Memoirs of a Recovering Fundamentalist

My name is Cassandra and I am a recovering fundamentalist. I have been free from my former IFB group for two months, two weeks and three days.

You may be thinking, “I think she is on the wrong site” or “Get real. Recovering fundamentalist ?” because this probably sounds more like something you’d hear at a group therapy session for individuals suffering from a more serious form of addiction, not from a former “church” member. Sadly, I must admit that while I used to be a part of an IFB group, I was also a religious addict. While there may not be any yellow page listings for clinics or groups available to help individuals such as my self, religious addiction is a very serious matter. And it wasn’t until my departure that I was able to self-diagnose and begin down the road of recovery. Let me first start by saying that I have no personal vendetta against my former group which is why names will not be mentioned. Nor do I think that all IFB groups are evil or on a secret mission to corrupt mankind (or dehumanize womankind for that matter). What I do know is that what I experienced in my former IFB group has shown me the devastating effects of an authoritarian system when one individual has control, completely and unchecked. While this type of control is not isolated to IFB groups, the potential is greater for a totalitarian system to emerge due to some of the main facets and doctrines that govern most IFB groups. Nine years of experiences can in no way be condensed in a few short paragraphs. So what I offer is IFB life: the abridged version. Think for a moment 1611 KJV in pocket sized Cliff’s Notes form. Exactly.

The Background

The story begins over nine years ago, before the wedding and before the four kiddies. No regrets there. My then boyfriend and I joined the group with the hopes of finding a place where we could grow spiritually together and receive sound doctrine that would equip us to raise the family we desired to start. We were married shortly after joining the group, our family began to grow and all of our children except our oldest was practically transported from the hospital right to the church nursery. Faithfully we served in our group Sunday mornings, Sunday evenings, Wednesday evenings and any other day that the “doors of the church were open.” Little time was made for non-group activities. All of our “friendships” were isolated to those we met in the group. Any “free time” meant any moment we could find that didn’t involve a group activity. Sometimes we were rebellious enough to, shhh, take a vacation. Through sickness and health, good weather or bad weather, gas in the tank or riding on “E” we made the trek to be involved in every service time possible. Month after month, year after year we continued believing somehow that we were “giving our best to God” not realizing at the time we were slowly, dangerously becoming addicted to religion.

The Addiction 

It’s easy to be convinced that your actions are noble, even righteous when a charismatic leader can quote scripture after scripture, give you the Greek and Hebrew definition of each word thereby providing a “biblical defense” for the ritualism know as Christian service. Most of the time the actions that we took and commitments we made to Christian service were really an inward sense of dread wondering what others, mainly our leader would think if we were not present and actively participating. This inner turmoil would only arise at the thought of what would happen if, God forbid, we didn’t show up. It was not until I began to be involved in a prominent leadership position that the addictive ways reached a pinnacle. Somehow the very same religious activities that were supposed to bring joy knowing that it was “for God” were the things that were draining me spiritually and placing a strain on my family.   As with most addictions, there is a justification as to why that thing is essential to your everyday life. For me, the rigorous forms of religion were no different. Convinced that God was pleased by all of my efforts, I labored tirelessly through physical, mental and spiritual fatigue. One man’s ideologies, philosophies, mandates and desires had become the basis of my religious life for over nine years. As a staff member if the CEO-Pastor was happy, everything was great. But in any performance-based organization there is always a push and continued striving to a false, idyllic sense of perfection where good can always be greater and great can always be best. It was never enough.

The Breaking Point

Over the last few years of being with the group, there were many times I wanted to run away. I had begun to feel that my individuality was somehow being shaped by the dynamics of the group. I have always considered myself outgoing and a very critical thinker, but the ability to analyze and question things that took place in the group had been diminished because of this unnatural allegiance that had been given to one man. As mentioned previously, not all IFB groups are the same, however, when there is a leader that is already controlling by nature, the IFB is the perfect place for a controlling leader to set up shop and rule his people. Time went on and many situations arose that caused great concern for my husband and I. We now realize that we broke the cardinal rule of questioning the leadership. As long as we were going along with the program and blindly following our leader without question everything was fine. While our emotional breaking points had occurred several times prior to our departure, we finally were able to gather the courage to say it was our time to move on and break away from the group. No matter how much we did to make sure that we left in an amicable way, at that moment were branded by our leader as outsiders and defectors.

Freedom in Christ

Since my family has been away from our former group we have experienced a freedom in Christ that is not constrained by the legalism and religiously addictive ways of our former group. We have learned to truly experience the grace and love of God that comes whether we are hitting on all cylinders spiritually or failing miserably in our spiritual walk. I would like to say that after we left our group that everyone still embraced us and we maintained the same relationships. Sadly we were cut off, almost instantly by the same people that we had worshiped with, prayed with, cried with, laughed with and loved for over nine years. I have had days of complete elation at the thought that we are no longer there yet moments later I feel a rage rising up within me at the thought of how we were treated. Our family has grown stronger because we HAD to stand together. Our faith has grown because we have learned to know God for ourselves and not the God that is manufactured around one person’s ideologies and faulty doctrine. We have been able to experience the joy of truly serving God out of desire and not out of compulsion. I’m glad that God opened our eyes before we became the casualties of an authoritarian religious system and I’m glad that God’s grace lifted me from sinking into spiritual despair.

I am not an independent, I am not a fundamentalist, and I am not a baptist. My name is Cassandra and I am a Christian.


  1. ADDENDUM: I forgot a few points…
    1. First day at new church, I asked my kids what they learned. They both, with glee, said, “We learned about how Abraham put his faith in God and did not kill his son. And, we should put our faith in him, also.” I nearly fainted, I was so happy! From a 9 year old and 6 year old! 🙂

    2. Once I stopped attending the church, I became regular “Brian” instead of “Brother Brian.” Did not know you had to be a member to be a brother in Christ… 😉

    3. Last straw was how the church divided the “church kids” into their own Sunday School classes and the “bus kids” were put in separate classes. Almost like segregation. Therefore, if a “bus kid” was really trying to listen to the lesson, they had to suffer with listening to the other kids getting corrected all hour while the “church kids” were given a room to themselves. I found the “church kids” were more the ones not listening to the lesson and going out with puffed up pride. And, they were given positions of authority over the younger kids. The poor kids were taught the same stories and such over and over and over. Half the time, they did not have a lesson prepared; they would just wing it to make the time pass.

  2. Brian – Thank you for sharing. I’m sure most of us can identify with your story. I particularly identified with the part, where when you CONFORMED and put on the tie, that suddenly you were invited to take up the collection!

    So glad you have found a good church for you and your family.

    1. Thanx Mr. Greg! God bless you! 🙂

    2. I identify with the conformity issue as well. I also wore a polo and slacks to church initially, and I clearly remember the day I had an obligation right after the church service that I needed to wear a shirt & tie, I just wore it to church that morning, and I was showered with so much praise on “how good I cleaned up” and how nice I looked in a tie… I found it creepy.

      But the one thing that I’m really, really disgusted with myself for giving in on was getting baptized by them. I had already been baptized in a Christian church when I was 12 or so, and a that time I prepared and gave my whole testimony about being a sinner and accepting Jesus as my Savior, etc., before being immersed. The IFB church was starting a choir, and that was an area where I could contribute my talents. But one of the rules was you had to be a member of the church to basically contribute to any ministry in any way at all,so I thought maybe this was a sign that it was time to commit. Then I learned that in order to become a member, you had to be baptized. No problem, I knew I already did that, right? Wrong. They considered my baptism invalid, essentially, because it wasn’t done by an IFB pastor who believed in all the same things (and things that I feel really should not have had any relevance to whether or not I was “really” baptized), so eventually I gave in and let them baptize me again. It wasn’t meaningful at all – it was just the same rote going through the motions that they do for all the baptisms, like an assembly line. I didn’t even have to say anything about who I was, or what I believed, or why I was being baptized.

      After leaving the church for so many of the same reasons documented on this site and in many of the comments, my biggest disgust is giving in and letting them baptize me again when it was CLEARLY going through the motions just for their benefit, and not as any meaningful/obedient act for God, which I had already done as a young man. Never again.

      1. Wow, Mr. Dave. Thank you for sharing your story. I understand how this happened to you. Its almost like a numbers game: “X kids rode the bus today.” “X people were baptized this month.” “We saved X people this week.” And, ways were used to make even the most fervent believer doubt their faith! Every Sunday, I felt like I had to get saved again, even as I knew “once saved, always saved.”

        Please don’t let this discourage you in your faith. As you know, baptism is only an ordinance. You know in your heart that you are saved and that is what is most important. 🙂 I LOVED 2 Corinthians 1:4… God allowed each of us to go through what we did so we could be of comfort to others!!! Praise God!! 🙂

  3. Brian: Would you be willing to share how you saw the truth, so those of us who are not deceived by the IFB might lovingly help them see the truth without confirming their great fear that we are indeed one of “them” in their “us vs them” mentality.

    1. Hi Miss Laura! I am so sorry it took so long to reply. I have been really contemplating how to respond to your request without creating a stumbling block to my fellow brothers and sisters in their faith. 🙂 OK, I was raised in Baptist and non-denominational churches in my early life. In my 20s, I drifted away from church, but still had deep faith in God and Christ. Around 35, I knew I needed to be in fellowship with other believers. I attended my IFB and the bus ministry is what allured my soul. I liked the “traditional” order of the service and the old hymns. I joined the church a few weeks later. OK, now to answer your request… the first word that I can encompass the church is CONFORMITY. At the VBS I noticed the pastor and his wife were having a “heated” discussion about something and he took her to a back room for a few minutes and then it was over. I thought nothing of it but I am positive he was “putting her back in her place.” His daughter came in and said to a group of teens, “OK, what the h*** is going on here?” My wife was in shock, and I dismissed it as that she did not hear her right.

      First few Sundays, I would wear khaki pants and a polo shirt. I saw the men were wearing suits and button down shirts. I did the same. The first day I did, I was asked to help collect offering in the night services and later help count the offering. It was as if I was a new member of the club. Then, other opportunities came up. I found myself volunteering for stuff just because there was no one else volunteering or I felt it was my obligation to do it. Most of my Sunday consisted of driving the bus, helping teach Sunday School, helping with junior church, driving kids home, and attending night service. Then, there was Wednesday night and Nursing Home ministry on Thursday (very few volunteers for Thursday, so the obligation factor set in). Forget family, as long as “chores” at the church were getting accomplished. I did this for about a year and my family was miserable. It almost cost me my marriage, because I was so consumed that I was doing God’s Will and, as stated by the pastor, “keep on and your family will eventually follow.” CONFORMITY.

      My kids were miserable, because in their classes they were not learning anything. The bus ministry brought in kids that were always misbehaving. It did not matter as long as they had numbers, numbers, numbers. I would ask what they learned in church and they would say, “About God. Most of the time was the teacher getting onto the bad kids.” It was as if they were in a daycare, not church.

      Rules were set about how to dress. “We don’t have to put it in writing how to dress. They will dress appropriately when they see that women wear dresses and men wear suits.” This was said by one of the leadership. CONFORMITY. “If we can’t get them to get saved, we’ll just make ’em.” Paraphrase of “joke” of the numerous families with 7-12 kids… making Christians, per say. The school they had promoted this, too. If you had 3 or more kids, the third child and above would go to the school for free. You only had to pay for the first two kids. The invitation… they were very persuasive on the invitation. One of the “assistant pastors” said, “When you shout ‘amen’ in the message, you are telling visitors you appreciate your pastor. Also, you need to be coming up here to pray during the invitation. This shows your pastor you were touched by his message.” Again, I let it fly over my head like a jumbo 747. But, when the preacher said one night, “If you feel your life is not totally right with God, raise your hand.” Then, he started the invitation. A few minutes passed, he said, “If you raised your hand, why are you not up here praying? If you raised your hand, you need to be up here praying.” That was when I realized something was not right with my soul with this church.

      Toward the end of my time at the church, one of the deacons was a contractor. He cleaned the workshop and asked for help to do it. After he was finished, he put a giant padlock on it and said that anyone needing to borrow tools or use the space needed to contact him and get his permission, because he was using 40% of the space for his personal contract jobs and keeping his tools in there along with the church’s property. He put scripture under the sign to “validate” his reason for doing it. I spent money out of my pocket to drive the bus (license, fees, cleaners, etc.) and made spare keys for the buses. One for me, one for the mechanic, one for the church’s lock box. I get a call from the pastor and this same deacon about where the bus key is. I told him that 3 keys were out there. He said I had no business with a key and that it needed to be kept in the bus because it could not be located. What am I going to do with a 1989 church bus??

      The church was in financial straits. The principal of the school stepped down to help ease the finance issue. My wife was moved by this and made a substantial donation to the church to help out, because they said they needed funds to purchase another bus, because one of them was breaking down. A few months passed, and they changed the issue. They had money for a bus, but they were going to wait and now the sanctuary needed a remodel. More money was needed. Collection boxes were put at the front of the church and it was tied in with the story in the OT where boxes were set up to rebuild the temple. They would use the Bible so literally to prove their point. Oil on the heads of men who were sick and needed to be ‘annointed’ and such. Rules on how to date and what music to listen to, but the church kids were doing exactly what the congregation was told not to do. Selling music CDs… they were always this family trying to sell their music CD, as if it was the only music approved to be listened to.

      I felt like I was not able to wear shorts even at Walmart! I would see the pastor and would hide down an aisle, because everyone at the church would wear church clothes even at the store on normal days.

      I have been shunned by one of the deacons for going to another church; they do not use the official KJV Bible, even thought they have the same beliefs in Christ and God as the IFB. My wife was told by some of the teenagers on a Saturday visitation, “You better start coming back to our church on Sunday.” She got in trouble with her dad for trying to slam the door in their faces.

      Everything done in the church was very subtle and innocuous. It took getting away from the church to see that it was not the right church for me and my family. Since I have left, I have heard stories from others that have shaken me to the core on how they would spiritually manipulate others.

      At my current church, I have been fed spiritually more in three months than I have in the 2 years I was at the IFB. I heard a young man ask the pastor, “I am wanting to help with the needs of the church.” My heart melted when I heard my pastor say, “The first thing you do is attend the normal services as you are able to. Feed your soul FIRST. Then, if you are led by God to help in something, feel free to volunteer, but do not do it out of a feeling of obligation.” I wish I heard these words a long time ago.

      There are people within the church that I would sacrifice my right arm for. They have a genuine love for God and Christ and the church works for them. To anyone that an IFB works for you, I am not trying to tell you to leave. There are some that this type of environment works for them. But, please do not use the Bible to say that your religion is the ONLY correct religion. Religion is of man. What is important is placing your faith in Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection of your sins and you repenting of your sins. The thief on the cross did not go to the alter to get saved or shout AMEN after every other sentence. I promise that you will know if something is not right with an IFB church. It may take time, but God will give you a clear sign if He wants you to move. As a pastor at the bus barn told me, “I do not have the same car I drove as a teenager. I have had to change based on changes in my needs. You will not stay at the same church for all of your life, because as you grow spiritually, the church you attend many times will change, too.”

      I hope this helps. Please feel free to ask if you have any questions about my experience and I will be more prompt in the reply. 🙂

  4. Hi! I just read your post and am marvelling how similar our stories are – down to the four kids, the leadership position, and even the number of years we were at our IFB church. We just officially left the IFB church in October and although we as well tried to do it in the best way possible, it has been a very hurtful experience. I am so saddened that the people I thought were good, godly friends immediately shut me out and acted as if I didn’t exist anymore. I am even more appalled at the things I really truly believed in and acted on and how I treated other people when I was in that cultish environment.
    My husband has made the transition quite well to our new, very un-IFB church. The kids seem to have handled leaving pretty well also. I am hoping they are young enough to have not been too affected by the IFB. However, my oldest child, soon after leaving, had an anxiety attack when we didn’t go to church on Wednesday evening. She was so worried that we were sinning by not being there when “the church doors were open.” That was a huge wake-up call to us!
    I myself have a lot more issues to deal with. I grew up in an IFB church even more controlling and restrictive than the one I attended with my husband and kids. The brainwashing that occurred over those years is not easy to break, as I am finding. Every church service at our new church I sit and sob as I think of the real truth of God’s mercy and grace. It will be a long process of healing but I am confident in the Healer.
    Thank you for sharing your story. It helps so much to know that others have made this journey.

    1. Blessings on you and your family Jeanette as you find your way through the minefield of being exiled from the IFB. It is indeed difficult, but it’s worth it! When one begins to realize that “our” relationship isn’t based on outward works but on Christ’s sacrifice at the cross! I’m always so glad to hear stories like yours, where there remains a strong faith, many do not get out of the IFB with their faith intact!

      Blessings and prayers for you and take time to breathe in this wonderful grace of God.

      1. Miss Cassandra, I truly thank you for your story. I felt as if I was the only one that felt as I did. I was in an IBC for 2 years and my family suffered every moment. I was being “super-Christian” and leaving them behind to fend for themselves. I am now working through the guilt of not seeing through the fog, but it is an important lesson I had to learn. The world in the IBC I went to was that of “my life is perfect and you have to do X, Y, and Z to get the same perfect life. I truly admire someone who lowers their wall and says, “My life is not perfect, but by the grace of God through Christ, I am able to make it through another day.” God used your story to lift a burden on my heart that I had today and I truly thank God for it. God bless you and your family!!!

        1. Hi Brian. I am so glad that God opened your eyes to the devastating side of IFB. You are blessed to be one of the ones willing to see beyond the hype and take action. The feelings that come after you leave (guilt, anger, etc.) are so real. I thought of myself to be a pretty rational person, not easy to be deceived and able to spot a trickster easily. But the sad part about environments such as that is that they almost inoculate you to being able to think rationally or analyze things beyond just what is said and/or done. And even greater is when scripture is twisted and manipulated by the MOG to get you to conform not to biblical principles but to his own twisted ideologies. I’m grateful every time I hear of of one more person that God has rescued from these spiritually abusive environments.

          Praise God and blessings to you and your family.

  5. Wow, you put into words in your addiction section what I’ve been feeling about church attendance but didn’t know how to say. I think so many people worship the church and not the God.
    I’m so glad your faith was not destroyed. We’ve experienced some similar things and I can understand how someone would walk out of this type of church and be completely turned off from seeking God.
    I think God brought us to an IFB church to teach us many things, one of them being true grace for others.
    Sorry; I know this was a bit rambling!

  6. I am so blessed to have made it out with my faith in tact. Regardless of the negative experiences I have been constantly reminded that my relationship with Christ is what’s most important. It’s so easy to lose sight of that when the rituals take priority over the relationship. My prayers are for those who have become so blinded by religion that they miss the Savior.

    Merry Christmas and God bless!!!

  7. Cassandra – I’m so glad that you escaped with your faith still intact! So many don’t!

    You have joined literally thousands of others that have walked the same or at least a very similar path. It’s so sad that they ostracize those that leave, but that is a control feature of the MOG. If he allows the sheeple to continue to fellowship with those that have left, then they may begin to wander too!

    Blessings to you and your family, maintain your strong faith, and hope and pray that God leads you to a group of committed, biblical Christians!

    Thanks for sharing!

  8. Praise the Lord! He, the Great Shepherd has rescued another one of His sheep from the clutches of the wolf!
    John 10:5,27-29

  9. Cassandra, I wasn’t in the IFB group as long as you nor was I so active although I had attended all services since I operated the sound system and recorded the sermons even though I am very hard of hearing. I am so bummed on the IFB church that I attended. I had been in other Baptist churches and this one was much different from the others, mostly as it was the most unloving church I’ve been in prior. By “unloving”, I refer to how the pastor was. Several times I noticed him scowling while waiting while the music leader was leading the singing. At least two times, he said “eww, I wish I was god as things would be a lot different!!!” He went on acting like he is god by telling members who to talk to and who not to talk to. Just walking through the parking lot of that IFB church and I felt I was being heavily attacked spiritually. When I went inside, it became much worse. I really got bummed out with this church, especially the way the pastor kept saying that God did not know things and that He relied on created angels, to visit the churches and then tell God what is going on in the churches. He actually said he believed that way, more than once in his Revelation series. Some time prior to that, he preached a sermon called “No Stinking Thinking”. The next morning I drove to the church for some reason and waited on the pastor to get done watering down the freshly dug dirt and on his way while walking past me, I heard him complain about why they think he should be the one to water down the dirt. That sounded like stinking thinking to me. Well I got so bummed out at that church that I felt I would like to find a non-Baptist church to attend. We visited one such church and as we were leaving I told my wife that that was like a breath of fresh air. We’ve been attending that church ever since. We are not Independent, we are not Fundamental and we are no longer Baptists and I love it that way even though I’ve been in a Baptist church for many years, mostly a General Conference Baptist (what my parents always went to when they were alive). We are very happy in the fairly nearby Calvary Chapel church. I thought it interesting when I read something a blogger wrote when he said that pastors of Calvary Chapels always teach the Word of God with a humble heart. That is true regarding the few that I am aware of. I love, since I am hard of hearing, to have found this place: where I can listen to and read word for word, it really helps since I have so much trouble hearing. Just scroll down and click open the Bible book you’d care to listen to and read. Chuck Smith does a wonderful job as he teaches God’s Word with a humble heart.

  10. Wow! Cassandra, this is great! About two weeks ago, a lady from my church said that this type of website is like a support group for those of us who have been in the IFB. She likened it to AA. And then you started this out as if you were at an AA meeting. LOL I hadn’t thought about that until she said it.

    I hadn’t thought about how religion can be an addiction, and staying actively busy in the church is kind of like a high. It’s true. When I was running around all over the place and doing whatever job was needed doing and staying busy, busy, busy, it was kind of like a high. If for some reason my routine was changed even slightly (like when my family went on vacation), I would be constantly looking at the clock and thinking about what I would be doing right then if I was home. I didn’t know what to do with myself and I didn’t know how to relax. All I knew was that I couldn’t wait to get back home and resume all of my activities again.

    Now, my life is so completely different. I still like to stay busy, but I also like to take time to just relax and not do anything. I don’t go to church in order to work constantly, but I go there to find out what God has for me through the sermon. It’s completely different from what I was taught my purpose at church was supposed to be.

    1. Jamey, I am so glad that you have been able to find this site. It has been such a help to me and was very essential in helping me to begin to start looking further into the IFB philosophies. I have realized that anytime there is a group where questions are frowned upon and disagreeing with things is almost sacrilege, then something is dreadfully wrong.

      There is definitely life beyond IFB. I am really enjoying my newfound freedom in Christ! Blessings to you.

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