When it’s time to leave – Thoughts on breaking away.

I recently received an email from a lady distraught over leaving the IFB. Here’s her plea for help and some thoughts I have on leaving the IFB:

I was raise IFB I mean strict IFB! I Married a good man and we went to a prominent IFB church for many years and did so until a year ago. There were always things my husband did not agree with but we stayed thinking we could look past things. A year ago things came to a head and my husband decided IFB was a cult and in my heart I know he is right but I struggle with “are we doing the right thing” on a daily basis. I feel like I don’t even have a relationship with God and even question how to have one. I feel distant and I feel it is affecting my relationship with my husband. It has in fact. I even told him last night I don’t love him like I used to. I don’t know what a right church looks like. We are white and we go to a black church and have been more accepted than the IFB churches we attended. I don’t agree with their politics and it really bothers me.

What I want to know is this typical of someone raised IFB or am I crazy? How can I get help? I would appreciate any help I can’t find anyone who has gone through something similar. Btw. My parents hate our decision and this affects me also.

Let me start by saying that you aren’t alone. I’ve heard similar stories from thousands of other people who have been trapped by the IFB and are now trying to escape. For some physical escape isn’t possible, so you’ve got many beaten on that front. For others, like yourself, who do manage to escape, the damage has been done and they find it difficult to escape mentally and emotionally.

I was one of those latter people. I was able to escape physically, but mentally and emotionally I had a much harder time. Like you I often had the same questions, wondering if I was really serving God or even really saved. I felt distant from God and I felt distant from my Bible. I didn’t know what to do about going to church. I constantly felt like I was sinning and would long for the safety of the IFB. I was confused on what church was supposed to be like. I was bothered by how “liberal” other churches seemed in comparison to the IFB. I was so bothered by these things I gave up for a little while, until…

I finally understood one day while reading Freedom of Mind by Steven Hassan that those feelings and thoughts are the result of brainwashing. I know, brainwashing is a strong word, but it fits. This is exactly how the IFB keeps people, through the manipulation of feelings and thoughts. They teach you how to be dependent on the IFB rather than the Holy Spirit and the Bible. The cult mentality of the IFB makes it very difficult to break free from that emotional bond.

I’m here to tell you, however, that the confusion you have is due to the IFB’s retention and manipulation tactics. You feel distant, not from God, the Bible and or church, but from what you THOUGHT was God, the Bible and church. You feel distant from what the IFB taught you about God, the Bible and church. You feel conflicted because you are seeing a different way to worship and fellowship that was heavily criticized and demonized.

No, you aren’t crazy. You are liberated! That feels strange, uncomfortable and even unsafe, but as you learn to embrace your freedom from the IFB’s cultish practices you will slowly begin to see the IFB’s manipulation and guilt tactics for what they really are… brainwashing. What you’re experiencing is absolutely normal and it gets easier with time. What you have to do is develop your own way of fellowshipping with people, worshiping God and your own personal relationship with Christ apart from the IFB while remembering that you are free from the dangerous teachings of the IFB. As you do that you will gain a new and fresh perspective about who God really is and how your personal sanctification process should play out. That’s a truly awesome thing!


  1. As you have heard from others who have commented, leaving the cult mentally behind and learning to make decisions on your own about your faith and your life takes time. I spent my teen years in an IFB church, a church so strictly IFB that the Christian college I attended was too “liberal” for the pastor’s liking. I even stayed at that church after college for a few years, even though my parents and younger sisters had moved a few hours north. The damage that the IFB inflicted took many years to heal. I still find myself being angry at what was taken from me by that church, and I am occasionally angry that those churches are still hurting people – I want to say especially women, but both women and men. I’m sorry to hear that the experience has affected your relationship to an extent as well. I hope you two can work that out. in time you will feel the freedom that you have gained. You will understand that God does indeed love you, and that God’s love isn’t dependent on living up to man’s expectations or manipulation. I wish you wrll.

  2. My husband and I left the IFB church about a year and a half ago. We had only been going there a little over 2 years and really loved it until we started being shunned. We had not joined the church yet, and didn’t go every time the doors were opened or participate in every event, etc. The pastor was near inapproachable and always seemed like he didn’t have time to talk to us. After leaving we received a couple phone calls from friends we had made there wondering why we left which my husband explained to them. Then about 4 months later received a letter from the pastor. It was a nice letter and he apologized for not being more in touch with visitors and invited us back. We still haven’t been back and have recently found another church my husband likes and it’s just okay for me. I still have an IFB church “hangover” and long to go back. I miss the preaching and singing.

  3. During my IFB wilderness wanderings I often doubted if I was saved. This was because of frequent prompting from the pulpit: Did I say the right thing, did I pray the right prayer, did I really, really, really “mean it” this time etc. After a few years I saw a trend that was furthered by both preachers and guest speakers: Even while preaching the “eternal security of the believer” they would often fuse doubt into their message or during the invitation so as to get a big response, or “results” at the altar. No wonder I, as a new believer, doubted! I hadn’t been grounded in the word much. In the years since I came out of the IFB wilderness, I have come to understand that my salvation is based upon God’s mercy and love for me: not a man-made criteria imposed on me by the IFB, or a set of rules formulated by the pulpit. I’m glad the IFB believes in evangelism because it was through these efforts I was saved. But there comes a time when the one kneeling at the foot of the cross drinking baby pabulum must grow up and begin desiring strong meat from the word, and that can only happen when he’s in the word on his own, and doesn’t rely solely on what comes from the pulpit on Sunday for his exclusive exposure to the word of God.

    1. I couldn’t have said it better myself Ken. Well said!!!

  4. Thank you so much for this post. I recently left an IFB with my husband and son. I had been attending this IFB for about 30 years. I basically grew up in this church and when I was in my 20s, I began to feel that something was off. I felt distant from God because I wasn’t “obeying” their standards, like going to every service (three times a week), I wear pants, I wasn’t there every time the doors were opened, things like that. They gave me the false impression that God was mad at me and that I wasn’t a good Christian. We finally left and joined a non-demoninational that has really opened my eyes to authentic worship and what it’s supposed to be like. Every now and then I feel like I’m doing something wrong, but I know it’s just the decades of brainwashing that I went through with the IFB. I feel so free now and I no longer feel like God is angry with me.

  5. We have several people who are leaving our church. My husband and I have been seeing things that we question for over a year now. We had a new family move into the church about a year ago and they have pretty much taken over along with our youth pastor’s family. If you don’t fit their mold then your shunned. We are told how to dress as a women, how our girls are to dress, and even what schooling they should have. My husband and are very involved in different activities and are feeling very used. Before this new family came, we really didn’t notice it much but we really see it now and even to the point that we had a deacon vote and it was rigged. We are so scared to leave the church because of retaliation and also we live so close by to it. We can actually see it and they can see us from our house to the church. How can we get out of this?

    1. Hi BJ.
      We left the IFB church earlier this year. My wife and I were very active in the church; we too felt like we were being used. The pastor’s wife ran much of the church, and she had a serious bitter tongue; she would pick on the weaker people in the church. Often, when we arrived home after the service my wife would burst into tears, when I asked what was wrong, the answer was always the same: how the pastor’s wife had verbally attacked her. Some Sundays, we spent the whole day in church from 10am. to 11pm. having fellowship with younger people in their 20s and 30s, between services. We were doing what the pastor should have been doing. As for the man having the title of “pastor” was a joke, he couldn’t pastor an old lady across the road! He was totally unapproachable on any personal issues.

      We have been blacklisted by the church, except for a few faithful friends. The church was in London, and we cried out to the Lord for help because where we lived, we would obviously come into contact with people from the church. The Lord our God answered our prayer; He moved us away from the City of London into a beautiful cottage in the country. Here we began the healing process which is at times painful.

      So BJ, cry out to Jesus, and tell Him your concerns and troubles. He is faithful, He is true, He knows, and He is able.

      As for the dress code, looking back, it was nothing less than stupidly childish! I often took the collection and served at the Lord’s table; then I stopped wearing a tie, and dressed more casually, and instead of the pastor asking me why my appearance had changed, I was ignored and was not asked to officiate in any church activities during the service.

      Remember BJ, God is Almighty. Don’t fear what man can do to you. If the pastor or anyone else makes your life unbearable, remember, they are not doing it to you, they are doing it to Jesus; and they will surely pay the price.

      Live in the blessed hope of our Lord Jesus, He loves you unconditionally!

      Your Friend I Jesus,


    2. Hi BJ. I replied to your comment, and ended my reply with: “your friend I Jesus.”
      I meant to say: your friend in Jesus. (Sorry) (:

    3. Bj just leave and don’t look back! Be courageous! If the church u are leaving is “Christian ” they will understand. You will not regret it. Love and enjoy your family!

  6. I am thinking of leaving my IFB church. I love the pastor and his family but politically it is too conservative for my semi-liberal mind. I was raised Methodist actually AME but I left because there were always some financial obligations. I wanted something different. Now I hate to leave because I like the fellowship but also the restrictions for women really is getting to me. To the lady don’t feel guilty, find a church where there are like minded people and you will feel closer to God ever.

  7. One thing I want emphasize is that you are not alone. We are so happy that we left the IFB cult and our relationship with Christ is so much more genuine and heartfelt. It takes time to get over all the brainwashing of the IFB but over time you will learn to recognize it for what it really is, which is control. Best wishes as you find your new, real/genuine walk with Christ.

  8. Wonderful response and so very true!! It is very difficult, at first, and a person really does question their salvation, what they want in life, direction, etc. For a while you feel as if you’re floundering, and it’s difficult when you are accustomed to 100% guidance and direction in your life, and suddenly it’s up to you, and God. It will happen though, that you find your own path, through God’s guidance, of course! Sometimes I feel really sorry for those who are more heavily entrenched than I was…the pastor’s kids, and other children who are raised in that mentality, church three times a week, being sent to Bible college (ostensibly for education, but, let’s face facts, a lot of it is to find a “Godly” spouse who firmly embraces the IFB mentality), etc.. Since it was so difficult for me, a person who only went to an IFB for ten years, I can’t imagine how difficult it is for those people. Anyway I hope that things get better for you soon, and one that that really helped me was browsing through the e-mails and messages on here, and seeing how many of us had the same kinds of issues. Please keep us informed in regards to your journey!

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