In the Shift
Life after the ”man with the plan”

Life after the ”man with the plan”

August 9, 2022

Episode 65: In this conversation we discuss what possibilities exist for re-imagining leadership and the role of a pastor when the "guru", or the "man with the plan" models have failed us. The "pastor as expert/authority in everything" model can treat congregations in an overly paternalistic and controlling manner, as well as fostering a level of pressure and expectation that can lead to personal dysfunction for the leader themselves. As alternatives we discuss the possibility of collaborative models, of leaders as conduits of the stories of a community, engagement in genuine dialogue, and the centrality of empathy and care.

Mega-health: Can a megachurch be healthy?

Mega-health: Can a megachurch be healthy?

August 1, 2022

Episode 64: In this episode we talk about what movement toward health might look like in toxic megachurch (or any church) spaces. Building on our discussions over the past few months we explore the possibility of an open-handed community, a movement away from coercion, about the conflict that often occurs between health and growth, about the importance of focusing not only the individual failings that can lead to abuse, but the systemic and structural issues that need to change in order to see real transformation take place.

The Megachurch Conversation: The problem with being ”the good guys”

The Megachurch Conversation: The problem with being ”the good guys”

July 11, 2022

Episode 63: In this episode I'm joined by Shane Meyer-Holt as we explore the problems that emerge when we're convinced that we're "the good guys" (we realise this phrase is gendered, but we felt it reflected the patriarchal nature of many of these systems). If we believe that we have the answers that everybody needs, that we're uniquely called to rescue, save and bring light to a dark world, then we often become unable to see the ways in which we might be participating in harm. We talk about why we're more likely to minimise or ignore stories of pain and abuse within our own communities, overstate our ability to meet the needs of others, less likely to collaborate, and often unable to see the good that is already taking place in spaces beyond our own institutions (and beyond our own religious frameworks). We finish with a discussion on how Christian faith can be meaningful without us having to be "the winners".

The Megachurch Conversation: Doublespeak

The Megachurch Conversation: Doublespeak

June 26, 2022

Episode 62: In this episode Shane Meyer-Holt joins me again for an analysis of megachurch “doublespeak”. Doublespeak is what we’re calling the use of language that sounds good on the surface (and can in fact be used in really healthy ways) but is being used to coerce, manipulate, control and gaslight people. It’s where a word like “capacity” is being used to mean “suppress your emotional and physical wellbeing”. Or where “doing it in God’s strength” means to stop paying attention to the important signals your body is giving you. Or where “unity” is being used to mean uniformity and compliance. We discuss a range of examples of how this kind of language is used, because it is the pervasive subtlety of this language that often keeps people stuck within toxic cultures. We also look further at the red flags to pay attention to in religious communities, as well as some indications of what healthy community can start to look like.

The Megachurch Conversation: Trauma, Red Flags, and Recovery

The Megachurch Conversation: Trauma, Red Flags, and Recovery

June 6, 2022

Episode 61: In this episode Michael has a conversation with narrative therapist Nicole Conner and megachurch survivor Jess Holdaway. Jess speaks of her journey through the megachurch, the impact on her body and her experience of trauma, as we weave in and out of a wider discussion on religious trauma, abuse of power and burn-out. They share reflections on institutional and religious gaslighting, how to know if you're in an abusive or toxic community, the signs of trauma, and some ways forward for those processing their experiences.

As always, get in touch at: feedback@intheshift.com

For those looking for a little grounding after listening to this episode, you may find this meditation helpful. https://sanctuarymentalhealth.org/2020/03/17/meditation-and-self-care-during-covid-19/ 

 
Nicole Conner
 
Nicole was born in Hamburg, Germany, and grew up in apartheid South Africa. This created an awareness of how religion can influence and serve a political ideology, and vice versa. Something to keep in mind when discussing religious trauma. Nicole’s formative years were not shaped by any strong religious ideas. As a teenager she joined a Pentecostal church in South Africa and was part of Pentecostalism for 3 decades. In Melbourne, Nicole was an Associate Minister at a large Pentecostal church that was led by her husband. She stepped down from her role and leadership in 2010. Since then, Nicole retrained in narrative practice that informs the therapy, supervision and organisational consulting she offers as director of her business, Defining Stories. https://definingstories.com.au
 
 
A growing percentage of Nicole’s clients are people reclaiming their lives from religious ideologies and practices that had a negative and/or traumatic impact on their lives.
 
 
Jess Holdaway
 
Born in South Africa, Jess immigrated to Aotearoa with her family when she was 10 years old. Keen to find a community, Jess entered the megachurch scene as a 13 year old and spent 9 years volunteering and eventually working for the church. Since leaving church, she trained as a graphic designer and has spent most of her career working on projects that have a positive impact in Aotearoa.  She has also birthed two beautiful human beings and relocated with her husband and children to the beachside town of Mangawhai.  Always curious, always keen for deep conversations and passionate about creating a more collaborative future where people thrive, Jess is here for this conversation!
The Megachurch Conversation: ”The Creep”

The Megachurch Conversation: ”The Creep”

May 24, 2022

Episode 60: In this episode, Shane Meyer-Holt and I continue talking about megachurches and toxic church cultures. We focus this conversation on the "creep", which is what happens when things change incrementally over time from the 'mild' toward something really unhealthy, coercive or toxic.  But because this change happens slowly, over time, within a bubble that lacks outside perspective and with justifiable goals and aims, it can be hard to see and difficult to name or address. The 'creep' happens in relation to many aspects of church life, whether it be money, honour, altar calls, spiritual experience, purity culture, growth aspirations and so on. We also talk about how and why this happens, how it is often masked, defended and amplified, and why it's so important for all of us to be able to hear feedback from others about the impact our lives have on theirs.

The Megachurch Conversation: Where to from here?

The Megachurch Conversation: Where to from here?

May 17, 2022

Episode 59: In this episode Shane and I hit pause on delving into the megachurch playbook to check in and get a sense of where things are up to. We talk about how we've been feeling over the past few weeks as this conversation has unfolded, what feelings have come to the surface, and the different kinds of feedback we are getting. We also talk about what we're hopeful we've been able to do so far, our priority for 'survivors', what this moment could mean for the church, and some of where we think this conversation needs to head next. It's a less intense convo, as we just check in and reflect on the present moment. 

You can get in touch via email: feedback@intheshift.com

Another Level Part 4: The Megachurch Playbook

Another Level Part 4: The Megachurch Playbook

May 9, 2022

Episode 58: In this 4th part of our ongoing megachurch conversation, Shane and I look at the origin story of megachurch culture. In other words, why did churches like this begin to emerge in the mid-late 20th and early 21st century? We also explore some of the key beliefs that sit at the heart of the megachurch worldview. We talk about the "who/what" (the "man with the vision"), the "why" (colonisation and empire building), the "how" (a distortion of the sacrificial giving and servant-heartedness motifs in scripture), and the "payoff" (God will bless you if you serve this vision). We also explore the origins of the prosperity gospel, and just generally tell a bunch more stories. 

As always, you can get in touch via: feedback@intheshift.com

Another Level Part 3: The Megachurch Playbook

Another Level Part 3: The Megachurch Playbook

May 3, 2022

Episode 57: Shane and I are back at it, talking about megachurch culture and some of the central themes that help us understand what's going on. In this conversation we talk about the emphasis on unending growth (at all costs), and the way in which language of "another level", "breakthrough", and the "best is yet to come" can drive a culture of toxic positivity and burnout. We also talk about the church as a contextless place, a thing that happens "to" people and which can get caught up with the establishment and defence of a brand.

But first, we begin with a discussion about "plausible deniability" as a tactic of manipulative and coercive leadership. This relates to the problematic but very effective behaviour and rhetoric that is couched in such a way that it can often be excused by "you're too sensitive", "we were just joking around", "you've misunderstood us" and so on. This kind of gaslighting allows leaders to deny responsibility and lay the blame for any offence on the harmed person rather than on the one carrying out the abusive behaviour.

As always you can get in touch via email: feedback@intheshift.com

Another Level Part 2: The Megachurch Playbook

Another Level Part 2: The Megachurch Playbook

April 25, 2022

Episode 56: This is Part 2 of a conversation with Shane Meyer-Holt about megachurch culture and the concerning and harrowing stories emerging from victims of bullying, harassment and abuse within some of these churches.  In this conversation we talk about explicit and implicit coercion, the role of fear and the power of the charismatic ego, and we examine the "honour culture" that underpins much of the megachurch system - a culture that contributes both to the inability to speak up, as well as being responsible for some of the worst excesses and impulses of senior leaders. 

If you'd like to get in touch with us, you can email: feedback@intheshift.com

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