When Sharing Concerns or Asking Pastors Questions Leads to Spiritual Abuse

*     *     *

Questioning authority or raising concerns can be the litmus test to see if your pastor is spiritually abusive or not.

*     *     *

*     *     *

Oh boy, is this a biggie.  I was really moved when this topic come up because this is such a common one, yet as you can read in Chris’ comment below, the end result can be absolutely devastating:

Hope nobody here minds if I have a quick vent for my own personal benefit.

Woken up with a huge sense of the injustice of it all.

Have given 27 years of my life and my family’s life to this church. Have loved and been loved. Trusted. Followed. Endorsed. Helped. Supported. Facilitated. Led the worship, led services, led music group. Taught (always asking Pastor if what I had brought was ok – after every session), Helped church become a charitable trust, served as chairman of trustees. Inner circle material!

I don’t think there’s a malicious bone in my body – if I have any failings it is my tendency to be overly loyal. (Hence, I suppose, my position as chairman – others on trust board are all fiercely loyal co-dependents) My one fault was raising concerns with the Pastor privately last January.

And now I am not only forced out of the church through systematic manipulation and fear, but my name is spoken against not only by my Pastor but by my closest friends, whom he has poisoned with his manipulative lies. I have no community and am now shunned. I’ve never spoken a word of any difficulties to my friends – and yet they refuse to talk to me.

It’s not fair! It’s not right! It’s not just!

There. Rant over. Quite mild really.
Time to forgive again.

Thanks for listening. I’m ok now ………

*     *     *

Those of us who have been shunned know the heartache and pain.  How can those people, who once were so close, abandon you based on someone else’s lies and manipulation.  How can someone have so much power over others that they cause a whole church to completely shun?  How can someone have so much power that they don’t even check to see if there is any truth to what the pastor is saying?

*     *     *

Why do we share our questions and concerns?  What is our motivation?

Raymond went to his pastor because he saw a potential legal problem with the sewer system at his church (Raymond’s field of expertise).  That questioning eventually cost him his marriage because his wife was employed at the church and believed the pastor over her husband.  We tried ask about the firing of our friend, we asked about the repetitious sermons that were driving me crazy, we discussed that we weren’t hearing/seeing grace, we mentioned that people were shriveling up spiritually.  Why did we do that?  Because we cared about the Body of Christ.   Why did Chris go to his pastor?  Because of concerns, because of care, because of his love for his church family.

*     *     *

All of us who questioned authority or shared concerns seemed to have one common motivator:  love for the Body of Christ.  And yet, what was the end result?  Spiritual Abuse

*     *     *

We became the victims of emotional pain, broken relationships (some that will remain broken forever), some of us experience spiritual crisis, apathy, never go to church again, etc.

*     *     *

But what really happened when we asked those questions or shared the concerns?  What did it say to the pastor?

I think it said any of the following:

  • Who are you to question my God-given authority?
  • God placed me as your spiritual authority.  If you are questioning me, you are questioning God.
  • Don’t touch God’s anointed.
  • Why are you lacking respect for those God has placed in authority over you, one who cares for your soul?
  • You doubt me and my giftedness?

I’m sure we can add more to this list.  But if we look at Scripture, we will find that this pastor has put himself in a position of authority that was never his to begin with.  No pastor has the right to rule over someone else and use a position of authority to control others.

The person who questions authority represents a real threat to the system the pastor has created for himself.  Most likely, Chris represented someone who identified a flaw that his pastor had not seen, identified, or chosen not to deal with.  If that flaw became public, then the image of the pastor of having it all together is also flawed.

So, what do abusive pastors do with that perceived threat?  They remove it.  They squelch it by spiritually abusing, removing someone from ministerial positions, spreading lies about the questioner, and the worse case is probably shunning.  But they must get rid of the threat or their image and reputation will be tarnished.  The pastor will lose some of his perceived authority when people see those flaws.  It’s all about pride, arrogance, self-assumed position of authority.

And now the lingering question to ask is:  where do we go from here?  How do we do this again when we gave so much of ourselves at our former churches?  Our concern was for the church and look where it got us!   Can we risk again?

I think this is where so many of us get stuck.  Now that we know what has happened, how it happened, what next?  How do we use this new information?  How do we make sure this doesn’t happen again?  How can we protect ourselves and our family?  When will all of these negative feelings end?

*     *     *

80 comments on “When Sharing Concerns or Asking Pastors Questions Leads to Spiritual Abuse

  1. Julie Anne,

    I read something on-line last week that said something like this, “Internet – where religion goes to die”. I know many of your readers automatically recoil at this suggestion, but it hit home with me. I have been on a quest these last few years OUT of religion (and I am a member of a very Liberal church; have not have any bad experiences) and was drawn to your site because it highlights one of the things I came to equate with the negative side of religion – abuse that appears to be rampant (although not exclusive to) many ‘fundagelical’ sects.

    When you think of it, it’s got to be threatening for the people (MEN) who are at the helm. They are losing their grip on their congregations as feminists (women who have the same ability to reason, speak, and act), atheists (non-believers who are given this title because of the negative ramifications of the term), and heretics (open-minded individuals who embrace the LGBQ community – gasp!) THINK and then challenge their employee (God’s appointed ambassador). In this power struggle, many intelligent, caring, dedicated people get hurt. A crying shame.

    They read statistics, too – the ones that tell us that people are leaving churches in droves. Especially young people, the ones who – more than any other generation – have access to information at their fingertips from a very early age. They can blame this exodus on all the evils (power of Satan – hiss, hiss) they want (a few outlined above), but the plain truth of the matter is this – MANY people, after researching and reading, just don’t believe anymore. They’ve got to be shaking in their boots.

    The miracle, to me, is that so many of you still DO believe – and I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing.

    I just find it amazing.

    Like

  2. I have no community

    This is the part that kills me. When you are a Christian, especially having grown up where church IS your community, this is the worst. Suddenly, you are in the wind….how do you build a community of friends when before, all your friends were at church? Well, when I write it down, it makes me realize how UNHEALTHY that is. It shouldn’t have been that way! We need multiple places to build healthy relationships. That’s kinda hard as a SAHM. Requires a bit of a paradigm shift in my world.

    The other part of that is how betrayed you feel by all the people sticking with the pastor. It hurts to realize that they were never truly your friends! Just the people who happened to go to the same church. Wish we were truly just followers of Jesus, not followers of a pastor or church.

    JA said, I think this is where so many of us get stuck.

    Absolutley. This is where I am. The questions you list are the questions I ask all the time! Still working on defining what happened, dissecting the why, revealing what unhealthy habits *I* had that allowed this to happen. It’s sad that unfortunately this may mean that I give less of myself to the next community I am a part of…purely out of my own protection. But what can I learn from Jesus about this? DID He protect himself? How did he identify abusers?
    Through all of this, my biggest lesson this month is complete disillusionment and disgust with Christian “celebrity”. Trying not to throw out the baby with the bathwater, as I believe there CAN be good things to learn, even when a book or speaker is popular, but discernment is SO important!

    Like

  3. Carmen, I know not everybody who posts here shares the faith I have. So many are in a messy process of sorting through the rubble. I think that is a direct result of abuses some of us have faced in the churches we gave our hearts/lives to.

    I cannot prove to anyone or convince anyone of God or why I believe what I believe, but God has made Himself known to me in so many ways. Do I struggle with my faith? Yes, at times. I’ve always struggled, but I think a lot of that is me and my trust issues with father figures. But I cling to what I know is true, I recall the vivid points of my life where God was so real to me and there is no other explanation other than “God was here at this very moment for such a time as this.” It’s a know-that-you-know-that-you-know thing. That is the place where I cry out in my despair and where He meets me.

    Like

  4. My experience of spiritual abuse is minor compared to these stories, and to yours, Julie Anne, though I did have to leave a congregation I’d been going to for 22 because I pointed out abuse. I have not found another one yet, but that is partly due to wanting to continue in a Messianic Congregation, and there are not many of them.

    In my case, I saw a healthy congregation become sickly when a new pastor replaced the original one. The same symptoms: Resistance to criticism, “my way or the highway,” lording it over instead of being a servant. He wondered out loud why we didn’t applaud him when he walked up to give his first sermon.

    The people who knew what a real pastor was constantly butted heads with him and his (unqualified) “elders,” and, one by one, left. Those who remained were the easily-controlled-ones. It became spiritually dead there.

    I think anyone who has undergone this is very discerning when it comes to choosing a new place to worship. But, because they have been hurt, they may be prone to look for perfection in a church or leader, which, of course, they won’t find. I suppose that, unless they find things that are clearly abusive, they should give the benefit of the doubt up to a certain point. Trust, but verify, as Reagan said.

    Like

  5. “Internet – where religion goes to die”.

    Stand up and Cheer. Religion is the enemy of Faith, which I hold to be founded on nothing else than being in relationship with Jesus. Only in Jesus do we find the ability to love God, our neighbors and one another.

    Religion promises love, respect and acceptance, but imposes a steep, steep price in terms of expectations of religious performance. While there are true servants with shepherds’ hearts serving as what we call “pastors” (some participate here), it all too often happens that some mere human will succeed in making himself the focus of religious performance. I submit that we have been warned about this very situation:

    “But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ. The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Matthew 23:8-12, ESV)

    Unfortunately, the prevalence of the very things Jesus warns against makes it very difficult to find true Christian fellowship, where Jesus is first, and where no man, woman or child is viewed as being above another. While I respect the fact that others do not share my view, I have no hope for organized, institutionalized, Christianity. I am largely at a loss to suggest what might be a better way, although I find that my Lord is gracious to satisfy my needs to love and be loved, to serve and to be served, to have friends and to be a friend.

    I am reduced to turning to only Jesus.

    Like

  6. “Trust but verify.”

    Yes, yes! I’ve adopted this as something of a motto. Except I don’t quite have Jeff’s optimism and willingness to give the benefit of the doubt, which I perceive him to have based on something he recently posted on another thread. The reality of my life is that I have probably turned Reagan’s words around so that I am more inclined to verify before trusting. Jeff’s approach is no doubt the better way. Or maybe not when it comes to organized, institutionalized church.

    “[B]ut test everything; hold fast what is good.” (1 Thessalonians 5:21, ESV)

    Like

  7. I think in my case, the Pastor knew there were no justifiable reasons to get rid of me. So I would have to leave of my own accord. He increased the pressure week by week until staying became unbearable. Two possible aims in view: 1) recant for my ‘criticism’ 2) leave – with no reputation and no friends.

    My concerns were primarily that he would not submit his increasingly off-the-wall revelations to others, and that he was creating a stifling legalistic environment, in which failure to respond in the required way provoked accusations of rebellion and defamation of the Holy Spirit!

    No one else in the church knew of my concerns or that I had spoken to him in private, but the whole emphasis in the church changed for the ensuing 9 months to paranoid preaching, which both targeted and smeared me. Cleverly preached without mentioning me by name, but planting in everyone’s mind the conclusion that I was the bad guy. Public trial with no council for the defence!

    Here’s an illustration of one aspect of the strategy: http://goo.gl/gj73X4

    (links allowed here?)

    Chris

    Like

  8. Cobbled it together with some clipart off the net. Feel free to use as you like!

    As the last 9 months have gone by I have documented my experiences and written various bits and pieces to help me maintain balance, focus, perspective. This drawing was one I put together to try and crystallize in my mind the strategy my Pastor was using and what my response should be. More if you like ….

    Thanks for sorting the link.

    Like

  9. Point noted about copyright – my thoughts too, really. I might have another go, enlisting my artist wife’s help …..

    Like

  10. Oh, that’s a good idea, Chris.

    If you want to share it, I’d be happy to post it. This spiritual abuse stuff is so emotional. I think that’s why hearing someone’s personal story can be helpful. Others will benefit by visuals where it can finally click for them.

    Like

  11. sfninerfan7 said:

    This is the part that kills me. When you are a Christian, especially having grown up where church IS your community, this is the worst. Suddenly, you are in the wind….how do you build a community of friends when before, all your friends were at church? Well, when I write it down, it makes me realize how UNHEALTHY that is. It shouldn’t have been that way! We need multiple places to build healthy relationships. That’s kinda hard as a SAHM. Requires a bit of a paradigm shift in my world.

    That is a really tough place to be – – especially as a SAHM. When our life revolves around our children and church and our church fails us, then what? I have gotten involved in volunteer work for the last 6 years and I had no clue how isolated I really was. That’s difficult to do when you have little ones, but I wonder if there’s a way you can connect with others? I found out that one of the families on my daughter’s sports team were Christians, yet they didn’t go to church. They met with people in Bible studies, formed groups to do outreach projects, etc, but that family is the first family I’ve ever met who didn’t attend church anymore, yet seemed to be healthy Christians. I had to think about that for a while.

    Like

  12. JA-That is exactly what we have been doing! Connecting with others in other ways. I’ve done it before, but now it is more of our focus. We do WANT to get back to a healthy church, but are taking it very slow trying to find one. We have several outlets associated with the kids that I can and am tapping into.

    Like

  13. You don’t actually need a ‘pastor’ for this abuse to occur. I was a member of an eldership team who ran the church. When one of the team members started bullying others I objected. Guess which one of us was denounced, abused and finally driven out of ‘his’ church!

    And all in the name of God!!!

    The seemingly endless repetition of this story proves how far we really are from the example Christ set. Seriously, can you imagine Jesus bullying someone to comply with his good ideas!? Breaks my heart.

    Like

  14. “No one else in the church knew of my concerns or that I had spoken to him in private, but the whole emphasis in the church changed for the ensuing 9 months to paranoid preaching, which both targeted and smeared me. Cleverly preached without mentioning me by name, but planting in everyone’s mind the conclusion that I was the bad guy. Public trial with no council for the defence!”

    Very similar scenario in my case too. I still cannot get over the audacity of anyone to stand in the pulpit and use it for their own sordid purposes. Whatever happened to meeting with the person and trying to work through problems together? Unfortunately it wasn’t just the lead pastor, other pastors joined in as well as others. It was open season for anyone to make a snide or sarcastic remark who happened to have the microphone (or any other platform), of course never using your name. I often wonder what is going to happen at the judgement seat once they have to come face to face with how many souls they have wounded over the years.

    “Suddenly, you are in the wind….how do you build a community of friends when before, all your friends were at church? Well, when I write it down, it makes me realize how UNHEALTHY that is. It shouldn’t have been that way! We need multiple places to build healthy relationships. ”

    This is one of the things I made a commitment to change. Once I saw how easily people turn on you once things go sour at your church, I realized that I had isolated myself waaaay to much with just this group of people. Most of my other friends attend different churches and live mostly in the suburbs, which made it easier for this to occur. Now I am making more of an effort to get out and meet other people outside of my church.

    “The other part of that is how betrayed you feel by all the people sticking with the pastor. It hurts to realize that they were never truly your friends! Just the people who happened to go to the same church.”

    Yes, this too me by complete surprise as well. I had totally thought that I had built up a lot more solid relationships than what I apparently had. I have come to the same conclusion as well. I have my true friends, and then those folks who are just my “friend” because we attend the same church.

    Like

  15. Oh, that’s great, Chris. Thanks, much. I don’t think it will fit the width of the blog’s margins, but I just tweeted it and will put it on my resource and Pinterest page to pass around. I think a lot of people will definitely connect with it. Did your wife do the drawings? If so, please thank her for me, too!

    Like

  16. Oh, great! You can do it the same size and then WordPress can minimize it appropriately. (I’ll have to change those links when I get back from choir practice. – Thanks!)

    Like

  17. . I had totally thought that I had built up a lot more solid relationships than what I apparently had

    And that can lead to questioning your own ability to build true relationships at all. Whew. What a can of worms! thank God when just come to Him and His Word directly to dig out of this mess!

    The seemingly endless repetition of this story proves how far we really are from the example Christ set. Seriously, can you imagine Jesus bullying someone to comply with his good ideas!? Breaks my heart.

    I can’t agree more. What a mess.

    Like

  18. ThinkingChristian said:

    Unfortunately it wasn’t just the lead pastor, other pastors joined in as well as others. It was open season for anyone to make a snide or sarcastic remark who happened to have the microphone (or any other platform), of course never using your name.”

    Wow – – that’s so hard to believe. And people wonder church numbers are dwindling?

    Like

  19. I couldn’t believe it myself Julie Anne. It was all very passive aggressive and very hurtful behavior. It got to a point where I dreaded going to church. A dark cloud would begin to roll over me by Saturday afternoon, because I never knew what someone would say, or how they would be acting. All of this because the church did not want to address or deal with problems and relational conflicts. They made me the problem instead of dealing with the real issues at hand. How easy would it had been to sit down and work through the issues instead of attacking me. I was definitely open to it, but they pretty much shut it down.

    Like

  20. “They made me the problem instead of dealing with the real issues at hand.”

    This is the reoccurring situation in all the cases of abuse. The victim becomes the problem and the real problem is never addressed. So sad.

    Like

  21. Here’s a allegory I wrote, again to clarify what was happening in my own mind – but also just in case it would help anyone else in the church who had sincere questions but did not understand. Of course the Pastor’s problem was not alcoholism, but narcissism. The story is open-ended. The reality was not:

    http://goo.gl/SlVSmV

    Like

  22. I also entertained the vain hope that this story might help the Pastor understand his own ways. I didn’t show it to him.

    But here’s the one and only communication I had with him, privately, other than telling him I could not stay in a church in which the Pastor preached himself into a position beyond correction.

    It was on the back reading this letter to him and my comment above, that the fun really started. We never spoke to each other in the ensuing months while he pursued his agenda to remove me.

    I think it demonstrates that it doesn’t really matter how gracious one tries to be in these situations ….

    http://goo.gl/PqjqiJ

    Like

  23. Thinkingchristian

    Yes, the fear in going to church!

    How is it possible that the supposed Kingdom of God becomes for us the Kingdom of Torment?

    Like

  24. October 26 @ 12:40 PM, in the “Rainey’s 11 Rules of Marriage” thread, Daisy mentions being a lifetime introvert. Those of us who are introverts tend to be at a great disadvantage, not just in the American organized church setting, but in American society and culture at large. One of the differences between extroverts and introverts is that extroverts tend to be the movers and shakers, the people who are gifted at making things happen, while introverts tend to put more emphasis on thinking things through. We Americans tend to measure success by how much is accomplished, rather than by how well it is accomplished. In the ecclesiastical setting, this means we tend to hire evangelists as “pastors” because they are good at building numbers and, generally, promoting that which can be measured by external appearances. The more insightful extroverts, with their gifts of teaching, knowledge, wisdom and even prophecy tend to be marginalized.

    In fact, there tends to be great tension between the extroverted evangelist/administrator types, who know how to accomplish, and the more contemplative teacher/prophet types, who tend to have more insight into what is actually worth accomplishing. Because the extroverts are the ones who are the better doers, they typically prevail over the more insightful introverts. Worse, extroverted church leaders can easily view any attempted input by introverts as being an attack so that they, the extroverts, set out to marginalize the introverts – and they typically succeed.

    It is all quite unfortunate. We need both extroverts and the introverts. We need extroverts to accomplish great things. We also need introverts so that we can better know what is actually worth setting out to accomplish.

    Like

  25. Hey Gary, Yes, a very insightful thought. Many have been highlighting this trend in Christianity more recently. The behind the scenes readers, researchers, processers, critical thinkers, prophets, are often awkward to place and work with since they don’t fit the extrovert personality that naturally seems easier to adapt to. Those who ‘get’ the whole picture as well as investigate the various parts/details are people worth having around. Their voices need to be heard This observation is certainly worth ‘thinking’ about.

    In this sentence, did you mean ‘introverts’ here or ‘extroverts’?
    “The more insightful extroverts, with their gifts of teaching, knowledge, wisdom and even prophecy tend to be marginalized.”

    Like

  26. Yes, Barb, the last sentence of the first paragraph in my 6:59 AM post should read “The more insightful introverts, with their gifts of teaching, knowledge, wisdom and even prophecy tend to be marginalized.” Thoughtful? Hopefully sometimes. Articulate? Not so reliably.

    Julie Anne, I wouldn’t at all mind if you make the correction for me.

    Like

  27. ThinkingChristian said:

    “Unfortunately it wasn’t just the lead pastor, other pastors joined in as well as others. It was open season for anyone to make a snide or sarcastic remark who happened to have the microphone (or any other platform), of course never using your name.”

    PLAUSIBLE DENIABILITY.
    Precision targeted on you and you alone. Carefully grooming third-party allies and supporters like a pedophile moving in on his target. Every smear and word carefully chosen in advance for an utterly innocent, plausibly-deniable fallback position. “Who, Me?” with butter-wouldn’t-melt-in-my-mouth wide-eyed total Innocence.
    (Can you tell I grew up with a sociopath/manipulator?)

    Like

  28. sfninerfan7 said:

    This is the part that kills me. When you are a Christian, especially having grown up where church IS your community, this is the worst. Suddenly, you are in the wind….how do you build a community of friends when before, all your friends were at church?

    This is the REAL sheep trap. The completely-closed system, totally separate from outside reality. My writing partner (the burned-out preacher) has told me of churches where nobody knows anyone outside of church, nobody has any friends except from church. NOBODY. Completely-closed system.

    And a lot of these splinter churches preach Total Separation from the Satanic World. Once you walk the aisle and say the Magic Words, the high-pressure is on to cut ties with all the Heathen(TM) outside of Church(TM). Substituting in-church Christianese knockoffs for everything in mainstream culture. “Just like Fill-in-the-blank, Except CHRISTIAN(TM)!” Until you are completely cut off from anything outside the Christianese Bubble, anything outside of Church(TM).

    Like

  29. Gary W said:

    One of the differences between extroverts and introverts is that extroverts tend to be the movers and shakers, the people who are gifted at making things happen, while introverts tend to put more emphasis on thinking things through. We Americans tend to measure success by how much is accomplished, rather than by how well it is accomplished. In the ecclesiastical setting, this means we tend to hire evangelists as “pastors” because they are good at building numbers and, generally, promoting that which can be measured by external appearances.

    The image that comes to mind of the “extrovert(TM)” is that of the backslapping, gladhanding, always SMIIIIIILING Used Car Salesman. Or fast-talking con man.

    Like

  30. Yes, H.U.G. “butter-wouldn’t-melt-in-my-mouth wide-eyed total Innocence.”

    We are reminded of the words in Psalm 55:20-21, a psalm of David, about the ‘talk’ of this companion yet also reveals what was in this person’s heart:
    20 My companion attacks his friends;
    he violates his covenant.
    21 His talk is smooth as butter,
    yet war is in his heart;
    his words are more soothing than oil,
    yet they are drawn swords.

    The psalmist David earlier unfolds his personal anguish because of his close relationship to this person. He was his companion, a fellow worshiper!
    12 If an enemy were insulting me,
    I could endure it;
    if a foe were rising against me,
    I could hide.
    13 But it is you, a man like myself,
    my companion, my close friend,
    14 with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship
    at the house of God,
    as we walked about
    among the worshipers.

    David resolves his emotional trauma by recognizing that he needed to trust Yahweh. From his own painful life experience, David exhorts the reader with these pertinent words:

    22 Cast your cares on the Lord
    and he will sustain you;
    he will never let
    the righteous be shaken.

    Like

  31. Extraordinary and predictable that abusive Pastors will take these words of amazing comfort and apply them to themselves, against their ‘right-hand’ men. More than once, my Pastor warned our congregation that it is commonplace for right-hand men (meaning me, of course) to rise up against their Pastors, seeking position and pre-eminence – and to watch for it to happen, thus proving the truth of his prediction. How Scripture is misused to indoctrinate congregations against those whom Pastors wish to remove!

    Yes, I ask myself if I have ever behaved in such a treacherous way and, in all honesty, I really don’t think that I have. (see letter above).

    Nevertheless, I take great comfort from these words.

    Like

  32. @ Chris

    When I was discussing this with a friend of mine she immediately diagnosed it as spiritual abuse. She said “They use the word of God against you.” Unfortunately I had seen that played out time and time against me. So much so, that there are some trigger words that immediately get my dander up. Bitterness, humility, anger, and fruit are a few examples. I was a godly saint until something bad happened and I was able to get over it as quickly as they wanted.

    Like

  33. ThinkingChristian

    “I was a godly saint until something bad happened and I was able to get over it as quickly as they wanted.”

    Made me chuckle 🙂

    Like

  34. Julie Anne,

    Like I suggested in one of your earlier threads regarding relationships should apply in spiritual behavior. (outside of marriage as well)

    I don’t know how it is possible for Abuse or Divorce to occur if both spouses truly love each when they got married.

    In saying that, can we ask this?

    How is it possible for the one applying Spiritual Abuse to love the people in the church they are abusing?

    Like

  35. How is it possible for the one applying Spiritual Abuse to love the people in the church they are abusing?

    It’s impossible as far as I can see. I’ve read/heard a lot of Pastor Jeff Crippen’s words and he has said that you really have to question someone’s salvation if they are abusing. I tend to agree with this.

    Now, where it gets confusing is – – – what if the abusers are victims and they are responding in the only way they know how and completely believe they are being loving. I run into this situation.

    Another example that I run into a lot is the folks who are into in-your-face evangelism or protesting at abortion clinics. Some of the men doing that are what I would call rude. I do not see any love demonstrated by their actions, by their shouting, by their strong words yelling at people to Repent even without having any knowledge if they are Believers or not. The same thing at abortion clinics – – people yelling out “You are murdering your unborn child.” Did they ever ask whether the mom was pregnant? Maybe she is at the abortion clinic to deliver her baby who has died in the womb. These folks who street evangelize and protest at abortion clinics with those type of tactics 100% believe they are acting in love.

    What do you do with both of those scenarios?

    Like

  36. sorry JA you’ll have to delete another that’s not working. Sorry…I can’t comment there cause video taking up screen and blocking my comment button!

    Like

  37. “What do you do with both of those scenarios?”

    How about a counter-demonstration with signs that say “I’m a Christian” on one side, and “The Man with the Bullhorn Embarrasses Me” on the other?

    Like

  38. Julie Anne

    Yes it does get confusing.

    While abusing, of course, no love is shown. But I remember countless acts of love by my narcissistic Pastor in days gone by, before I became a threat. Phone calls early in the day to reassure me simply ‘that I had come to mind’, holding my heart through various griefs without giving stock-answers. Taking time out to fix my car. This Pastor was very much a Father. And it worked. And I grew out of some insecurities.

    But I think in all parent / child relationships the goal should be the eventual independence of the child. This is not an acceptable outcome for a narcissist!

    And I suspect your comment about victims completely believing they are being loving fits this individual very well.

    Like

  39. Someone commented that they would hate to face judgement if they had committed some of the spiritual abuse catalogued here.

    But I suspect that God will take their ‘baggage’ into consideration.

    I wonder if I might even be offended at the mercy God chooses to show them!
    The story of Jonah comes to mind.

    Like

  40. Of course, many in the church would not dare to raise concerns in the first place. I remember a time during a bizarre and awkward prayer meeting when the Pastor instructed us (coercively) to curse our enemies – because David did.

    Not even his closest co-dependants entered into it with much enthusiasm. That gave me hope that they could still think for themselves when it is glaringly wrong.

    But they miss all the subtle incongruities.

    It seems so incomprehensible that they can gladly surrender their freedom of speech – which is THE most precious and fiercely fought over right of human beings in any society, but then to actually surrender their freedom of thought too!!!!!

    We suffered because we didn’t!

    (Chris’ other half)

    Like

  41. @ Chris

    God has done a lot of healing in my soul throughout the course of this year. He still has more work to do, but I know for myself I don’t intend to be waiting with baited breath for the judgement seat. I have learned a lot through my situation, that I intend to refer back to those lessons on a regular.. One of those lessons learned is to not make a idol out of any person, place or thing. I had to confess my own idolatry, which allowed me to let certain stuff go on for as long as it did. I had put my church on such a pedestal (unknowing), and I was devastated when it all came toppling down on my head. Never again!

    Like

  42. Greetings Ali, Glad you made it over here! Welcome!

    You have captured a major dynamic which is worth repeating because it is so troubling! Freedom of speech and freedom of thought–didn’t people give their lives to gain these freedoms?

    “It seems so incomprehensible that they can gladly surrender their freedom of speech – which is THE most precious and fiercely fought over right of human beings in any society, but then to actually surrender their freedom of thought, too!!!!! All the deceiver’s works are SO hateful!”

    Like

  43. Yes. Guilty of that one!

    I think some of that mentality can come with being a personality which has dependent tendencies. You see others as more mature, more capable, more secure, more experienced, more spiritual than yourself. Difficult to resist when they present themselves to you on that pedestal!

    Spiritual abuse depends on the dependent – those who are more likely to ‘pedestalize’, I suspect.

    Hope I’m cured 😉

    Like

  44. Welcome, Ali! I’m glad you joined the discussion.

    Yes, freedom of speech is a biggie for me having been sued for defamation by my former pastor for “speaking out.” Your example of losing the freedom to think is very important. Along with that, we also lose the freedom to feel because we are told we are in sin, we are bitter, our thinking is wrong, etc.

    Do you see how powerful spiritual abusers are in using their position of authority to control: speech, thinking, and feeling? What other freedom is left? That’s a scary thought. Basically all you’ve got left are robots following and that’s it.

    Like

  45. The best way to leave a church is to find a new healthy church. I knew my time at my former church was coming to an end. I started contacting people who had left 10 years ago to find out where they were. Lo and behold, all of them had ended up at the same small church just a few miles from my house.

    It took me 6 months to fit into the new church (and I’m fairly extroverted), but now I’m part of the family.

    I love the pastor; love the people. No control freaks here, just a good conservative church without the culture wars and spiritual abuse. These kinds of churches do exist, but you need to ask around. I would have NEVER found this one if I hadn’t asked friends. This church wasn’t on my radar at all.

    Like

  46. “Spiritual abuse depends on the dependent – those who are more likely to ‘pedestalize’, I suspect.”

    Hey Chris, I like your created word “pedestalize”!! Now doesn’t that have meaning in the recognition of a spiritually abused church culture?! Good one!!

    Like

  47. Do you see how powerful spiritual abusers are in using their position of authority to control: speech, thinking, and feeling? What other freedom is left? That’s a scary thought. Basically all you’ve got left are robots following and that’s it.

    Chris and I found ourselves robbed of yet another freedom – that of expression in the literal sense. We had to learn the art of keeping a blank facial expression because spying eyes were watching for any flicker of dissent. This was made more difficult by the fact we all stood in a circle facing each other with the pastor moving around in the middle for the first half, then sat in a large horseshoe while he gave the sermon. Every body was very aware of everybody else because there was hardly ever more than 50 present and those numbers were dropping by ever more reluctant attendance from the less reliable fish he’d not yet fully landed.

    Unfortunately, it was less easy to hide our discomfort when frequent ‘amens’ were demanded for most of his erroneous or manipulative sentences so we got classed as ‘critics’, ‘grievers of the Holy Spirit’, ‘intellectually proud’, and ‘rebels’ that way!

    Like

  48. Trapped, scrutinized sheep!

    Loss of freedom included forced repetition of Pastor’s prayers. Some entailed the notion of telling God we were ‘trashing’ our theology, so that we could receive the new revelation about to pour forth. Others simply deprived us of the freedom to express requests to God in our own way, as Pastor knew best.

    Odd that, in the light of this, we were eventually not allowed to sing songs that others had written, the requirement being that you sang to God, making it up as you go along, Sometimes a musical instrument was allowed (guitar: G major / C major alternated). When not allowed, the Pastor’s loudest, out of tune voice, made this difficult task virtually impossible!

    Ali tells me it always reminded her of a swan, flapping wildly and loudly on a tiny pond, not taking off, but terrorizing all the other ducks huddled round the edge!

    Now I’m laughing!

    How did we ever fall for this? (I think the answer is ‘gradually’!)

    Suggestion for a new thread? A look at holiness / legalism and how the doctrine of grace is manipulated so it still sounds ‘grace-filled’ to the un-discerning and how such manipulation catches even the discerning unawares. That appropriate on SSB?

    Like

  49. Chris: Do you have a personal experience you can send me – a paragraph or 2 describing how holiness/legalism and doctrine of grace is manipulated? That might be worth exploring. Personal stories are especially helpful. My e-mail spiritualsb@ gmail dot com

    Like

  50. Ali – I love your illustration! Boy, have I seen that swan scenario before!

    You mentioned your church had 50 people. Did you have a sense that you “had” to be at church – – that if you missed for any reason you were under pressure to give an excuse why you were not there?

    Our church was about double that size and I felt that pressure. They quietly took attendance each Sunday. If you were late, he would announce it in a “joking” way as you entered (not during Sunday service, but the more casual mid-week meeting). I put up with it and sometimes mouthed back (I’m like that – lol), but now I realize he was trying to control by guilt and shame.

    Like

  51. Julie Anne

    Yes! Reasons were usually given publicly for people’s absence, therefore, we had to always give a valid excuse if we could not attend. In the 27 year’s of the church existence, until April 2013 we had missed one Sunday – for my brother’s wedding.

    Valid reasons were ok, such as school parents’ evenings, for Chris (teacher).

    We had teenage daughters that were getting more and more reluctant to get up at 6am for a Saturday prayer meeting at 7am so I attended fewer of these. But Chris felt the pressure intensely when he decided, in the last season, not to attend the weekly ‘bullying’ session.

    After 2 weeks of non-attendance at this meeting, we were treated to the following (public teaching):

    1 Cor 5:5
    The preamble was that all sin is equal and that although the verse above was addressed to a man involved in sexual sin, it applies to all sin, including knowing the right thing to do and not doing it.

    The lesson was “Those who separate themselves from the security of the body of Christ fall prey to satan and will be destroyed in their pride. When you know you are sinning, you don’t want to be with others. You don’t want to come to meetings. You are prey to satan.”

    Other Scriptures trotted out were:

    Jesus said, ‘Whatever you do to the least of these, you do to me’. If you don’t attend prayer meetings, you are separating yourself from your brothers and sisters, and you are separating yourself from God.

    Ex 12:22 And you shall take a bunch of hyssop, and dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and strike the lintel and the two side posts with the blood that is in the basin; and none of you shall go out at the door of his house until the morning.

    Josh 2:19 If any of them go outside your house into the street, their blood will be on their own heads; we will not be responsible. As for those who are in the house with you, their blood will be on our head if a hand is laid on them (Rahab protecting spies)

    Acts 27: “Then Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, “Unless these men stay with the ship, they cannot be saved.”

    Like

  52. Thankfully we reduced down to only 5 meetings a week for the last several years. But at one stage it was:

    Monday night: prayer meeting
    Tuesday night: music practice
    Wednesday night: prayer meeting
    Thursday night: house group
    Friday morning: 20 mins. at Pastor’s house for teaching before work.
    Friday evening: 20 mins. at someone’s house for bread and wine 6pm
    Saturday morning 7am prayer meeting
    Sunday morning: Service

    Phew!

    Like

  53. Chris,

    That kind of schedule is common. It keeps you isolated from the world so that church is a constant thought. You do not feel freedom to do anything outside of church and feel you need permission to attend even family events like birthday parties.

    Recently, a member of my former church whined on Twitter about the fact that a former church member attended her elder elderly mother’s birthday party. This former member is being shunned by the church, but the elderly mother does not go to that church and they have been friends for years. Why didn’t the daughter attend her mother’s birthday party? Because of church obligations. So she misdirected her anger at the former church member for going to the party. She could have attended the party, but she chose to please her pastor instead of her elderly mother. This stuff is sick.

    One day when her mother is no longer here, she will probably regret her decisions to put her pastor over her own mother.

    Like

  54. JA,
    Reading Ali and Chris’ schedule and the verses used against them is eerily similar, right? Shame and guilt being used as a bullying tactic and the Word used to manipulate is sadly all too familiar….remember how the ‘spirit of Korah’ was thrown around after we and several others left?
    Grateful to have been led by the Spirit of God and His Word right on out of there~you will know them by their fruits. Amen
    I had a lot of confusion upon leaving and am eternally grateful that God is all powerful and leads His children out of these places and unto Himself.
    I agree with you about that woman who apparently has put her pastor/church above her mother, she will pass on someday and this woman is missing out on precious moments that can NEVER be replaced. Hope the Lord opens her eyes to the confusing destruction that has been taking place.

    Like

  55. Meaghan

    Oh yes, very familiar with Korah.

    And Miriam.
    And Daniel’s critics.
    And Ananias and Sapphira.
    And Peter against Jesus.

    As someone asked: “Have these Pastors all gone to the same training school?”

    Like

  56. Chris, you are fairly new here. From the early days of the old blog (BGBC Survivors which morphed into SSB), I have said that I believe all spiritual abusers go to the CSAS aka Creepy Spiritual Abuse School. I’m not sure if it’s online school, in local neighborhoods, or what, but they all abusers seem to have graduated from it because they all use the same tactics, same Bible verses to twist, same responses when defending themselves. It’s amazing how predictable their behavior is.

    Like

  57. An important bit:

    “His breath kindles coals,” meaning that their words have a destructive, negative effect. Those under its power become very critical, especially of those in authority. They become judgmental and their words have the effect of pulling down rather than building up.
    This spirit produces a hardness of heart in people (v. 24) making it even more difficult to bring those being used by this spirit to the repentance they need.
    Because of its pride, and because it has access into people’s lives through their proud hearts, this spirit wants to be in control. So those under its influence want to control situations in which they are placed. They resist submission to true spiritual authority.

    Like

  58. You’re concerned that you have lost what it took years to build;
    the church you attended has a pastor that’s maligned you to
    the point those closest to you have shunned you &
    believe what the pastor said about you. That sounds like my story…
    I attended the same church for many years & was falsely
    accused by leadership and a member of the church, who
    I thought was a friend. When it happened
    to me, I couldn’t imagine anything good coming out of it. God
    continues to bring me books on spiritual abuse written by godly
    people that have either gone through similar stories, or have
    ministered to those that have. Besides the bible, they’ve been
    helpful to me. I saw I wasn’t the only one, and
    that I’m not alone in this (of course, God’s always been
    by my side);it’s helped me forgive and move on, finally.
    I’m careful what I read. I won’t read anything that’s not
    100% lined up with the bible and the counsel of God. He
    uses people to reach people. I don’t believe in church bashing or
    division of God’s people; however, God’s shown me those that
    are abusing the sheep are the ones that are dividing the
    people of God. No more putting pastors on a pedestal! They should
    be respected and submitted to within reason; but they’re not to be
    idolized or exalted…..they are servants of God as we are all called to
    be. Walk in forgiveness and pray for those that abuse and use us,
    but that doesn’t mean you “return to the scene of the crime”!!
    And remember, Joseph and even Jesus was lied about….all those
    who want to live godly lives WILL be persecuted!! But rejoice for in
    the same way they persecuted the prophets who came before any
    of us!!(Read Matthew 5:12) Even the disciples were told at times
    to “wipe the dust off their feet” and move on!!!
    Google “books on spiritual abuse” and ask the Lord to show
    you which ones will minister to you or a loved one.

    Like

Thanks for participating in the SSB community. Please be sure to leave a name/pseudonym (not "Anonymous"). Thx :)

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s