Spotlight interview with Autumn Miles: “Jesus came to set the captives free”March 31, 2017
Autumn Miles is the author of “Appointed: Your Future Starts Now” and the founder and CEO of The Blush Network, a conference ministry dedicated to spiritually challenging the way women think. A domestic violence survivor herself, Miles is now leads and speaks to women across the country. She also commissioned a study with LifeWay Research related to domestic violence and the lack of preparedness of the church in America for dealing with this issue.
Listen to interview with Autumn:
Carmen: Let’s start with your story, why you commissioned this research, and then we’ll talk about the research itself.
Autumn: I met the love of my life – wink, wink – when I was 15 and started a dating relationship with him. I would say about five months into that relationship, he started verbally abusing me and mentally abusing me. He proposed three years into that, when there was a lot of mental, emotional, social abuse going on. We got married, and that’s when the physical stuff started.
About three years into that marriage, I realized I was being abused, what was happening was not cool. I took it before my church, my dad was a pastor at the time, and just said, listen, I need help. What they did was, when they found out I was going to divorce because of the abuse, they were ill-equipped to handle someone that was dealing with a domestic violence situation. They chose to church discipline me because of the divorce, rather than to focus and confront the abuse.
Carmen: First of all, let me just say on behalf of the church, I’m sorry that that was the response of the place that is supposed to be safe and a place where people should be able to bring their pain and then find the help that’s really necessary to deal with it.
Autumn, let’s talk about the research that you commissioned to have done in relationship to this, because I think you were suspecting that your experience was not unique in terms of the readiness of the church to respond. Let’s talk about the research that you’ve done with LifeWay.
Autumn: Because of my past, I wanted to know what was happening in the world. I couldn’t be the only victim out there. We worked together with LifeWay and really pushed 1,000 pastors and asked them several really strategic questions. The research was not surprising, but interesting, to me. We found out 90%, about 90%, of pastors believed that their church is a safe haven for domestic violence victims, which tells us the heart of our pastors. I thought that was really precious. They really want to be a safe haven.
However, the research also showed that out of those pastors polled, only about 50% of them were prepared, with a plan in place, to help a domestic violence victim, which is not shocking to me, but shows that there is a huge disconnect between the perception of our pastors being a safe haven and actually being a safe haven for victims.
Carmen: I suspect that if we had the opportunity to dig a little bit deeper, I suspect that part of that is they don’t expect the domestic violence victim to be in their congregation, so when they say safe haven, they’re talking about someone from the community seeking shelter, seeking safe haven in the church, from abuse that’s happening. When the reality is inside the church, when you’re talking about the experience that a woman is having in the context of her marriage, I don’t think very many churches are adequately equipped on this subject.
Tell us what churches need to be doing and then tell our listeners where they can go to find a resource that then will equip their church.
Autumn: We have to do something, first of all. I believe that this is the first step, bringing awareness to it. If you are a pastor out there, or a leader out there, of any type of ministry and you don’t see that your ministry organization or church is a safe haven, the very first thing I would do, and this is so incredibly easy, is simply make a statement from the pulpit. Literally stand against domestic violence from the pulpit. That is so easy to do. Pick a domestic violence awareness month, in October, stand on that and say it is not okay in our church for any woman or man – because one in seven men are abused – to deal with this, to undergo this, this is not okay.
I think by doing that, you do two things. First of all, you signal the victim: I’ve got an ally in this person, I have an ally in this church, maybe I can get out of that. That is so easy, because that victim is suffering silently. One in four women are abused, so let me tell you, it is the woman two seats down from you that’s raising her hand in worship that can’t show that you that she is actually undergoing violence, maybe the night before.
Also, it tells the abuser, I better straighten up, I cannot come to this church and not be held accountable. That’s what we need. We need these issues, we need some accountability for them, and we need the church to be the church which is founded on the hope of Jesus Christ. Jesus came to set the captives free. Me, in a domestic violence relationship for seven years, married to the man for three years, I was held captive because of my circumstances, because of the whole nature of abuse. You are not allowed to do certain things because there will be some sort of repercussion or some sort of discipline from your abuser.
That is the very first, easiest thing that you can do as a church to say, no, we stand with the victim.
Also, it tells the abuser, I better straighten up, I cannot come to this church and not be held accountable. That’s what we need. We need these issues, we need some accountability for them, and we need the church of be the church which is founded on the hope of Jesus Christ. Jesus came to set the captives free.
Carmen: I want to just be sure that we say to those who are listening, if you a domestic violence victim, we want you to call the Domestic Violence Hotline right now at 1-800-799-SAFE. That’s 1-800-799-SAFE. You are a child of God, and what you are experiencing in your home and in your domestic relationship is not God-honoring and it’s not a person who is honoring the image of God in you. You are valuable and you are priceless and you are precious. We want to equip you. Again, the Domestic Violence Hotline number is 1-800-799-SAFE.
Autumn, I know that you have put together a 10-step resource for churches to prepare themselves to help domestic violence victims. Can you tell people where to find that?
Autumn: Sure, you can going to my website, autumnmiles.com. There’s actually a little tab on the website that says, “The LifeWay Study,” and it will actually show you the study, it will show you the resources. Really, everything you need is just located right there.
Carmen: I’m hoping that for the few minutes that we have left, we can also talk about Blush.
Carmen: One of the things that I recognize, as woman who’s a Christian and operates in the more conservative world of Christianity now, but having a history in mainline Christianity, the thinking woman is not always appreciated. Thinking deeply, in the context of Bible study or thinking deeply about theological things, not always encouraged. Tell us about Blush.
Autumn: The Blush Network is a ministry I started, and it really was born out of my past. I found Jesus being abused and He didn’t have an Instagram account and he didn’t have a cool haircut. He was grace, love, unconditional love, freedom to me in that moment. I began a passionate love affair with Jesus. The Word was truly my food during that time. I met Him in 2001 and started a relationship with Him. There’s a difference between knowing about Him and a relationship, and I started it that day in 2001.
My passion only grew. I do not believe if you meet the God of the universe you can be the same. I don’t believe that you can, and so I have passionately worked for Him since. God allowed me, by His grace, to start a ministry called the Blush Network in 2010. We’re not the ministry that does cooking, we’re not that. God bless those ministries. They’re incredible and I know they’re reaching women, but that’s not us. I wanted to spiritually challenge the way women think. We are Biblically illiterate in our country, in our world, today, not just our country. We have got to get back to the Word of God. We’ve got to study the Word of God. We’ve got to cross-reference, we need to study the original language.
That’s what we do at the Blush Network. We do conferences all over the country. We also just launched small groups, which we’re calling society groups, which is so cool because we are creating a society of women that are hungry for Biblical truth. When you have Biblical truth, and it’s not an ice cream sundae, it’s steak, you can’t go back to the sundae. You have to have it again and again and again. We’re finding that these women across the country that God is allowing us to minister to have built up a huge appetite to know more. Once you know how amazing God is and He shows you from his Word, you just want to know more about Him.
When you have Biblical truth, and it’s not an ice cream sundae, it’s steak, you can’t go back to the sundae. You have to have it again and again and again. We’re finding that these women across the country that God is allowing us to minister to have built up a huge appetite to know more. Once you know how amazing God is and He shows you from his Word, you just want to know more about Him.
Carmen: I’m excited. I want people to be able to find the Blush Network, as well, and can they do that at autmunmiles.com?
Autumn: Autumnmiles.com, we’re all over social media, too.
Carmen: You can follow her on Twitter @autumnmiles. Again, the Domestic Abuse study, you can find at LifeWay Research, you can find it at Christianity Today and you can find it at autumnmiles.com/lifewaystudy.
I’m going to guess that the women who become a part of these small groups and then become Biblically nourished and Biblically equipped and empowered by the Holy Spirit, may also then find themselves without spiritual headship in their own home, right? because their husband may not be moving as aggressively in the same direction as they are. Could you just speak to the reality of being a woman in a love affair with Jesus but also in a love affair with a husband?
Autumn: Absolutely, I actually teach this. I believe that when you get married, a woman has to have her own independent relationship with Christ. She cannot just adopt what her husband is doing. When I met my second husband, who is the love of my life and amazing – we’ve been married 13 years, have four kids – when I met him, I told him straight up, listen, I love Jesus, I know Jesus, we’ve got a great thing going here, and I just want you to know I’m not going to adopt your Christianity, your whatever you have to offer is great, but I am going to work on developing my own intimacy with the Lord. He was great with that. He wasn’t intimidated by that at all.
I think it’s a responsibility as women to develop our own relationship with Christ. We can’t mooch off our husbands, for lack of a better term. We have to do it ourselves. We definitely promote that in our ministry. I think it’s important. Those men that maybe aren’t as far along as the women are, it challenges them. It’s incredible to see, wow, my wife, she’s looking up the Greek and Hebrew. I need to get going on this stuff.
It’s amazing. They’ve joined men’s groups, they’ve joined men’s prayer breakfasts, some of them have gone to counseling, they’ve started going to marital counseling. It is amazing, women, what you can do when you decide, listen, I’m going to be gangster for Jesus. It’s me and Him. It’s amazing how you encourage not only your husband, but your children who are also watching.
Carmen: Absolutely. All right, friends, go to autumnmiles.com and check out all of the resources that Autumn has for you there. You can also follow her on Twitter @autumnmiles. Check out the Blush Network, join a local society, small group, if you’re a woman and want to be engaged in the Word in a way that is going to challenge you to think and deepen your relationship with Jesus.
Autumn, thank you for making the Gospel visible and beautiful to the world.
Autumn: Thank you so much for having me.
Carmen: Thanks for being on The Reconnect.