Dictators, Spiritual Abuse, Spiritual Bullies

Pastors Who Behave Like They Are Your Boss

By David Hayward of NakedPastor.com

So many of us who have gone through spiritual abuse came from a church where a pastor or church leader acted like a bully in our spiritual or personal lives.  Pastor Wade Burleson recently posted an article and it is so contrary to what I have experienced in churches.  Here is a portion of the article, but please be sure to read the whole article, Who’s the Boss at Your Church?.  It is so good!

It is completely contrary to Scripture to believe that some men have been given more moral and spiritual authority than other believers within the church. In the ekklesia of Jesus Christ, any person, male or female, recognized as being in Christ carries as much moral and spiritual authority as any other person–no more, no less–the same. The state may recognize trustees with greater legal authority, or pastors with greater state authority (the officiant in marriages, etc…) or signatures bearing corporate authority (deeds, title, etc…), but God established in his ekklesia a group of people with equal spiritual authority. Pay attention to those who are older and wiser in the ekklesia of Christ. Minister to those around you with a servant’s heart and attitude. But if you ever begin to feel that somebody is beginning to exert spiritual authority and power over you and other individuals in an attempt to govern Christ’s church, then it is time to confront the abuser of the ekklesia and call him out, and maybe even put him out.  My friend wrote a bestselling book called The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse, but maybe another one needs to be written entitled The Subtle Problem of Not Confronting Spiritual Abuse. A healthy ekklesia won’t allow an abuse of power. It’s not easy confronting abusers, but for the good of the ekklesia it must be done.

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;” (1 Peter 2:9).

Have you ever been a part of a church that treated each others as having the same moral and spiritual authority?  Is this radical or what?  And what about the role of women?  Can you imagine the ministry work that could be accomplished in an environment like this where all are respected for their gifts to the Body, regardless of age or sex?  I think I need some more time to stew about this.

I know there are many who read here who haven’t been able to stomach church since their spiritually abusive church experience.  If you found a church like this, would you go?


I do have one question  – – how does a church like this deal with church discipline?  What if there is a case of domestic violence in the church?  Does a church need a hierarchical structure for church discipline?  How would this work?


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Free book on spiritual abuse on Kindle at Amazon for limited time:


Breaking the Chains: Overcoming the Spiritual Abuse of a False Gospel

Description from Amazon:  Shari Howerton was born and raised in Southern California. Her worldview was formed inside a tightly knit religious community, by the one pastor she had known from birth. In 1993, she and hundreds of others sold their homes in California and followed their pastor to Tennessee. In 2003, Shari left the church and soon thereafter found hope in a new life with her husband, John, and church family at World Outreach Church in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. In Breaking the Chains, Shari chronicles her life and the lives of others who were subject to control and abuse. She illustrates the profound challenges of leaving close friends and breaking free from a lifetime of harmful conditioning to find joy, hope and freedom in the cross of Jesus Christ.

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14 thoughts on “Pastors Who Behave Like They Are Your Boss”

  1. Hi Julie Anne! I like what you’re doing with the new blog site. Thanks for continuing to make people think, questioning “questionable” behavior by those who are recognized as leaders, and continuing to act as a prophetic voice in the modern church. I’m going to keep following you =)


  2. Hey Steve, good to “see” you! I think I owe you an e-mail. Steve, you do such good work on your blog on spiritual abuse. It is so needed. There are so many hurting people.


  3. I gave control of some financial things over to a couple pastors based on the fact that they were going to ‘take care of me’ as a widow in the church. As things continually deteriorated over a 15 month period, I was TOLD they were taking care of things and for me to not worry. WRONG!!! I should have been worried. When I finally started speaking up, that is when there was a problem. I’m sure if it had been there money involved, things would have been a different story.

    That is why I have a passion now to keep others from going thru what I did. I’m okay now… I’m good… but no one should have to experience what I did.


  4. Ang – Your story makes me so angry – – – to take advantage of a widow who puts her trust in church leaders – – – :::::sigh::::: UGH!!!! Keep speaking up, Ang. Keep telling your story.


  5. First, thank you for the link to the free ebook. I look forward to reading it. Second, I might not be ready, yet, to join a church like what Pasor Wade describes, but I’d be tempted to visit. If his church wasn’t so far away . . .


  6. Long ago, I was a member of a church like that. In fact, the pastor refused to express his opinion in the monthly business meetings, but in a gentle way, e.g., “well, I think everything that needs to be said has been said.” And the deacons did not do church business but were ministering to the congregation with the responsibility for ten residence units (families or singles) to have contact with every month, such as lunch together, a home visit, or at least a phone call. Also hospital visits.

    Discipline was handled by the deacon, quietly, usually with another deacon. If necessary, an additional deacon or two would be added. The goal was always to correct a situation where there was disruption because of the issue, not to punish or exclude someone.


  7. In the reference below, Paul is making it clear that we are not to follow a man that Baptized us, but we are to follow the ONE whose name we are baptized in. This puts everyone on the same level playing field. In the cartoon on the top of this page, those on top must come down to the same level as everyone else. Paul did not think of himself as above anyone. He was always humble that he was a sinner, just like everyone else is.

    Many, lately, that I have seen are saying, “I am of Piper”, or “I am of MacArthur”. Who? Who are they? Were they crucified for you?

    1 Corinthians 1:11-17
    11 For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you.

    12 Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.

    13 Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?

    14 I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius;

    15 Lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name.

    16 And I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other.

    17 For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.


  8. This article really concerns me. With all due respect, it seems VERY off. The pastoral epistles give specific qualification for who can be a pastor, and we are told to give them double honor. We are also told to respect various roles – which are elaborated on (e.g. in Ephesians 5 between worker/employee; parent/child; spouses). To throw that all out the window, and call what God Himself has instituted “abuse” makes us God rather than Him.


  9. Steve,
    Go read what Jesus said in the Gospels, where he told those who would follow him not to be called leaders but to be servants and not to lord it over over Christians. And the “household codes” in the Bible need to be considered in contrast to the other “household codes” that were extant at the time. It was really how to fit in in a very hierarchical and patriarchal society that was looking for reasons to feed Christians to the lions or use them as torches.


  10. Steve you are right there are SPECIFIC QUALIFICATIONS for an elder and deacon and so far none of these abuser pastors fit these qualifications. In no way is Julie Anne say that we should not respect our pastors or elders, but the elder or pastor should display a servants heart and a humble heart. The Bible also says that those who teach are more responsible to God then those who don’t. The Word also States that we are to watch out for false teachers and abusers AND call them out.
    The Bereans did not accept Paul as their teacher until they were sure of his teaching and Paul commended them for it. We are to constantly be aware of abuse and false teaching and what I am seeing in the church today is an overreach of power by too many pastors and elders. So this leaves anyone suspicious of giving over their spiritual (and physical and emotional wellbeings as well) to a pastor. There is more abuse by the church then congregational rebellion Steve.
    Many of us would love to be in a church and support a pastor who is displaying an unconditional heart of love and service to the flock, but sorry that is very few and far between.
    Before coming on here and judging Julie Annes post I would suggest you read all the stories of abuse from her site and peruse the Internet. You will find countless accounts of false teaching, fraud, money laundering, spiritual, emotional, sexual, and physical abuse that is allowed to run rampant.
    Also, it might be beneficial to read all Scripture in context.


  11. Hey Steve, welcome, and thanks for the comment. I’m trying to figure out what you see as the issue. I don’t have a problem giving “double honor” to someone who is shepherding and guiding me. What exactly is being thrown out the window?


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