Stephen Smith has a bachelor’s degree in History from Taylor University and a Master of Theology (Th.M.) from Dallas Theological Seminary.

steve_smithFrom childhood, Steve attended a small, controlling church in southern Maine. In 1997, his twin brother left the church and was shunned. Steve remained in the church and became an assistant to the pastor. In 2008 Steve entered seminary in Dallas, and in 2010 he grew concerned about the nature of leadership in his home church. Shortly thereafter, his pastor was hospitalized and the church recognized that they had been spiritually abused. A church consulting agency helped the remaining leadership make the decision to close the church and send people to healthy churches in the community. Steve reconciled with his twin brother and started to research about spiritual abuse. His summative paper at Dallas Seminary was on the nature of spiritual authority. His home church no longer exists.

Because of his own painful background in a legalistic and controlling church, Steve is passionate about the topic of spiritual abuse and wants to help other people to recognize healthy and unhealthy spiritual authority based upon biblical principles.

Steve has appeared on radio and been interviewed by reporters from Texas Monthly and al-Jazeera America on the topic of cults.

Steve lives with his wife and sons in Cumberland, Maine.


35 comments on “About

  1. Your insights into the Wells Church are very well written.

  2. Steve, I just realized that this was your blog. I don’t know why I didn’t make that connection before. Bless you brother for your wonderful work here. What a testimony to how the Lord can turn the despised and shamed thing into something for good.

    • Thanks for your encouragement, Lisa. You inspire me. I love how you share the good things you have found online. You both create content and connect folks to content, and both are so important in the Christian community today. Keep it up!

  3. Steve, so happy for the way the Lord has worked in your life these past few years bringing healing. Looking forward to keeping up with your blog. Blessings on you and your family!

  4. Steve, I recently discovered your blog and it has been such an encouragement. I have come from a spiritually abusive background and in the past year have been trying to detox from all of the garbage I internalized for the majority of my life. Your posts have been tremendously helpful in this process. Thank you for sharing your story and giving hope to others who are hurting. God bless you!

  5. Let’s hear some more about the Church of Wells. Things have really been heating up in this little town.

    • I’ve heard about some of that, Chris. I live in Ohio, so have no first-hand knowledge at this point. I’ve followed the news stories and wrote some posts regarding shunning parents, how churches should relate to bad press, and distortions of scripture. I’m not sure what else to say specifically, since I’m not there. What news would you like to hear more about?

  6. I live in Wells and I am very concerned about having this cult in our town. I watched a news report where Sean Morris was talking and his facial expressions were very exaggerated. He is very scary acting person. Could you help us with any idea on how to get this group out of our town? They are wanting to be some kind of martyr. We just want them OUT!!!

    • I can understand your fear, Glenda. See my reply to your previous comment on “10 Questions a Church Should Ask When it Receives Negative Press.” My best recommendations remain the suggestions I make in the post “Ten Ways to Reach the Unreachable.” While the Church of Wells is “off” in both doctrine and practice, for the most part the members are sincere people who have been led astray as they seek to follow Christ. It is the leaders who continue to lead folks astray and are breaking families apart. There is no simple solution or quick fix, barring intervention by the authorities. But God is able to shine his light and dissolve groups like this in a matter of days, if he so chooses. I am praying to that end.

  7. i just heard about the church of wells on the news im concerned keep up the fight you have my prayers

  8. […] You may read HERE this parable, written by Stephen Smith, who graduated with distinction from Taylor University in 2005 with a bachelor’s degree in History. He graduated with honors from Dallas Theological Seminary in 2012 with a Master of Theology (Th.M.), majoring in Media Arts in Ministry. He has a fascinating story, which you can read HERE. […]

  9. Wow! And I thought people didn’t like me…

    • I could add more terms, now 😉 Oh well. I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter how balanced or respectful you are; when you disagree with the status quo, it will infuriate those who have benefited from it. That said, I try to learn from every comment I receive, even the snarky or nasty ones. God spoke to Balaam through a donkey. Truth can come from the unlikeliest of sources. But folks who use these archaic terms as insults, that’s just over the top funny IMHO.

  10. I have just gotten out of an abusive cult here in Alberta, Canada. Unfortunately my wife is still in it.It has become a very difficult situation. Is there anything I can do to help my wife? She will listen only to her leader.

    • Hi Roland, I’m happy to hear that you’ve been able to leave your cult. A very courageous action and not at all easy to do. There is no magic bullet for helping someone in a cult come out of it, but there are a few things that might help. I’ve explained a few tips in a post here: https://libertyforcaptives.com/2012/06/10/ten-ways-to-reach-the-unreachable/ Staying connected with your wife is important, if it is safe to do so. There is also a book called “Coping with Cult Involvement” by Livia Bardin, which is the best book I’ve read about intervention and how to communicate with a loved one in a cult. Barb Orlowski, Ph.D., a fellow Canadian, has a website called “Church Exiters” and has written a book about spiritual abuse. She is not a cult expert per se, but you might find some of her insights helpful. Finally, Cindy Kunsman over at the blog “Under More Grace” is a cult expert. She may have some further tips for you. I know what it’s like to have a family divided by a cult, and I know it is not easy. I hope that your wife will recognize that when the Bible says that there is no mediator between God and people except the man Christ Jesus (1 Tim. 2:5), that means that the group leader she follows cannot mediate her relationship with God. I pray that some of these resources will help you as you press on. Grace and peace, Steve

  11. I thank God for your blog. I just left an extreme Pentecostal church where the church government exists of only an Apostle.

  12. Thanks for this blog, Steve. There is a lot of good stuff here. I write some about spiritual abuse and recovery at http://www.watchtheshepherd.blogspot.com.

  13. […] of that thing once we have made our escape from the group.  This is a wonderful article by Stephen Smith discussing some of the good things that we may fear after leaving a […]

  14. Steve, I’m actually near you! (Less than 2 hours, and I once lived in Hilliard, and near OSU) I look forward to reading your blog. 🙂 I do a parody twitter thing called “Calvinist Janeway” and blog at taylorjoyrecovers.wordpress.com and CalvinistJaneway.wordpress.com. I look forward to digging into your blog. 🙂

  15. Dear Steve, We hosted a second family from the Church of Wells here in MN within the past few weeks, who came to visit their families in Wisconsin. The families visited by themselves and had the freedom to move as they desired. I have learnt of several other people who have been visiting their families freely, and have seen family members visiting their children at the Church of Wells during my interactions with them during the past few months. It is in situations where the family members are hostile towards the church members that the children are unable to maintain a relationship with them. A young woman told us when I encouraged her to keep in touch with her parents, that she is scared of her father! It would be wrong of the church leadership to force the children to maintain a relationship with their family when the children do not want to. It appears that a FEW parents who are estranged from their children have slandered the church significantly. I thought I should share this with you.
    Also, concerning the doctrine, they do not subscribe to the man made doctrines of Calvinism and Armenianism, but believe that salvation is maintained only on the narrow road of abiding faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, who alone is able to save people by His work. They take judgment within the house of God seriously, and unrepentant wilful sin is dealt with in the manner described in the New Testament, putting them out of the camp. This righteous judgment aspect is foreign to many churches because it is not being practiced largely in the church of today.
    Best regards,
    Moses David

  16. I LOVE your name-calling list. Made me laugh.

    Would gladly stand by your side and identify with all of them.

    (Recent exiter from controlling church)

  17. The post on The Myth of Biblical Manhood is some funny stuff man…

  18. Controlling people can be found in any
    circle of churches, groups, businesses,

    What maybe a nice swim in the pool for
    one person is a nightmare for another!

    Controlling people usually refuse to admit to this sin! They usually take over
    before one can explain or try to
    reconcile who want to mend fences.

    May we learn to be gentle and realize no one person is called to correct everything they think is wrong with

    Sometimes it is wise to be quiet and pray for wisdom!

    May God heal the mouths of all of us!

  19. Thanks for the teaching on here its good to see some decent theology too my husband is keen to connect with you here http://www.richietaylor.org

  20. I really appreciate your observations and am so glad you are sharing them. I was briefly swept up in a cult at the University of Georgia in 1972. Fortunately for me, I went home to tell my family that I was leaving school to be a part of this cult. My mother refused to let me return and this action saved me. Later I read news articles about young people being un-brainwashed and realized how fortunate I had been in escaping so early. Right now I am researching my spiritual journey for an EfM (Education for Ministry) class in our local Episcopal church. I am glad I am doing this because I don’t think I have ever able to come to grips with how such a bright, smart young person as I was could get snookered by such a group. Now I realize that I was targeted and I made a perfect target. Please continue your education efforts about cults and thank you so much for this blog.

    • Thanks for sharing your story and for your encouragement, Pamela. There are millions of people who have been involved with cults at one time or another. There are millions more who have codependent tendencies which manifest in more societally-acceptable ways like workaholism, political affiliation, or even obsession about sports teams. The book “The Wrong Way Home” is very helpful and may be useful in your research.

  21. I am researching spiritual abuse for my dissertation and find there is so little written about it in the scholarly literature. Thank you for sharing your experiences and insight! Very well done.

  22. Hi Stephen,
    I’m with great concern that my daughters faith apostolic is taking her away from her family.
    I feel that what they are teaching my daughter is making it where she is no longer my daughter. She’s always been strong, independent, self sufficient & now she’s submissive to what ever the church & her new fiancée says! What is your take on the apostolic faith? I feel it’s a cult.

    • Dear Samantha,

      Are you talking about the Apostolic Christian Church? Or some other denomination? I think it depends on the individual church. The Apostolic Christian Church is very conservative–pacifistic, a capella worship in many cases, head coverings, etc.–but that does not make it a cult. However, individual churches might be cult-like depending on the health or toxicity of the leaders. It would be easy to join one of these churches and quickly lose one’s internal locus of control.

  23. Hello. We have been shunned several times. We are devastated. Ministers and counselors have told us that we have been spiritually abused. We have never recovered. It’s been 26 years. Are there any support groups you could recommend? Most Christians don’t understand and pastors tend to put us under the law and accuse us of unforgiveness the moment we express pain and grief. We can’t bear anymore pain and feel very isolated. Thank you.

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