Meaning of Spiritual Sounding Board, Spiritual Abuse, Spiritual Bullies

Challenging Pastors Publicly: Good or Bad?

When we go to church and listen to a pastor preach, there may be a “type” of sounding board:

sounding board (also known as a tester) is a structure placed above or behind a pulpit or other speaking platform which helps to project the sound of the speaker. The structure may be specially shaped to assist the projection, for example, being formed as a parabolic reflector. In the typical setting of a church building, the sounding board may be ornately carved or constructed.[1] In this context it is also known as an abat-voix. (Source)

We obviously use microphones today to project the sound of the speaker/pastor. My former pastor has a small church, but uses a microphone to speak his words so they can be heard in the congregation.  He also uses different platforms to speak his words:  blogs, the internet, his church website, Sermon Audio, etc.  His message can be heard by those in his church – maybe with maximum capacity of 200 (guessing), or can be heard on the internet by perhaps millions (if they so desire).

We live in an amazing age of technology.  Last month, a “pastor” of six (yes, 6 people in his congregation), did a Google search on his name and found an old comment left by a reader on my blog (the comment was left some 5 months after the article was originally posted, so most likely very few blog readers even saw it).

This particular pastor looked me up on Twitter and engaged me publicly regarding this specific comment.   He also tagged two more of his Twitter friends into the Twitter conversation perhaps in an effort to side with him and influence me to remove the comment.  My point is not to draw attention to this pastor of six, but to demonstrate that with modern technology, small churches and mega churches can have the same playing field as far as audiences are concerned.

Today, a pastor with a congregation of only six people is able to spread his words across the internet to potentially millions of followers with his spiritual influence.

Modern-day “pastors” can have a congregation of six at home, but potentially millions through the internet.

This pastor of SIX, through the use of modern technology, has been able to schmooze with the celebrity big dog pastors on Twitter, etc, and gain an audience.  Those celebrity big dogs don’t know the rest of his story.   This pastor then questioned my salvation and said I was in grave sin by allowing it to remain public because it was slanderous.  Hmm, where have I heard that before?

The original comment on my blog remains today.  I will not remove it.  My reader, Kevin Oliver,  had a right to post it just as I have the right to call out what I see as destructive church teachings.

Steve Scott (blogger of From the Pew) left a comment on my old blog yesterday and included a link to an article interviewing Pastor John MacArthur of Grace Community Church.  I really respect Pastor MacArthur for saying this in his interview because the words of pastors are so important.  The words of a pastor can affect someone’s life, impacting their families for years (bringing them together or even destroying them if there is false teaching).

One final thought to add is this: I believe that it is appropriate to respond publicly to that which has been taught publicly. If someone has published something in a book or on a blog or preached it in a sermon (which has then been made available online), it is now subject to public critique. I certainly believe this is true with regard to my own teachings. Anything I have preached or published (and therefore made public) is consequently subject to public criticism. And I don’t consider my critics to necessarily be unloving just because they disagree with me. In fact, I welcome their feedback, because it is part of the sharpening process.   Dr. John MacArthur (Source)

If pastors are going to speak publicly, their words are up for public inspection.  If there are teachings and words spoken that could potentially put someone in danger,  or harm them or their family spiritually, sometimes it needs to be exposed.  This is the Spiritual Sounding Board.  We will do that here.

To be clear, this is “our” Spiritual Sounding Board.  Another definition of sounding board refers to gathering information and bouncing  ideas and opinions off one another and discovering new information in a collective group effort.  We sure did that on my former blog.  It was very enlightening.  We learned from each other.   I’m looking forward to doing more of that – – – not always because it’s fun – – – but because it’s necessary – – because of lives being torn apart by spiritual abuse and unhealthy trends in the Church.

Thanks for being part of the Spiritual Sounding Board (SSB).  I’m glad you’re here!

photo credit: dalydose via photopin cc

9 thoughts on “Challenging Pastors Publicly: Good or Bad?”

  1. Julie Anne, good post. I’m glad MacArthur said that. Unfortunately, a lot of pastors have the attitude of the small-church pastor you cite. I believe the Internet is a great gift that levels the playing field. It can be used by a small-audience pastor (or blogger or author) to build a large audience, whether it’s good content or not, but the real value is how it has made institutions, especially churches, more transparent. I don’t think there would be the level of exposure of spiritual abuse, for example, without the Internet. For instance, I’ve followed SGM for years, having used to be an active member. I saw abuse way back in the 80s but it wasn’t under the radar because we didn’t have the Internet to highlight it. Now, almost every case of abuse is catalogued on blogs and comments.

    I’m toying with the idea of organizing some concerted activity to expose abusive churches and warn people about them. We have one in Seattle (Mars Hill) that needs attention. It would be in the spirit of how SoulForce lovingly confronts ministries and Christian colleges about gay-hating rhetoric they publically ask to talk to leaders about their concerns. It’s a win-win because if they aren’t willing to talk (more common, of course), it gets the word out and you can reach members who are willing to listen. Interested in brainstorming about this?


  2. Hi Michael – Thanks for the comment. I’m all about brainstorming about spiritual abuse and how to deal with it. You mentioned specifically gay-hating. Is that a key topic you focus on? My focus is more general in nature, but I don’t appreciate any kind of hating rhetoric. My e-mail is spiritualsb @ I’d love to hear from you.


  3. Hi Julie Anne,
    I was “Sad” on your former blog, but that name was already taken here on WP. Your new home looks awesome! I think you made a great decision in making this move.

    One thing that I always think about in the context of people having an influence on the internet is this: And, this is of course really only applicable in a spiritual influence context. When you just read the words that someone writes online and do not know them in person, you cannot really and truly know their walk. You can’t see the fruit (both bad and good) in their lives. For example, I know my pastor’s wife pretty well and from this I know first hand how he treats her and their children. I know how he treats his in-laws. I know his work ethic. I’ve had him in my home many times, once in fact, to admonish him about something which he accepted with great humility. Because I have seen all this…..I can trust him.

    I think there is real danger in “following” a pastor or teacher without being able to see the real life fruit of his Christian walk.


  4. Julie Anne

    Hmmm? “Challenging Pastors Publicly: Good or Bad?”

    Well, you probably figured…
    Challenging Pastors in public is a favorite pastime… 😉
    Since recognizing, leaving, “The Abusive Religious System” of today.

    Seems, those who desire the “Title/Position” Pastor/Elder/Overseer are now stating publicly – “Yes – I Qualify” – “And my family qualifies” – “And my children qualify” – “And I’m managing my household well” – and should be challenged for all to see. NOT just to protect His sheep, from those who overtly Abuse, Exercise Authority, and lord it over God’s heritage. But for the protection of this Pastor and his family. We are asked to “Admonish one another,” “Warn one another.” Yes?

    In my experience – Pastor/Elder/Overseers have taken a “Title/Position” that is very difficult to qualify for – according to 1 Tim 3:1-6, and Titus 1:5-9. And Pastors, and their families, who do NOT qualify wind up paying a horrible price with, burnout, depression, feelings of failure, unhappy spouses, and unhappy families. “The Abusive Religious System” is a cruel taskmaster.

    If those with the “Title/Position” Pastor/Elder/Overseer
    Do NOT qualify, they can remove themselves from that position,
    care for their families, and be a good example to the flock.

    And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold:
    them also I must bring, and they shall “hear My voice; “
    and there shall be “ONE” fold, and “ONE” shepherd.
    John 10:16

    One Fold – One Shepherd – One Voice – One Leader

    {{{{{{ Jesus }}}}}}


  5. Julie Anne

    Yes – This “Title/Position” – Pastor/Elder/Overseer
    is very dangerous – especially for those who do NOT qualify.

    This is info from a sites helping “Hurting Pastors and their families.”

    • 77% say they do “NOT” have a good marriage.
    • 70% do NOT have someone they consider a close friend.
    • 70% constantly fight depression
    • 57% said they would leave if they had a better place to go.
    • 50% of pastors’ marriages will end in divorce.
    • 1,500 pastors leave the ministry each month due to moral failure,
    …. spiritual burnout, or contention in their churches.

    80% of pastors’ spouses wish they would choose a different profession.
    80% believe pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families.
    …………..Many pastor’s children do not attend church now
    ……………because of what the church has done to their parents.
    50% of the ministers starting out will not last 5 years.
    33% say being in the ministry is an outright hazard to their family.

    #1 reason pastors leave the ministry…
    Church people are not willing to go the same direction as the pastor.

    Maybe this is why the qualifications are so difficult.
    To protect the wanna-be pastor/elder/overseer and their family.


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