!”. I have had a pastor or two act like they were interviewing me, which raised a red flag. Asking questions to get to know me better is one thing, but to act like an employer who will accept or reject me is quite another.

  12. USA Faith-Based Agencies working on Domestic Abuse (search by state)

    This link takes you to a part of the RAVE project website (Religion And Violence E-Learning) which allows you to search by state. They don’t guarantee that the data is up to date and the don’t vet the churches and agencies that are on the data base. An organization can simply nominate itself for listing on the data base.

  13. A. Amos Love

    Wendell G

    Much agreement when you write…

    One of the things I have taken to doing is “interviewing” the pastor
    before I decide to settle on a church.

    One recommendation for those looking to heal from “Spiritual Abuse”
    Is to check out those who say they are – God Ordained Authority – Pastor/Elders. 😉

    Every believer has this right – to check out those who say they are Pastor/Elders.

    And we beseech you, brethren, **to know them** (**know = perceive, notice, discern, discover.)
    which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you;
    1 Thess 5:12 KJV

    Every believer is responsible *to know* – (**know = perceive, notice, discern, discover.)
    If these Pastors/Leaders/Elders – Qualify…. To be an “Elder/Overseer.”
    I had to learn this the hard way. Many years and many tears. 😦

    “Pastors that Abuse” want you to “Pay – Pray – Stay – and – Obey” – And speak a lot about – God Ordained Authority – and often mis-use Heb 13:17. But don’t spend a lot of time with, or “Ignore,” or “Twist,” other verses.

    Before trusting a “Mere Fallible Human” who claims “Special Authority from God” over you…
    I now recommend ALL the folks to observe, and to ask – Face to face…

    1 – Are they living examples of – NOT lording it over “God’s heritage?” 1 Pet 5:3 KJV
    2 – Are they living examples of – Lowliness of mind? Phil 2:3 KJV
    3 – Are they living examples of – Esteeming others “better” than themselves? Phil 2:3 KJV
    4 – Are they living examples of – Submitting “One to Another?” Eph 5:21 KJV, 1 Pet 5:5 KJV
    5 – Are they living examples of – Prefering others before themselves? Rom 12:10 KJV
    6 – Are they living examples of – Being clothed with humility? 1 Pet 5:5 KJV
    7 – Are they living examples of – NOT “execising authority” like the Gentiles?” Mark 10:42-43.

    And – Ask Face to face so you can see how they respond to your quetions…
    Because, if these Pastor/Elders do NOT like you asking these questions…

    Run, Run for your life.
    And – If you’re afraid to ask face to face – Well – Then – Run, Run for your life…

    Just imagine mentioning these verses to any “Senior Pastor/Leader/Elder/Overseer” today?

    And saying to them….

    If it’s okay with you? I’d like to get to “Know You” a little better – As I’m asked to do in 1 Thess 5:12 KJV? Before I “Obey”and “Submit” – to you?

    If it’s okay with you? I’d like to see if you are actually “watching over my soul,” in good times and in bad times,
    Before I “Obey”and “Submit” – to you? As it says your supposed to be doing in Heb 13:17?
    That might take some time – I’m NOT sure how long – I want to see how you react if I ever dis-agree with you.

    If it’s okay with you? I’ll also need some time to see if you match up with this list of seven every-day qualifications I have for who I’m to “obey and submit to,” Before I “Obey”and “Submit” – to you?

    You see, God has asked me to “Follow Jesus” and to “Trust Him.”
    But I am warned in the Bible, again and again, NOT to “Trust” in man.
    Because the Bible says, if I trust in a “Mere Fallible Human” I will most likely be cursed.

    Jer 17:5
    Thus saith the LORD; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man,
    and maketh flesh his arm,

    • Good advice there. One of the things I hate to hear from any pastor or follower is the classic phrase that the Word of Faith people take out of context, “Touch not the Lord’s anonted”! I am sorry, having been a pastor myself, I know how fallible we all are and how we can sometimes blow it. To me, a true pastor will admit when he is wrong and be open to correction. A true pastor will encourage people to be Bereans, testing what they teach against Scripture.

      • An old classical pentecostal pastor I used to sit under, regularly said at the beginning of his sermons: “Have you brought your Bibles with you to check up on the preacher?”

  14. A. Amos Love


    You write…
    “Have you brought your Bibles with you to check up on the preacher?”

    Yes I did – and I was still deceived. I even deceived myself. Oy Vey!!! 😉

    I think it has to do with “Trusting” in “Mere Fallible Humans.”
    And trusting “Traditions of Man” that Cancel, Make Void, The Word of God. Mark 7:13
    I thought someone with a “Title” could be trusted… Now I check out ALL these guys…

    Jesus, in the Bible, tells us in many different ways – NOT to trust in ”Man”…
    “The Commandments of Man,” “The Doctrines of Man,” that become “Traditions of Man.” 😦
    But – I did NOT obey the scriptures then…

    I thought someone with a “Title” could be trusted…

    Here are some warnings I find in the Bible about NOT trusting Man.

    Psalm 118:8-9
    It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man.
    It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in princes.

    Jeremiah 17:5
    Thus saith the LORD; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man,
    and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the LORD.

    Isaiah 30:1
    Woe to the rebellious children, saith the LORD, that take counsel, but NOT of me;
    and that cover with a covering, but NOT of my spirit,

    Matthew 24:4 And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you.
    Mark 13:5 And Jesus answering them began to say, Take heed lest any man deceive you:
    Luke 21:8 And he said, Take heed that ye be not deceived:

    Ephesians 5:6 Let no man deceive you with vain words…
    2Thessalonians 2:3 Let no man deceive you by any means…
    1John 3:7 Little children, Let no man deceive you …

    Isaiah 31:1
    Woe to them that go down to Egypt for help; and stay on horses,
    and trust in chariots, because they are many; and in horsemen, because they are very strong;
    **but they look NOT unto the Holy One of Israel,**

    Lots of bumps and potholes on this road to Jesus.

    The Bible warns about 1-False apostles. 2- Many false prophets. 3- False teachers.4- False brethren. 5- False Christ’s (false anointed ones).6- Deceitful workers. 7- Evil workers. 8- Dogs and 9-Swine.

    And there are many more… About NOT trusting Man. 😉

    And “Trusting” Jesus… I like Jesus a lot… 😉

    • Wendell G

      Amos, you bring up good points; however, it is saved mankind who is called to teach, preach and spread the Good News. So we cannot throw out the efforts of man completely. Yes, we are all fallible and will make mistakes, but that is why God gave us His Word and His Spirit to counsel and guide us. We listen to a person, but trust only in God to reveal whether or not what he is saying is true or not. Too many, as you allude, put their trust (blind allegiance) to their favorite teacher, whether he is right or wrong.

      I hate titles too, especially those that men have taken on to themselves. Yes, I can technically use Rev. in front of my name, but unless I am signing a marriage license, I choose not to. I don’t believe in wearing collars or robes. I especially don’t care for anyone who calls themselves “Bishop” or “Evangelist”, etc. I have known too many of them who seem to relish the attention the title brings.

      When I was pastoring, I would accept it if someone called me pastor, but I really didn’t care for it. I prefer just Wendell or Brother as I am no better than anyone else. The rest is pride to me.

      One of the reasons I feel this way, especially about the robes and collars had to do with an incident at a pro-life march I was at in the 70’s. About a thousand of us were marching from a church to a local abortion clinic, praying, singing songs and holding signs. Just behind me were a couple of priests in their collars and robes. After about 20 minutes, one of them told the other one of the vilest jokes I had ever heard, which really shocked me. I woke up that day to the realization that what Corrie Ten Boom said was true. Just because a mouse lives in a cookie jar, it doesn’t make him a cookie!

      There are days when my life may not line up with how I should act as a Christian. We all have them, yet on those days and times I am weak, I don’t want any stranger to be able to point to any priestly appointments on me and then equate my behavior with my position or title and harm the cause of Christ any further.

    • Thank you for all those scriptures, A Amos. It is good to see them all together like that.

      I actually had an abuser once use one of those scriptures to rebuff me when I told him I couldn’t trust him because he had pinched my 8 year old daughter’s bottom during a Bible study group at my house. Typical scripture-twisting of an abuser, eh?

  15. His beloved

    I’ve been strengthened by this blog during the last nine months as I went through the nightmare of divorcing my personality disordered, covert agressive, charming, abusive ex. I just found out some of you are also from Oregon! I live in Eugene and am still seeking a good church. Any suggestions? Thanks.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Eugene- no I don’t know of any church there that I could recommend but if you find one please tell us. If you ever can drive up to Tillamook we would love to have you visit us at Christ Reformation Church. You can email me (Jeff) at swordtrowel@ gmail.com.

      We are very glad the blog is helping. Many blessings in Christ.

  16. His beloved

    Thanks Jeff. I will let you know if I ever find one!

    I have a question and I am not sure if there is a place to ask it on this blog. I really appreciate Dr. Simon’s work (and wish the friends my ex has turned against me would read and understand it all). I love his distinction between “neurotics” and a disordered controller. I have come to see that I have a VERY overactive conscience which is exactly what my ex used to control me. And it interferes with my ability to feel accepted by God. I was wondering if Dr Simon or anyone here has suggestions for dealing with the overactive conscience, and if others who have walked this path to a “normal” conscience could chime in.
    Is there a place for me to post this question?

    • “I have come to see that I have a VERY overactive conscience which is exactly what my ex used to control me. And it interferes with my ability to feel accepted by God.”

      You are not alone- I struggle with this in a large way, although for me the cause of this goes deeper than my marriage. This has been the major focus of a lot of my individual therapy.

      I don’t have any advice, except that this is something I think a good individual therapist could help with.

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