THE DARK SIDE OF SPIRITUAL ABUSE PART-1, PART-2, PART-3, PART-4, PART-5For the last six weeks or so, I have been researching, reading, and taking notes fromvarious places concerning the difficult subject of spiritual abuse. One of the reasons formy doing this is in preparation for a theological forum to be held in Albany, Georgia in afew weeks. It is being organized by the former president of Texas Bible College, J. R.Ensey and hosted by Pastor Steve Waldron.Back in the summer, Brother Ensey sent out an e-mail soliciting papers to be written onvarious subjects and after musing through the choices, I started thinking more along thelines of a pastoral theology kind of subject. Although I am not quite sure how I finallysettled on this particular issue, I have been thoroughly enlightened on this subject.In the past, I have written on church trouble from the angle of people in the congregationwho found great enthusiasm for tormenting pastors until they finally ran them off. Thereligious landscape is littered with men who no longer pastor churches and gave up thecalling of a ministry because of a situation where they found themselves in greatcontention with the hidden powers that ran the church. Since writing those posts, I haveobserved a few more of these unfortunate situations as they unfolded.ON THE OTHER HAND, THERE ARE ALSO CHURCHES THAT HAVE HAD ENDURED TERRIBLEABUSES AT THE HANDS OF HEAVY-HANDED, MANIPULATIVE, AND DARK PASTORS WHO FALLINTO THE CATEGORY OF BEING A SPIRITUAL ABUSER.I must say from the outset that this kind of activity to me is totally foreign because of theenvironment that I grew up in with my own pastor (and now father-in-law) Joe Patterson.Because of his spiritual leadership, I grew up with the idea that the church was the mostincredible, warm, and safe place on the earth. It was only after I begin to travel around abit and grew up some spiritually and mentally that I was exposed to the dark side of thechurch and ministry. To be quite frank with you, it was a bit unnerving and initially faith-jarring.Once I saw the dark side, I was forced to go back to Scripture and really analyze what thechurch looked like in its early stages. I discovered that Pentecostals have a very romanticview about the early church and usually see nothing but a bunch of miracles, exponential 1 ARTICLE BY THE MINSTERS TO THE MINISTERS TO ENLIGHTENS THE SPIRITUAL LEADERS SO THAT THEY MAY SPIRITUALLY DISCERN THINGS TO LEAD THE FLOCKS ENTRUSTED….
THE DARK SIDE OF SPIRITUAL ABUSEnumerical growth, and great displays of spiritual authority and power. However,everywhere the early church went there were problems and generally the problems hada name on them with a body attached. Paul’s struggle with the raging beasts at Ephesusno doubt had a human body attached to it!When you look at the book of Acts from a chronological standpoint, it covers a 30 to 40year time frame, depending on what scholar that you read. Furthermore when you lookat it from a geographical point of reference, there were hundreds of thousands of squaremiles covered. So from the vantage point of time and space, there weren’t miracles andamazing growth going on every day. There was a lot of trouble mixed up with theexpansion of the church. Correlate that with Paul’s catalogs of calamities in 2 Corinthians11 and you will see a man paying a heavy price to be involved in the expansion of theKingdom. Tie that in with the words of Ananias in Acts 9, which were directly from theLord when Paul was informed by God that he must suffer, and then it puts the wholeprocess into proper and much clearer perspective.SO THE SCRIPTURE HELPED TO SHED SOME LIGHT ON MY FAULTY VIEW OF THE CHURCH.There are troubled people who come into them including laity and leadership. Thesepeople who refuse to allow the Cross to really transform their lives can very easilybecome spiritual abusers. While the Church Trouble series highlighted the abuse thatcomes from the pew, my paper opened up the avenue of when abuse comes from thepulpit.There were four books that particularly helped me to gain some insight into the wholeconcept of spiritual abuse. The first one was a book that focused primarily on leadershippatterns by Gary McIntosh and Samuel Rima entitled “Overcoming the Dark Side ofLeadership – The Paradox of Personal Dysfunction.” They did a very good job of sheddinglight on the reasons that leaders can go bad. The second book was one written by DavidJohnson and Jeff Van Vonderen called “The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse.” There werea lot of helpful case studies that were scattered throughout this book that showed howthe culture of spiritual abuse could develop in a closed church system. Two books byStephen Arterburn called “Toxic Faith” and “More Jesus, Less Religion” also caused me tolook at ministry in a whole new way. TOP 2 ARTICLE BY THE MINSTERS TO THE MINISTERS TO ENLIGHTENS THE SPIRITUAL LEADERS SO THAT THEY MAY SPIRITUALLY DISCERN THINGS TO LEAD THE FLOCKS ENTRUSTED….
THE DARK SIDE OF SPIRITUAL ABUSE THE DARK SIDE OF SPIRITUAL ABUSE - PART 2To give a little history as to how some of the heavy-handed authoritative traits came intoplay among pastors you have to trace back to the charismatic movement. Out of thecharismatic movement there was the evolving of a concept called “shepherding.”The Latter Rain movement actually had its earliest beginnings in the late 1800’s and wasborn out of the Methodist and Holiness camp-meeting environment. It would continue togenerate momentum and experience growth during the post-World War II years and bemuch encouraged by the Charismatic movement in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Marked byextreme excess and abuse of the gifts of the Spirit, this activity led to the production of“prophets” who had little use for personal holiness and consecration. After a while itappeared that they only had a desire for their own personal kingdoms to grow.As time went by these intruders became susceptible to moral and ethical failures. Thesubsequent fallout from their failures caused many who followed them to be led astrayby their repulsive actions. In an effort to recover from these shenanigans a group ofleaders came together and formed what was called “The Shepherding Movement.” BobMumford, Derek Prince, Charles Simpson, and Don Basham were the primary founders ofthis loosely formed organization who determined that its sole purpose would be to forma system of personal accountability. Later a fifth leader, Ern Baxter would be added tomake up what was referred to as the “Fort Lauderdale Five.”They decided that their work would be modeled after the pattern of Paul mentoring hissons in the faith, Timothy and Titus. They would work toward building a system ofaccountability that would form deeper relationships among pastors, ministrydevelopment at all levels, and ethical standards with emphasis on moral and financialdealings.The whole system worked with the idea that anyone who came into the church needed a“shepherd.” After witnessing the moral collapse of several prominent men, this seemedto be a good and necessary thing. Who could object to the need for spiritual leadershipand accountability? It became very heavy on authority and control in a manner that evensimple decisions of daily living had to be monitored and approved by the pastor/leader oflocal congregations. 3 ARTICLE BY THE MINSTERS TO THE MINISTERS TO ENLIGHTENS THE SPIRITUAL LEADERS SO THAT THEY MAY SPIRITUALLY DISCERN THINGS TO LEAD THE FLOCKS ENTRUSTED….
THE DARK SIDE OF SPIRITUAL ABUSEAs an example, the leader would have to make the final decisions on car purchases, homemortgages, and job opportunities. In some cases, the “shepherd” would designate whoyoung men and young women would marry to the degree that the marriages werearranged and carried through. The “shepherd” would have almost complete control overthe personal finances. The parishioners would bring their paychecks to him and he wouldcash them and take his cut, which was oftentimes more than 10%, and give them theremainder. So as you can see the role of the pastor changed into an extreme form ofauthoritative control.Some of the characteristics of the Shepherding system are as follow:• Discipleship only takes place when one is committed to the group, cell ministry, and its leader.• The only hope of salvation is extreme devotion to the shepherd of the group. This indicates the leader has more power to save than does Jesus Christ.• Jesus Christ does not work directly in the life of the follower but rather He works through a system of delegated authority that flows down from the shepherd. You are to submit to this man as you would submit to God.• Our relationship with God is not primary but rather it works in tandem with the power of a shepherd who has total control over the present, material world we live in.• Our obedience to the shepherd and his direction is to be unquestioning even if it is discovered to be faulty. The idea being that God is more concerned with submission to authority than the nature of the orders being given.• The shepherd is an extension of God and we are to allow him to have the final say in every decision that we make in life.• Our submission to the shepherd causes us to come under the “umbrella” of his authority so that our response to his control opens to us a “door” of God’s 4 ARTICLE BY THE MINSTERS TO THE MINISTERS TO ENLIGHTENS THE SPIRITUAL LEADERS SO THAT THEY MAY SPIRITUALLY DISCERN THINGS TO LEAD THE FLOCKS ENTRUSTED….
THE DARK SIDE OF SPIRITUAL ABUSE approval.While all of these components may have a portion of truth in them, they have the abilityto seriously hinder the sanctifying work of the Word and the Spirit in the believer’s life.Over the course of time, a leader who operates in this manner is throwing wide open thedoor for corruption to gain entrance into his soul (If you haven’t read the Perils of Powerby Richard Exely, it is a very good book on this matter although somewhat dated). Veryfew leaders have the consecration of a Cross-driven life to maintain this kind ofleadership for a long period of time. In fact one writer noted that there is a dark side toevery leader that has to be constantly brought into the presence of the Lord for carefulscrutiny by the Spirit. The dark side of a personality has been affected with examples,emotions, expectations, and experiences that come during a lifetime of service for theLord. Some of them are spot on and others are faulty.The entrance of the “shepherding” leadership model entered our ranks through twoother influences. While many men were vigilant against the excesses of the Latter Rainand would not be taken in by the ideas and concepts of the Shepherding Movement, ourguard was dropped a bit with the influence of the works of Watchman Nee.The books The Spiritual Man and Spiritual Authority had an appeal because of theirseemingly very simple directives that led to a “deeper spiritual life.” Because of therampant promotion of revival, renewal and outpouring, the door was opened for theinfluence of these writings. The Spiritual Man had a greater appeal for a deepeningspiritual life that promoted prayer and a sensitivity to the work of the Holy Ghost amongboth leadership and laity. While there are some solid Scriptural principles in The SpiritualMan, Nee had a tendency to lean toward a heavy sense of mysticism and subjectivitywhen it came to understanding Scripture.The second book, Spiritual Authority, made inroads to those who were in positions ofspiritual leadership. It promoted the concept of unquestioning obedience even if theadvice was suspect or even faulty in doctrine. In some cases the emphasis of the bookeven insinuated that if the pastor was absolutely wrong in his leadership, the peoplewere still supposed to follow him. Nee believed that God would not hold the peopleresponsible but rather the leader would be held responsible.I am certain that deep within the heart of every authentic godly pastor there is a great 5 ARTICLE BY THE MINSTERS TO THE MINISTERS TO ENLIGHTENS THE SPIRITUAL LEADERS SO THAT THEY MAY SPIRITUALLY DISCERN THINGS TO LEAD THE FLOCKS ENTRUSTED….
THE DARK SIDE OF SPIRITUAL ABUSEdesire for holiness, harvest, prayer, and the Word. Sometimes the passion for theseelements of the Kingdom of God overcomes the ability to honestly discern what may bebad for the apostolic church. If zeal is not tempered and directed by knowledge it canlead to the downfall of many. Through the influence of personal consecration in prayer,devotion to Scripture, and well-placed elders a minister can find a sense of spiritualsafety. But that sense of safety is very carefully preserved by having a sense ofdiscernment. At some point, discernment always forces us to make choices that willseparate fellowship from those who abuse their authority.The second influence besides Watchman Nee also approached very subtly. It was througha role that Bill Gothard would play. Through his books and his seminars, Gothardmanaged to influence those who were willing to give credence to his material. BillGothard appealed to the apostolic movement because of his very structured andconservative views on lifestyle. In fact, his teachings promote personal purity, morality,and a devotion to the Bible as the greatest guide to life. Those who follow Gothardmanage to live by his checklists and formulas and through behavior modification seem topromote righteousness.Throughout his writings concerning life principles that are set about in series of“conflicts,” there are continuous inferences concerning absolute submission to authorityand the problems of rebellion. While some of his principles in both of these matters carrysome weight, they can get out of control very quickly. Gothard popularized the ideaconcerning the “umbrella” of authority. He believed that a pastor had ultimate authoritythat was never to be questioned. Those who were under his “care” would find protectionif they submitted blindly to his teachings. To the spiritually discerning, it should be veryeasy to understand how dangerous that this position of ministry can be to even the manwhose motives have been completely purified by God through sanctification andsuffering. A PASTOR/ELDER WHO HAS NO ONE TO WHOM HE ANSWERS TO WILL AT SOMEPOINT MAKE A TERRIBLE DECISION THAT WILL AFFECT MANY OF THOSE THAT HE IS TRYING TOLEAD.I will never forget a friend of mine, who had a busy itinerant ministry all across the UnitedStates in the mid-90’s, recommending a book to me. He had managed to gain an entranceto preach in some of the more prominent leaders churches’ during that period of time. Inone place, he was told that if he wanted to replicate what he saw in that church as far asgrowth, numbers, leadership, and direction that he should read a book called Atlas 6 ARTICLE BY THE MINSTERS TO THE MINISTERS TO ENLIGHTENS THE SPIRITUAL LEADERS SO THAT THEY MAY SPIRITUALLY DISCERN THINGS TO LEAD THE FLOCKS ENTRUSTED….
THE DARK SIDE OF SPIRITUAL ABUSEShrugged. When he called me late one night and recommended that book to me, I hadnever heard of it. But all of us young guys wanted “success” and so over the next fewdays (this was before the internet and all the gadgets we have now) I scoured variousbookstores and finally found a copy at the library. The book was written by Ayn Rand whoI soon discovered was a proponent of the survival of the fittest mentality with theconcept of crushing any opposition that attempted to oppose the progress that was beingpromoted. IT WAS SHOCKING TO ME TO DISCOVER THAT THIS HUMANISTIC AND SECULARKIND OF FODDER WAS BEING USED TO BUILD A SPIRITUAL KINGDOM.Lastly, I remember another time that a pastor who was a bit older than I was told me thatif I would follow the principles by Watchman Nee in Spiritual Authority that I would builda “big” church. I soon determined I wasn’t so much interested in building a “big” churchas I was a godly, faithful, and righteous church and to do that I would have to pray andteach/preach the Bible and by being a sower, God would let the growth take care ofitself. TOP THE DARK SIDE OF SPIRITUAL ABUSE - PART 3This is the third installment in a series on spiritual abuse. The whole idea of spiritualabuse is a very troubling at best. The church was intended to be a place of redemptiverecovery facilitated by the grace of God. When manipulative control moves to theforefront it can have a very harmful effect on the people who gather to worship. It alsohas to be established that spiritual abuse can take place in a reverse order. It canoriginate from the congregation in the form of a board of elders or a single influentialmember who controls the pastor through financial means or sometimes throughpsychological and physical intimidation. Increasingly one will find the reverse order inchurches that once had to deal with a pastor who was spiritually abusive.Spiritual abuse is defined as “the mistreatment of a person who is in need of help,support, or greater spiritual empowerment, with the result of weakening, undermining ordecreasing that person’s spiritual empowerment.” It can be defined another way as“destructive and dangerous involvement in a religion that allows the religion, not arelationship with God, to control a person’s life. He also goes on to say, “People brokenby various experiences, people from dysfunctional families, people with unrealistic 7 ARTICLE BY THE MINSTERS TO THE MINISTERS TO ENLIGHTENS THE SPIRITUAL LEADERS SO THAT THEY MAY SPIRITUALLY DISCERN THINGS TO LEAD THE FLOCKS ENTRUSTED….
THE DARK SIDE OF SPIRITUAL ABUSEexpectations, and people out for their own gain or comfort seem especially prone to it.”SPIRITUAL LEADERS WHO RESORT TO THIS KIND OF ACTIVITY MAY OR MAY NOTIMMEDIATELY RECOGNIZE THE CONTROL THEY ARE EXERTING. The trend usually isn’timmediately recognized but as time passes the cycle of behavior manifests in a mannerthat has a horrific effect on people’s lives. Even worse is the leader who acclimateshimself to a state of denial of his own personal responsibility. To compensate for theincreasingly unsettled environment, he may begin to assign all of the spiritual shipwrecksof the past as those who were “wolves” or “rebellious.”As I filtered through all of the material concerning spiritual abuse, I jotted down a seriesof questions concerning not just the church but the leader too. They were based more ona rhetorical nature that did not so much require an answer but rather an evaluation ofthe spiritual health of the place where this activity is taking place.• What does spiritual abuse do to those who worship there? How does it affect their sense of worship and understanding of God?• Can God have freedom to transform and can grace really do an adequate work in this atmosphere where fear, intimidation, and manipulation prevail?• Can true spiritual growth and discipleship take place in this setting?• What do the actions of the pastor have on his soul in the long term? This was a very troubling question to me personally. What dark things begin to take place in the soul of the pastor who exerts force in such a way that he is never challenged and held to a standard of accountability himself?????• Are his actions motivated by pride of place or position?• Has he moved from being an under-shepherd to a lord over God’s heritage? Such spiritual abuse literally takes the place of God in the working of the church.• Is there a sense of the grace of God reflected in any of the public ministry of the Word?• Is there an attempt to place heavy weights on the people he is called to shepherd? 8 ARTICLE BY THE MINSTERS TO THE MINISTERS TO ENLIGHTENS THE SPIRITUAL LEADERS SO THAT THEY MAY SPIRITUALLY DISCERN THINGS TO LEAD THE FLOCKS ENTRUSTED….
THE DARK SIDE OF SPIRITUAL ABUSE• Does he empower people to live in a venue of spiritual growth in a public setting as well as within the private confines of the heart?• Are implications given that the church one serves in is the only church that has the ability to prepare people for eternity?• Is there an attitude by the spiritual leader that seems to promote a sense of spiritual elitism and aloofness around the members of the church?• Is he placed on a pedestal on a spiritual plane and material plane above them?• What is his standard of living compared to those he pastors?• Is there a feeling of subtle paranoia expressed by the people of being afraid to associate with other churches that may not be entirely similar in principles but hold the same level of doctrinal commitment to the apostolic message?A pastor who resorts to spiritual abuse will use shame and manipulation to wield hissense of authority. He will take emotional and traumatic failures and use them in amanner to spiritually blackmail and discredit them. Shame is a very powerful tool to usewhen it comes to having absolute control over the people. Johnson and Vonderen in theirbook The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse identifies seven distinct characteristics ofshame based relationships that pastors will resort to using. Shaming takes place in thecourse of general church life. It is used such a way to imply that this person may be soweak and defective that they are nothing in comparison to other church members.Through this kind of action the shamed person may feel unloved, unaccepted, an inabilityto fit in, of no real value, and isolated and alone.THE ABUSER WILL BEGIN TO QUITE VERBALLY AND PUBLICLY SHAME PEOPLE. He will usename-calling, belittling put-downs and comparisons to others. A focus on performancethat implies how a person behaves is more important than real spiritual change thattakes place at the level of the heart.ANOTHER TECHNIQUE THAT IS USED WILL MANIPULATE PEOPLE INTO VARIOUS CIRCLES OFINFLUENCE THAT HELPS HIM TO CONTROL THE WHOLE GROUP. It works with a series of 9 ARTICLE BY THE MINSTERS TO THE MINISTERS TO ENLIGHTENS THE SPIRITUAL LEADERS SO THAT THEY MAY SPIRITUALLY DISCERN THINGS TO LEAD THE FLOCKS ENTRUSTED….
THE DARK SIDE OF SPIRITUAL ABUSEunspoken rules that people are afraid to over-step because of their fear of the fallout.There is almost as if they think that some measure of punishment that may come to themand will either hurt them or embarrass them. There may be times that he will even resortto work within a family so that the majority of a family stands with the abuser against asingle victim. Now the person who is experiencing the brunt of the abuse has no one toturn to because the pastor and his own family is opposed to him.THE ABUSER IS MASTERFUL AT USING A “GRAPEVINE” NETWORK INSTEAD OF MEETING THEMFACE-TO-FACE TO WORK TOWARD A SOLUTION TO THE PROBLEM. When there is a face-to-face meeting the abuser pours on humiliation and contempt in such a way that theperson has no way to respond positively to the correction. It can be very wilting bothspiritually and psychologically to the person who experiences this kind of treatment.THE FOURTH CHARACTERISTIC OF SHAME-BASED RELATIONSHIPS WORKS WITH A SYSTEM OFIDOLATRY THAT MAKES GOD NOTHING MORE THAN AN IMPOSSIBLE TO PLEASE JUDGE WHOIS CONSTANTLY SEEKING TO DESTROY. Instead of changing God into a graven image, He ischanged into a nit-picking, harsh, and very narrow being who is so concerned withperformance at the expense of grace that no person can live up to. The necessaryobservation to be entertained is this changing of the nature of God breaks the firstcommandment and encroaches on the change in the nature of God. This is the greatmistake that the reprobate man was guilty of in Romans 1. There was the nature of beingchanged into something that He was not. Spiritual abusers are guilty of this action!ANOTHER CHARACTERISTIC IS A PREOCCUPATION WITH FAULT AND BLAME. The force behindthis gives the abuser power because any confession that is given will be an opportunityfor him to know who to shame and hold them hostage to their actions. Buried reality is aprinciple that gives the implication that any thought, opinion, or feeling that is opposedto the one who is in authority must be denied. This dilemma creates angst in the mind ofthe followers because should they see some principle in operation in their churchenvironment that they do not agree with; instead of dealing with it in a healthy andspiritual way, they are forced to suppress their own thoughts that oppose that of theleader.Because of this people are unable to work through the challenges of life that life presentto them for the fear of having to endure the shame that will be poured out on them if 10 ARTICLE BY THE MINSTERS TO THE MINISTERS TO ENLIGHTENS THE SPIRITUAL LEADERS SO THAT THEY MAY SPIRITUALLY DISCERN THINGS TO LEAD THE FLOCKS ENTRUSTED….
THE DARK SIDE OF SPIRITUAL ABUSEthey are not in lockstep with the rest of the group. This is the most dangerous of all of theactions of shame-based relationships because it operates in such a way to induce mentalpressures that may lead to a complete collapse of their psychological system. The peoplewho are often under the duress of this kind of dynamic will experience stress-relatedillnesses. Sometimes it can lead to a total mental shutdown requiring psychiatric care.There are various types of medical conditions that health care professionals immediatelyrecognize to be related to the mental hygiene or lack thereof in the presentation of thepatients. The mind is a very powerful device that has much impact on the naturalfunction of the human body. Some spiritual abusers may or may not be aware of this butusually in the cases where the victim finally does breakdown, it is looked upon almostgleefully as an act of God that “took care” of the problem so to speak. What does it sayabout the abuser who feels this way???THE LAST CHARACTERISTIC OF SHAME-BASED RELATIONSHIPS HAS TO DO WITH THERELATIONSHIPS WITHIN THE GROUP. There appears a great disparity that is demonstratedby a strong over-involvement or a complete lack of involvement. This kind of relationshipwith the group causes people to manifest various traits such as a fear of being deserted,lack of self-discipline, rebelling against the structure, a high need of structure, a sensethat if there is a problem the solution comes only through self-reliance, putting upboundaries that keep safe people away, and strong feelings of guilt even when nothinghas been violated. As you can see, the enemy of the soul loves to take advantage of thesekinds of situations so he can create strongholds in their minds that warps them for futureservice (2 Cor. 10:1-5).In the environment where spiritual abuse predominates there are frequent references inthe public setting of preaching and in the private times of counseling that commonlybrings up subjects like rebellion, accusations of causing dissension, and other methods ofemotional intimidation. He will emphasize his own personal “anointing” and calling in anexclusive manner which serves in a way that dictates more than it serves. Frequently hewill state that you cannot touch God’s anointed. He will call to mind biblical references ofKorah, Dathan, Abiram, Absalom, and even Judas as a measure of control that heaps onguilt and further empowers the leader. He can also even resort to bringing in outsideministers who serve as nothing more than “hired guns” to eviscerate emotionally,spiritually and psychologically a congregation with a so-called sermon. Usually there issome aura about the merchants of Balaam and they are cast in the role of a prophet thatis not to be crossed. However my strong contention to this kind of manipulation is that 11 ARTICLE BY THE MINSTERS TO THE MINISTERS TO ENLIGHTENS THE SPIRITUAL LEADERS SO THAT THEY MAY SPIRITUALLY DISCERN THINGS TO LEAD THE FLOCKS ENTRUSTED….
THE DARK SIDE OF SPIRITUAL ABUSEthe visiting “prophet” has done nothing more than to merchandize his own calling to alesser standard motivated by what Peter called “filthy lucre.”THIS EMPHASIS ON AUTHORITY WILL BE SO MUCH TO THE EFFECT THAT THE PERSONENDURING THIS MALICIOUS BEHAVIOR OF THE ABUSER WILL SOON DISCOVER A CREEPINGDEPRESSION OR A SPIRITUAL NUMBNESS OVERCOMING THEIR MIND. The cycle darkenswhen the accused begins to manufacture feelings that if they were “spiritual” enoughthen they would not be in the place where they are now. They have a real concern thatthey are indeed living in open rebellion to the authority of God. Over the course of time,spiritual abuse will damages spiritual development and leads to damaged souls who haveno real ability to respond properly to God and the church. In fact, I have witnessed withmy own eyes what I call spiritual pygmies who have never overcome the abuse that aspiritually abusive leader heaped on them decades ago.Spiritually abusive leaders constantly drive home the fact that members are never doingenough. It can be a very simple laundry list of good and disciplined practices that enhanceour relationship with God but the demands of performance have such power over theperson until it wilts them down. The demands can be: not praying enough, not givingenough, not “spiritual” enough, not praising enough. In doing this the abuser gains evenmore control by placing the heavy burden of human performance on the congregationuntil it will never measure up to the spiritual demands that are being made.Spiritual abusers are usually very tuned into the personal lives of those whom they towerover and will use their knowledge of those details to control them. They will takepersonal sickness, sick children, financial maladies, nagging wives and abusive husbands,unruly children, and a myriad of other life situations to say that this is the judgment ofGod because of their lack of submission to authority. There are times that the spiritualabuser will imply that he has come to the information because of direct revelation fromGod. In actuality the information came to him simply because he fills the role of a pastor.His truth twisting that God has revealed this to him only serves to heighten his control ofthe people because they may fear his seeming clairvoyance into their lives. The truth isthat all people have problems and it simply comes with the territory called life. WHILETHE CHURCH IS CONFINED TO THE WORLD THERE ALWAYS WILL BE CONSTANT STRUGGLESWITH THE WORLD, THE FLESH, AND THE DEVIL. To place a heavier burden on people forthese kinds of calamities of life is unconscionable, deceptive, and malicious. 12 ARTICLE BY THE MINSTERS TO THE MINISTERS TO ENLIGHTENS THE SPIRITUAL LEADERS SO THAT THEY MAY SPIRITUALLY DISCERN THINGS TO LEAD THE FLOCKS ENTRUSTED….
THE DARK SIDE OF SPIRITUAL ABUSE TOP THE DARK SIDE OF SPIRITUAL ABUSE - PART 4Leadership seems to be the buzzword of our times. Bookstores now have multiple rowsupon rows of books concerning this particular subject. Some of the content is very goodand can help a person to hone their management skills and work toward becoming self-disciplined in a manner that will prove good for the organization that they are serving. Ipersonally have benefited from some of the secular leadership books that I have readover the years. Despite all of these necessary and good resources only a small, in fact,microscopic amount of these books address spiritual issues in the life of the leader.There aren’t any spiritual leadership concepts given in the books that Jim Collins haswritten. Patrick Lencioni does not address the spiritual side of a man who wants to build aFortune 500 company. Peter Drucker’s works have almost elevated him posthumously toan exalted messiah among the leadership gurus of the last century. If we are not careful,there can be a tendency to think that we can build a church the same way that Steve Jobsmade Apple successful. ONCE A SPIRITUAL LEADER BUYS INTO THAT PARTICULAR IDEA THATHE CAN BUILD A SPIRITUAL CHURCH WITH THE SAME TECHNIQUES THAT A PROFIT-DRIVENCOMPANY IS BUILT, HE DECEIVES HIMSELF AND HE WILL CREATE SPIRITUAL MAYHEM WITHTHE SHEEP HE IS MEANT TO FEED.Spiritually abusive leaders are often very ambitious and driven toward success. It isimportant to understand the motives that drive men in spiritual leadership because ourmotives say much about our true intentions. Gary McIntosh in his book, Overcoming theDark Side of Leadership, identifies five types of leadership styles that lead towardtendencies to be spiritually abusive. The compulsive leader is characterized by beingstatus conscious, looking for reassurance and approval from those in authority. He willhave a tendency to try to control activities and keep order at all times doing this by beingan extreme workaholic. They can be excessively moralistic, conscientious, andjudgmental. He may have an angry and rebellious attitude but will repress his truefeelings and hold in the anger and resentment. When these dark emotions turn on thechurch, the atmosphere immediately turns into one of control and extremeauthoritarianism. 13 ARTICLE BY THE MINSTERS TO THE MINISTERS TO ENLIGHTENS THE SPIRITUAL LEADERS SO THAT THEY MAY SPIRITUALLY DISCERN THINGS TO LEAD THE FLOCKS ENTRUSTED….
THE DARK SIDE OF SPIRITUAL ABUSEThere are certain traits that usually show up in the preaching style of a compulsiveleader. He will frequently be a gifted and charismatic speaker but has the tendency tominimize any impact of the Scriptures unless they are going to serve his own agenda. Hewill also be the hero of all of his stories and listeners will be “amazed” at his feats inpersonal outreach/evangelism, prayer schedule, and devotion to the Scriptures. He mayeven say something like this; “I am God’s appointed authority in your life. If you opposeme you’re opposing God.” He will almost have the capacity to turn himself into a rock starfor a lack of a better description. He leads people to follow him instead of the Lord.The NARCISSISTIC leader is driven to succeed by a need for admiration and acclaim. Oftenhe will demonstrate an inflated sense of self-importance as well as great ambitions andgrandiose fantasies. These leaders are generally very self-absorbed but will have a senseof uncertainty because of deep feelings of inferiority. Frequently they are unable to enjoyany success that comes into their life. He will have an outward presentation ofdiscontentment and dissatisfaction with life. As his feelings of discontentment surface, hewill seek to have more control in the operation of daily spiritual life. Additionally thisleader will become embroiled in the financial decisions, career choices, and various day-to-day functions of life. The interesting thing is that some people allow this up-closeintrusion in their lives and seem to think nothing of it.The PARANOID leader is suspicious, hostile, fearful, and jealous. He is constantly afraidthat someone will undermine his position and are hypersensitive to the actions of others.He will attach subjective meaning to the motives of those around him and will create rigidstructures for control. He also demonstrates strong feelings of insecurity and a lack ofconfidence. This leader is the most dangerous of all because he will work to manipulatethe entire body of believers into docile, intimidated followers who are afraid of him.Anyone who opposes his methods of madness will be horribly ostracized and publiclyhumiliated.A couple of the methods that this kind of leader will use can be incredibly intimidating.He will use outside “ministries” that appear to operate in the gifts of the Spirit. Afterspending time with the pastor who informs the “prophet” of the shortcomings andfailings of the people, this “prophet” will call people out and confront or shame them infront of the entire congregation. They will be accused of stirring dissension, creating amutiny, or of hosting demonic spirits of rebellion. The other method is a little less directand more private. It usually involves a time of “counseling” in which the Lord has 14 ARTICLE BY THE MINSTERS TO THE MINISTERS TO ENLIGHTENS THE SPIRITUAL LEADERS SO THAT THEY MAY SPIRITUALLY DISCERN THINGS TO LEAD THE FLOCKS ENTRUSTED….
THE DARK SIDE OF SPIRITUAL ABUSEsupposedly revealed some form of dark hidden character flaw to the pastor and he usesthis as a way to control the people he is leading.The CO-DEPENDENT leader is marked by being a peacemaker who covers up problemsrather than facing them. The reason he covers up the problems is to maintain the balanceof the group. He can be very benevolent with a high tolerance for deviant behavior andwilling to take on more work so he does not have to ask anyone for assistance. He wouldrather react than act decisively. Often they are a repressed, frustrated person who hastrouble giving full, honest expression to emotions or problems. Often one may scratchthe surface of communities like this and there will be a discovery of dark, deviant sinsthat have been covered over for years. The reason that sin is covered is because theleader is more concerned with appearances than true spiritual substance and spiritualgrowth. If the sin is uncovered or if there have to be instances of church discipline thiscan destroy the perception the abusive spiritual leader has worked to build.THE PASSIVE-AGGRESSIVE LEADER HAS TRAITS SUCH AS BEING EXTREMELY STUBBORN,FORGETFUL, AND INTENTIONALLY INEFFICIENT. There is a tendency to complain, resistdemands, procrastinate, and drag out assignments as a means of controlling theenvironment and those around them. Periodically they may exert control by the use ofshort outbursts of sadness or anger. These leaders are generally filled with anger,bitterness, and a fear of success since it will lead to higher expectations.In an atmosphere where a passive-aggressive leader rules you will rarely see young mencoming to develop a calling into the ministry. The most prominent reason for this isbecause the leader does not want anyone to outpace him. Passive-aggressive leadershave a strong affinity toward a messiah complex in which they believe all ideas mustcome from them or through them. In fact what you will discover is that the people whodo dare to oppose him operate on the premise that they will advance their cause first andget forgiveness later. They understand that they will not get permission if they ask, sothey engage their plan or project and wait for the fallout to develop. Passive-aggressiveleaders rarely want to sit down and deal with problems face-to-face and if they are forcedinto this kind of meeting, it immediately becomes heavy-handed and often the leaderresorts to angry rants. The leader will work everything to play to his advantage so that hecan humiliate the person who has dared to oppose him.WHEN ALL OF THESE PROCESSES ARE SET INTO MOTION, A VERY DARK ENVIRONMENT 15 ARTICLE BY THE MINSTERS TO THE MINISTERS TO ENLIGHTENS THE SPIRITUAL LEADERS SO THAT THEY MAY SPIRITUALLY DISCERN THINGS TO LEAD THE FLOCKS ENTRUSTED….
THE DARK SIDE OF SPIRITUAL ABUSECOMES TO LIFE. There will be a revolving door of members who come and go. Everyhonest-hearted pastor must admit that he has lost some people for various reasons overhis years of pastoral ministry. Truthfully some fault rests on both sides of the pulpit. Onthe other hand, if you are a pastor, take a look at the people you are leading and askyourself if you can see all stages of various Christian growth in the congregation. In fact, Ipersonally believe that you ought to have a range of the most mature to the mostimmature of Christians who show up every week. That can usually be a good sign ofspiritual health in a church. If the congregation is all new folks or all “old” folks then itvery well could be an opportunity to address some of your own spiritual issues.I appreciate you reading about this very sensitive subject. I realize the volatility of it andknow that there will be detractors on both sides of the fence who say there is not enoughauthority expressed by spiritual leaders and others who will say that there is too muchauthority taken. I will use a couple more messages to tell you what spiritual abuse is notand also some resources that will help a pastor to see the ultimate priority of his callingshould be about. TOP THE DARK SIDE OF SPIRITUAL ABUSE - PART 5What I increasingly discovered was in these dark spiritually abusive environments, itserves as excellent and fertile conditions for hypocrisy to prevail. AS YOU DIG DEEPERINTO THESE ENVIRONMENTS YOU SOON DISCOVER DARK, DEVIANT SINS AND MORALCORRUPTION SIMMERING BENEATH THE SURFACE. I believe that the huge level ofrepression that takes place in these “churches” does nothing except bring out the worstsins of the flesh. Although when someone finally does decide to speak up concerning thematter of these dark sins, the leader usually resorts to efforts of damage control so thatthe leadership and the church do not have a soiling of “reputation.” Man hasn’t reallylearned any new tricks about covering sin; he still resorts to insufficient fig leaves just asAdam and Eve did at the beginning of the state of man.What I also found to be very surprising is that most of the time the wife of the leader willalso work toward damage control. She will do everything within her power to live up tothe social pressures of maintaining some semblance of normalcy in the variousrelationships she has within the church. She apparently has come to understand that the 16 ARTICLE BY THE MINSTERS TO THE MINISTERS TO ENLIGHTENS THE SPIRITUAL LEADERS SO THAT THEY MAY SPIRITUALLY DISCERN THINGS TO LEAD THE FLOCKS ENTRUSTED….
THE DARK SIDE OF SPIRITUAL ABUSEdark side of her mate can shift on her as much as it does with those people he is takingadvantage of. So instead of dealing with the moral and spiritual failure that is presentthings are left to follow the course of gravity. Gravity leads the person to maintain anenvironment of manipulation and absolute mind control on those people he is supposedto serve.While I have written about the traits and characteristics of those who are involved in aspiritually abusive environment, I have not been specific with practices of spiritual abuse.I will list some of the practices while leaving some of the most extreme situations out assome would probably be absolutely shocked to know this kind of thing takes place underthe guise of religion. So here are some actual practices of spiritual abuse:• A member having to submit financial records to the church leader and the leader determines how and when they are to spend their money.• A member having to sell various things on a constant basis to feed the coffers of the church so that it entirely benefits the leader.• A wide disparity between the lifestyle of the leader and the members. He lives like a king while the members appear to live at a level of poverty or barely just able to get by.• The leader using a “word of knowledge” or “word of wisdom” to pick a spouse for those who are in the congregation.• Members being absolutely forbidden to question the direction the leader takes or question the decisions he is making.• Members being forced to totally forsake their extended family who do not attend the “church.”• Members being told that if they leave the church for any reason that “the hand of God will be against you.”• The leader gives the implication that his “church” is the only place that people may be saved with the hope of going to Heaven.• A “pastor” who has a tendency to want to befriend the congregants on a social level but when he gets in the pulpit he uses that avenue to browbeat, condemn, criticize, and name-call those who hear him.• A “pastor” who may call out several people or a single individual and call them to the front of the church for a public humiliation in front of everyone.• A “pastor” who catches people in extremely vulnerable positions and when they need grace most, he turns up the control to humiliate them and ultimately control 17 ARTICLE BY THE MINSTERS TO THE MINISTERS TO ENLIGHTENS THE SPIRITUAL LEADERS SO THAT THEY MAY SPIRITUALLY DISCERN THINGS TO LEAD THE FLOCKS ENTRUSTED….
THE DARK SIDE OF SPIRITUAL ABUSE them.There are some other unnamed situations that involve deeply personal matters thatspiritual abusers will attempt to get involved in as a matter of control. If you go to a placethat has these kinds of traits, it would probably be a good idea for you to carefully seekGod, read your Bible, and find someone to confide in who can help you. I have also cometo understand from people who have been in terribly spiritually abusive situations thatGod would speak to them through very vivid dreams. While I am not one to necessarilyover-play those situations, I do know that there are times when God does indeed speakto us very clearly and directly through dreams. I encourage you that if this is taking place,do not ignore it! Seek out spiritual advice from a trusted source and you may even needto give yourself to some extended times of prayer and fasting so God can become evenclearer to you. I would also add that if what you are experiencing from this “leader”anything that is outside the realm of Scripture, that man is wrong! He may violate youwith intimidation and control but if he chooses to go against Scripture, he is wrong! Hehas no liberty whatsoever to go against the principles of Scripture!ON THE OTHER HAND, IF YOU GO TO A CHURCH THAT HAS AN INCREDIBLY WARM, SPIRITUALENVIRONMENT WHERE GOD IS EXALTED AND HIS WORD IS PREACHED, SOMETIME TODAYYOU OWE IT TO GOD TO BREATHE OUT SOME GRATITUDE.When I addressed the forum in Albany, I prefaced my remarks by saying that there aresome could literally have a field day with this subject. There are some who areunconverted, resistant to the Gospel, and are presently lost but have been deceived intheir minds and truly believe they are part of the church who scoff at and malign everychurch that has any spiritual requirements and label them as spiritually abusive. So forthose who may have come to this blog looking for a loophole, I am going to close itbefore you make it down that path. Because there are some things that are NOT spiritualabuse but as the church has increasingly come under the assault of culture and the devil,some very godly, separated, and righteous churches may look like they are spirituallyabusive. But because they have a high level of respect for doctrine, holiness, and themission of the church, our world has changed so much that much of what is passed off asChristianity has become so watered down it is powerless to save. So let me address inconclusion what spiritual abuse is not. Spiritual abuse is not preaching a steady diet of the Word that is cross-cultural and 18 ARTICLE BY THE MINSTERS TO THE MINISTERS TO ENLIGHTENS THE SPIRITUAL LEADERS SO THAT THEY MAY SPIRITUALLY DISCERN THINGS TO LEAD THE FLOCKS ENTRUSTED….
THE DARK SIDE OF SPIRITUAL ABUSE opposes the modern humanistic mindset of most of the world. In fact it is spiritual abuse when a pastor does not have the intestinal fortitude to do so. Spiritual abuse is not when a pastor gets involved and helps financially challenged people set up a budget in an effort to help them gain control of their money. (By the way, people don’t have money problems, they have behavior problems! Thanks to Dave Ramsey for that quote.) Spiritual abuse is not when a pastor determines that there are biblical standards of modesty that are to be honored no matter what our culture says and does. I believe it is spiritual abuse when a pastor does not set a biblical level of expectation on the church he is called to serve. Spiritual abuse is not when a pastor calls for a church to support the work of God with a tenth of their income that serves as a tithe and also encourages giving beyond that to accomplish the work of national and global missions. It is spiritual abuse when we allow the materialism of the age to grip a church until its spiritual life is choked out while chasing “stuff.”OBVIOUSLY THIS LIST IS NOT ALL-INCLUSIVE HOWEVER IT IS ENOUGH FOR YOU TOUNDERSTAND THAT THERE ARE SOME VERY GOOD GODLY MEN WHO ARE DOING THEIR BESTTO MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN THEIR CHURCHES. PRAY FOR THEM! TOP 19 ARTICLE BY THE MINSTERS TO THE MINISTERS TO ENLIGHTENS THE SPIRITUAL LEADERS SO THAT THEY MAY SPIRITUALLY DISCERN THINGS TO LEAD THE FLOCKS ENTRUSTED….