History of Mental and Spiritual Abuse at Deliverance Bible Church
Yesterday PopGlitz published a press release from former members of Deliverance Bible Church. This article will elaborate on that situation. Please keep in mind that much of this information is kept generic due to the fact that many of the victims are still very much in turmoil over their experience and very few are willing to publicly discuss their stories. However, at the end of this article there are excerpts from one brave individual’s story, if you read nothing else read her story.
The leader, Cleetus Adrian, had previously appeared on TLC’s Miami Ink back in 2006 as a tatted up “pastor.” It has been alleged that he has been leading his small community more like a cult than a church. This is a very sensitive topic as many people felt mentally and / or spiritually abused by Cleetus himself, his wife (Nichole Adrian) , or by the church in general under the direction of Cleetus.
Generally, participants are called to abandon friends, family, and anyone outside of this church community in order to live a more holier life. When people do make mistakes, or end up on the Adrian’s bad side, they are often shunned from the pulpit. This often causes people to feel isolated with no one left in the world to turn to as a friend since they’ve likely already separated themselves from their family and former friends.
The church has no oversight from “apostolic” leaders or other pastors to lean on for leadership and guidance as is customary with non-denominational churches. Instead Cleetus is the end all be all when it comes to biblical authority. Further, it was confirmed by various sources that Cleetus did not attend a bible or ministry school to receive ordainment. Instead his own father bestowed upon him the title of pastor. After which Cleetus himself ordained others to pastor and plant other Deliverance Bible Churches in other areas.
Lacking such training and proper ordination does not mean that one can’t talk about God, Jesus, and the bible. It is likely that Cleetus was passionate about his faith and started off on good intentions of “winning the lost” to his faith. However, without proper training or experienced accountability it would be easy for Cleetus to slip into bad practices as a minister and easily make his ministry based on his own thought without any accountability.
The majority of what can be heard from the pulpit is likely to be biblically sound within certain lines of thought within the wide array of Christian denominations. However, it is the little deviances in doctrine spun in Cleetus’ favor here and there that show cause for concern.
In 2013 Cleetus and his family traveled to Paris, France for an entire year under the premise of doing missionary work during that time. Back in the States another DBC leader had taken the reigns of DBC Hurst as the interim pastor. It is rumored that after Cleetus returned to the States he got jealous and paranoid about the pastor he had left in charge.
During the more than 10 years history of DBC there have been about 13 church plants under the same name. However, as of today there are only 3 churches under this same name. Some were just ended completely, while others were passed on to other people. Not many of these former pastors are ready to talk openly about what happened and each has their own reasons for leaving. Not all of these former church plants pastors left on good terms with Cleetus.
It also appears that this “pastor” doesn’t like the idea of his congregation going to visit other churches or leaving his church for another. While he has said from the pulpit that people can come and go as they please, he also has shamed people for doing so from the same pulpit. If one had gone to another church or left DBC altogether it is a common theme that these people were accused of “living in sin” by church members under influential messaging from Cleetus.
Recently, during a live stream of a scheduled “revival” meeting Cleetus took to the microphone to literally curse people who had left his church.
None of this information so far has really detailed the mental and spiritual abuse that a plethora of former and current members of this church have undergone. Even still these details highlight a recipe for disaster for anyone walking through the doors of DBC. Some families have had a rough time financially due to pressure from the pulpit to give generously in faith. Others had more emotional and manipulative things happen to them.
One story that does stick out about the cult type mentality of this organization, its leadership, and the effect on people is from a woman named Katie.
Excerpts From ConcernedAboutDBC.com :
I started going to DBC when I was about 16 years old, but I’m going to skip most of my time at DBC and focus on the last year I was there (about 2009-10ish). We did a 30 day fast in 2009 where we read the Bible cover to cover in 30 days. I remember finding some inconsistencies with what the pastor was preaching and what I was reading in the Bible. It made me pretty nervous, so I turned to the pastor and his wife for answers. Every time I went to them, they were incredibly cryptic and would tell me to just pray about it. Of course, not finding answers from my own leadership I started turning to other people in the church.
Suddenly, there was this huge upheaval in the church and everyone began to kind of ostracize those of us that were still pursuing the idea of a fully loving, kind, and forgiving god instead of the vengeful, wrathful, just God that the pastor started preaching on again.
I had no idea that there was so much negativity broiling behind the scenes regarding the group of us that were changing. I literally thought I was doing Jesus stuff. I began really noticing the pastor’s disapproval when a group of people my age and I started helping another House of Prayer in Arlington. We met by total chance at Chipotle one day and ended up talking about the DBC house of prayer and how amazing it was.
The atmosphere while we were there was SO positive, so loving. These people didn’t expect a single thing from me, never made me feel like I needed to grovel for God to love me, and were incredibly encouraging to me. While we were doing this, we still made sure and went back to DBC and took care of whatever we needed to do there. We still went to our house of prayer, we went to every service. We were all still very much a part of DBC. Eventually, the pastor caught wind of what we were doing. He pulled me aside after service one day and reprimanded me for helping them. He told me it wasn’t the will of God, made me call the pastor of that church, and had me tell him I could no longer visit or help. I think that was the first time the pastor had personally made me weep outside of church. I never went back to that House of Prayer in Arlington or saw any of them again.
A short time after that, I met a girl online through a friend who had gone to the School of All or Nothing with me. She lived in Tennessee, and she and her husband had just gotten away from a church that was very much like DBC. They invited us to come visit them for a weekend, so I got my prayer slots covered and we drove up. While I was there, they began asking me questions about DBC and showing me how unhealthy everything was. It was incredibly difficult for me because I was still so connected to DBC and I would have still done anything for the pastor and his wife at that point. After that weekend, I went back to DBC and tried to put it all out of my mind. However, once your eyes have been opened to what spiritual abuse is, you finally start seeing it when it happens. After that first trip to Tennessee, everything began going downhill.
A couple who had left DBC before me invited me to go to their church one Sunday. They were really good friends at the time, and I knew I’d be back before I needed to start getting ready with the prayer team at DBC. When I got back to DBC after the service, it was 10 minutes before the pre-service prayer. I remember walking in and beginning to pray with the rest of the prayer team. Two members took me aside and told me that I was outside of the covering of God. They told me that because I visited another church that morning, I wasn’t committed enough to DBC to be part of the prayer team so they kicked me off. She also told me that I could no longer go with them on the Mark 16:15 mission trip because I was a liability and I would jeopardize the entire trip (I never saw the money I put toward that trip again). I was gutted.
A week later, a person who was really close to the pastor approached me at the Sunday service and showed me screenshots he had taken of a comment I left on a Youtube video of a guy talking about the forgiveness of god. My comment said, “I wish my pastor preached more of this on Sunday”. He straight up told me I needed to confess to the pastor or he would show everyone what I said. Looking back, I shouldn’t have cared but as someone who was literally grasping at straws because I felt like I was losing my friends, I panicked. I was also devastated because he was supposed to have been my friend and he was now acting like I was a criminal. I went to the pastor in hysterics over it, hoping that he would see how emotionally manipulative it was for someone to do that and claim it was God’s will. I’ll never forget the way he smirked at me and told me I should ask him for forgiveness and pray about it. I was dumbstruck. I truly believe that was the first major crack between DBC and I. It pummeled me.
After that, he began preaching sermons using me as an example without using my name. He would mock things I had asked him and his wife for advice for in the past. I’m talking, very specific, private things I had gone to them about over the years.
People in the church started taking everything I said and did into question. I would post scriptures about love and forgiveness on Facebook, and people would respond with scriptures about the judgement of God. It truly crippled me spiritually and emotionally. I began feeling shunned by people I had spent four years building really strong relationships with. I had cut off everyone and everything outside of DBC, so I had literally no one else to turn to except others who were dealing with the same things at the time.
Finally, my Tennessee friend told me I needed to come stay with her and her husband, and take some time to decompress and figure things out. I went up there and ended up staying for two weeks (I made sure to get my prayer spots covered again. This was majorly important, haha). We fed the homeless, we had church in this really awesome hippie woman’s house, we spent a lot of time crying together and healing and working through the pain I was in. It was an amazing experience, and I definitely wasn’t off living in sin like people kept assuming.
About halfway into my stay, I got a phone call from a member telling me he finally left DBC and warning me that things wouldn’t be pretty when I got back. He told me that when he and a member sat down with the pastor to tell him they were leaving, he flew into a tirade and spent the entire time talking about me for some reason. He blamed these members for leading me astray and started telling them that I was irresponsible and flaky. My friend told me that when he asked why I was flaky, the pastor’s response was: “She tried to go to the IHOP ministry school”
I got back to Texas in time for the Sunday service and it was like walking into a completely different world. During the entire wait for service to start, no one came up to me. A few people smiled at me if I waved at them, but the majority of people didn’t even look at me. We’re not talking about random people, though. I’m talking people whose kids I helped raise, people I had cried with, celebrated with, and helped for years. Not a single one of them would even look at me. I was crushed. I can only imagine what had been said about me while I was gone that lead people to completely shut off to me like that.
My one friend, who was still there but planning on leaving, told me that while she was working with the kids that Sunday they all started saying I was a sinner and I was “leaving god”. I honestly think that killed me more than anything. I loved those kids so much…
…It meant so much to me, and thinking that those kids had a negative view of me burned. It messed me up the most because I know they didn’t come up with it on their own. They overheard it.
We were standing in front of a church full of people, and I really didn’t want to have that conversation in front of everyone so I kept insisting. He argued, saying his wife was busy with the kids and it would be a major inconvenience to pull her away from them, but he finally agreed as long as he, his wife, and two other pastors were present in the room. I was hesitant to have that many people involved, but I really just wanted to do this by the book. Even after all I had been through, I was still just trying to leave the way he said people should leave. By talking to him about it.
At first, I tried defending myself against the things he was wrongfully accusing me of. He eventually looked dead at me and said, “Why can’t you take responsibility for yourself?” I immediately shut up and just let him rail on me for the next 40 minutes.
The cut off was instant. I left that church and majority of everyone stopped talking to me. One by one, everyone else followed. I was harassed so violently on Facebook for posts I made or pictures I posted, that I finally stopped talking about my beliefs all-together. Even people who had left DBC before me started to cut me off, until the only people talking to me were my two friends I had originally turned to and two other close friends. I moved back in with my mom and stopped leaving my bedroom, because every time I went somewhere in Hurst I ran into someone from DBC.
I would be told I needed to get right with the Lord. I would get text messages telling me to stop living in sin. Nobody asked if I was okay. Nobody asked what really happened. I had just turned 20 years old and my entire core was ripped away from me. Everything I knew about the world was flipped on its head, and every deep relationship I had was gone almost overnight. I was diagnosed with PTSD about a year after leaving the church. I spiraled out of control for a while.
Something changed in 2012 on top of the free parking garage in downtown Fort Worth by the theater. I was seriously considering leaping off and something just snapped. It was like I woke up from a really long sleep. I think I scared the shit out of myself, to be completely honest. I started getting help, started going to school, I met my husband and he was a major support for me. I graduated with high honors from TCC and was offered a free ride to UNT.
I’m doing so, so much better. Connecting with other former members of Deliverance Bible Church gave me a lot of closure I didn’t think I would ever get. I’m still not 100% perfect. To this day, if I see any members of DBC in public I start shaking and sweating.
Katie’s story isn’t the only one like this, but she is one of the brave one’s to come forward and be more public about what happened to her.
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